Taking out the trash may not seem like a complex subject, but when a government has to deal with it on a national level, it quickly becomes apparent that a “piecemeal” solution will not work, Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said Wednesday.
Both Mr. Bodden and Premier Alden McLaughlin spoke during a Legislative Assembly meeting at Cayman Brac’s Aston Rutty Centre about the need to have an “over-arching strategy” for waste management.
Mr. McLaughlin, who recently traveled with Mr. Bodden and health ministry chief officer Jennifer Ahearn on a “trash tour” to Tampa, Florida, said it was a real eye-opener.
“[The trip] has given me a better understanding of a very real and complex issue of solid waste management,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
Minister Bodden, who acknowledged Wednesday that he is no expert on the subject, said it would do no good for government to simply start issuing requests for proposals and seeking bids for items such as waste removal, a new landfill, a recycling center or a waste-to-energy plant until it knows how the various aspects of such a system will operate.
“So the next step in this process will be the drafting … of a national strategy for waste management,” Mr. Bodden said. “Does this process take time? Yes, it does. However, I do not believe [it] means unwarranted delay.”
He outlined the steps required by the U.K. government for the approval of a waste management project, including the “strategic outline case,” which he said would go to Cabinet for approval in four to six weeks.
Once that and the national strategy for waste are completed, the government will seek proposals and identify a “preferred project option.”
The health minister said the options reviewed place “a particular emphasis” on waste-to-energy solutions, but he said he was not committing [Cayman] to that technology right now.
“It is my perception that [environmental] impacts are much less [from the waste-to-energy plants] than one would experience with a traditional landfill,” he said.
While in Tampa, officials reviewed four waste-to-energy facilities, two landfills and one recycling center, Mr. Bodden said.
Cayman would obviously need a much smaller waste-to-energy facility than the ones operating in Tampa, but Mr. Bodden said it seems the technology could be scaled to fit Cayman’s purpose.
Also, the noise and odor from the waste-to-energy plants was much less. One was close to a suburban community with no visible deleterious effects, Mr. Bodden said. “The only place you noticed the smell is where the truck dumped the trash,” he said.
However, the minister noted that even with waste-to-energy facilities, residual ash would need to be placed into a landfill. In Cayman, the ash could be used to cover over the George Town landfill site, he suggested.
The minister said no final decisions on trash management plans for the Cayman Islands have been made or would be made for quite some time.