Government’s rubbish trick

| 27/11/2017 | 42 Comments

Cayman News ServiceTheresa Green writes: Government’s move to take $15.6 million from the Environmental Protection Fund to pay for capping the existing landfills and help finance the proposed national garbage plan was not only wrong but part of a wider deception about this project. No one doubts the management of garbage in Cayman has been rubbish for decades and it needs addressing. But despite claims of embracing the ‘waste pyramid’, the proposed project falls far short of those ideals and people are being tricked into thinking government has a green plan, and public cash meant for conserving our natural resources is about to be horribly misspent.

This administration has, like those before it, settled on a plan that will see the garbage we generate burnt in a waste-to-energy (WTE) facility, which falls almost at the bottom of the much lauded (by ministry officials) waste pyramid.

Landfills are the least desirable way to deal with rubbish, but waste-to energy is right behind it — and that is what our government has chosen as the solution to our waste problem. Officials are doing nothing more than paying lip-service to the alternatives.

For a number of reasons, burning rubbish is only one step up from dumping it, including the toxic emissions, the cost of managing the facilities and the amount of waste such plants need. It also diverts resources from greener and more sustainable solutions like reduction and recycling.  

And this is exactly what is going to happen in Cayman.

According to comments made by ministry officials involved in the contract negotiations with DECCO (the Dart firm which emerged as government’s preferred bidder on the public-private partnership), there will be no new specific efforts to reduce the amount of waste we are all generating.

Recycling will remain a voluntary affair by the small number of us in the community who are taking paper, glass, aluminium and plastics to the supermarket skips, even though recycling and reducing the need for manufacturing and packaging saves three to five times as much energy as what is generated by incinerating them, and even the most modern high-temperature incinerators emit more carbon than coal power plants.

But Cayman’s economy is not conducive to encourage a reduction in the amount of waste we generate or to reuse things, and this is why we are being tricked.

Government revenue and the domestic economy is dependent on consumption. If the Cayman public were to truly embrace the idea of cutting down the stuff they buy or find more ways to reuse what they consume, government would see a serious fall in its tax revenue. A fall in consumption is a direct threat to Cayman’s economy, removing any incentive ministers might have to encourage green solutions to our rubbish problem.

While the idea of composting is being heralded by officials, they have also confirmed that this green waste will largely be derived from that generated by landscaping firms bringing it to the site in George Town. There will be no collection of organic waste from commercial entities, such as supermarkets and restaurants or even from homes, nor are any incentives planned to encourage home composting. This means that much of the organic waste we are all generating will also be burned and not composted. 

There appears to be very little in the government’s long touted plan for a national integrated solid waste management system that officials can point to that will ensure the community reduces, reuses or recycles beyond the limited amount already happening. 

And while the consumption-based economy undermines government’s incentive to encourage any more of it, the private sector partner in this project has no incentive to push the ideals of reduction, reuse or recycling either. Once DECCO and the ministry agree on the terms of the contract, the focus will be on the waste-to-energy facility, which will need to consume a large amount of rubbish to cover the start up and, over time, the operating costs.

There are arguments that countries which use WTE facilities instead of dumping are also likely to do more recycling alongside the plants burning rubbish. But many of these are European countries with a long history of recycling and whole industries already having sprung up around it. Governments of northern European countries are also far less dependent on consumption for revenue, and so alongside WTE they have both legislated for and facilitated greener alternatives.

In the United States, San Francisco is one of several cities leading the charge towards greener and sustainable waste solutions. It is now diverting close to 80% of the city’s rubbish from landfills through reduction, reuse, and recycling including composting — and it is not burning any waste

The government here has said it anticipates it can cut the amount of waste being sent to the landfills by as much as 95%, which sounds good but unlike San Fransisco, it will not be a reduction or recycling revolution. In short, Cayman is replacing its massive pile of rubbish with a massive fire and it has just taken more than $15 million of the people’s money earmarked for protecting and conserving our environment to pay for it.

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Category: environmental health, Health, Viewpoint

Comments (42)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It is frustrating to have the dump still an unresolved health hazard after almost 20 years of politicians clucking to stay in office.
    The jewelry family want the cruise ship berthing to increase sales when the money could be much better spent.
    Politicians want more people in the country which aren’t going to be Caymanian by the way.
    We keep recycling these dinosaur politicians who have no answers so we get the same retread ideas.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And you lot are worried about a cruise port!! Your priorities are so screwed. The people need to speak out about this and demand the removal of that cesspool of impending death. THAT is where any funds should be spend rather on a dock.
    Seriously absurd.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The editorial failed to mention the sorting facility as being part of the new WTE. Although I agree with curbside pick up of consumer sorted waste, I doubt it will ever happen in Cayman. A WTE requires screening of waste feed to remove all metals and inserts such as glass. The efficiency of the facility depends on removal of metal containers, glass and ceramics. The fact is Cayman does not have enough low priced waste land for composting and stockpiling especially around the dump area. I don’t think Dart is going to donate any land close to where Camana Bay is for composting all organic waste on island. That same expectation might be fruitless for anyone owning land in the same vicinity. Maybe that’s why it wasn’t included in the plan.

    The up side is that composting can be decentralised and perceivably every district could have its own composting centre if there is a commitment that can’t be redacted by any future administration.

    As for sequestering CO2 from our soon to be tiny WTE well that’s in the realm of Star Wars right now. I do believe what has been agreed regarding the dump is at least a big step in the right direction just a bit late. Sometimes we have to be thankful for small mercies.

    As they say Rome wasn’t built in a day.

  4. Neil says:

    Just getting trashmore under control shall be a blessing. It’s incredible how many experts there are on this subject, now there are firm plans to alleviate the stench that drifts over to the main tourist area. Incineration is employed very successfully in other remote tourist islands, to the extent it’s possible to picnic in the shadow of the high-tec chimneys.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I know that this might cause a tsunami of reaction, but isn’t it possible that Cayman’s isolated location makes the waste to energy system the best solution? There are no other sources of air pollution near Cayman that would compound that produced in Cayman , nor are there any nearby places that will be burdened by Cayman’s emissions. Our air and oceans have remarkable ability to dilute and cleanse provided they are not over burdened. On a continent, where the air arrives already burdened with the emissions of multiple other nearby communities the air has much lower capacity to recieve additional emissions. On Cayman, the air arrives at full capacity with plenty of space to cleanse itself before arriving at another inhabited location.

    • Anonymous says:

      Classic “Tragedy of the Commons” thinking.

    • Charles Darwin says:

      Are you daft? It doesn’t work like that. It’s like saying it’s ok to pour this gallon of oil into this clean area of the pond because the birds and fish are over there on the other side. It’ll diffuse eventually, and the pollution doesn’t magically disappear because it has “plenty of space to cleanse itself ” (are you drunk or something? physics doesn’t work like this at all!).

      As small as we are, we still contribute to global warming. Despite a small contribution, it doesn’t mean we have to increase our greenhouse gas output.

  6. Soldier Crab says:

    In an ideal world Theresa might have a valid point.
    Caymanians have never paid income tax; people coming here from other jurisdictions mainly do so because there is no income tax.
    Government has to derive funds from somewhere.
    If there is a widespread popular demand to reduce consumer spending and pay income tax instead, I haven’t yet heard about it.
    So we have and will continue to have a ready supply of waste products to dispose of.
    The ‘dump’ worked best 30 – 40 years ago when everything was doused in diesel oil and set afire.
    So some form of burning would appear to be the best solution.
    AND in case anyone ever again comes up with the ridiculous idea of moving the dump further East, forget it. Most of the products which end up at the existing dump are derived from between Prospect and West Bay, that’s where most of the people live. It would make absolutely no sense to make a ‘garbage-truck’ drive from, say, NW Point 20-odd miles to a dump beyond Bodden-Town; how many more trucks and personnel would be needed to make collections?

  7. West bay Premier says:

    Some people say that Dart is the most conservative and most conservation minded developer in the Cayman Island . Look at who have invented the Styrofoam, who has made their millions of dollars from it . who is doing all he can to sell and produce more Styrofoam that is contributing to help fill up the dump faster . Then what is he Dart doing to prevent this non bygradible material from filling up all parts of the Islands ? Is he asking Government to ban it from the Island ? is he paying directly for any of these Island wide Christmas clean ups ? Is he trying to do any recycling of the Styrofoam on the Islands?
    Then this could look like all is cared about is making one more million and to hell with you and the environment .

    • Anonymous says:

      And of course you don’t use any styrofoam or buy anything that is not biodegradable do you….

    • Fred the Piemaker says:

      1. “Look at who have invented the Styrofoam” – Kenneth Dart didn’t invent Styrofoam
      2. “who is doing all he can to sell and produce more Styrofoam” – he gave up eing the president of the Styrofoam business 16 years ago to focus on real estate and distressed debt
      3. “what is he Dart doing to prevent this non bygradible material from filling up all parts of the Islands” – well admittedly nothing, but then he does run a very successful recycling scheme for glass and aluminium, which is a damn sight more than CIG does (who incidentally, unlike Dart, have the power to ban styrofoams importation and use), or dare I say the average Caymanian resident who happily buys food in Styrofoam containers all the time, often just throwing it on the street.

      but hey, why let little things like facts interfere with your desire to blame everything on the evil Mr Dart. Always nice when its someone else’s fault, eh?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Fix dah dump

  9. Anonymous says:

    The seepage from Mount Trashmore into North Sound will eventually turn much of it into a cess pit. I have owned a waterfront house on the Sound for 30+ years. In that time the juvenile marine life around the sea wall has gone from almost every species of fish that ultimately migrate to the reef, plus crabs and lobsters, to NOTHING. Meanwhile, whenever there is a “Norther” blowing, the surface is covered in thick yellow/brown foul smelling scum and foam.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sorry, I am a caymanina who caused all the problems and now I am going into retirement for you furiners to fix. You can do it.

  10. Anonymous says:

    And if the dump is ever ‘capped’ it will continue to seep. The ONLY solution is to REMOVE the dump. It was NEVER lined and the seepage is what I can only imagine, is causing the huge ratio of our cancer infected population. Just consider how close our water supply is to that seeping pile of funk. It WILL eventually take over even more of the North Sound and our Golden Attraction will be not so shiny.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Theresa, interesting commentary but I would like you to provide 1 town of 60-75K people that has done the “better” processes you profess BY THEMSELVES. That is, with no assistance in any form from a larger city/state/country. While I may agree with you that things could be done better, the reality of a small community doing all of these things must be considered.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Dart is one of the biggest polluters in Cayman and the world with all the styro foam containers he makes. Paper containers are a perfectly good substitute for Darts plastic containers. Those styro foam containers should attract a hefty duty, dollar-wise not percentage wise, compared to paper ones, in order to encourage reducing our waste and reduce the growth of the dump.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dart is also one of Guy Harvey’s biggest sponsors. Oh the irony!

    • Anonymous says:

      Company that produce waste product such as plsstics and styrofoam..should be responsible for the disposal of their having a return policy in place where consumers can get money back by returning wrappings and containers to place of purchase… i know this will work only when we work out the details which is alot of details but also alot of waste…garbage…cancer causing agents we are dealing with..just a thought

    • Anonymous says:

      dart doesn’t pollute…people do.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The bulk of the Environmental Protection Fund will be predictably misappropriated, if not by this gov’t, then by the next. That is, unless we hold the Cabinet to a higher standard of conduct.

  14. Anonymous says:

    great commentary…but trying to talk sense about the environment in cayman is a waste of time. just read some of the nonsense editorials in the compass.
    btw are locals banned from using the recycling facilities????

  15. Anonymous says:

    Penny wise and pound foolish once again! When will the Cayman public wake up to the realities facing us?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Composting is very difficult without specialized worms that can tolerate high heat. Composters in the Southwest USA have been trying to engineer better worms for years. Without protection and regular irrigation, the Red Wigglers sizzle up and join the organic waste.

    • Anonymous says:

      That is just one method of composting. There are other ways whilst worms assist and speed up the process, they certainly are not a necessity for composting.

    • Julie Arnall says:

      I have a good size composter in my garden and can produce excellent soil through the year So it is possible here without a lot of work. One just has to ensure a balance of garden waste, kitchen waste and paper and cardboard.

  17. Linda says:


  18. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your lucid commentary, Theresa.


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