By Joanna Lewis, Inside Out Magazine
When it comes to moving mountains – or at least helping reduce the size of the dump known as Mount Trashmore – it seems Cayman’s concerned residents and business people are leading the way.
While debate continues about the future location of the dump, some people are taking matters into their own hands.
A group of hospitality workers are currently working with the Cayman Islands’ Department of Environmental Health, and Dart Realty to raise awareness of the importance of recycling, and the recycling facilities that are available locally.
And a number of private companies have also sprung up on-island to deal with the ever increasing problem of garbage and how to dispose of it.
Presently, the future of waste disposal in Grand Cayman has to be confirmed, with plans to close and remediate the George Town dump and open a comprehensive new waste management facility elsewhere on Grand Cayman, moving through the technical review process.
The Cayman Islands’ Department of Environmental Health and Dart Realty (Cayman) Ltd are working in partnership to develop a master-plan for sustainable waste management at a 110-acre site between Tarpon Springs Quarry and Midland Acres Quarry.
As InsideOut went to press, their technical teams were nearing agreement on the waste processing components and technology to be included in the final design, which would then be the subject of an independent environmental impact assessment.
The Department of Environmental Health, which is responsible for the landfill as it is now, is currently beset by a number of obstacles when it comes to recycling.
For starters, there are just four people in the recycling division and more funding is being awaited for that section.
“Cost is another thing,” says Tania Johnson, spokesperson for the department. “In North America, the factories (that use products made from recycled aluminium, glass, etc) are just down the road from recycling plants. Here, on an island, you’ve got to ship it and shipping is very expensive.”
Ms Johnson added that the government would hopefully be looking into other options for recycling.
In the meantime, frustrated residents are working to raise awareness of the waste and recycling issues facing Cayman.
Environmentally-conscious hotel workers took up the mantle as part of a community initiative in late summer and have decided to continue spreading their message.
“We feel that Cayman is unique and beautiful, but the eyesore and the smell of the dump and the unknown recycling efforts by the island are not being brought to the community’s attention,” says Thais Rodriguez from The Marriott hotel, who is part of the group.
She is joined by Kiesha Gregory, Joan Walsh-Simms, Heriberto Barranco and Rita Olsen of the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
“The benefits of recycling aren’t only for those who live on the island, it’s for those who are visitors, the tourists,” says Thais.
“These are people for whom, in their own countries, recycling is a must and you get fined if you don’t do so. So, when they come here, it’s a shock to them that this island, despite being so amazing, doesn’t reinforce the efforts of recycling.”
Thais points out that everyone can play their part, as well as helping to spread the message.
“There are many things currently being done to promote recycling, but until all of these projects launch, the community needs to be on board for the change,” she says.
Recycling Services-345recycling.com is a private company which has been operating in Cayman for the past four years and is keen to see sustainable waste management in future.
It was founded after the operations manager became concerned about the number of batteries lying around the island which, mixed with salt water, can produce a lethal gas.
“If businesses do not start recycling now it will be very shocking if they start implementing tipping fees in the future,” he says.
Programmes in Place
Dart is also leading the way in the recycling movement with several programmes in place.
Newspaper, tin (steel) cans, aluminium cans, glass bottles and containers and food waste are collected from Camana Bay restaurants, office tenants and The Terraces residential area.
The public can also deposit glass and aluminium at the public recycling facility, located across from the Market Street Pavilion on Forum Lane.
Aluminium is then collected from Camana Bay by the Department of Environmental Health and shipped to the US for recycling.
Other materials collected at Camana Bay are reused or recycled locally: newspaper is taken to Cayman International School for arts and crafts projects; food waste is used by Camana Bay’s arboretum for composting, along with Camana Bay water bottles made from biodegradable plastic, which decompose when properly composted; and recycled glass is taken to Dart Realty’s industrial glass pulverizer, where it is crushed into grain as fine as sand and prepared for reuse.
Pulverized glass can be used in road construction, mulch, aggregate, asphalt, fill or as sidewalk building material.
“Glasscrete” (crushed glass mixed with cement) creates a unique visual effect and can be used in home construction for anything from kitchen and bathroom countertops to walkways.
According to Chip Ogilvie, senior manager operations & maintenance at Camana Bay, Dart Realty’s proposal for new waste management includes opportunities for recycling, including tyres, aluminium, construction materials, demolition debris and compostable materials.
“Non-recyclable material would be properly landfilled,” he explains.
“The proposed new waste management facility is master-planned to include space for a waste-to-energy facility and government has shown interest in this process as a potential future opportunity. In the future, waste energy could account for five to 10 per cent of Grand Cayman’s electrical power demand.”