One of the most pressing environmental issues for the community is the George Town landfill site, also known as 'Mount Trashmore'.
The George Town Landfill
The 80ft pile of rubbish can be seen from offshore and is visible to locals, residents and visitors every day. It has caused numerous toxic fires, forcing surrounding schools and businesses to close and, as the landfill is not lined, it’s feared it may be contaminating the surrounding water-table. It is predicted that the landfill will reach full capacity by 2021.
The proposed plan to tackle Cayman’s ever-growing landfill site is to create a comprehensive Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS) as a public-private partnership. A private consortium of companies, led by DART Enterprises, will take over responsibility for the treatment of all waste management in the Cayman Islands for the next 25 years, working alongside the Department of Environmental Health who will continue to collect waste on the Islands. After the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment, the contract for the ISWMS is expected to be signed in Q4 of 2020. It is unlikely that all of the facilities will be fully operational by the end of 2021, when the landfill is predicted to reach capacity, as some facilities – like the waste-to-energy plant – are expected to take at least three years to complete. Until then, the landfill will continue to expand laterally after the height capacity has been reached.
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Cayman is already benefitting from the environmental awareness and legislation from other countries, as larger producers take responsibility for making their products more sustainable. Yet it remains crucial to slow the increasing flow of rubbish to the landfill. The Government is making efforts to shred used tyres, recycle materials and bale scrap metals so that these objects do not take up valuable space in the landfill, whilst also trying to educate both schools and the general public on the importance of home waste reduction. Nevertheless, these changes rely on the participation of Cayman’s population, and people are urged to make the attitude and lifestyle changes required in order to reduce waste, and its environmental impact. As outlined in the new waste management strategy, when the current landfill site is closed, it will undergo surface water and landfill gas management, and then eventually it will be capped with around five feet of protective layering, and re-vegetated to create a recreational green space. The grounds will continue to be monitored to ensure the site performs within the approved parameters of safety, and landfill gases (such as methane and carbon dioxide) will be collected and transported to the thermo-recycling plant to be used as fuel. Over time, the overall height of the landfill is expected to decrease yearly by around 3%, and the contamination of the surrounding ground and wet-lands will also be reduced. New facilities will then be built, which will manage all recyclable and non-recyclable waste for Grand Cayman and also Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. All rubbish will be shipped over to Grand Cayman for processing.
New Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS)
The proposed Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS) will be built to the east of the Waste Water Treatment plant, and will include a waste-to-energy plant, as well as a recycling centre. The ISWMS will include a new landfill that will be properly lined, and all incinerated waste will be disposed of correctly in the small controlled site. The goal is to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill for disposal by up to 95%. The electricity generated will be sold to Caribbean Utilities Company (CUC) and it is estimated that the ISWMS will contribute approximately 7.6 megawatts to the local grid. This translates to approximately 8% of the country’s electricity needs. At the facility’s recycling area there will be bays to collect and bale various recyclables, such as number 1 and 2 plastics. The facility will also provide composting areas on all three Islands for horticulture/yard waste, and there will be a reuse centre where people can deposit functional (but unwanted) goods and furniture. There is also an educational aspect to the project: a significant amount of work needs to be done to educate the public so that current habits are changed, and more environmentally-friendly recycling practices are encouraged across the three Islands.