Government to take over recycling stations

A sign at the recycling depot at Kirk's Market in George Town notifies the public that JUNK will no longer be operating its recycling services from there after May 31. After that date, the government's Public Works Department will take over. - PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY

Starting June 1, private collection and recycling company Junk, owned by former Deputy Premier and Minister of Education Rolston Anglin, will no longer service Cayman’s seven recycling depots.

The Public Works Department will temporarily take over the effort, filling in for Junk until a broader, long-term contact for recycling is completed, probably next spring.

The contract will be part of long-range plans for solid waste management, according to the Public Works Department. In the interim, government is shouldering annual costs of approximately $250,000 to operate the depots, aggregate recycled materials at the George Town landfill and ship them to Florida.

The seven “curbside” depots are at Chisholm’s Grocery Store in North Side; Foster’s supermarkets in West Bay, the Strand Plaza, the Airport Centre and Savannah’s Countryside Shopping Village; and Hurley’s and Kirk’s supermarkets.

“We had numerous conversations to get to the point where we could award a contract,” said Jim Schubert, senior project manager for the Public Works Department and leader of government’s Integrated Solid Waste Management System.

In mid-January, as part of the waste management system strategy, Mr. Schubert issued a request for proposals, seeking tenders to operate eight recycling stations in Grand Cayman.

A sign at the recycling depot at Kirk's Market in George Town notifies the public that JUNK will no longer be operating its recycling services from there after May 31. After that date, the government's Public Works Department will take over. - PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY
A sign at the recycling depot at Kirk’s Market in George Town notifies the public that JUNK will no longer be operating its recycling services from there after May 31. After that date, the government’s Public Works Department will take over. – PHOTO: NORMA CONNOLLY

By the Feb. 12 deadline, only Mr. Anglin had bid on the project. He said, however, costs were greater then government projections and called on the Public Works Department to boost its offer. In the interim, Junk agreed to operate the depots until the end of May while Mr. Anglin and Mr. Schubert sought a price accord.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to award the contract,” Mr. Schubert said.

“We were trying to get a deal done, with a proper budget,” Mr. Anglin said, but “the numbers” were not there.

Both agreed it was “a business decision” for Junk to end its collections, which depend on high volume for profitability, itself contingent on volatile – and often marginal – commodity prices for recycled materials. Coupled with additional costs of aggregation and shipping, the business, Mr. Anglin said, simply did not pay sufficiently.

Mr. Schubert said the tentative budget for the project was about $250,000 per year. Mr. Anglin said that number was low, and should be doubled.

“It should be about half-a-million [dollars],” Mr. Anglin said.

“It’s not expensive, but we could have had a nice seamless system, and the privatization of waste management in Cayman,” he added.

“We were already doing it, and we would have had our reliability and all the depots. We already have proved that people will come out and recycle.”

Mr. Schubert said the Public Works Department is “planning to step in now,” hoping for a smooth June 1 transition from Junk to the Public Works Department and the Department of Environmental Health.

“We hope to start when Junk finishes so there is no interruption of service,” he said. “We are gearing up so it won’t be disruptive and we don’t have to say to people ‘hey, hold onto your recycling material for a month.’ We don’t want to stop the momentum.”

The effort involves servicing 18 large bins across all the depots, collecting cardboard, boxboard, newspaper and magazines, and another three or four “wheely bins,” in each location, Mr. Schubert said, for glass, plastic, tin and aluminum.

“This is only an interim measure until the larger contract for [the Integrated Solid Waste Management System],” Mr. Schubert said, “although that won’t be awarded for some time, around next spring. The depots, however, will be part of that project.”

“There is a good chance we could bid on the overall project,” Mr. Anglin said, naming local scrap metal collector Island Recycling and its Island Waste Carriers affiliate as a natural partner.

“They do scrap metal and we do households,” Mr. Anglin said, numbering his private-home, condo and strata clients between 70 and 80.

“Pure recycling is small,” he added, “but with a proper project, the overall business is huge, and with the right bidders, there could be tens of millions of dollars in this.

“It will grow and grow.”

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  1. Government to take over the recycling stations. How long do we think this project will last if, or even if not carefully monitored. After one year will it just be a Brain Storm gone down the drain and money wasted?.
    I cannot understand why invitations for a Private recycling station cannot be set up here in Cayman; instead of all materials to be shipped to Florida. I would see jobs for Caymanians through this private entity. I can also see crushed glass bottles ( and we throw them away by the thousands every Monday morning from clubs and bars) Bottles crushed and mixed can be used for so many things of interest, especially mixing with asphalt and used in fixing roads. Sure cuts down on the exposure of “mesothelioma from the hot molten tar on the roads”. Do we really think that the asphalt roads are not contributing to cancer and illness so frequently discovered? Think again.
    But I guess anything will be tried with a view of making sure that the George Town Dump is not scrambled and capped, while people are dying each day from illness on the island and knowing full well that the Dump is contributing to a part of it.
    Why can’t decisions be made, and political fences mended, that we can get a state of art Dump instead of recycling here and recycling there, which we know is not going to work for long and only be wasted money for a year.

  2. From the beginning Junk’s scheme was doomed to fail. All the sites were a mess. This was because the wrong containers were used. Small domestic plastic bins with lids for glass. Large metal containers with heavy lids for other recyclables that had to be emptied by hand. Nowhere else on earth uses containers or methods like these. Please Government now look at how the rest of the world does it. Let’s have fit for purpose containers that can be mechanically removed when full and replaced with empty containers.

  3. We went by the recycling containers at Fosters at the Strand today.

    The containers were overflowing. Uninviting to people to use.

    It does not make sense to mix together all the recyclable materials when one will need to pay someone to sort it out later. Could this be a job for prisoners at Northward?

    In principle recycling is a good idea and in fact is compulsory in many countries.

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