A landfill is a place that most people don’t even think twice of after tossing their garbage.
But to the Caymanian ladies whose work is a small part of the whole operation, we lift our hats – in their own way they are saving our environment one truck load at a time.
Each day these ladies welcome tons of household garbage and other discarded items to the George Town landfill.
With spirits bright and cheerful they get on with the work – to them it is just a job and they are grateful.
‘My job is all about getting the community cleaned up and making people feel good. I love my job, and I am taking it one day at a time,’ said landfill attendant Martha Ebanks.
Martha is charged with ensuring loaded trucks are directed to the right drop-off points.
Perched on a ladder overlooking the compound, her eternal positivity – ‘Good morning, what have we here – metals and aluminium over there; household garbage, head up the hill and just drop the palates by the mulching machine,’ – is respected by all the truckers.
‘Yes the job is challenging; some days the dust from the trucks and smell is a bit much but I deal with it – why leave it when I like what I do and I am making a difference,’ she said.
‘What makes me especially proud is that the majority of ladies at the landfill are long-time Caymanians workers, this gives me a good feeling,’ she said.
Martha has even proudly presided over tours of her workplace for family and friends. ‘Some visitors want to see the landfill and I see nothing wrong with that. Contrary to what people might thing, it is not one big mess down here, but rather a much organised compound,’ she noted.
‘The George Town Landfill is a rich dump. So many things come here that can be utilised such as metals and paper. People are still bringing items damaged during Hurricane Ivan.’
Martha pays no mind to those that turn their nose up at her job, pointing out ‘the landfill is about you and me and someone has to do it.’
‘Lots of ladies say they can’t find work but I say get up, go out there and look until you find a job you like and can handle – it’s just a job.’
Martha, who is 54, previously worked in the tourism industry for over 20 years. She is married to Fred Ebanks and has three children. She has been named employee of the month and won trips around the world for her stellar work in tourism.
She was born in George Town and spent some time living in West Bay. Her father was a seaman and her mother Iva Powery was a gourmet chef at the Old Ports of Call.
After Hurricane Ivan Martha wanted something different and ended up at the landfill.
As for the relationship with her co-workers, Martha says they are one happy family.
Landfill recyclers Susan Mack, Alice McField and Debbie Seymour agree their work can sometimes be very trying, but they still enjoy what they do.
‘If I did not like the job I would have found something else to do, but I like it so I stay,’ says Susan.
‘It is all right to work at the landfill. Sometimes there are ups and downs but it is soon resolved and we are one big happy family again,’ said Alice.
The day begins for these ladies with the sorting of aluminium cans, batteries, oil and papers.
But what really makes the job difficult for these ladies is when residents use the recycling bins placed around the island to discard rubbish.
‘People toss fish heads, baby diapers, feminine toiletries, half eaten sandwiches and bottles into the recycling containers,’ lamented Susan. ‘When this happens we have to dig in and remove the cans from amid all the foul smelling rubbish and wash them off before they can be placed in the recycling machine,’ she says.
‘It is not right but we have to deal with it, because it comes with the job,’ chips in Alice.
Residents could also make their job easier when discarding household garbage – just keep a separate bag for cans and drop it off at the landfill, said Susan.
Susan started at the landfill as an office assistant. It was suggested that everyone should test out other departments at the site. To her that was no big deal. ‘I said no problem, if it is something that I really enjoy doing then it is OK with me.’
Susan said there are hazards that come with the job. ‘Right now I have to leave for overseas for a check up, but that is OK,’ she said.
‘A lot of people say, how can I work at the landfill, but it is not about working here, it is the money and making a difference.’ She said a lot of people who said they would never work there are working there now.
All the ladies at the landfill said the smell is not that bad. Sometimes they may get heavy smells from the furnace when medical supplies are burning and a lot of dust from the hill but it soon blows away.
47-year old year Susan Mack from George Town has two children and has been with the landfill for 13 years. Alice and Debbie have been with the landfill for nine years; Alice has three children and Debbie four.