The demise of the DUMP

The George Town landfill site has been a hot potato for a while now, as it grows ever more gigantic every year. So big that it is one of the first sights a cruise ship tourist sees when heading for Grand Cayman, the landfill (otherwise known as Mount Trashmore or simply, “the dump”) monstrosity could finally have had its day, with new plans afoot to see its demise over a finite period of time. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull speaks with Arden McLean, former Minister of Communications, Works and Infrastructure, as well as Sean McGinn, the government’s Assistant Director for Solid Waste Management, to find out more and reports.

Not having seen the demise of the GT landfill during his tenure as Minister of Communications, Works and Infrastructure has been Arden McLean’s “biggest regret”, although he says that plans have developed to such a stage now that the next government (post the 20 May election) will be in the enviable position of merely having to “push a button” to begin the process of disseminating and eventually getting rid of the site.

“I had two fears when I first took up office relating to the landfill site. One was that time was running out before the site would be full and secondly that the location of the site was not conducive to Cayman’s twin pillars of industry – i.e. the finance industry and tourism. So about two years ago we decided to educate ourselves as to the various processes and technology available to deal with our solid waste issue,” McLean confirms. “We travelled overseas to events and shows and met with professionals in the business who were able to give us an idea of the kind of technologies available and useful for the Cayman Islands.”

Initial investigations found that there was actually a good deal of unused space at the landfill site, so plans were immediately put into place to use the extra space. McLean confirms that there are still “many years” of use out of the landfill since this rearrangement.

Never-the-less, the priority was to reduce the landfill site by the best means possible. McLean says they began putting a strategy into place on Little Cayman initially, to test the possible success of such plans islands-wide.

“I knew we needed to invest heavily in Little Cayman to improve the separation of waste materials there. So we purchased equipment and buildings as well as separate waste containers so that municipal waste could easily be separated,” he says.

Looking to the issue on Grand Cayman, government decided to implement a Solid Waste Strategic Management Committee to properly review the situation. This committee was comprised of the Minister, who chaired the committee. Alongside him sat Alfonso Wright, Lucille Seymour, Rolsten Anglin, Moses Kirkconnell, Carson Ebanks, Roydell Carter, Sean McGinn, Christine Rawlinson and Lisa Welcome as secretary.

After a thorough review of the solid waste systems in Cayman and through the recommendations of the committee, a development plan was created and it was decided to put out a request for proposals. A team of consultants from Virginia called Gershman, Brickner and Bratton Inc was then hired to help implement the recommendations. GBB is a US management consulting firm that helps public and private sector organisations create sound solutions for complex solid waste management challenges.

McLean says they were considered top in their field, having assisted hundreds of communities and companies across the States and earning an excellent reputation.

One of the first recommendations to come out of the Committee was that a sub committee was required to deal with the issue of recycling. Thus the Recycling Education and Development Committee was born, chaired by Alfonso Wright and which included Roydell Carter, Sean McGinn, Christina Rawlinson and Tania Johnson as secretary.

“This was an important move,” says McLean, “as installing a workable recycling programme needed to work in tandem with the landfill site reduction aims.”

GBB produced a study on the best method for eliminating the landfill site via waste to energy technology which would mean the end to simply dumping waste and creating such an eyesore as currently exists, while at the same time creating a useful alternative energy source which could be bought back by Grand Cayman’s sole electricity company – CUC.

“Their study was extensive – we dug into the landfill to see exactly what was there; we sieved the material and tested a variety of sections,” McLean confirms. “Our objective was to be able to set a finite amount of time for the removal of most of the landfill site and we believe the technology that GBB offers will fit the bill. They gave us a 19 year period in which the landfill could be successfully reduced to almost nothing.”

GBB’s report recommends a mass burn system whereby municipal waste, post sorting and recycling, will be burnt in a specially designed furnace that filters the ash to ensure safety.

McLean says that waste would need to be separated at source to ensure that only municipal waste was burnt. He says, “Statistics have shown that around 40 per cent of waste can be burnt in this way. 40 per cent can be recycled; ten per cent would be rejected for either burning or recycling (i.e. metals) and the remaining 10 per cent can be used for top soil.”

The furnace then produces steam which powers turbines which create electricity. McLean says the estimated amount of electrical output from the turbines would be about eight to 10MG, which would then be sold back to CUC. “This constitutes about 10 per cent of current daily demand, so it is an important figure,” McLean says.

The plant would cover approximately six to eight acres of the landfill site and McLean says it would meet UK emissions requirements.

McLean says plans were in the pipeline to begin phasing in the technology last November, but unfortunately the financial crisis meant funds were not available to get the project underway.

“We need around CI$10 million to clear the current site and prepare it for this new technology,” the former Minister confirms. The overall cost of the plant is estimated at around CI$75 to CI$100 million.

In the meantime, former Minister McLean and Sean McGinn say they have gone to great lengths to improve the running of the landfill site, with new buildings recently developed to handle recycling and new equipment on hand to assist with the process. Oils, car batteries, aluminium cans, cars and cardboard are all now sorted and dealt with on an individual basis and new technology will soon be brought in so the landfill site can be sprayed with a special material to better cover the waste.

“We are all in this together,” former Minister McLean says. “We all need to play our part in ridding ourselves of the dump and creating a viable solution to the management of waste in
this country.”