GT landfill: Still no 'on-site' solution in sight

In use for some 50 years now, the George Town landfill has long been a breeding ground for vermin, pests, pollution, toxins, smoke – and more recently, for consultants’ reports.

The latest such document, by U.K. firm Amec Foster Wheeler, isn’t a bad report. In fact, it’s a pretty good one. We know this because it principally repeats the observations and conclusions arrived at by other capable consultants in previous years.

Here are some key points:

  • The George Town landfill is rapidly running out of space
  • The unlined landfill needs to be capped and remediated
  • The government should promote policies that encourage the diversion of as much garbage from the landfill as possible (i.e., “reduce, reuse, recycle”)
  • Waste-to-energy options should be explored, but this technology will not eliminate completely the need to landfill materials, for example the ash left over from the incineration process.

Most people in the Cayman Islands already know this. Every single one of our policymakers and elected officials do, too … At least, they should.

Yet, here we are. More than two years after the Progressives government gained power, largely through politicians’ promises on the campaign trail that they had an on-site solution for the George Town landfill menace, and two years since the Progressives spurned the Dart Group’s $60 million proposal to fix Mount Trashmore for good and to create a new landfill on the eastern half of Grand Cayman (Voters should never forget: “No dump in Bodden Town”) – the Cayman public is being presented, not with practical solutions, but with more consultants’ reports.

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The way things are going, Grand Cayman is going to need a new landfill just to contain the reams of paper being produced in regard to the existing landfill.

The manner in which Cayman leaders are purportedly pursuing a “National Solid Waste Management Policy” is the way people behave when they don’t have any money. Instead of putting up the cash to fix the George Town landfill, this government is continually rehearsing all the ways in which the landfill could be fixed, if it were financially feasible.

All the while, the George Town landfill continues to grow, abated only by sporadic dump fires and occasional off-island shipments of scrap metal.

According to the Amec Foster Wheeler report, Cayman as a country produces roughly 65,000 tons of solid waste per year, more than 95 percent of it generated in Grand Cayman, and with the vast majority of that material ending up at the George Town dump.

While the landfills on the Sister Islands are certainly inadequate, and Cayman Brac’s landfill is equally as odious, proportionate to the population, as Grand Cayman’s – any “National Solid Waste Management Policy,” as a matter of magnitude, begins and ends with what to do about the George Town landfill.

Along with the publication of the Amec Foster Wheeler report, the Ministry of Health and Culture (led by Premier Alden McLaughlin since last December when he took over some ministerial responsibilities with Bodden Town MLA Osbourne Bodden) released a document containing answers to “Frequently Asked Questions” about the government’s solid waste endeavors.

The ministry’s first response begins, “There is an urgent need to research and develop a formal, nationally agreed policy to address the Islands’ long term goals for an Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS).”

We disagree. Cayman’s true “urgent need” is this: Fix the dump.

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  1. I am sure that at this point everyone should know that there’s going to be nothing done with the dump anytime soon. In my opinion this is directly due to the fact that Cayman does not have the funding to deal with the current pile of garbage nor design and start construction on even the first phase of a new site. In addition to this I highly doubt any company is going to come to Cayman and put a hundred million dollars on the table when the expectation is that any ROI will take about 20 Years to start, which is what has been estimated. In addition to that the ROI in a huge part would be expected to come from household Garbage bills. The problem here is that no one really pays for this now and it doesn’t look like Cayman is in the habit of collecting on unpaid debts ( Medical Bills, Garbage Bills and so on) So I am sure any company considering this will be concerned with that as well. Another reason nothing will happen is because the only offer we had that actually had a good chance of materializing was blown off for what in my opinion was specifically political reasons. This means the current government cannot even entertain that offer and retain the integrity or their word.
    It has been years since the offer from Dart, which I am sure they only made because they have a vested interest in that area, something a smart negotiator would have taken advantage of by maybe asking for a little more. I am also sure that had they been allowed to fix this issue the GT dump would already have been capped and closed in the least and we would have more parkland and green spaces in that area to enjoy. And we all know that they do everything to the highest standards.
    The result is that the district of Bodden Town is Dump Free, however as a nation Cayman has a waste management infrastructure that is overwhelmed, underfunded and not even up to par with some of the poorest countries in the world and this is an embarrassment to us all, when tourists arrive but Cruise ship or Airplane because the biggest site they see is a pile of unprocessed garbage in the middle of this exclusive travel destination. And as a nation on top of an already burgeoning debt we are now faced with the additional burden of the hundreds of millions of dollars that it will cost to fix these issues and no idea how it’ll be paid for other than by the people.
    If you ask me backing out of the Dart deal, did them a 60 Million Dollar favor, because now with all the political attention on it the CIG will be forced to deal with the Dump and since they blew their offer to do it off, it will be at no cost to Dart and he will be able to continue to expand on the City of Camana Bay While we all struggle to pay for the added cost of the GT Dump remediation.

  2. The whole ethos is the wrong way round – They are looking at the big picture, it is a big problem as a whole, and they are overwhelmed.

    Somebody DOES understand the problem, The tire issue is a great example of how to do things RIGHT from a policy standpoint.
    (it failed not because it is a bad strategy, but because the cash collected on import was not ringfenced to be used only for the purpose intended – disposal)

    Had they actually offered the money collected i.e. pay somebody $2 to collect process and export each tire, this would not be an issue, somebody might even have bid 1.90…

    It failed when somebody in government decided that CIG should try and make a buck as a scrap dealer (and failed so woefully that it is not funny) Government should stick to governing.

    If they find the tires cannot be dealt with for 2$, up the import disposal fee to $2.50, it’s a good policy – just implement it – no committees or consultants needed.

    The model is proven and works worldwide – In Malta, they do not import Soda in plastic bottles – ZERO LANDFILL for soda bottles – Everything is Glass, deposit & return, with bottling plants on island to wash and refill. That will work here – just do it. 25 cents on a plastic bottle on import, zero on glass and stand back and don”t interfere – the market will sort it out!

    Cayman brewery has shown the model also works for beer…

    By paying on import, household collections could still be free.

    A framework bill to enable charging of a disposal levy could be put in place now, even if rolled out slowly it would soon make an impact AND would not have an adverse effect whatever policy was finally chosen.

    Small steps like this would extend the life of the landfill – half the amount of garbage and its lifespan doubles.

    Absence of a fully micro-strategised holistic policy (whatever the acronym of the week), does not prevent obvious forward moving steps like this.

  3. About 10 years ago the then minister responsible went to the USA to review WTE as an option. Nothing came of it.

    In 2006 the same minister received a proposal that rather than go ahead with the contract, which turned into the Matrix scandal, to clear post-Ivan scrap from these islands he should adopt a sustainable recycling project. I saw a copy of it and it was addressed to him personally. It was ignored.

    In 2007 proposals were made that CUC should exploit the options on their newer generators to use LPG or biodiesel. The official response, again from the minister, was that diesel was the only option.

    Around the same time arguments were put forward for solar and wind power along with net metering to introduce surplus power from these sources into the net. CUC suggested the completely impractical OTEC as an alternative. The minister responsible repeated the argument that diesel was the only option.

    Bottom line is that there is no understanding within either the LA or CIG of the urgent need to get their collective heads around the idea that they are turning these islands into a polluted rubbish dump.

    The Compass has been accused of treason, the crime of betraying one’s country. What greater treason is there than condemning these islands to a future where the levels of pollution present due to a failure to adopt basic solid waste management, sustainable energy and recycling programmes exceed anything permitted anywhere in the First World?

  4. I think that the dump is used as a political tool. Next election you will hear about all the negative impact this dump is causing to the Islands and the environment . I think that the politicians that is in a position to do something about it now , and use the words George town dump in their 2017 campaign , send him or her to work at dump , not in the LA . This would be the only way that the dump will get fixed the proper way.