The issue explained: Mount Trashmore landfill deal

The recently signed 25-year deal between Dart and the Cayman Islands government aims to transform the towering ‘Mount Trashmore’ into a facility where rubbish from all three islands will be incinerated and turned into electricity.

The ReGen project, previously called the Integrated Solid Waste Management System, also involves closing and capping the existing 90-feet-high garbage mound, opening a new landfill for waste that can’t be burned or recycled, and creating a recycling plant at the site.

Here we answer some of the questions surrounding the project that has been decades in the making.

What’s going to happen to the existing ‘Mount Trashmore’?

Once the waste-to-energy facility is built, no more garbage will be added to the 90-feet-high heap. Much of it has already been covered with an initial layer of aggregate, and throughout this year, it will be covered with more layers, including a ‘geotextile membrane’ of tough woven material, and then seeded with grass and plants. It is expected to be fully remediated by summer 2022. In a few years, instead of a grey ‘mountain’ of garbage, all that should be visible is a grassy hill. The mound will be tapped to manage gases generated by decades of decaying garbage. That gas will be flared off until the new waste-to-energy plant opens and it will then be processed at the plant. A small area of the landfill will remain active while the remediation work is under way.

What is a waste-to-energy facility?

It’s a plant where rubbish is incinerated at very high temperatures. Steam from that process will drive a turbine to generate electricity that will be supply electricity to the CUC grid. Gas from the current landfill will also be processed at the plant once it becomes operational.

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Where will the facility be located?

It will be built immediately south of the existing landfill. The other facilities, including a new landfill, recyclables processing plant, green waste area and medical waste incinerator, will also be adjacent to the existing landfill site. The same entrance and exit to the site that is being used now will continue to be used.

Is the waste-to-energy plant going to be safe to operate and live near?

According to project manager Peter Ranger, the ReGen plant will adopt the European Union Industrial Emissions Directive, which he said is considered the highest global standard, and used in facilities in cities across Europe.

Will there be a recycling plant?

The DEH will operate a recycling facility where cardboards, plastics, aluminium cans, etc., will be processed before being shipped off island.

What happens to garbage that can’t be incinerated or recycled?

That will end up in a new, lined landfill located beside the existing one, where scrap metal is currently piled up. The ReGen plans call for a reduction in the amount of landfill waste by up to 95%.

Will I have to pay any money to dispose of my garbage?

According to Ranger, there are no disposal fees for the general public in Cayman, and no plans to introduce fees for commercial users. However, the Cayman Islands government will pay the Dart consortium an average of $163 per ton to process waste material at the site.

What’s happening with the pile of old cars and scrap metal?

Those materials, some of which have been there for 20 years or more, will be “depolluted” and shipped overseas.

What happens if there isn’t enough trash on island to make ReGen profitable? Will waste be imported from overseas?

Premier Alden McLaughlin has said no solid waste material will be allowed to be imported from outside Cayman.

How much electricity can local waste generate for the island?

Cayman’s garbage will be converted into about 8 megawatts of electricity for the CUC grid, which is enough to power more than 2,000 homes and businesses locally. Gas from the existing landfill will supply half a megawatt of power.

When will it be ready?

Remediation work on the main landfill mound is expected to finish next year, and the ReGen plant is scheduled to be operational in 2024.

Who is paying for this?

Dart is paying for the construction of the $205 million facility. The $22.7 million landfill capping and remediation work will be paid for by money from the government’s Environmental Protection Fund. Once the waste-to-energy plant is up and running, government will pay Dart $163 per tonne to process waste. When the 25-year contract expires, ownership of the site will be transferred to the government.

What’s happening to the landfills on the Sister Islands?

The plan involves closing those landfills and transporting solid waste from Cayman Brac and Little Cayman to the ReGen site on Grand Cayman.

Will my garbage still be picked up?

The DEH will continue to pick up household and business waste, as usual, and deliver it to the ReGen site for processing.

Who is going to operate it?

Operations will be split between Dart and the DEH. Dart will run the ‘energy recovery’ or waste-to-energy facility, bottom ash process, construction- and demolition-waste processing, residual-waste landfill, and end-of-life vehicle and scrap-metal recycling. The DEH will handle materials recovery, green-waste processing, household-waste recycling and medical-waste processing.

Will any DEH workers lose their jobs?

DEH staff will continue to do much of the work they were currently doing, including garbage and recycling collection and handling, and processing green waste and medical waste.

Can I get a job at ReGen?

According to officials, up to 300 construction jobs will be available, as well as 60 long-term operational, maintenance and management jobs.

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