Recycling on a large scale is limited in Cayman, but it does exist, and with a little creativity and responsible shopping, each one of us can significantly reduce the amount of waste produce.
Some companies are also taking their environmental responsibilities seriously and using recycled materials for products and packaging.
For example, at Storage Solutions, which offers everything from shelving systems to closets and pantries, 100 per cent of particle board is recovered from the manufacturing process of wood mills, and the packaging they come in is made from 95 per cent recyclable materials.
“We also recently started dropping off our cardboard to 345recycling, a recycler here on island that uses it to create mulch,” says owner Mike Davidson.
At The Nook, a business which opened in late 2011 selling refurbished and “up-cycled” furniture, the idea of recycling is central to the company’s business ethos.
“We’ve always had the desire to open a business like this and, with the economical times as they are, we felt Cayman was ready,” says Jennifer Newton, who co-owns the shop with Lisa Motta.
“Especially after all we went through with Hurricane Ivan, people are looking for more sustainable stuff. Our customers are amazed that our stock has been ‘pre-loved’ and that we have acquired it all on-island.
Jennifer points out that the need for recycling in Cayman should be top priority.
“Yes, it takes time and thought but we must stop being a throw-away society.” she says.
Since the elimination of non-biodegradable plastic bags from supermarkets and the introduction the reusable cloth bags a couple of years ago, it is estimated 12 million less plastic bags end up in the landfill annually.
The main problem is remembering to take your reusable bags to the store: keep them in your car or neatly folded in your purse so that they are always on hand.
Plastic has little value as a recyclable material either in Cayman or overseas so the best we can do is to try to reduce the plastic we purchase: avoid plastic containers or choose recyclable containers; select products with less packaging or biodegradable packaging; purchase in bulk to minimise packaging waste and use refills where available.
The Humane Society is always grateful for old newspapers and towels which they can use to line the animals’ cages.
Books you have read can be dropped off at the Book Loft upstairs and clothes, shoes and household items you no longer want or need, can be donated to the society’s thrift shop.
The same applies to the Red Cross’s thrift shop, which also accepts books, clothes and more. At the same time you are keeping unwanted items out of the landfill you are helping to fund some worthy non-profit organisations.
Anyone with a backyard or garden can turn a significant amount of their household waste into rich, dark soil. “Composting can absolutely reduce the garbage that ends up in the landfill,” says Nancy Rohleder, owner of Vigoro Nursery.
“Cardboard, newspaper, lint from the dryer, pet and human hair, grass clippings, paper towel rolls, used paper towel, spices past their prime, tea bags, and non-laminated boxes will all break down into compost.
“A good compost heap is a combination of what we call green-to-brown. Green is all vegetable matter and brown is cardboard, newspaper, lint, etc. If the combination is done correctly, roughly two parts brown to one part green, you will make beautiful compost.”
Composting is as simple as adding everything to the composter, perhaps with a little water. Nature does the rest. Although it’s not necessary to buy a special composter–a heap in the corner of your yard will work–it will speed up the decomposition process, due to the heat that builds up inside, and will keep away unwanted visitors such as bugs and vermin.
Using compost in your garden will also yield healthier plants, lots of earthworms and fewer insects, according to Nancy.
On average, about one third of any landfill is composed of packaging materials. While we have no control over how factories choose to package their products, we do have the power to shop wisely and choose products with the least packaging, recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
It requires no effort on our part to choose the drinks in aluminium cans or glass rather than plastic bottles, foods sold in cardboard boxes instead of plastic containers and refills as opposed to new containers for cleaning products.
Preserving the environment is not only the responsibility of governments and large corporations, it’s down to each and every member of society. If everybody makes an effort to shop wisely and recycle in every way they can, together we can make a difference.