No takers for dump tires


An attempt to sell up to two million scrapped tires piled up at the George Town landfill site received no official bids. 

It is the fourth time the Cayman Islands government has gone out to tender seeking a private firm to buy and dispose of the tires without success. 

Roydell Carter, the director of the Department of Environmental Health, acknowledged “modifications” would have to be made before the project goes out to tender again next month. 

He said the details were still being worked out but it is possible that government will now have to look at giving the tires away instead of soliciting bids to sell them. 

The developers behind a planned $360 million golf course and homes project in the eastern districts have already indicated they are willing to take the tires, which they say could be shredded and used as fill. 

Government previously sold off baled scrap metal from the landfill site, including thousands of crushed cars, for up to $50 a ton – a process which netted $500,000. Officials accepted that tires had comparatively limited value, but had hoped to find a buyer. 

Mr. Carter acknowledged that the bid process, which closed earlier this month, had been unsuccessful. 

“There were no official bids received when the most recent used tires tender period closed,” he said. “It is expected that some modifications will be made to the used tires tender document before it will be retendered again by early next month. 

“We are working through a number of considerations and implications; the final approach will be included in the request for proposals.” 

Government collects more than $1 million a year in environmental fees on the importation of vehicles, tires and lead-acid batteries. But the revenue, including the $2 per tire import tax, is not earmarked for the disposal of those items. 

Denise Gower, spokeswoman for Ironwood, said the developer’s offer to take the tires still stands. 

She said they would examine the new request for proposals before deciding whether to bid. But she said the proposal was not to buy the tires but to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly way by shredding them and using them as fill on the development’s golf course. 

“We didn’t respond to the RFP because they were looking for someone to buy the tires. Our proposal is that we would shred them and use them as fill for contouring and drainage on the golf course.” 

She said similar methods have been used in eco-friendly golf course developments in the United States. Ironwood hired a consultant from the University of Wisconsin to advise its designers on how the tires could be integrated into the course, which is being designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer. 

Ms. Gower said taking the tires and shredding them would cost Ironwood money and therefore it was not willing to pay for them. 

Industry experts in the U.S. have previously contacted the Caymanian Compass to warn that government has little chance of finding anyone willing to pay for the tires. John Deckard, who runs a tire recycling firm in the U.S., wrote: “Expecting companies to be interested in the tires for purchase is completely unrealistic. Given the cost of the processing, equipment, labor, retirement funds and other personnel and related costs, it is unrealistic, especially given that they are on an island.  

“Tire piles like this are saved by many all over the world and, in 20 years and millions of tires, we have never encountered any tire hoarders that were paid for the tire piles – not once. “ 


Tires pile up at the George Town landfill. – PHOTO: CHRIS COURT

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  1. Only a government would be arrogant enough to think that when they have to use the toilet, instead of just flushing and getting on with life, there is someone out there who would be willing to pay them to scoop it out. Just give the things away and be thankful that there is someone that can put the tires to use in an environmentally friendly manner instead of catching fire every two months.

  2. Why can’t we find a way of taking care of our own garbage? All it takes is machinery and man power. Chip those tires up, mix and melt with ground up beer and rum bottles and use the material to patch and make roads. We have some dirt roads which could use a little face lift.

  3. Is anyone really surprised by this? After all this was the fourth failed attempt to sell the tires. The RFP was just a means to distract from the dump issues after the fire and make it seem like the CIG actually had a plan or even an idea of what to do, I don’t believe for a minute they expected someone to actually buy them. If they did it’s a sure sign of ignorance. If the question hadn’t come up regarding the results of the RFP I am sure we would have never heard about it again. To put out a fifth tender is a waste of time when you already have someone willing to take them away from the site, but I am sure that the holdup will be all about money. When the CIG already collected like 4 million dollars to dispose of the tires to give them away for free would be a stroke of luck but they are too greedy to see that even though it’s obvious that no one is going to buy them. The IronWood developers are our best option for getting rid of them so we should take their offer and be thankful but insure they remove them quickly. I can understand why they are not willing to pay for them because they will have to bear the cost of transporting and shredding them. If the CIG wants someone to pay for them or doesn’t like this option then they should invest into a tire shredding machine themselves. But this probably wouldn’t be a good idea since they aren’t even capable of maintaining the equipment and vehicles they currently have.

  4. Someone in government was smart enough to realise that used and worn out tyres were a liability rather than an asset when they set the 2 dollar disposal fee.

    Tyres are not just rubber, the beads, that hold them to the rims have steel cables cast into the rubber as do the treads.

    This gives two methods of processing – cutting off the beads then removing the sidewall gives sidewalls which are free from wire and this can be shredded to yield rubber crumbs which do have a value BUT the labour and machinery costs erode that to give a very low residual value. The beads and treads can be de-wired and though the steel wire recovered is a high quality and valuable alloy, again it is a labour intensive process and the bottom line can be profit or loss depending on fluctuations in scrap prices. Developing countries with low labour costs can make it work but with Cayman / USA wages there is no

    Alternatively the whole tyre can be shredded but the product will contain the wire strands and the value is therefore much less – the machine to shred them has to be able to shear through the high tensile steel wires and that is no small consideration – higher capital cost vs. lower labour.

    The guys from Ironwood who are offering to take them for free, will I suspect, find it is going to yield them an overall fiscal loss. However, they will be able to stand tall with impeccable green credentials, and with today’s eco-friendly consumers, that IS worth its weight in gold.

    I would suggest that they stipulate that any equipment and spares imported to process the tires be exempted from import duty as part of the contract, which will mitigate some of that loss, but even then CIG ought to be beating a path to their door, cap in hand – this is no time to play ‘hard to get’.

  5. Andy has summed it up in the best way possible, hopefully our leaders will be able to interpret these simple words. However, I would have to see it to believe it. A good way for the PPM to start mitigating some of the risk at the GT Dump would be to support this offer and do what it takes to get the tires removed as quickly as possible. It would also make room at the GT dump for whatever plans they have for MT Trashmore if they actually have any realistic ones.

  6. Had another thought on this – the labour charge is what kills this here, but there may be notionally ‘free’ staff which could be used.

    While it doesn’t help the existing ‘pile’, CIG could offer a rebate to the tyre shops if their waste was already de-beaded, sidewalls removed and the tread cut to lay flat…

    100 tyres is about a ton but takes up a massive space for transport…
    Prepared, they take up only a small fraction of that, so the waste tyre collections from the business could be done much less frequently saving the CIG money (1 collection vs. four or five).

    These guys are already paying the 2 bucks per tyre import fee and passing on to the customer.

    Most businesses will have busy times but also slack periods when there is less for the staff to do…

    So, what if the shop got a dollar back for each tyre prepared for re-cycling, it could be done when things were quieter (the owner is still paying the staff even if things are quiet).

    A basic rig for doing this can be had for about 10,000 and if the CIG gets 1M per annum in fee’s that implies 500,000 tyre imports per year?
    Depending on if truck or car such a rig can handle 50-100 tyres in an hour which should prove cost effective with a 1 dollar rebate per tyre?

    Even if the Ironwood deal doesn’t materialize doing this would give Cayman much more easily exportable tyre waste – plus water can’t collect in them so no mosquito farm.

  7. If I was in the government I’d jump at the chance to get these taken away for free. If you wait too long you become more desperate, the taker will realise your desperation and start to make a charge to take them. Get rid now.

  8. People get it through your heads, no one will ever buy these stock pilled tires. Please just let someone take these and focus on fixing the dump issues. And Tim your idea is ridiculous, Andy’s idea is good but not likely to happen. The CIG needs to get out of the garbage business and focus on running the country. Properly cap the GT Dump and let the private sector give us a fresh start with proper Waste Management and recycling.

  9. Sadly it looks like Tim’s attitude is shared by some in the government.

    Someday, surely, they must be worth something?

    So what do we do with them until ‘someday’ comes (or hell freezes)?

    The tires will be stored on island and continue to pose a fire risk, collect water and breed mosquito’s, and just look plain ugly.

    Criminal cases have happened as people have ‘accidentally’ set fire to their tire piles as the scrap steel raked from the ashes becomes valuable.

    The irony is the government acting on the eyesore of the scrap cars along dump road but when it comes to putting their own house in order, all they can do is procrastinate, even though they have already charged the consumer.

    Remember, even ‘paying’ someone a figure upto 2 dollars to get the things off island, still leaves them in overall profit.

  10. Another thought would be for the Waste Management Facility to stop taking old tires or charge like 5-10 Dollar fee for them which by the way would actually be used for their disposal. People would be motivated to find ways to recycle them, you’d be surprised at the ways you repurpose old tires. Here a bunch of different ideas found by simply searching the web. I am kind of partial to the raised vegetable gardens as well at the sculptures.

  11. Per a comment I made in an earlier landfill related article, I’m involved in several off-island recycling businesses, and have some knowledge and contacts in scrap metal, waste tire and landfill areas.
    I fully agree with Andy Gray’s Feb 25th 11:03 am comment, although don’t entirely agree with his later comment.
    My take:
    -Scrap tires elsewhere have a negative value. I don’t understand how they could possibly have a positive value on Grand Cayman. If Ironwood will take the tires at no value shipping point the landfill and with no caveats attached then it’s wise to move forward in that direction. Scrap tires only have a positive value, and a small one at that, if they’re resalable/reusable (ie, sorting out the best small percentage and then reselling into Mexico or India or a few South American countries).
    -Bringing shredders on island permanently doesn’t make sense. The volume of tires here doesn’t justify a permanent investment in shredding them and turning them into a usable product. Doing so would be a long term fiasco.
    -Blending shredded tires with asphalt or cement for roadway use is being done here and there, but that use isn’t widespread yet. I’m also not sure it’s done in very hot climates regularly. Further, it’s not as easy as one might think, as a very specific recipe and procedure must be followed.
    -Mr Gray’s later comment about tire shops pulling wire from sidewalls and cutting the treads so as to reduce volume to minimize landfill space used is creative but somewhat flawed. De-beading the tires (pulling out the sidewall steel with a machine) gets the shop a mostly rubber-coated palm tree of steel with a rubber knot on it. That product is still landfilled in the US currently as no steel mill will direct melt it, and if processed further it tangles in automobile shredder rotors. On-island recyclers would end up having to hide the steel sidewall beads, if possible, in their export grades of scrap metal. Getting caught at destination would mean a rejection or large regrade for the on-island scrap yard. De-beaded tire wire is not an easy grade of scrap to blend off.