The overarching theme to be gleaned from the newest solid waste management report is that the Cayman Islands government is in love with recycling — particularly, vast sections of previous reports.
So if any of the following editorial sounds familiar, pardon us. Think of it as a compulsory repurposing of previously existing material.
Here are the key points from the new 201-page report from U.K. consultant Amec Foster Wheeler:
- The George Town Landfill will reach maximum capacity in about five years.
- After that, a new landfill must be constructed on Grand Cayman.
- The landfills on each of the three islands pose environmental and health risks, and should be closed and remediated.
- Initiatives such as incineration, waste-to-energy, recycling and composting can serve to divert much waste from the new landfill.
- “Mining” the existing landfill for waste-to-energy purposes won’t work.
- Construction of the new facility will cost more than $106 million.
- Over 25 years, cumulative operating costs will total more than $426 million.
- Government does not have the resources to pay for the construction or operation of the project, and so must look to partner with the private sector.
In practical terms, the new report brings Cayman no nearer to solving our country’s waste management woes than we were three years ago, when the newly installed Progressives government summarily terminated the deal forged between the previous administration and the Dart Group to close, cap and remediate the George Town Landfill. The plan was to build a new landfill in far east Bodden Town (between two active quarries).
The kind way to label the new report is as an “exercise.” A less-than-charitable description is “fantasy.”
Even esteemed science fiction author H.G. Wells (“The Time Machine”) would have trouble with this plot: ferrying garbage from the Brac and Little Cayman over to Grand Cayman, where super-advanced technology diverts an astounding 95 percent of waste from being landfilled. (For perspective, after decades of effort, the city of San Francisco has a “landfill diversion rate” of 80 percent — the highest of any major city in North America.)
Of the $106 million in construction costs for the new waste facility, $60 million is earmarked for the waste-to-energy component, considered necessary because (we’d better tell you because you’d never guess) of “global warming.”
From the report: “[T]he continued landfilling of solid waste will result in an adverse contribution to global warming and as a consequence, to a rising sea level … Placing this in context and considering the low lying disposition of the Cayman Islands, the continued landfilling of solid waste would appear to be inconsistent with protecting the local environment and amenity to the Cayman Islands over the long term.”
Oh, mercy. The infinitesimal influence that Cayman may have on sea level rise (a millimeter? a micrometer?) certainly shouldn’t direct, or even influence, public policy — particularly when we don’t have the financial wherewithal to effect even a simple landfill solution.
Cutting through the verbiage, there are two components to the solid waste conundrum, one of which — the George Town Landfill — is quite complex, since it branches out into topics of health, the environment, tourism, aesthetics, finances, etc.
The other side — politics — is much simpler. The landfill issue presents a problem of trust for those elected officials who stood up during the 2013 campaign proclaiming “No dump in Bodden Town.” They assured voters they had an alternative solution. But they didn’t — and still don’t.
We wonder whether Premier Alden McLaughlin (representing George Town) would have gotten elected if, instead of joining in the chorus being chanted at the time by his colleagues to the east, he had campaigned on the following slogan:
“No dump in Bodden Town … Yes, dump in George Town!”