When the Decco Consortium was announced as the preferred bidder for the Integrated Solid Waste Management System last month, it may have seemed strange that a company better known for real estate development was chosen.
However, Decco’s Integrated Solid Waste Management System — or ISWMS — project manager, Martin Edelenbos, is one of only a handful of people in the world who has previous experience with waste management in the Caribbean. Edelenbos spent five years in Bermuda running the country’s solid waste management, an operation comparable to that planned for the Cayman Islands.
“Bermuda was a good case study for us,” says Edelenbos. “With a population of a similar size, their waste-to-energy, composting and recycling programmes provided useful data for us when planning the type of technology and scale of the facilities required for Cayman to ensure the proposed solution is sustainable over the full 25-year contract and beyond.”
In 1994, Bermuda was the first island in the region to adopt waste-to-energy as an approach to solid waste management. Its government’s objectives were similar to our government’s: to reduce the volume of waste going to the landfill by up to 90 per cent and to remediate a landfill reaching capacity in a highly populated area. Today, the waste-to-energy facility at Tynes Bay in Bermuda processes 70,000 tonnes of trash annually, producing 3.8MW of electricity.
Producing electricity from trash is the “recover” from the four “Rs” of the waste management triangle — reduce, reuse, recycle, recover — with disposal as the last resort.
“Waste-to-energy is a renewable energy source and can play a part in reducing our reliance on fossil fuel,” says Edelenbos. “Other green components of ISWMS include a more efficient material recovery facility for recycling and windrow composting for horticultural yard waste.”
As a renewable energy source, the waste-to-energy facility will support the Cayman Islands Government’s National Energy Policy published in March this year, which recommends 70 per cent of the country’s electricity generation should come from renewable energy sources by 2037. While solar and wind will likely supply the bulk of this, trash can make a small, but valuable, contribution.
Producing electricity from trash is the “recover” from the four “Rs” of the waste management triangle — reduce, reuse, recycle, recover — with disposal as the last resort. ISWMS still requires a residual landfill for fly ash produced at the waste-to-energy facility and other non-combustible or hazardous materials, but the landfill will be fully engineered and a fraction of the size of the current site.
Landfills on all three islands will be closed and covered, and while long-term remediation plans are part of the ongoing contract negotiations, the expectation for the George Town landfill is that it will become a green space that can eventually be enjoyed by everyone living on Grand Cayman.
The time frame for the completion of the waste-to-energy facility depends in part on current contract negotiations and the completion of an Environmental Impact Assessment, but the goal is to have all components of ISWMS operational by 2021.
“The selection process, known as ‘competitive dialogue,’ allowed us to reach a good degree of alignment with the government before being announced as preferred bidder, so we are confident that we can reach final agreement in the coming months,” says Edelenbos. “We have assembled a strong team of partners, most of whom have previous experience in the Cayman Islands.
“We have long been interested in finding an alternative for waste management in the Cayman Islands,” says Edelenbos. “Government has chosen ISWMS as a long-term sustainable solution, and we are excited to be selected as the partner who will provide the technology to deliver this solution.”