Stop feeding Cayman’s fire-breathing environmental monster

We despise the smell of irony in the morning. We suspect everyone else treated to lungsful of burning rubber Friday would agree.

The kudos and self-adulations for passing a National Conservation Law had scarcely dropped from the lips of Cayman Islands leaders when the country’s signature environmental disaster reared its beastly head in the form of flames and billows of poisonous black smoke.

Although the government insisted on expediting the Conservation Law through the Legislative Assembly before the New Year in order to fulfill campaign promises, the reality is protection of unspoiled land was never one of the top issues of the spring election.

The PPM’s sweep of Bodden Town – which cleared an easy path to parliamentary majority – was powered by the district’s umbrage and outrage over being designated as the site of a new landfill, which voters feared might blossom into the next Mount Trashmore.

Despite its public embrace of “green” values, successive governments have studiously ignored the country’s preeminent ecological threat that is continuously assaulting Grand Cayman’s environment by land, air and sea.

Well, you can avert your eyes but not your nose.

The much-ballyhooed Conservation Law does absolutely nothing to protect Caymanians – floral, faunal and hominid – from the physical manifestation of governments’ disregard and negligence.

We have heard much about blue iguanas and butterflies in recent weeks. Let’s talk about elephants – a whole parade of them. The pile of tires that is currently combusting at the landfill weighs more than 800 tons, according to consultants’ estimates six years ago. That is the equivalent of 80,000 passenger tires, or 160 adult African elephants.

The “West Tire Pile” is one of three at the landfill, which also contains tires buried throughout.
More are being added each day. It’s time to stop feeding this environmental monster.

When Mount Trashmore asserted itself and burst into flames Friday morning, one can only imagine what went through the head of Health Minister Osbourne Bodden, who shortly after taking office in May 2013 proudly (and pitifully parochially) declared that the PPM was disposing of Dart’s ready solution to the George Town dump catastrophe. We certainly know what came out of his mouth: “Can you imagine having the dump in Bodden Town and have this going over the whole island?

Nobody wants a dump, but it has to go somewhere.”

Well, Mr. Bodden, if not between two quarries in far east Bodden Town, then where? Here, there, or anywhere is better than its current location. George Town MLAs and Tourism Minister Moses Kirkconnell would do well to consult with their colleague and remind him that one of the two pillars of the Cayman economy is tourism, and that the dump site is one of the first sights of arriving cruise ship passengers and first impressions of stayover visitors (“This place smells like Mexico,” one remarked recently).

In April, consultants estimated more than 14,000 people lived within two miles of the George Town landfill, thousands more than live in the entire district of Bodden Town. Bodden Town may not be the ultimate location of a new waste management facility, but it certainly shouldn’t be exempted from consideration. This country cannot allow politics and pollution to trump health and safety. Right now, the only environmental issue of any consequence is the George Town dump.

No more baiting voters into a parochial protests. No more bedtime stories about the magic of waste-to-energy or mining for imaginary “riches” buried deep within this toxic national embarrassment. The Friday conflagration was a warning. As author James Baldwin once wrote, beware of “the fire next time.”


  1. The egregiously offensive dumpsites on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac need attention by Government ASAP. These smouldering, poison-spewing dumps are a blight on the Cayman Islands. There are solutions to this decades-old problem – they just need to be TRIED!

  2. It’s time to realize that Cayman is too small to keep piling garbage in a heap and ignoring it.

    Anyone heard of Remould Tires? What is used to make them? Tires can be stripped of their outer casing and shod with a fresh coat of rubber good for another 10,000 miles – they just have to be got back to the USA.

    All the shipping containers which go back empty could be filled with recyclable material.

    There are already a couple of small companies on island who collect the more valuable fractions of the waste, and it seems that whenever I drop my glass and cans at the recycling bins they are always full – what does that say about the public willingness to solve the issue vs. that of the politicians?

    I come from a small town in the UK which has been Zero landfill for over 3 decades – there is no rocket science involved – all the solutions are available tried and tested off the shelf. All that is missing is a willingness to grasp the nettle.

    Future waste is very easy to deal with if sorted at the point of disposal – it is only an issue when massed together as has been done in the past.

  3. Sadly it was a pile of separated waste that caught fire, which is ironic as the DEH separates the waste for selling off to recycling firms.

    The tone of the Compass’s editorial is sadly misguided as it is not the location of the waste facility but the methods used which is the issue here, i.e. landfill.

    Does the hack which wrote this truly believe had this fire taken place in Breakers that the smoke trail across the centre of the island and Stingray Sandbar being better than into the sea. Did the trail of smoke pass through the main residential part of the GT district? Does the smell reach as far as the main residential section of town?

    When the proposed dump as being explained to the NT by the Dart team, they claimed the smell was due to the sewage works and not the dump so someone needs to confirm whether this is correct or not.

    The solution to GT landfill is clean it up and install a waste separation plan (this are not expensive) recover the economic recyclables for reselling and use the organic waste (smelly stuff) in a bio-plant to produce gas for electrical generation and compost for soil improvement (once again not an expensive option and modular to allow to grow with the population actual growth) and burn the rest to produce power and inert ash for future road fill.

    We can all argue forever for the location of this but why mess up another piece of land next to the fast growing residential area in the country when we already have a location next to the sewage works, 2 concrete batching plants and 2 road asphalt plants plus the only area zoned as heavy industrial in the country. Strangely, this was missed out of the editorial – I wonder why???

    I believe there is another saying also – if you want the truth then follow the money!

  4. Follow the money is right, I am quite sure that the BT Waste facility was only on considered becuase it was the only one that was free and didn’t leave cayman with the cost of cleaning up Mt Trashmore..

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