12 May 2021

Trash Talk: The benefits of capping the dump

In March, the Cayman Islands Government signed a contract with Dart to commence a multimillion-dollar project called “ReGen” that will transform the way the Cayman Islands processes its trash. Central elements of the public-private partnership project include constructing energy-recovery and recycling facilities, and remediating the existing landfill.

Capping the existing landfill and turning it into a grassy mound is a key aspect of the project, not just to improve the visual appearance of the site, but also to reduce the negative impacts of the landfill on our community. Environmental quality standards will be monitored as part of the environmental impact assessment for the project to ensure remediation adequately addresses any environmental concerns.

Below are five of the ways that remediating the George Town Landfill will benefit the community:

Lessen leaching
Remediation of the George Town Landfill includes capping the existing waste mound with layers of fill and a low-permeability, synthetic liner. This is then covered with a layer of topsoil to support the growth of grasses and shrubs that will provide an attractive, green surface that is resistant to erosion. Capping the landfill with layers of fill and a low-permeability liner will reduce the amount of rainfall infiltration into the waste, decreasing the potential for contaminants to leach into the ground below the site.

Prevent pests
Capping the waste mound will prevent pests and potential vectors for disease — such as rats and flies – from accessing the decomposing waste.

Reduced fire risk
Remediation will significantly reduce the risk of fires at the George Town Landfill. By covering exposed garbage and preventing oxygen infiltration, the cap will effectively seal off the surface of the waste mound. An upcoming project to remove stockpiled metals and waste will also help reduce the risk of fires.

Stop smells
Remediation will eliminate odours from the current landfill associated with exposed, decaying garbage. ReGen’s facilities will include a new, lined residual waste landfill that will be used primarily to process non-odorous waste that is not recycled or cannot be processed through the planned energy recovery facility.

Reduce carbon emissions
Globally, landfills are a top source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is 28 to 36 times more effective than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Remediation includes landfill gas management, which will lessen the Cayman Islands’ impact on climate change through the reduction of methane emissions and using methane to generate electricity.

This article appears in print in the May 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Hannah Reid.

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