The uproar last week caused by sanitation workers dumping garbage in protest in front of the Belize City Council offices and demanding to be paid is a result of the unmanageable sanitation situation which Belize City faces.
Even with the millions of dollars spent each year on sanitation companies which are grossly overpaid for the work they do, Belize City is far from clean. Her streets and drains are a dumping ground for anybody seeking to get rid of trash, which range from household garbage to grass and yard cuttings, discarded furniture including unwanted mattresses and bedding, derelict stoves and refrigerators and stuff no longer useful to the owners.
If the Belize City Council had twice the amount of money to spend on sanitation and could employ double the number of sanitation workers, our City would still not be clean because we who live in the city are producing garbage at a faster pace than the garbage collectors can retrieve it.
Everybody knows that it is easier to collect garbage which is bagged than garbage which is loose. It is easier for sanitation workers to go from house to house to collect bagged garbage than to go from street to street picking up loose garbage which is sometimes bulky and heavy.
If the Belize City Council wants to get a grip on its sanitation problem it will have to start doing what other cities have done – enact sanitation regulations and enforce them the way it enforces traffic regulations. The city will have to employ health and sanitation wardens to visit homes to tell people how to manage their garbage.
This might sound like a strange approach, but the truth of the matter is that people don’t know how to manage their garbage. Some people put their garbage in buckets or boxes or drums by the side of the street for the sanitation trucks to come and collect. Others look for a convenient street corner or a vacant neighbourhood lot and deposit their garbage . Some save the plastic bags they get from shopping at stores and supermarkets and use these as trash bags.
Full-size trash bags are expensive, and one of the challenges of the Belize City Council will be to see how it can distribute cheaper trash bags through an incentive programme to help with the trash disposal problem.
Mayor Darrell Bradley has a good idea to recruit house holders to keep the streets and drains in front of their property clean. This is going to be a challenge because of the large aged and indigent population, but it is an idea worth trying.
The clean-up programme will be much more effective if people and neighbourhoods co-operate in a conscious way to make our city cleaner. This will require an education process to correct bad habits which have been long entrenched. Sanitation workers will also need to be re-trained so that they know what is required of them.
Finally, the City needs to decide on what to do about the heavy stuff, throw-a ways which cannot fit into a garbage bag. It has to have one or more trucks with a crew to pick up this kind of garbage. It also needs a tow-away truck with a crane to remove derelict and abandoned cars from the streets. Vehicles which remain in one spot for more than a month may be considered abandoned, depending on the circumstances.
We believe that the people of Belize City will work enthusiastically with an administration motivated to clean up the city. But the initiative and the staying power has to come from the City Council.
If everybody works together, keeping Belize City clean and tidy need not be a back-breaking, budget-busting undertaking. Many hands will make light work.