Monday, 1 October, 2018 –
Each year, the United Nations designates the first Monday in October as World Habitat Day, reflecting on the fact that, while we all have a right to decent housing, we all also share a responsibility to make our communities and homes cleaner and safer.
The UN’s theme for this year, marking the 43rd annual World Habitat Day, is Municipal Solid Waste Management – an issue which is very topical for our islands at this time. It is also an issue which the Ministry of Health, Environment, Culture and Housing has made significant strides toward addressing, acting in concert with the wider government service and with the assistance of many concerned residents and businesses.
Access to adequate shelter is one basic right that all human beings share. However, the enjoyment of our homes is severely impacted if streets, roadsides and beachfronts upon which we’ve built our houses are littered with refuse.
The Cayman Islands, like many island nations in the Caribbean Sea, is no stranger to such problems. However, both the government and our private citizens are acting on a daily basis to tackle this worldwide challenge head-on in our own backyard.
It is quite commendable, for instance, that a group of concerned residents, operating under the name Plastic Free Cayman, has taken it upon themselves to clean up our local beaches once a month. The group has collected thousands of pounds of garbage since it began last year. Apparently unsatisfied with these unpaid efforts, the volunteers have thus far spent two recent weekend afternoons at the Department of Environment auditing some of the trash collected for inclusion in an international review that seeks to account for the types of plastic refuse being discarded into the world’s oceans. We at the Ministry tip our hats to this group and wish them many successful future beach clean-ups.
This garbage, of course, has to have somewhere to go when it is collected. Yet, we are all certainly aware of the mounting challenges that the George Town Landfill, as well as the landfill in Cayman Brac, continue to place upon our beautiful islands. One way to reduce the amount of trash going into our landfills is for us to reduce, reuse, and recycle it, including taking our at-home recycling and placing it in each of the large recycling bins behind each location of a major supermarket.
The Ministry is glad to note that government-led recycling efforts between 2014 and 2016 led to a three-fold increase in the tonnage of recyclables collected. We would also note the number of derelict vehicles processed at the George Town landfill tripled between 2015 and 2017, according to the government Economics and Statistics Office Compendium of Statistics report for 2017.
Recycling alone will not solve Cayman’s garbage problems. Our islands have long recognised the need to manage our landfills properly, including the inclusion of a waste-to-energy component and the capping and closure of the current landfill location in George Town, as well as the closure of the Cayman Brac landfill. These measures are all being reviewed as part of a waste management contract being discussed with the preferred bidder, a consortium of companies led by the Dart Enterprises Construction Company [DECCO]. The Ministry believes waste-to-energy is the future of solid waste management and we’re striving to make it happen as soon as possible for us here in the Cayman Islands
Let us not forget to mention one of the most important aspects of our country’s waste management scheme, which is the men and women who work each day at the landfills and on the garbage collection trucks, diligently serving our communities and keeping them safer in this regard. We sincerely appreciate their service.
Hon. Dwayne Seymour, minister for health, environment, culture and housing