Waste firms plan coalition to fix landfill ‘disaster’
Leading waste disposal companies in the private sector are forming a coalition and suggesting a public tax to help bring the Nassau landfill up to code, with at least one stakeholder calling the current situation “a disaster”.
Virginia McKinney, the president of Waste Not, told Guardian Business no single person is to blame for the state of the capital’s landfill.
Instead, she said the problem stretches back many years and beyond party lines.
But with limited capacity and serious environmental hazards, the time to act is now.
“Three major stakeholders have sat down and discussed the situation, and hopefully this week we will form a coalition in order to take over the whole landfill management and do what needs to be done,” McKinney explained.
“We have met with the government and asked them if they will take a look at what we’re putting in front of them. They say they will, but there are no guarantees.”
United Sanitation, Bahamas Waste and Waste Not Ltd., along with Bahamas Renewable Energy Resources Ltd., have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing in consultants to draft a detailed proposal for the private management of the landfill, she added.
The proposal includes an action plan to form a management company, bringing in much-needed infrastructure and excavating new “cells” for distributing waste.
At the moment, according to McKinney, cell one, which stands at more than 150 feet, has been closed off.
Dumping began on cell two, but the Waste Not executive told Guardian Business it was never lined. Therefore, hazardous chemicals, byproducts and run-off from the garbage seeps into the soil and can effect the water table.
Describing cell two as “unbelievably full”, another section of the action plan deals with containing any hazardous leaking by removing the garbage and at least partially lining the bottom.
Road maintenance, excavation and bringing in new equipment to grid up and process garbage that doesn’t have to be in the landfill would be paid for by a general tax.
“We need to pay for this service,” she said. “Most countries pay for their garbage service and people need to pay something. It’s not a lot – probably a lot less than people think. We’re probably talking $3 per month.”
Francisco de Cardenas, managing director of Bahamas Waste, said the current landfill is “over full” and more are needed to properly accept waste.
“It was designed for four cells, but only one was prepared to accept municipal waste – and that has surpassed it’s use,” he said.
He also suggested that the landfill needs to issue more detailed statements on what various companies owe in terms of fees. At the moment, it only issues invoices.
The roads leading to the landfill are desperately in need of work, he added.
McKinney echoed his concerns for the road, saying tires costing $400 a piece are often blown in an effort to deliver the garbage.
She felt one of the most important issues facing the landfill was the dumping of green materials that could be chewed up, broken down and used for compost instead of taking up space. When dumped, these materials also contribute to a hazardous liquid cocktail seeping into the ground.
“It’s a disaster in as much as it has the potential to ignite a fire again, and for leaching to get into the water table,” McKinney explained.
By bringing in a private management company and charging a fee, which could be linked or added to the electricity bill, for example, it would bring the landfill “under control”.
“You will have a state-of-the-art landfill run by a responsible company,” she said.
“We are Bahamians and we want to solve the problem.”