Trash talk: Let’s clean up our acts

Can you imagine what their homes look like?

Banana peels by the pile, smashed foam cups, polyurethane containers smeared with yesterday’s takeout, garbage bags of yard waste, soiled diapers, empty propane tanks, rusted refrigerators, cigarette butts, glass bottles and beer cans … And that’s just what they’ve been able to toss from their vehicles!

The dirty deeds of our resident human detritus are evident throughout Grand Cayman’s roadsides, yards and beaches — even the Cayman Islands’ so-called “national park” in Barkers, which oftentimes seems less a magnet for tourists and recreation-seekers than it is for illegal dumpers and washed-up flotsam.

While this Editorial Board continues to devote considerable quantities of ink toward decrying the public health threats posed by the unlined, mismanaged and over-packed George Town Landfill — at least there, the garbage is all in one place.

A separate subject entirely is the metastasis of trash fouling up Cayman’s scenery, polluting our environment and, yes, threatening our health.

Such is the work of Cayman’s litterbugs. Nearly as bad, and in some ways more dangerous, are their kissing cousins — the delinquent property owners who passively surrender control of their landholdings to fast-growing flora, feracious vermin and swarms of marsh-loving mosquitoes. Not only are these derelict plots extremely unsightly, they can also be extremely unsafe, particularly when vegetative overgrowth has reached a sufficient height and density to obstruct passing motorists’ lines of sight.

With goals of beautification and public safety, and the looming holiday season in mind, the National Roads Authority is conducting an ongoing effort to clean up Cayman’s road corridors. This Saturday, the authority launches a two-week campaign to “clear obstructions at high-traffic roads,” including “hedges grown over fences or planted beyond boundary lines; boulders placed roadside, garbage receptacles too close to the road, landscaping work taking place on narrow shoulders, and private signs within public rights-of-way,” according to the authority.

While the authority’s activities are welcome, and should have a noticeable impact on aesthetics and driving conditions, we fear that, if the aim is to keep Cayman clean, this initiative — along with all the other paid and volunteer cleanup campaigns (such as the Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Cleanup on Saturday) — falls far short of what is truly required.

We are not belittling, denigrating or dismissing workers’ efforts or their positive effects; it’s just that these initiatives, by their nature, are temporary solutions to a permanent problem. The trouble isn’t the people cleaning up; it’s the people making the mess.

No matter how many good Samaritans pitch in, no matter the amount of government resources dedicated to beautification, Cayman will always have an “ugliness” problem so long as the relevant laws are not being enforced, and enforced strictly.

People who litter should not have people picking up after them. Rather, they should be caught, fined and, depending on the judge’s discretion, perhaps also forced to practice picking up other people’s trash for awhile. (The beach cleanup by Northward Prison inmates may pose a good model for such civic involvement.)

In regard to road obstructions, the Roads Authority’s news release on their cleanup also includes reminders that Section 16 of the Roads Law makes such corridor encroachments illegal, punishable by up to a $5,000 fine. The law also empowers the Roads Authority, after giving notice, to remove or reduce the obstruction at the owner’s expense.

There’s an idea. Rather than simply going around and straightening up other people’s clutter, the Roads Authority might want to consider leaving a few items of their own. Namely, three options for negligent property owners: Clean it up. Pay the fine. Or pay the bill.

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  1. Even tourists who come to the island to visit are too lazy to throw their personal garbage away . But, yes I agree, they should hold their garbage, then throw it in a bin but , no they are too lazy .
    So the solution will be, we need to pick up lazy people trash. So who could do this wonderfully easy job? The young unemployed welfare recipients who get something for nothing. As grandmother would say, the devil finds work for idle hands.

  2. I totally agree with your editorial Trash talk: and to comment I wish I knew where to begin. However I will begin with your last paragraph, Three options Clean up, pay the fine or pay the bill. I know many persons maybe cannot afford to pay the bill, well then, why not clean up your mess, and unless the environmental health department enforce their laws, nothing will ever change.
    I prefer to write about what I see and know and not about what I am told, and each one of us live on an avenue or in an area. Although I do not own my avenue it will always be my concern to try my best to see it is kept clean; However again some residents can only do so much. Cumber Avenue is an area which is regularly visited by tourists and locals because it has much heritage to talk about. JUST TO NAME A FEW: The first well, The slave wall, The first hand made bakery, A boiling Hole, 200 year old home of Centurion Antoinette levy, Nasberry and plum trees that is over two hundred years old, Under ground Caves, Two children parks, The old mission House,Gun square, Nurse Josie Center and heritage park. Activities are always being held in this area with tourist constantly travelling by. This area has some of the most beautiful palm trees and other foliage, but along the roadside accumulates over grown bush, and where there is overgrown bush people have a tendency to throw bits of garbage. Giving notices by environmental department is a waste of time because they do not follow up and enforce the laws. Numerous occasions these problems has been brought to the attention of the head of the environmental department to assist us with keeping the roadsides cleaned. Of course our request have been ignored. In this same avenue recently persons have built up unsightly goat pens in front of peoples residence on GOVERNMENT PROPERTY, causing stink scent to neighbors. This was brought to the attention of our MLA,s and to the department head of environmental department for more than a year. However nothing has been done.
    So what should residents do. I am not one bit sorry to say it but there is too much shake hand going on between politicians and departments heads not doing their jobs properly. Like I said, we all live on an avenue, I remain concerned about mine.

  3. Simple solution… tie all fines (DOEH, DOE, Court Ordered and any other tickets) to re-registration of their vehicles or renewal of their driver’s license! A few months of not being able to drive will certainly provide the incentive to comply!!

  4. Lets also focus on the good guys too.

    There is a significant proportion of the community who go way beyond simply ensuring the trash is consigned to the dump.
    Instead, they sort it and physically carry it to the various recycling points on the island.

    Are people noticing how these facilities seem always seem to be overflowing (and not just slightly) – The action of the people is screaming a message to the government about recycling, yet the DOE are not being allocated the funds to bring to bear on this problem.
    If the monies spent on consultants had instead been spent on recycling sites there would already be significantly less trash headed to mount trashmore.

    Lets take soda cans – If everybody on island recycled just one aluminium can per week, that is 50 tons a year. The scrap value is around 100,000 dollars, and that is just ONE can per person per week, I think 10 times that is a more reasonable goal, and is anyone not offended by the prospect of a million dollars being buried in an already oversized landfill.

    Understand this one simple fact, every bag of recyclables dropped off at a recycling site is a bag of trash NOT headed to mount trashmore, but is instead headed off island.

    If a recycling site gets full too quickly- double the size, when it still gets full, double it again and repeat. Or maybe have a recyclables dumpster on every street!

    If voters don’t want to pay for garbage collection – pre-sorting household waste will allow that benefit to continue. Sort OR Pay – would seem to be an easy choice?

  5. As Bette Davis said in her movie Beyond The Forest,What a dump. That is Cayman in many respects. The ridiculous one day clean up day is just that. People respond with attachments and fines. The beaches are strewn with disgusting garbage from the force of the ocean, those who don’t think twice about throwing garbage overboard and human detritus, who also don’t care where they toss their trash. Can’t even imagine your homes or huts. Folks, wake up. This is your responsibility. Get off your posteriors, and pick up your island’s garbage.