The Department of Environmental Health has received $4 million to purchase 11 new trucks. The fleet of vehicles will consist of five rear-end loaders, two front-end loaders, two roll-on roll-offs, one grapple, and one side loader. The new trucks were purchased to help normalise garbage collection services and are expected to arrive in Cayman sometime before the end of 2019, DEH Director Richard Simms said.
During the latter half of 2018, the DEH was plagued with constant machinery failure, particularly with its residential waste collection trucks. The machinery failures crippled the department’s household waste collection across several districts for days on end – which prompted a response from the government.
“The government approved $4 million for capital expenditure, and that will allow for the purchase of the new garbage trucks and a few other smaller vehicles within the department,” said Simms, who officially took on the role of director in June after having acted in the capacity since July 2018.
Simms said although garbage collection services are no longer experiencing significant backlogs, there is still a long way to go before those services are back to regularly scheduled pickups.
“We currently have 14 operational trucks,” he said, “and in order for us to operate properly, it will take a minimum [of] 22 trucks to serve the country.”
In June, the department auctioned off eight derelict garbage trucks to private vendors and citizens to be used for parts. Simms said the vehicles were 10-to-20 years old and had “put in their time” and needed to be retired.
“Those trucks were no longer operational, and it was not financially feasible to repair them,” he said. “I don’t see how they could be returned to roadworthy conditions; some trucks were missing engines, others were missing chassis. Those trucks were built between 1999 and 2004, so they were really old.”
Simms said he expects the arrival of a new side loader truck to help ramp up household recycling. Currently, people wishing to participate in the government recycling programme must drop off the items at depots located in supermarket parking lots across Grand Cayman. Simms said he wants to see that changed.
“Instead of you having to go to the depot, we’ll come to you,” he said.
But convenience, although important, is not the only answer to the issues facing recycling in Cayman. Simms said he does not believe mandating recycling by way of legislation is the right answer either.
“I think through educational campaigns, people will get it, because it’s all about changing our culture and our thinking,” he said.
He added, “It’s not everything that should be enforced through law, I think if people understand the importance of recycling, then we will get it. It’s just a matter of changing behaviours.”
The landfill has recorded a year-on-year increase in the number of recycled items it has received. Figures released by the DEH show that in 2014, 277 tons of recyclable material was collected. By 2016, that number had jumped to 999 tons – most of which was from junked cars.
Despite that increase, it will be some time before the DEH starts picking up recyclable materials from households, Simms said, explaining that it will be at least another year before they roll out islandwide household recycling collections.
No timeline was given on when an educational campaign would be launched, but Simms did say it was a part of a larger goal of overhauling the services provided by the DEH.