EDITORIAL – Government’s failure to pick up the trash: How hard can it be?

Everybody makes mistakes. Given the option, smart people tend to make them in private. The Cayman Islands government? Not so much.

What could be more public than mountains of uncollected garbage accumulating in Grand Cayman’s dumpsters, along roadsides, in front of houses, and – finally, courtesy of an anonymous coalition of “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” citizens – all over the George Town landfill’s parking lot?

For months, local residents, including North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and Newlands MLA Al Suckoo, have been airing complaints about the Department of Environmental Health’s inconsistent collection of garbage.

Referring to the pile of trash near the landfill, Mr. Miller said, “I think that was a protest from the people.” (We think he’s right.)

Mr. Miller observed, “How hard would it be to put a [garbage collection] schedule in the Compass and stick to it?” (Right again, Mr. Miller. We’ll be happy to publish it.)

Mr. Suckoo said, “I think we have hit the end of the road as far as this situation goes. Government needs to put some priority on this issue.”

That is an understatement. Along with keeping the lights on and the water running, taking out the trash is a basic but vital criterion for maintaining an acceptable standard of living. Garbage collection is among the “unsexiest” functions of government, but it is a fundamental service that impacts a diversity of core government responsibilities, including environmental health, public health and economic vibrancy. What tourist (or resident) would want to spend money in a place littered with unsightly and unsanitary refuse?

As our readers are well aware, dysfunction at the Department of Environmental Health goes beyond missed garbage pick-ups. When workers do collect the garbage, the problem then becomes where to put it. The landfill, or at least certain sections of it, is practically full or approaching capacity.

For example, for months officials have instructed residents not to drop old cars at the landfill due to a lack of space – accompanied by the most-unhelpful instruction that people should also not keep old cars on either public or private property … (What’s left? Mars? Has anyone submitted an inquiry to Elon Musk about capacity on the next Falcon Heavy rocket?)

The lack of action from the department is only slightly less inspiring than the official statement emanating from the department. A DEH spokesperson said, “Late pickups are usually as a result of resource constraints due to mechanical breakdown or worker absenteeism.”

Hold on. Collecting and properly disposing of garbage is the DEH’s job. We do not need general excuses about equipment or staffing; we need spare parts and people who show up to work.

First up in the DEH’s game of “Where’s Waldo?” is department director Roydell Carter, who has been on leave since late last year, during which time government’s internal auditors have been looking into DEH’s management of overtime. Where is Mr. Carter? Does anyone know? Is he OK? Should someone knock on his door to check on his welfare?

Mr. Miller said it’s time for Environmental Health Minister Dwayne Seymour to step in and sort out the problems. In this instance, Mr. Miller is only mostly right – in actuality, ministerial intervention is way overdue.

If Minister Seymour is looking for suggestions, we have a non-satirical “modest proposal” for his consideration. Cayman has an uncollected garbage problem. Allegedly, Cayman also has an unemployment problem. Every year, hundreds of Caymanians participate in government’s annual Christmas cleanup effort, in exchange for modest cash wages.

We know that Christmas only comes once a year, but given the untenable situation of uncollected garbage, perhaps it’s time for a heavy-duty spring cleaning campaign.

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  1. Cayman Compass , thank you for writing this excellent editorial which is to point people should pay attention to .
    It really shows what a dysfunctional Government we have , when Mr Miller and Mr Suckoo has to come out of the LA to get issues such as the garbage problem taken care of . Their incompetence is all food for the next election.
    Didn’t Cayman Government just purchased a brand new garbage truck ?
    So what are they talking about mechanical problems . Sounds more like excuses problems, just like they don’t know anything about Mr Carter. I hope you people are watching the Government actions .

    • The problems of waste management are different for the developing world. Because the economies of developing countries are usually not as robust as the economies of countries such as The Cayman Islands. Unlike developed nations, poorer countries in the developing world often have not developed adequate waste management policies or systems, trash collection services, or government institutions to properly manage their wastes.

      So it is embarrassing for The Cayman Islands to have developing countries problems.

      Correction: As of March 26, 2018, Wikipedia lists The Cayman Islands as 22nd among the top financial centres worldwide.

  2. I tried some years ago to find out the process to get hired to drive a garbage truck. The lady behind the counter said only government staff wanting to switch from other departments would need to apply first. Then if they could not find anyone willing to drive a garbage truck they would then offer by classified ad? The pay years ago was $12 per hour with medical insurance and pension. The hours was very early but you would finish before 12 pm.
    We should have 24 hour service so there really shouldn’t be any excuses.