With only one government-run recycling scheme, the collection of aluminium cans managed by the Department of Environmental Health, businesses in Cayman have to be inventive and take initiative to start their own green recycling efforts.
Dart Realty is leading the way with a new programme that will see the recycling of glass at Camana Bay with the help of small industrial glass crusher. Plans are that the crusher will also be made available to help other parts of the community recycle the bottles that would otherwise go directly into the landfill.
The lack of glass recycling in most parts of the Island is a sizeable waste problem for Cayman. Cayman Distributors estimate that each year 66 million bottles come to the Island just from alcohol alone.
“And this does not include the mayonnaise and peanut butter jars and all the other things that are coming in glass,” says Chip Ogilvie, manager of the Operations and Maintenance Department at Dart Realty.
According to Dart’s landfill experts, glass represents approximately 10 per cent of all the waste generated in Cayman. “So if we can get ourselves and the general public to divert as much glass as possible to recycling, we help reduce a significant share of household waste.”
Ogilvie, who in the past has run recycling programmes for Citigroup’s green building committee in the US, is now in charge of Dart’s Green Team whose mandate it is to find as many avenues as possible to recycle and reduce waste.
Glass is part of a recycling initiative for more than a year now, says Ogilvie. During that time glass bottles from Camana Bay were collected and stored in four 40-yard dumpsters on Camana Bay property in anticipation of the arrival of a newly purchased glass crusher.
The small industrial crusher arrived in March and has the capacity to deal with 1,500 pounds of glass per hour and crush it down to an aggregate size that can be used for road construction or as fill.
The crusher is mounted on a trailer so any spare capacity can be used to recycle glass that is collected outside of Camana Bay.
“The idea of the trailer was that we could be portable so we can take care of our pile and then move it to a central location, go to schools and shows to promote recycling,” says Ogilvie. “So if someone else piled up glass somewhere we could bring the machine to the product by trailer.”
The crushed glass is actually in demand. “Ultimately it can be sold,” says Ogilvie, who has already been contacted by interested buyers.
“It can be sold for fill. It can be sold for use in glasscrete or glasphalt, which are road and sidewalk building materials,” he says. As the names indicate, glasscrete mixes crushed glass with cement for visual effect, for example in bathroom or kitchen countertops or walkways.
First, however, one obstacle must be overcome. Dart will have to send samples of the final crushed glass product to the National Roads Authority, which will make sure that it meets road specifications.
If it does, the law will need to be changed to reflect what materials will be allowed in road construction.
“You can literally walk on it with bare feet,” Ogilvie says and adds that other uses may include homeowners who are doing environmental housing project and may want to line their walkways with recycled materials.
Unlike glass recycling in other parts of the world where glass is sorted according to colours and then melted down in order to produce new bottles, all glass will be crushed and used for construction purposes.
But there is the possibility to separate specific colours that are in demand, such as blues, and do a commission-based colour run, says Ogilvie.
Generally, however, all bottles that come from Camana Bay’s apartments and restaurants will be recycled. Ultimately, one employee will be hired whose dedicated job it will be to run and maintain the machinery.
“We tried to size the crusher off a small town, which is what we are at Camana Bay,” says Ogilvie. While the crusher will thus not be large enough to cope with all of the Island’s bottles, he believes there is significant spare capacity can be made available elsewhere on Grand Cayman to handle other volumes.
In a first step to this end, Camana Bay has opened up the glass recycling station at the Farmer’s Market to the public to grow the amount of bottles that can be recycled.
“And without any advertising it has grown by over 100 per cent in usage over a few weeks,” Ogilvie says.
With the solution for glass waste shaping up, Dart Realty’s Green Team focus can shift to other areas. Some of the initiatives used in other places are made difficult in Cayman because of the shipping logistics, explains Ogilvie. “Things like plastic we have no answer for.”
To minimise the problem at least to some extent, Camana Bay has switched to water bottles made from biodegradable plastic. The bottles are collected and then recycled in the Dart’s nursery where they degrade in a composting environment, together with the food waste that is collected from Camana Bay residents and commercial tenants, in particularly the restaurants.
Ogilvie says the 100 per cent biodegradable bottles are a step forward albeit slightly more expensive. “It would be great if the government would mandate this product for all the plastics that are coming to the Islands. Unfortunately you have companies that build a plastic bottle that you can run over with a truck and it is still in one piece. It will last a million years.”
In the long run he says, the Island either has to burn plastics in a waste to energy facility or come up with another solution.
Much of Dart Realty’s other green efforts aim at energy efficiency. Specifically the replacement of light fixtures with LED lighting is cutting energy consumption and energy costs.
At Camana Bay the Cayman National Bank, the Observation Tower and the Discovery Centre are completely fitted with LED lighting and Books and Books as much as it is possible given the high ceilings of the store.
Outside areas are also being fitted with LED bulbs, which despite their initially higher costs last longer and tend to pay for themselves very quickly due to their lesser energy usage.
“We have passed this solution on to some of our tenants too,” says Ogilvie. “We go around and do energy audits. People like Bon Vivant after they got their first electric bill were keen to convert to LED.”