Avoiding the inevitable at the landfill

The Cayman Islands government is asking the public for its input on its newly published National Solid Waste Management Strategy.

Here’s our feedback: Decide what you’re going to do about our country’s solid waste problem — and then do it.

The latest treatise on trash from consultants Amec Foster Wheeler comes in at 250 pages, much of it consisting of “recycled” and “reused” materials from earlier reports.

The bottom line, buried within the details of the documentation, remains the same. According to consultants, “the existing George Town landfill site will be more or less at capacity by the summer of 2021. Construction of a residual waste cell within the site after this period is likely to be difficult. The CIG should therefore consider alternative land to accommodate new waste management facilities including an alternative landfill area …”

While consultants, at the express direction of government officials, dwell upon the existing George Town landfill site, and measures that could be taken, such as “waste reduction,” “recycling and composting” and “waste-to-energy” options, including — you’ll never guess — mining the dump, the upshot is that even if all of those actions were implemented, the net result would be to “provide some additional flexibility” and “prolong the life of the landfill for a limited number of years.”

Put another way, recycling and waste-to-energy aren’t solutions — they’re postponements.

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And expensive ones, we might add. Looking at four options for waste-to-energy-type facilities at the George Town landfill site, consultants estimate that the various projects could cost anywhere from $50 million to $300 million (over 25 years), and each would involve a capital outlay of more than US$70 million. (Those figures expressly don’t include other costs that will be identified by KPMG during the forthcoming “outline business case.”)

Again, the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars we’re talking about won’t prevent the necessity, sooner than later, for government to find and build a new landfill somewhere on Grand Cayman. As envisioned, the project will, at best, merely delay the inevitable.

The new report includes an interesting piece of information that we haven’t seen highlighted before. While questions have been raised before about the possibility of digging a new landfill cell at the existing site in George Town, consultants now explain that the remaining land at the site “is all underlain by fills comprising Hurricane Ivan waste which extend below the water table. This would make the construction of any future waste containment cell difficult even if there was a sufficient footprint available.”

In other words — What else ya got?

Cayman’s government has instructed consultants to find a solution to our country’s solid waste management crisis, but only at the existing George Town landfill site. Following many months of research and inquiry, consultants have come up with a plan that will cost $50 million to $300 million, but won’t prevent the need for a new landfill somewhere else.

We have a different plan. Close the dump. Cap the dump. Build a new landfill elsewhere.

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  1. So, Where should we put it ? It should be someplace where the wind blowing west doesn’t impact people. We haven’t got anybody to take the tyres so they not going anywhere. We will get more tyres ,population rising. If we put it anywhere on Grand Cayman it will be seen as a hill in the years that follow. The smell will follow, the contamination of the soil will follow too.
    Somehow , someway it has to leave Cayman by ship or by rocket.

  2. This article isnt about the 2 most popular topics in Cayman so its not likely to get a lot of attention. But folks, the catastrophic effects of someone not getting off their buttss is going to be overwhelming.

    If you do not plan, you are sure to fail and planning isnt a guarantee either but at least there was an effort.

    This problem started long before this generation as we continued to put bottles and cans in the landfill in horrendous amounts. These 2 items dont decompose very well but they sure take up a lot of space, something that Cayman does not have.

    So stop coming up with hairbrain schemes to turn waste to energy and other around the table solutions that have no ultimate solution.

    2021 is not far away!

  3. "Capping the dump" What on Earth does that mean? Capping Mt. Fuji? Capping Mt. Everest? How? And what about capping the dump on South Side, Cayman Brac? This dump crisis has been trundling along for 30 years and no solutions yet Old dump was moved from West End small Bluff area about 25 yrs ago to the present site where the accretion of polluted trash has filled and over-filled the land by the Bluff (it’s now halfway up the Queen’s property, the face of the Bluff).

  4. I was on the design and engineering team back in 1983 and the Cayman Government did not approve the landfill to have a membrane liner system to protect our environment. But they did approve a liner for Little Cayman’s landfill that years later had a fire and destroyed the liner and would not pay to have it repaired.

    This Grand Cayman landfill reached critical capacity back in 1998. The landfill leachate was so bad even back then that we recommended the landfill to be capped to remediate this environmental hazard. So, I do not know who in their right mind would now say 2021…………

    I have been engineering Waste to Energy technology for many years in North America and this is the solution for Grand Cayman, especially since there is no other location in Grand Cayman for a new landfill. The existing landfill is a gold mine for an energy stockpile for Waste to Energy for many future decades. So, one waste to energy power plant would be used to take care of the daily incoming Municipal solid waste and a second waste to energy power plant to generate electrical power from the existing landfill stockpile, but would CUC agree in except this electrical power to the grid? These waste to energy plant also generate large quantities of Bio Diesel that CUC could burn clean fuel instead of their crude diesel. Another by-product of these plants is charcoal that can be used for fertilizer.

  5. With the problems that is faced with the dump,why don’t someone private purchase a chipper to chip and shred all the tyres, this material is expensive, it makes good play ground material for kids.The old cars they can be crushed and exported, ships leave Grand Cayman empty. Then the Government can deal with the garbage but have to take CuC out of the process.

  6. Nan Socolow: Capping the dump basically means closing it permanently by covering it with soil or other approved material, then monitoring any leachate and gasses coming from it. Ideally you’d capture and use the methane gas the capped landfill produces too.

    Ron Clair Ebanks: If you just chip the tires with a portable shredder the metal is still in the rubber and so it would still need to be landfilled, or possibly used as a base in civil engineering projects. Adding equipment to shred the tire rubber smaller and to take out the metal so as to produce rubber mulch is expensive. A permanent facility would be needed and there’s not nearly enough tire volume for that after the initial inventory is consumed.

    David Miller: No one to take the tires? I thought maybe a year plus back a developer agreed to take them at no value in their whole tire state after several pay-us-for-them bids didn’t work out. I’d commented then that the government should lock down that get rid of the tires at no value offer asap. I take it nothing ever happened?

    Jay Easterbrook: No liner under and around the landfill? I didn’t realize that. Not sure how you can properly cap a landfill that’s totally unlined, as it’s like putting a lid on a garbage can that has no sides or bottom.

  7. My 2-cents:

    -1- If the study recommended mining the landfill, then that’s crazy-talk. Some landfills in the US were mined when scrap metal pricing was at or near historic highs. Scrap metal pricing, as well as many other commodity prices, are extremely low currently. I doubt the revenue would cover the costs right now. Segregating metals as they come in, if relatively separate already, is a different story.

    -2- Giving the consultants the limitation of "on the current site" makes no sense. There’s no effective solution, and one of the main routes to Seven Mile Beach for the airport tourists is right past the landfill — ugh!

    -3- The most sensible and economic solutions are either a new landfill in a different location, or a small waste to energy plant.

    -4- Waste to energy plants can be built for a whole lot less than the article states. I’d suggest getting quotes from the small waste to energy companies which actually build facilities for appx 50K population communities. Talking with and touring Wheelabrator (formerly part of Waste Mgmt) plants, which I assume is what occurred during the Florida tours, makes no sense as they build huge facilities. If I only need a small pick-up truck, why am I looking at luxury SUV’s?

  8. @ Jay Easterbrook

    I do not want this to be in any way seen as a challenge to expertise in the field but could I ask a question?

    The dump (Mt Trashmore) contains a huge variety of materials including CCA treated timber and various plastic materials that can generate dioxins if not properly incinerated. As I understand it you cannot just stuff this material into a WTE plant and that fact was established during a CIG visit to the USA in 2006. So how do you propose to process the contents of this festering heap before using it for WTE?

    This is potentially one of those situations where if you get it wrong the islands, and the surrounding seas, could be irreversibly contaminated.

  9. @ David Williams
    The new Waste to Energy power plants uses CMD”s and CTO”s for safe emissions control standards approved by the United States EPA. Even the fly ash bi-product is turned into charcoal for fertilizer. Yes, these plants can consume safely any MSW but it is more efficient if the MSW is separated for recycling. Good example are used car tires have a awesome return for producing Bio Diesel as a bi-product. Landscape stockpiles have a better return for producing electricity.

    @ D Matecun
    Recent Waste to Energy plants are designed and built for a 100 tons/day of MSW for $10 million. My design for Grand Cayman would require two power plants, one for daily MSW and the other plant to start consuming the existing landfill and sending power to the grid. CUC probably would not like this to happen.

    Capping the existing landfill stops rain water from getting into the landfill and reduces the leachate but this capping is not permanent as one of the waste energy plants is using the existing stockpile of waste for energy to the grid and produces Bio-Diesel as one of the Bi-products which again could be used by CUC to power the grid.