EDITORIAL – Trash pickup: Time for truth from government

Trash piles up in the parking lot of an area designated for household waste drop-offs at the George Town landfill site.

When we wrote last week that we feared the result of volunteer Earth Day litter cleanup efforts would be temporary, we meant eventually – not almost as soon as the last trash bag had been tied.

How disappointing, then, to read Philippa Walsh’s letter to the editor expressing her dismay at the Department of Environmental Health’s utter failure to dispose of the trash-filled bags she and her two young children had diligently filled with litter they collected during that well-attended and highly effective event.

Hundreds of volunteers took time to remove thousands of pounds of trash from beaches, roadsides, vacant lots and waterways over Earth Day weekend. But, as Ms. Walsh writes, “Several days after the volunteer cleanup … I noticed that the bags which were placed on the side of the roads, as instructed, remained there – many of which had now been torn open by wild chickens or stray dogs and were back to being strewn all over the road and verge!”

It is bad enough that the DEH appears unable to figure out the timely and proper disposal of trash on its regular routes – to the point that frustrated residents have taken to driving their trash to leave it in the parking lot of the George Town landfill.

Further, the irony cannot be ignored that volunteers, who surely had better things to do than play “trash collector,” felt the need to step in to do the job that taxpayers pay the government to do. It should go without saying that garbage collection should be one of the least controversial and most routine responsibilities of government. It is Public Works 101.

Clearly, something is seriously amiss at the DEH, and the minister responsible for that department, the Hon. Dwayne Seymour, has an obligation to share with the public what is really going on.

Of course, it’s not just the post-Earth Day cleanup debacle. Residents and their elected politicians have been screaming about the lack of timely and consistent trash pickup.

Meanwhile, the landfill, we are told, is full to overflowing and is not accepting certain materials, including derelict automobiles and scrap metal. At the same time, the director of the DEH, Roydell Carter, has been “out of office since December. No further explanation has been forthcoming, other than a statement, totally devoid of details, in January from Jennifer Ahearn, chief officer at the Ministry of Health, that Mr. Carter “is currently on leave.”

That is not nearly good enough. If this is not the “people’s business,” what is?

As Ms. Walsh writes, her children are keen to do another cleanup, but she is reluctant to waste more of their (and her) time. She writes, “What is the point of doing the cleanup if the garbage is not collected immediately thereafter?”

A week ago, even as we offered our thanks to the volunteers, the businesses, Chamber of Commerce, environmental and diving associations, neighborhood groups and committees who came together to clean up our island, we bemoaned the fact that some thoughtless individuals would surely undo all their hard work. We were referring to litterbugs somehow lacking the civic pride and sense of personal responsibility that compels decent people to clean up the messes they have made.

Add DEH to the top of the list.

1 COMMENT

  1. If someone had put in a tourist brochure”improperly managed, unlined, an open air dump is located within a walking distance from the crystal clear water of SMB, Ritz, Seafire and Camana Bay “, how many do you think would come?

  2. A very interesting article/op ed, as usual.
    A person looking at this huge mound will see that there are loads of recyclable materials in this pile.
    We need recycling stations in each district where cardboard, bottle, cans, plastics etc can be collected and sorted.
    A grinder for the compostable materials, which could then be reused in the gardening sectors and might have a market value if composted properly. We purchase compost from Florida, with all of the weed seeds that heat doesn’t kill. More invasive species on the way!
    This would solve a myriad of problems, not to mention, provide a few jobs per station. This would not cost any massive amounts of money to set up in each district. The money we spend every year on the island wide clean up could be better spent and it would provide several full time permanent jobs.
    The Cayman Islands needs to be more progressive in the approach to trash or we will all soon be buried under it!