A consortium of companies led by Dart Enterprises is in line to take over responsibility for waste management in the Cayman Islands in a 25-year deal that will involve the closure and capping of the existing George Town landfill.
The new system will involve construction of a waste-to-energy plant, recycling and composting centers, and a much smaller lined landfill site.
The current site – dubbed “Mount Trashmore” because of its unsightly presence towering over George Town and its visibility to arriving aircraft and cruise ships – will be capped and covered with grass.
Landfill sites in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman will also be closed, with waste from the Sister Islands shipped to Grand Cayman.
The new suite of facilities is expected to reduce the 100,000 tons of waste currently going into landfill every year by as much as 95 percent. Instead, much of the trash will be fed into a 7 megawatt waste-to-energy plant and sold as electricity to the Caribbean Utilities Company. The facility will be built on Dart lands close to the Waste Water Treatment plant.
Dart’s construction company DECCO and its partners have been selected as the “preferred bidder” after a competitive tender involving seven other consortiums for the contract to run Cayman’s Integrated Solid Waste Management System.
Dart is now in final contract negotiations with government for the public-private partnership. The company will be paid an annual fee to deal with waste from all three islands through the new system. The fee is expected to cover the cost of construction of the suite of new facilities, as well as annual operating expenses.
No financial details were given but an Outline Business Case for the project, published last September, put the construction costs for new facilities at $106 million, including $60 million for the waste-to-energy plant. The same report estimated operating costs of $426 million over 25 years, offset by revenues of $269 million, including $108 million in electricity sales.
The deal comes more than four years after a separate partnership between Dart and government, which would have involved a new landfill site in Midland Acres, near Bodden Town, was shelved.
Government leaders and Dart officials said the new deal offered a long-term sustainable solution to the landfill problem that complied with the framework for fiscal responsibility.
Jennifer Ahearn, chief officer in the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing, said, “If you look at the details of what was on the table previously and what we are proposing to do now, while the components are similar, the projects are quite different.
“We had to take a step back and look at it from a holistic perspective.”
She acknowledged the new system would come at a substantial additional annual cost to government, adding that this would be funded through existing revenues.
“Right now, we are putting the waste on a pile on an unengineered landfill site, so there will be some changes in terms of the cost of delivering it.
“We are having recycling, composting, waste-to-energy, so they will reallocate some of the funds within the existing budget to meet the priority. It has been identified as a priority project for government,” she said. The Dart bid team also includes:
Island Recycling, partnered with the Guernsey Recycling Group, for the recycling elements of the project
Danish company Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor to build the waste-to-energy facility
U.S.-based Cambridge Project Development for the new lined landfill site
International consultancy firm GHD to handle environmental and design issues.
The final negotiations are expected to take several months to complete. Planning applications and an environmental impact assessment will take place in the interim, with construction on new facilities likely to commence next summer.
The new system is expected to be operational by 2021.
Cameron Graham, president of DECCO, said the company had brought together an experienced consortium and was looking forward to getting to work.
“Finding a sustainable alternative to the existing landfill is a matter of national importance and we are pleased to be part of the solution,” he said.
He added that it was important for Dart, its neighbors and for the community as a whole that the landfill issue was dealt with.
Martin Edelenbos, engineering coordinator of waste management for Dart, said the new landfill would have nothing like the footprint or environmental impact of the current site.
“All of the other facilities, including waste-to-energy, are really waste reduction facilities,” he said. “The things that need disposal are whatever is not combustible and can’t run through waste-to-energy, can’t be recycled, and then the bypass materials that are scrubbed from emissions from the waste-to-energy facility. You still need some landfill but we are looking at 5 percent of what is being landfilled today.”
He said dealing with waste in a modern way on all three islands was a big step forward.
“It is of national importance, not just here in Grand Cayman, the Sister Islands as well,” he said. “Those sites are unsustainable. We have to start dealing with waste properly. In Grand Cayman, you see it building up in size; it’s an unlined site. Continuing to use that type of technology is not acceptable in this day and age.”
Precisely what will happen to the current George Town landfill remains to be determined, but it will involve grassing over the open mounds of trash and potentially creating a public park.