Now we know that the Bodden Town landfill option is dead, the issue of a safe, cost-effective solution still remains to be addressed; one the country can afford now and in the future. I believe this can be done with local small companies instead of firms from overseas.
To understand how to go forward, we must look at what goes to the landfill at present. Waste entering the George Town landfill site in 2011/2012 was 69,787 tons, according to the Department of Environmental Health.
Scaremongers have all but written off waste to energy with [concerns about] costs to build a mass burn power station and costs to the public to operate; however, in engineering, there are many solutions to the same problem and some are less expensive than others. Some don’t require overseas firms and can be done with homegrown businesses keeping the wealth in Cayman.
We also need to apply consumption tax to waste management instead of a blanket 2 per cent added to import duty to cover waste management costs, thus, reducing the cost of living for low producers of waste, but at the same time, acknowledging the fact that everyone who produces has to pay “market rates” for disposal and not expect subsidies to cover their costs.
Every year, the DEH puts dumpsters into each of the districts at the end of the hurricane season to allow residents to clean up their yards. If those locations become permanent, we would now have five local recycling centres at no or little cost to the country. This would create opportunities for homegrown companies employing Caymanians in these new growth areas.
The site would have several dumpsters, each one of which would be for a different material – glass, metal, yard waste, old furniture, cardboard and paper, used motor oil, construction waste, etc.
The DEH would only collect organic waste from residents’ homes and all other household waste will be dropped off by the public at these centres.
These sites can be privately run, leased by DEH, or the materials collected sold off to private firms to be processed, with the funds collected paying for the recycling centres.
Organic waste (the smelly stuff)
There are several ways of dealing with organic waste collected from homes, businesses, wastewater plants and yard waste. Waste paper and cardboard can be added to this list as they are often considered uneconomic to export for processing. It can be simply burnt and reduced to around 4 per cent by volume of bulk and put in the landfill. This can be combined with heat exchanges to produce power, thus, waste to energy.
It can be composted either in rows, which takes time, or in in-vessel composters that can take about a week. Both can be designed to get to the correct heat to kill pathogens and make the end result safe for food production, bio-fertiliser or landfill remediation cover. This recovered compost is currently imported and sold on the island, along with treated chicken and cow manure.
This is an opportunity for a local Caymanian business to start producing and selling these materials, instead of paying to go to the landfill.
We can all work together to bring this about and turn a national disgrace into a clean, revenue-making site, which we can help sell as part of our tourism product by being sustainable in every sense of the word, as well as lowering our cost of living for the future.