Cayman Islands residents, businesses and tourists added more than 100,000 tons of waste to the George Town Landfill in 2016, according to data compiled by the Economics and Statistics Office.
That represents a significant increase on the 73,000 tons that went to the landfill in 2015.
Jim Schubert, senior project manager for the Integrated Solid Waste Management System, attributed the increase to a more rigorous collection of statistics rather than an increase in waste.
The new national waste management system is expected to involve fees for commercial waste, and more accurate recording of statistics is required to decide what those fees should be.
Government plans to hire a private sector partner to build and operate a suite of waste management facilities, including a waste-to-energy facility, recycling and composting center and a smaller, lined landfill for remaining waste.
“If we go forward with a private partner, they are going to be paid based on tonnage. We needed to have an accurate number to be able to plan and design the facilities properly,” Mr. Schubert said.
Previously, he said, there was no economic incentive to weigh every load that came into the landfill, and the statistics had not always been recorded precisely.
He said around two years ago officials had begun ensuring every load was weighed so they would have relevant data to assess the likely life span of the current landfill site and the size and cost of the new facilities.
“You don’t want to design something that is meant to handle waste growth over 25 years and then find out that you are at a facility’s throughput capacity at the first year,” he added.
He said he was confident that the 2016 figure of 102,074 tons was accurate, though he noted it also includes around 8,700 tons of marl used for covering exposed areas of the site and not strictly classified as waste.
Mr. Schubert said the new approach would also involve public education in an effort to reduce the amount of unnecessary waste – plastic shopping bags and water bottles, for example.
“One ton per person is a good rule of thumb, so we are on the high side for a population of around 65,000,” he said. Booming tourism and construction sectors likely add to the amount of waste, he said. The new system is expected to radically reduce the amount that ends up in the landfill.
“In future, you might still see 100,000 tons arriving at the waste management site, but only 5 percent of that will go to landfill,” he said. “The rest will be recycled, composted or go through waste-to-energy.”