Garbage Disposal, the ugly truth
As I have stated before, it is my goal based on my experiences to provide an unbiased view of life in Belize. To that end I feel I must present “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. One of the ugly things is the random roads and several vacant lots used for garbage disposal around San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. There is garbage pick up once per week at our house, but the garbage truck (as in most areas of the world) does not remove larger metal garbage like old fridges, stoves, washers and the like. This is a homeowner responsibility. So as an islander, where do you put your garbage? It would appear that most people just find an abandoned road or a vacant lot, and once one person does it, then everyone else will follow suit until one piece at a time, well, you
see get the picture. I have not noticed this on the mainland so in all fairness this is an island problem.
You might ask. Why do people do this?
The short answer is that there is not much choice for garbage disposal for many residents. The first thing to remember is that a majority of families don’t have a vehicle or the finances to pay someone to haul it away. And, even if they could get it hauled away, there is no safe place to haul it to on an island. Ambergris Caye has two dumps for garbage disposal, one at the far north end and a second at the far south end of the island. And while both are getting rid of burnable garbage at night, this has its own obvious effect on the environment. We are also now realizing through studies that the burial of metals for landfill is a major source of the ecological problems. Of course it is not that much of a stretch for the imagination that on a sandy island with a six month rain season, as things deteriorate below the ground, the contaminants will quickly leach into the sea.
What can be done to educate and facilitate proper Garbage disposal?
The San Pedro Town Council is beginning to take action and the San Pedro Sun newspaper has been reporting lately on the bad effects of this garbage disposal problem, and have outlined the potential health risks to residents as well as the ecosystem and in particular the marine life on the coral reef from which the island’s economy is derived.
Recognizing this problem The Government of Belize several years ago allocated nearly 1 million borrowed dollars to the construction of a solid waste facility. This transfer station would see to the island waste being removed to the mainland for proper garbage disposal. This facility is now expected to be completed by March 2015, almost two years after the originally expected completion date. Once it is complete one could expect that the problem should not get worse, but I suspect it will take several more years before someone takes responsibility for cleaning up the existing garbage disposal sites and then several years after that before it actually gets cleaned up.
If visiting or moving to Belize
One should not expect to see mounds of garbage disposal everywhere, and these sites are generally out of the sight of tourists (visitors), however they do exist and as a resident or expat I expect you will see them for a few more years to come. I don’t mention this to complain but rather to inform. And again, although I do find things from time to time that make me scratch my head, I have yet to experience anything that would make me pack up my bags and head back to Canada.
Updated September 28, 2015
Since writing this post on February 06, 2015, I am pleased to announce that the Transfer Station built to facilitate garbage disposal here on Ambergris Caye opened and was inaugurated on July 03, 2015 as reported in this article by The San Pedro Sun