Talk­ing garbage

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

AF­TER THE all-out as­sault on the word ‘amaz­ing’ by tele­vi­sion talk­ing heads dur­ing the re­cent Sum­mer Olympics in Rio, I find my­self check­ing and then dou­blecheck­ing the cor­rect­ness of the word when it creeps into one of my writ­ten or spo­ken phrases. And be­cause I’m still nau­seous from the Rio ex­pe­ri­ence, I of­ten find my­self sub­sti­tut­ing amaz­ing for ‘as­ton­ish­ing’ or another of the myr­iad syn­onyms of the ad­jec­tive.

But as re­gards the flood-prone na­ture of Mar­cus Gar­vey Drive, Max­field Av­enue, Ha­gley Park Road, Con­stant Spring Road, Span­ish Town Road and other ma­jor thor­ough­fares in the Cor­po­rate Area, I feel no com­punc­tion in be­ing amazed at the havoc the least amount of rain causes in those ar­eas.

Now it’s easy to blame the nas­ti­ness of us Ja­maicans for the garbage that clogs our gul­lies, drains and wa­ter­ways. It’s not just the Cor­po­rate Area where the nas­ti­ness has cre­ated the per­fect con­di­tions for flood­ing. Re­call what hap­pened in Ocho Rios in De­cem­ber 2003 when heavy rains caused the streets to be cov­ered with a car­pet of plas­tic bot­tles, Sty­ro­foam con­tain­ers and other refuse. Pick an area in Mon­tego Bay and wit­ness garbage sub­merged in pools of stag­nant wa­ter, com­bin­ing to cre­ate a stink in a part of the is­land that we ad­ver­tise as a tourist Mecca. Uu­ugh!!

But you can’t blame nasty alone. You can­not do so be­cause many peo­ple who end up dis­pos­ing of their garbage im­prop­erly of­ten have no choice be­cause the garbage trucks fail to show. Imag­ine what it’s like liv­ing in an apart­ment com­plex where the com­mu­nal re­cep­ta­cle is over­flow­ing and you have to start keep­ing the garbage in­side your house? Imag­ine hav­ing to store things like dis­carded food, kitchen waste and other items that spoil eas­ily, tied up in a garbage bag in­side your kitchen. The stink is some­times so over­pow­er­ing that you are forced to con­sider tak­ing the damn thing and dump­ing it in a gully.

Peo­ple who live in the coun­try, in­side ten­e­ment yards or in un­de­vel­oped ar­eas, will some­times be­lieve that they en­dure a stan­dard of liv­ing worse than their city-dwelling rel­a­tives and friends who rest in­side gated com­plexes. They are not al­ways right.


Many times, com­plex dwellers wish they had the ‘lux­ury’ of do­ing as a res­i­dent in the coun­try would and take their garbage out into the back of the yard and burn it. They wish they could sim­ply dis­card the bones and scraps from their din­ner plate out into the yard, safe in the knowl­edge that stray cats, dogs or fowls will de­vour it in short or­der. Many city dwellers have had the garbage pile up in their houses so badly that they’ve con­fessed to me that if there was a gully nearby their house, they, too, would use it as a dump­ing ground.

I’ve been lucky with garbage disposal un­like my hard-suf­fer­ing neigh­bours, most of whom have to wait un­til the garbage truck obliges them with a visit. For about five years I was able to pack my garbage bags into my car and tote them to Na­tion­wide’s of­fice and dump them into the skip. That garbage skip was emp­tied ev­ery day and was like a god­send to me, es­pe­cially af­ter a week­end where I had guests over for din­ner and there was a huge amount of kitchen waste that could not stay in the house un­til the two or so weeks that the Na­tional Solid Waste Man­age­ment Author­ity sent a col­lec­tion crew to my lit­tle enclave in Barbican.

Thank­fully, Sport­sMax also has a garbage skip that’s emp­tied ev­ery day, al­low­ing me to dis­pose of the waste that would oth­er­wise in­vite John Crow to pull me out of my house.

Be­tween 2011 and 2015, the Gov­ern­ment col­lected just un­der $19 billion in prop­erty taxes. A por­tion of that sum was to fa­cil­i­tate garbage

col­lec­tion and disposal. But as the money failed to be put to its in­tended use, garbage piled up and mag­gots were bred in­side waste bins in many peo­ple’s kitchens.

So, yes, Ja­maicans are nasty. But given how un­re­li­able and ram­shackle our garbage col­lec­tion system is, it’s no sur­prise that many

peo­ple just throw their waste any­where they can.


George Davis is a broad­cast ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and talk-show host. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­ and george.s.davis@hot­


In this Septem­ber 22 pho­to­graph, a sec­tion of Gold Street – be­tween Har­bour and Port Royal streets – seems to have be­come an in­for­mal garbage dump.

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