Recycling should be required in Cayman

| 05/10/2017

I’m wondering why recycling is not mandatory in Cayman Islands. We all know garbage is a problem worldwide. But looking at “Mount Trashmore”, it’s huge here. In the past we had two garbage collections weekly, cut back to one now. Why doesn’t DEH replace the second collection with a recyclable one? I do take my recycling weekly to supermarket points of collection but have noticed around the island loads of people don’t (laziness probably). Wouldn’t a collection make more people realise everyone needs to work together to preserve paradise?

Auntie’s answer: I have dealt with several good questions on recycling in Cayman but am always happy to discuss this topic again. This is really one of those situations where everyone should be on board with doing whatever they can to reduce waste since it affects everyone who lives here.

I took your question to the Department of Environmental Health and it was answered by Mark Rowlands, Assistant Director for Solid Waste.

For the big picture of legally requiring the population to recycle, he explained, “Mandatory recycling would have to be a decision/request of Cabinet and would need to be established through the current legislation based usually on a feasibility analysis that identifies costs, programmes, infrastructure, and implementation planning.”

I realise that is a lot to digest, but he did add that recycling services currently in the works through the Integrated Solid Waste Management System (ISWMS) process (more on that in a bit) are to be “significantly improved within the next few years”.

When it comes to pickup of garbage from residences, Mr Rowland said the frequency is limited by the available equipment and personnel. But all is not lost, as the DEH is reviewing a preliminary draft of the “Zero Litter Cayman Plan”, which is a programme to have twice-a-week collection that includes garbage once a week and recyclables once a week at curbside.

When the plan is complete, the DEH director, and chief officer and minister with responsibility for environmental health will go through it and decide the way forward. Mr Rowland hopes the whole process will be completed within six months.

Of relevance to your question, he pointed out that the plan discusses providing totes (similar to glass-collection containers at the supermarket depots) for all single-family residences across Grand Cayman for both garbage and recycling.

“All of this containerised waste and recyclable materials would be collected with hydraulic tippers fitted on the existing fleet of trucks (no litter and easily managed by collectors),” he said. That kind of programme would cost between $2 million and $3 million if sponsored fully by the government and much less if sponsored by individual homeowners, he noted.

He also addressed the recycling containers at supermarkets in Cayman. “Unattended drop-off recycling depots at supermarkets are a first step towards a better recycling system,” he said. “Future improvements to these could involve having attendants, carrying out more promotion and education programmes, etc.” But he also noted that such depots have been proven to have limited success and that curbside collection would “raise the bar considerably”.

Mr Rowlands then reflected on the long view of waste management. “We also need to consider the proposed waste-to-energy facility that will require a supply of waste to ensure it is efficient and maintains the required threshold under contract. Too much recycling may draw too many high heat-value waste components away from the facility, reducing its efficiency. The goal of the government is to balance waste diversion with energy recovery and disposal to ensure the efficient management of waste across the island through an integrated system.”

He suggested that anyone interested in learning more about the ISWMS and the many factors affecting decisions regarding waste management should go to the ISWMS page on the Ministry of Health website.

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Category: Ask Auntie, Environmental Questions

Comments (27)

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  1. annonymous says:

    all the experts are out now!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    What a waste of time when there is a climate change denier in the White House and we have permitted China and India to ramp up pollution so they can produce goods for the West to buy. To have to put up with a block of three or four trash cans in the house si not worth it when the world is polluting away.

  3. Ruud van der Pluijm says:

    For more information about what to recycle go to

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree that more recycling makes sense. HOWEVER, the comment made in the article regarding “too much recycling” has to be considered. Likewise what happens to the recyclable materials is also a consideretion. Storing it until there is a container/barge load is costly. Lisewise the shipment to another country for processing. It simply may not be economically feasible to do this. Hence, “recycling” materials (garbage) into energy could make a lot more sense.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Very excited about the growing Recycling Movement in Cayman! As an active recycler myself, and a Caymanian who has lived overseas in places where recycling systems have existed for a number of years, I can say I am so encouraged to see these developments take place. I am particularly excited about the second pick-up for the week being specifically geared toward the collection of recyclable materials, as well as the eventual implementation of special recycling containers being placed at each individual residence. Not to mention, the industrial-sized recycling containers which may appear for condos and businesses too. Kudos to DEH!

  6. Phil says:

    My bet that 30-40% of population here mainly expats will recycle overnight due we have been brought up all our life to recycle overseas. No more talk on table and waste time….make it work by action..

  7. Anonymous says:

    Cayman has been re-cycling for decades. Just look at the legislative assembly

    • Anonymous says:

      No, that is reusing. We keep using the same MLAs over and over again. Recycling would require finding a new use for old unwanted MLAs.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wit only 50k people and no infrastructure, it has no sense to recycle.
    Solution in these cases is to limit the amount of waste. So no small bottles of pepsi, but only big ones.
    Politicians, who are the solution, dont care. THEy can make the rules for a better society, but why would they ?

  9. Anonymous says:

    When I first came to Grand Cayman in 1992 it horrified me to see all the garbage at my hotel being dumped into one big bin – glass, metal, cardboard, waste food, you name it they put it in one bin. In many US states that would be illegal.

    25 years on very little has changed and I suspect the reason for that is nobody here can see a profit in it. If you could convince the politicians that they, their friends and their families could make money from recycling they’d put the laws in place tomorrow.

    Ironically, just over 10 years ago CIG employed a Canadian recycling expert as Director for Solid Waste but they then applied the standard NIH (not invented here) logic to his expertise and ignored it all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Recycling, upcycling, reuse, and repurpose are not in Cayman’s vocabulary and certainly not in our culture. “Burn it” and “dash it away” are. This will take many more generations to change the entire population’s mindset. One of the worst trash items to hit this place is the proverbial styrofoam container. You must know who controls that commodity. As long as the Styro King is here that problem won’t go away any time soon and that fellow you metioned, well he works for the Styro King and has been for about 6 years now. He’s told to sing a different tune now, move the dump somewhere else so his master can attract more people to live work play and dine in his concrete jungle. Don’t get me wrong I am fully on board with the 3 Rs but until CIG is on board with it or there is serious money to be made from contract kickbacks things are not likely to change anytime soon.

      I do have a suggestion for CIG but this has most likely been mentioned before and may fall on deaf ears but rather that spending $300M+ on a new cruise port put the money into an incinerator and sorting facility. Bermuda invested in one over a decade ago right around where their population hit 60K. According to latest stats we have 61K people here now. The country might actually see a profit if this is done with the capability to add waste heat conversion to energy in the future.

      Feel free to recycle my comments if you agree.

  10. Anonymous says:

    We have recycling bins by our main trash container, except that the trash collectors leave the main trash container so close to the recycling bins that you cannot get near them…just a little bit of thought would go a long way…

  11. annonymous says:

    Cayman is so far out on left field when it comes to ‘ re-cycling and re-using’ its not funny.
    For example, why should yard cuttings (lawn and tree trimmings) have to go to the dump?! this is good mulch and is very good for our gardens. When garden cuttings are left to decompose it becomes mulch that can enrich the soil in our yards etc. Some might think that because it comes from abroad all dressed up in the fancy bags with the fancy names that it is better.
    It is time for Cayman to start being good stewards of the earth. One small way to start is to re-cycle our garden debris.
    Happy gardening!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately our Government has yet to pass legislation which at least forces businesses to do mandatory recycling.

    I recently went on vacation somewhere else in North America and out hotel room had a recycling bin with a description as to what can be placed into the bin. Every hotel, condo etc should have this in Cayman as well or at the bare minimum should have a flyer in the room/condo that sets out what can be recycled and where to drop it.

    Restaurants/Bars should at a minimum be required to bring the galls bottles to the recycling locations.

  13. Anonymous says:

    About two years ago, our Strata installed an area by our dumpsters for paper/cardboard, glass, aluminum, and plastic bins. Since then, we have had 8 grandfathered bins that have been serviced regularly by Junk for free. The volume of household waste being hauled offsite to the landfill has gone down enormously, and residents don’t have to warehouse or lug their recyclables to the grocery stores. Where all of these recyclables go is still a bit of a mystery and not fully explained on the ISWMS link. The “Know More:Go Green” weblink on the righthand side, is inoperable.

  14. Anonymous says:

    ever wonder why it is mostly expats you see at recycling areas?????

    • Anonymous says:

      Kind of a big generalization there yah douche!

    • Anonymous says:

      I am not expat and I recycle. However there is some truth to what you said. I live in a small development and as far as I can tell I am the only one recycling..the worse part about this is that the developer and his family is the worse culprit. Not sure if it is laziness or ignorance or perhaps both.

      • Just Commentin' says:

        No…unless you manufacture goods or new raw material from the waste, you are not “recycling”, you are merely segregating your waste and storing it for proper redirection to the recycler(s).

  15. Anonymous says:

    the lack of recycling here says a lot about the caymanian mentality….

    • Anonymous says:

      I doubt you can tell a Jamaican or Honduran from a Caymanian, so please refrain from attributing your negative artificial perceptions as to the mentality of the Caymanian people.

  16. Anonymous says:

    all stratas should be forced to have recycling and compost bins….

  17. Anonymous says:

    I know of a couple of kids in West Bay who, for a small fee, pick up recyclables from a few clients on a weekly basis and properly dispose of them (the recyclables that is)? in the bins beside Foster’s Republix supermarket. This is a terrific service which I urge other kids in all the districts to emulate. As Auntie has mentioned, laziness could be responsible for the lack of recycling.

    Just to mention, Mr. and Ms. Public who do use the bins, if the label on the bin says “glass” it does not mean glass, plastic, paper and pizza boxes: just glass.

  18. Cheese Face says:

    I recycle all my plastic, glass, aluminium and cardboard at home, and by my desk in work. Unfortunately I am one of the minority, it is a combination of laziness and a don’t give a **** attitude. Boggles the mind really.

    • Anonymous says:

      You mean you separate and collect. The actual recycling happens when the collected items are transformed into something else. The only thing that is truly recycled on island is glass. Spent tyres are being shredded for eventual use in developments and very small volume of Christmas trees chipped as mulch once a year. All other items are sent off the island to be processed elsewhere. The problem with actual use of recyclables on island is that there isn’t enough volume for feasible manufacturing of new goods. Maybe on a cottage industry scale but there are really no incentives when you factor in the energy cost of processing.

      • Just Commentin' says:

        The high energy cost is a major obstacle for on-island recycling. With the use of fossil fuel in many cases the environmental footprint of the process is larger than that of simply disposing of the waste. And, I must remind the less aware, it is not uncommon for recycling to be cost-effective (and profitable) while actually incurring more harm to the environment than simple disposal of the material in question and processing manufactured from new raw materials. While the word “recycling” is catchy and a source of pride for many so-called “environmentalists”, not all recycling is good for the environment as a whole. Most people do not do a careful study of the individual material and the environmental Cost-Benefit Analysis of recycling that material before they cry “Recycle!” Of course if you only care about your own “back yard”, then, environment be damned… have fun guys!