Turning trash into electricity in a waste-to-energy plant is a central part of government’s new national waste management plan, which includes no new landfill site.
Jim Schubert, the senior project manager, said the plant would be key to achieving the ambitious target of diverting 95 percent of waste from landfill.
The existing George Town site – dubbed Mount Trashmore – will be capped, revegetated and potentially turned into a park with walking trails, he said.
The only landfill included in the plan is a 4-acre pit on the current site, which will be used to dispose of the residual ash following the waste-to-energy conversion process, which reduces trash to 3 percent of its original volume.
Government is negotiating land purchases in the George Town area for the rest of the infrastructure, including a recycling depot, composting plant and the waste-to-energy facility.
Mr. Schubert said everything that is not suitable for composting or recycling, with the exception of hazardous waste, could be fuel for a waste-to-energy plant, meaning the islands’ landfill requirements would be radically reduced.
“Some ongoing provision for landfill will still be required, but the large reduction means no new site will be required and, instead, the landfill requirement will be met by the design of a new engineered landfill that can be accommodated within the present boundary of the George Town landfill,” he said.
Mr. Schubert accepted there had been criticism around the speed of the process, but said the research and reporting phase is now over and government would now move swiftly, beginning the procurement process in October with a view to having a contract in place by next spring. He said groups of companies would be asked to form mini-conglomerates to bid collectively for the Integrated Solid Waste Management Strategy contract.
Despite the likely requirement for an environmental impact assessment on the waste-to-energy plant, he believes a network of new waste treatment facilities will be in place by the time the current landfill reaches capacity, expected in five or six years at current rates.
“These are now quite aggressive time limits to get it done,” he said.
A timeline to completion, released with the business case report, anticipates completion of construction of the new facilities by the end of 2019.
Experts from Amec Foster Wheeler, the government’s consultants on the project, were on island last week, sorting through piles of trash as part of a survey that will help inform the bid process.
They sorted through 10 sample loads of 200 pounds each from both commercial and residential trash trucks and will provide would-be contractors with a breakdown of the different amounts and types of materials found in trash on the island.
Mr. Schubert said different materials have different value as feed for a waste-to-energy facility, and the information will affect the bid specifications, though not the commercial viability of the venture. He said the data, on more than 30 types of materials, will also help inform policy around recycling and composting.
He said it is a misconception that the aim of a waste-to-energy plant is to generate profit from the trash. He said it is really a processing facility that has the advantage of being able to recoup some costs through selling electricity to the grid.
It is expected to generate around 5 MW of power – less than 5 percent of Cayman’s requirements. Amec’s experts also took gas samples from the landfill site to test the viability of collecting methane from the site once it is capped, to supplement the waste-to-energy process.
Mr. Schubert said it is not unusual for integrated waste management strategies on this scale to take considerable time to put together.
He said previous strategies had simply been “unsolicited proposals” for either landfill or waste-to-energy plants, and had not looked at the complete picture.
Open house sessions on the draft outline business case for the Integrated Solid Waste Management System will be held at the Government Administration Building on Grand Cayman on Oct. 4, from 5-7 p.m., at the National Trust House on Little Cayman on Oct. 5 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and at the Aston Rutty Civic Centre on Cayman Brac on Oct. 5. from 5-7 p.m.
The report is also published along with an online questionnaire on the Ministry of Health website at www.ministryofhealth.gov.ky. Residents have until Oct. 7 to provide feedback.