The failure to identify a new site for a landfill in Grand Cayman undermines government’s attempts to develop a long-term waste management strategy, critics have warned.
Walling Whittaker, a former director of environmental health for the Cayman Islands, said the absence of any plan for a landfill was the “elephant in the room,” following the release of the long-term National Solid Waste Management Strategy for public consultation.
“It makes something of a mockery of the idea of a 50-year plan if you don’t identify a site for landfill,” said Mr. Whittaker, who was a candidate for the United Democratic Party at the last election.
“There is no real scope to expand the George Town facility. Even with maximum recycling, they are delaying the inevitable and kicking the can down the road.”
The strategy, produced by AMEC Foster-Wheeler, suggests the landfill will reach capacity in 2021, though it predicts this can be extended through greater use of recycling, composting and the introduction of a waste-to-energy facility. The consultants were specifically asked not to consider alternative landfill sites as part of their plan.
Martin Edelenbos, engineering coordinator of waste management for Dart Realty, believes that was a mistake. He said, “The decision to focus on the George Town site as the only disposal location for Grand Cayman contradicts all previous work done on this subject and is not conducive to establishing an environmentally sound, long-term and sustainable National Solid Waste Management Strategy.”
Mr. Edelenbos welcomed the strategies outlined in the consultant’s report to “reduce, reuse and recycle,” but warned they would not eliminate the need for a new landfill site. “Regardless of any other waste diversion methods or waste-to-energy, there will always be a need for landfill. An environmentally sound disposal facility must be the foundation of an integrated solid waste management strategy.
“Dart Realty encourages government to acknowledge this and to immediately start developing a site selection process for a new integrated waste management facility.”
Both Mr. Whittaker and Mr. Edelenbos, also a former assistant director of environmental health, warn that site selection and development could take several years and therefore should begin immediately. Mr. Whittaker said delaying the decision risked allowing it to reach a “crisis point.”
Jim Schubert, government’s senior project manager for waste management, acknowledged that a new landfill site would be required at some stage.
But, he said, this could be “somewhere well into the future.” He added, “A key focus will be extending the lifespan of the George Town landfill for as long as is prudently and pragmatically possible, and options being examined include landfill mining and the potential for relocating non-landfill waste management activities and facilities on the site.
“The early diversion of waste away from the landfill through waste reduction, reuse and expanded recycling and yard waste composting will divert significant quantities from the landfill, which will also extend the life of the landfill site.” He said the introduction of a waste-to-energy plant would significantly reduce the amount of waste going into landfill.
A new landfill site would need to be specifically engineered to principally accept ash residue from the waste-to-energy process, he added.
Mr. Schubert acknowledged that no sites had been identified for any of the facilities, including landfill, but said this would be part of the Outline Business Case development.
In its submission to government during the consultation process on the AMEC report, Dart warned that the costs of waste to energy will likely outweigh the potential revenues from electricity produced. Though Dart has indicated support for the technology as a way to reduce the amount of waste going into a landfill, it cautions, “The notion that the waste mound is a source of free energy is a fallacy.”