The Trash Situation

November 1st, 2006

The trash situation in my neighborhood and in neighborhoods across the country is a difficult one that should demand more serious national attention but unfortunately does not. Veragua receives a trash-collection truck once or twice a month which is funded by the local municipal government. This truck comes without a set schedule or time; We know they've arrived when we hear a honking horn and a megaphone broadcasting a garbled "basurabasurabasura".

If we're at home.

I've actually SEEN the truck four times in six months.

That's not to say the garbage truck really solves any problems. It simply displaces the problem. Maintained trash dumps do not exist here. That is to say, the dump is where you've dumped. While there are a few larger dumps on the outskirts of some of the larger pueblos and cities, the biggest problem to me seems to be the willy-nilly scattering of trash. Trucks, and people, dump where they please.


Here's the rub:

Garbage as a concept and as a perception, among Dominicans, seems to me to be an issue of immediacy. It is garbage, it is a problem, when it is in hand or under nose. Garbage CEASES to be a problem when it is tossed away, perhaps in the street, or out of the window, or out of a moving car, or even just into the yard. Perhaps because no real ownership can be ascribed to a piece of trash lying in the dirt (especially among so many others), people simply disown the problem. While some adults acknowledge and even criticize the trash problem here, I've seen no evidence of local, individual attempts to clean it up nor evidence of widespread, national campaigns aimed at making some kind of progress.

It is absolutely heart-breaking to see a child carelessly toss an empty plastic bottle into the street as he or she walks along. It is frustrating to see the same thing multiple times a day. It is downright appalling to see a full grown adult toss a bag of fast food garbage out of the window of a moving van.


At many of the households here in Veragua, including mine, trash is piled up in the backyard until there is a pile large enough and dry enough to burn. All manner of things are burned, and what doesn't burn remains in the pile fire after fire. In other households, trash is simply abandoned in the back yard, or taken elsewhere for such abandonment.

My initial attempts at the education of children about garbage and the problems it causes have failed miserably. I would love to do something in this area with my time here, ignoring the experiences of past volunteers who have described such work as pure frustration.

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