Trashcan City / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 21 April 2015 — Half a century ago Havana was a clean city with an efficient system for trash collection and streets that were swept every day. Not only did mechanized sweepers ply the main boulevards and avenues, after midnight these thoroughfares were also washed down with high-pressure water hoses. In addition to the steps taken by the city government, owners of business and covered walkways made sure the sidewalks adjoining their buildings were clean. As though that were not enough, both public buses and commercial transport vehicles had to be absolutely spotless, both inside and out, in order to operate.

When new officials came to power, the system began to decline. In its current state the city is one big trash can.

Citizens’ demands and complaints are not being heard. The city and district administrations provide banal excuses for their incompetence and shoddy workmanship. The problem stems from, among other things, a lack of resources, insufficient maintenance and repair, and unqualified personnel. All indications are that it is impossible to find a solution under the current system, which is marked by corruption, diversion of funds and other illegalities.

Why not do away with these obsolete methods and turn the job over to private or cooperative enterprises? Many cities have done this. Businesses are now responsible for collecting, treating and recycling of all types of waste, categorizing it from the moment it is discarded by providing separate containers for plastic, glass, metal, cardboard and organic products. This facilitates and humanizes the task, something the authorities have not been able to achieve.

How long must we listen to the same old stories? The public demands more than explanations; it wants solutions.