“Government did not have in place a process to properly determine the cost to remediate the George Town Landfill …”
– Angela Cullen, Cayman Islands Auditor General’s Office
The foregoing statement sums up the “progress” made by the Progressives government on the country’s solid waste problem.
Four years after campaigning on the pledge of “No dump in Bodden Town” and the promise of having an alternative solution, the Progressives were never able to figure out how much an “on-site” remediation project would cost … much less where the money to execute the project would come from.
According to government’s auditors, the value of the George Town Landfill could be worth less than zero. Similarly, after factoring in the tons of additional garbage and trash that have been heaped atop Mount Trashmore over the past four years, and the millions of dollars spent on reports, studies and ancillary ventures, the Progressives’ progress on the dump could also, in fact, be negative.
The pinnacle of the government’s achievement on the issue may perhaps be the front-page photo op that appeared on the cover of our newspaper on March 22, featuring an outstanding image of Premier Alden McLaughlin hurling an old tire into the shredding machine that has been tasked with dealing with the stockpile of at least half a million of tires on the landfill site.
However, “recycling,” in a generic sense, is more of a slogan than a solution. The costs associated with recycling often outweigh its practicality. Read just a few lines from an exhaustive report by John Tierney in the New York Times Science section:
“Despite decades of exhortations and mandates, it’s still typically more expensive for municipalities to recycle household waste than to send it to a landfill …. Cities have been burying garbage for thousands of years, and it’s still the easiest and cheapest solution for trash. The recycling movement is floundering, and its survival depends on continual subsidies, sermons and policing. How can you build a sustainable city with a strategy that can’t even sustain itself?”
Four years ago, perhaps two-dozen protesters, led by political candidates, took part in a rally against the Dart Group’s cash-free proposal to remediate the George Town Landfill, turn the site into a public park, and establish a new solid waste facility between two industrial quarries in a secluded section in far east Bodden Town.
That smattering of opposition, we are sorry to say nurtured by a passive press, captured the imagination of Progressives politicians, who jumped on the “No dump in Bodden Town” bandwagon and, once in power, led the country in broad, sweeping circles that have ended, four years later, just about where it all began.
So here we are, at the commencement of another political campaign season, with another May election on the horizon. The George Town Landfill is still there, unremediated, befouling the island with its appearance and smell, and threatening the population with its toxins.
It is therefore useful, we think, to remind our readers to keep in mind throughout this quadrennial exercise in democracy that any serious proposal, whether it’s from the public or private sector, needs to start with a dollar sign – with specific estimates and realistic sources of funding.
Anything else might as well be on a Christmas wish list. (“Dear Santa, I’ve been very good this year. Can you please bring me a new landfill, cruise berthing facility and high school campus? And, by the way, I’d appreciate the vote of you and your elves!”)
As country music icon Lefty Frizzell famously crooned, “If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time.”
But if the politicians floating the proposals don’t have the money or a credible financing plan, then they’re simply wasting everybody’s time.