Havana Residents Demand Solutions to the Garbage Crisis

Havana doesn’t have comprehensive sorting and recycling facilities for waste. Interception of the El Sevillano, residential neighborhood, in the Diez de Octubre municipality.   Photo: IPS-Cuba Archive

While the regional Government is demanding urban regulations be respected, the number of complaints about irregular garbage collection is growing.

By IPS Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Complaints on social media about the garbage crisis in the Cuban capital have grown exponentially since the beginning of September and there was a new twist this week with a post on Havana Resident’s Portal about a law to keep Havana clean.

Reproduced in local mass media with a large following, the article complains about the implementation of the Havana Governors’ Decoration, Hygiene and Communal Services Law, on June 10th, in the capital with over 2.1 million inhabitants.

Measures include a fine for failing to respect times outlined for the disposal of waste in containers; causing damage to garbage containers for domestic waste; and for throwing rubble, building materials, pruning waste and useless objects on the road and in common areas.

In addition to the fact that “it takes days for them to collect garbage on the corner of my block, they have one or two containers maximum that fill up in a day. First solve the problem with shortages in garbage containers, so that when they do want to give you a fine, they do it for a reason,” Yeniset Soutuyo posted on Facebook.

Over 70 comments posted in less than 24 hours on the Canal Habana (the capital’s TV station) website, insist on two important points of the issue: it’s great that they are taking action against the population, but first they must ensure efficient garbage collection services in the city.

Alternative proposals in social media include involving cooperatives and private small or medium-sized companies in providing this service.  A park in Havana’s Santos Suarez neighborhood.

Shame vs. garbage

Information on the Havana Citizens’ Portal followed the saga of testimonies, photos and complaints that accompanied a post on the personal Facebook account of Jose Alejandro Rodríguez, a journalist at Juventud Rebelde newspaper, under the title Shame vs. garbage.

“I am drawing your attention to today’s garbage crisis, which can no longer be tolerated in many of Havana’s neighborhoods, without Communal Services offering an explanation to the population. You can’t live amid the garbage. No, we don’t deserve to live like this,” Rodriguez says in his article posted on Sunday September 4th.

With a long career promoting journalism spaces to channel the population’s concerns, Rodriguez admits the existence of “social indiscipline” a heap of economic problems,” but he is also making a call to inform the population and to seek alternatives in the private sector.

“One thing we can’t accept is living amidst the garbage, day by day, with the subsequent despair and uneasiness this stirs,” the journalist added.

Rodriguez’ photo gallery of many containers filled to the brim in the residential El Sevillano neighborhood, in the Diez de Octubre municipality. goes hand-in-hand with the many other similar posts posted by friends and followers from all over the city, and from other provinces, such as eastern Guantanamo and Santiago de Cuba.

“It’s a real headache what’s happening in the country today (…) The street I live on in the middle of Santa Clara, is embarrassing. We’re going to get sick. We must find other solutions for collecting “solid waste,” journalist Dalia Reyes Perera posted from Havana’s central province: Villa Clara.

Sidewalk next to the entrance of a neighborhood health Clinic in Havana.

Shared Responsibility

“Measures need to be well thought-out and human-focused. I live alone and live a long way from work. I leave the office late and it sometimes takes me three hours to get home. I arrive late at night and will have to cross several blocks in the dark to get to the container,” Raquel Perez, a neighbor from the Cerro municipality, told IPS Cuba’s editorial team.

According to the latest guidelines published in the state media in August 2020, people are allowed to leave their homes and take out the garbage between 6 pm and 10 AM.

However, residents in different points across the capital have said that it sometimes takes over a week to get the garbage collected, garbage containers are overflowed and filth grows.

“In early 2022, eight new plastic garbage containers were installed in the park at the Corner. Now there’s only 4. The reality is that people steal their lids, the wheels, the screws, but it’s also true that communal workers damage them when throwing them about or the Government is buying very poor quality containers,” Perez added.

Thus, problems with containers and the regularity of pickup, is sometimes the bridge for the gap to throw away domestic waste. “It doesn’t matter that the majority of residents, including the elderly, have to walk up to 10 blocks to find a garbage dumpster,” warned Maria Julia Garcia Caso in the conversation with Rodriguez.

Comprehensive solutions needed

According to the First Cuban Voluntary Report about the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, the country is working on a proposal of reorganizing communal services and with a business system that is subordinated to provincial and municipal governments, regardless of the structure decided at a local level.

“By the end of 2019, over 8 million residents in Havana’s urban aeras,” have garbage waste collection services, which represents 77% of the population,” out of over 11.1 million, the official report adds. However, as this article emphasizes, the frequency of the service can vary substantially.

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