Finding a new landfill location: Not 'if,' but 'when'

James Schubert, Cayman’s solid waste management chief, was asked a direct question. He responded with a direct (and we would suggest, honest) answer.

The question (in essence): Is the current landfill site suitable for the future needs of Grand Cayman?

The answer: “There will be a point in the future where there will be a need for a new landfill … All landfills have finite lives.”

Dwell on that exchange for a moment. This is what it sounds like when an official starts talking truth and sense.

While sorting, recycling and incineration technology can extend the life span of a landfill by diverting and reducing the volume of material to be buried, even the most sophisticated methods available cannot eliminate entirely the need to entomb waste beneath the ground.

In the case of the George Town landfill, we’re rapidly running out of space. In the case of the Cayman Islands treasury, we’ve long ago run out of money for such projects.

The Progressives are well aware of these realities. After all, the 2008 report compiled by consultants Gershman, Brickner & Bratton during the previous PPM administration specifically stated that in order to build the proposed $100 million waste-to-energy facility, the government would need to acquire additional neighboring land from either the Water Authority or a private owner.

That point was further elaborated upon in the 2013 report by consultants Cardno Entrix for Dart, who estimated that in order to continue operating the George Town Landfill until the year 2035 “as is” — i.e., stacking waste 80 feet high into the air — the government would have to purchase some 31 acres of adjoining property.

For months, now extending into years, the Progressives-led government has been maintaining the opposite, namely that our landfill mess could be solved in situ, that is, where it lies.

Although it might seem like long-ago history, readers will recall that this government was formed in large measure because the Bodden Town contingent of four representatives found common cause with the George Town members based on the pledge “No Dump in Bodden Town.”

The cost of such political deal-doing was, at a minimum, $60 million, the approximate amount the Dart organization was prepared to spend to remediate the current site and establish a more modern facility (but still a landfill) on land it owned in Bodden Town.

Today we’ve got no $60 million, no new solid waste facility in Bodden Town (or anywhere else), multiple unpleasant memories of toxic fires, and a consulting contract to study the issue further.

The allegiance that was formed between the Bodden Towners and the George Town candidates (who, one would think, would be the most vociferous about removing the landfill from their district) had little to do with waste management and a lot to do with electoral arithmetic.

Not if, but when, the government finds itself again researching possible new sites for Grand Cayman’s waste management facility, the Compass’s stance will remain unchanged: Weigh all the options objectively according to the merits of the individual sites.

Of one thing we are confident: If Premier Alden McLaughlin can fulfill the promises he and his party made in the 2013 campaign, he most likely will progress from being Cayman’s “landfill landlord” to being handily re-elected in a “landfill landslide.”


  1. This problem no one wants to touch with a ten foot pole, and if you watch it carefully, it will be tossed over from one government to the other, however I do not believe it will be able to fire up votes again in Bodden Town, the coals have gone out.
    I am always thinking is there a problem why each district cannot have their own dump facility. Sooner or later we WILL have to do some thing about it; but why not do it sooner than later.

  2. This landfill issue shows where leadership is required and as of yet has been lacking. Clear educational guidelines showing the public the detailed plan for the efficient professional running of a state of the art landfill /recycling center to assure them that it will not be another dump. The management contract with a professional waste management company to manage the facility for 5 – 10 years while training local employees must be stressed.
    The jobs and economic benefit is also clearly demonstrated to the public.
    Finally as with all democracies some economic "sugar" provided to the district where this new facility is to be located.

  3. Personally I”ve given up hope that this will ever be resolved.

    So we do our bit by recycling glass, aluminum and plastic. (Glass and aluminum at Camana Bay and plastic at Kirk Market).

    Then we take a deep breath before we start the drive past it and try to hold our breath till we can no longer smell it.

    I really feel sorry for the folks who live downwind. It has blighted this part of the island.

    The tires could be recycled.

    The problem of course is that in order to cope with driving some 40,000 miles at high speed, they are very hard wearing. Steel wire surrounded by tough rubber.
    Tearing them apart is a tough, energy intensive job. The machinery is expensive and prone to breakdowns.
    And the value of the final separate products is less than the cost of this process.

    No one will pay for old tires. We will have to pay someone to take them.

  4. This doesn”t surprise me at all. What does surprise me is that he admitted it. He may very well feel the backlash of that. Everyone should know by now that nothing is going to happen with the GT Dump and not much more will get said about it until the campaign of lies start again.

  5. The patience of the people of the Cayman Islands with these tactics of delay is now exhausted. They no longer believe CIG intends to address the open air dump under any circumstances, regardless what risks this refusal presents to public health and safety."
    They, the people, must go to court as a last resort because it appears to be their only option for getting the issue resolved. There got to be Public Health statues, Health and Safety Codes, Sanitation and Environmental Quality regulations, Solid Waste, Toxic Chemicals, Sewage, Litter, and water acts that are being grossly disregarded.
    They must ask the court to compel the CIG to turn over the land in Bodden town for a new solid waste facility.
    Anyone can bring a case to court regarding environmental law, including property damage or bodily injury or damages from someone who is violating environmental law.
    Citizens can also file an environmental lawsuit against companies or organizations that are violating environmental law.
    I just don’t know IF the Cayman Islands have such laws and regulations.

  6. I do not believe that the PPM ever stated that the present landfill site would last forever under the current usage ;to say otherwise is misleading. This editorial contains both a surprise,and also a little bit of the expected. First the surprise;the Compass Editorial Board admits that Dart,s plan in Midland Acres was "a more modern facility (but still a landfill)".It was also nice of them to admit that "The allegiance that was formed between the Bodden Towners and the George Town ”PPM”candidates (who, one would think, would be the most vociferous about removing the landfill from their district) had little to do with waste management and a lot to do with electoral arithmetic".This after years of the Compass alleging that the allegiance was based on waste management ie No dump in Bodden Town. Secondly the editors could not resist the ususal put down and disrespect towards Caymanians by referring to Premier Alden McLaughlin as "Cayman”s landfill landlord".I wonder what Caymanians would call the Compass editors ,if their comments were not censored .

  7. I personally call the Compass Editors the bearers of truth. They seem to be the only ones that continue to press issues like this, keeping them from being swept under the carpet..

    As far as Dart”s offer goes my take is that it would have been way way better than what we currently have or what we”ll get anytime soon. It would have been a huge Jump start to handling the garbage issues. Just taking the GT Dump remediation off the pubic plate would have been a huge advantage. And providing a new site to process garbage correctly would have given us a fresh start at no cost. The only negative to that offer was that the site was in Bodden Town who”s people didn”t want it there no matter how badly the country needed it. I suspect that eventually when a new site has to be selected folks in other districts will expect the same favoritism that was given to the folks of Bodden Town. I would hate to be the person that has to for instance announce that a new site has been selected in West Bay or East End. Not to mention the cost of the site in addition to the cost of remediation of the GT dump. However I am quite sure that this choice will not have to be made by this administration. It”s already been show that they are prepared to just keep dumping on top of Mount Trashmore for another 10 years.

    Thanks Compass, Keep up the good work..

  8. I am still in the opinion that the landfill should be placed off the island. Because no one wants it around them. Is there anyone who writes on this newspapers” comments section want a WMF near them? LOL I think not.
    But if you answer yes then I would say put it in Little Cayman. All of it from the entire Cayman population then everyone would be happy.
    Even the environmentalists would be happy. We would have one island that would not grow in population. But would grow in sea life and bird life.

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