While government collects more than $1 million a year in environmental fees on the importation of vehicles, tires and lead-acid batteries, the revenue is not earmarked for the disposal of those items.
Instead, the money goes into the coffers of the Department of Environmental Health for its general activities at the landfill site.
The lack of a sophisticated disposal procedure for the removal of tires, cars or batteries was highlighted by the massive fire at the site in December.
Aerial photographs taken by the Compass showed fields of tires, up to 2 million of them according to Minister Osbourne Bodden, and used cars. The cause of the blaze, which took nearly 20 hours to extinguish, has not been established.
At the time, officials said propane tanks and junked vehicles with gas tanks still attached were among the pile of scrap metal that caught fire.
The admission raised questions about how the environmental fees were being used.
The Financial Secretary’s office confirmed that the Customs Department levies a $1,000 charge on used vehicles up to a value of $12,000, a $250 charge on all imported motor vehicles, a $75 charge on imported motorcycles, a $5 fee on lead-acid batteries and an additional $2 per tire charge on vehicles.
The fees are not specifically classed as disposal fees but are labeled environmental taxes. The total levied from these charges in 2012 was $1,060,936. Last year the figure was $1,083,468.
A spokeswoman said the funds were funneled to the Department of Environmental Health on a monthly basis and used to finance the general operation of the landfill.
If Minister Bodden’s estimate is correct that there could be 2 million tires at the dump, then government could potentially have collected up to $4 million in environmental taxes on tires alone.
The money is not used for the environmentally safe disposal of tires, which can be shredded and used as fill, recycled for fuel or used for ground rubber.
The department is currently soliciting private companies through an open tender process. It has also previously tendered for the disposal of scrap metal, which includes vehicles.
Government made around $500,000 from selling baled scrap metal from the landfill the last time it went to tender to dispose of some of the junk. It is in the midst of a second disposal project that is expected to net a similar amount.
The funds from environmental taxes, according to the spokeswoman form the Financial Secretary’s office, are used “to subsidize the cost of producing the department’s waste reduction and recycling output.”
Ultimately the Department of Environmental Health hopes to make money from recycling plastics and cardboard as well as tires. It already recycles oil, aluminum cans and batteries.