The government’s Department of Environmental Health will take over private recycling efforts at seven “curbside” depots throughout Grand Cayman on Wednesday.
The collection points, previously serviced by Junk, privately part-owned by former Deputy Premier and Minister of Education Rolston Anglin, has terminated its efforts at the seven depots. citing high operating costs and volatile commodity process.
Supermarket managers and owners welcomed the change, however, while government remained uncertain about budgets, but vowed nonetheless “to make it work,” according to the Director of Environmental Health Roydell Carter.
“The ministry is coordinating this with the department, and I don’t want to get in the middle, but the feeling is just that we will make this work,” he said, by using at least 70 government-issued 4-by-6 meter recycling bins and 32 smaller wheeled bins for glass and ceramics, front-loader trucks and labor resources.
The funding for the program will ultimately “come out of the department’s budget,” he said.
“The department is stepping in in the interim, because the contract fell through, and it’s just until the Integrated Solid Waste Management System is in place and it’s all properly costed and managed and much more efficient.”
The Public Works Department issued a tender for the recycling depots in January this year. The only bidder at its February close was Mr. Anglin’s Junk. Subsequent negotiations between the former minister and Public Works Department’s Senior Project Manager Jim Schubert stalled, however, on costs.
Government felt the work could be done for roughly $250,000 per year on the two-year contract – with an option for two more single-year extensions. Mr. Anglin felt the business case required at least $500,000 per year.
Nonetheless, Junk agreed to operate the seven recycling depots – at Foster’s Food Fair locations in West Bay, the Strand, the Airport Shopping Centre and Savannah’s Countryside Shopping Village; Kirk’s and Hurley’s supermarkets; and Chisholm’s Grocery in North Side – until the end of May while talks continued.
When agreement proved elusive – and Junk’s expenses mounted – the parties declared an impasse and the Public Works Committee – with the Department of Environmental Health – stepped in.
Mr. Schubert earlier declared the Department of Environmental Health would assume control only until a new tender was offered sometime in the late autumn – under the wider aegis of government’s broad Integrated Solid Waste Management System strategy to reduce the George Town landfill.
Any new recycling scheme will encompass two additional depots, one in Camana Bay and another at the dump, where the Department of Environmental Health will aggregate, bale and ship collected materials.
Supermarket owners unanimously welcomed the June 1 change, saying it was likely to be cheaper and cleaner.
Kirk’s General Manager – and former Cayman Airway’s pilot – Thom Guyton, said, “We were paying Junk about $500 per month.” Foster’s Managing Director Woody Foster said he had paid “about $1,000 per month, but that was for all four stores,” while Hurley’s Store Manager Vinton Smithson said the company had paid, but could not recall details. Chisholm’s Grocery owner and manager Kathy Bodden said she had paid nothing at all to Junk.
Mr. Carter said government would not charge for its service: “It’s just part of the expanded recycling collections,” which will also include six-days-per-week pick-ups, boosting Junk’s weekly service.
“It’s a mess,” Ms. Bodden said, alluding to overflowing bins and unsightly litter in the parking lot. “I’ve complained a few times and, yeah, I have seen the other depots. We welcome anything that will make this better.”
Mr. Guyton said Kirk’s was happy to give the Department of Environmental Health a chance. “We’ll give them a few weeks to see. We have moved the bins further away from our building,” he said, lamenting the overspill into the parking lot.
“Junk is taking their bins out,” said Mr. Smithson, “and we’re hoping government will do a better job – and we don’t have to pay.”
Mr. Foster was happy to have the Department of Environmental Health take over, but pointed out that the supermarket “had, really, nothing more to do with it than to provide facilities,” but said “we hope government will do a better job” policing the area. “If they cannot clean it up, then we’ll have to do something.”
Fosters affiliated businesses such as Progressive Distributors, Mr. Foster said, compounded the situation whereby, for example, “we can have a truck that just backs up and dumps off all beer bottles.”
“There’s a cost to this, you see,” he added. “It’s like a lot of things: Everyone wants to recycle, but no one wants to pay for it. We ship cardboard to Miami and, I can tell you, baling and shipping isn’t cheap. “Junk was a business,” Mr. Foster said, and the depots were not commercially sustainable.
Mr. Guyton observed that while Kirk’s paid Junk to collect recyclables, “we probably did not pay them enough” to make it worthwhile.
Mr. Foster summed up the situation, saying “Government doesn’t have to run it as a business, [which] is probably the only way to keep the landfill clean and clear.”
Mr. Carter agreed: “We are just going to have to make this work. If we don’t step in and fill the gap, then all that material will end up in the landfill, and we want to keep it out of the landfill, so we need to keep the [recycling] momentum.”