Guest blogger, Medoh Walker
First, a bit of an update on my last post and I stand corrected. The mini recycling center of the 3 metal bins in Pana on Santander is gone; don’t know when or why though one could guess. But the one on Calle Principal is still there. Also, the white garbage cans on the poles along Santander have been removed due, I heard, to storeowners’ complaints of odor and flies. Apparently they hadn’t been properly emptied, so they have been eliminated. You can still find them on Calle Principal, however. So, Pana still has its own garbage issues.
On to Santa Cruz and our garbage situation. As I had mentioned last month, I had yet to get to the dump. That is a good thing since in the meantime I’ve learned it is has been closed since around the turn of the year. We are not to do any further dumping into the dump below the west side of the village above the soccer field. The new dump is on the opposite side of town on the road that heads out toward Sololá just a ways past CECAP. This dump is truck accessible, but unfortunately is only temporary. Upon my peering at it from a distance it appeared to be full of ash indicating we are still burning plastics and whatever else is over there.
In an effort to learn what is in store for Cruceños and our garbage here, a couple of us went to Pana to the AMSCLAE office. AMSCLAE is an environmental project of the Guatemalan government that has been working in the watershed surrounding Lake Atitlan for 16 years. Their current plan is to redesign our original dumpsite to be a collection center similar to the one in Pana, but lower scale. It will receive garbage that has been divided into organics (kitchen and garden wastes) and non-organics (everything else) including clean recyclables. AMSCLAE has already done trainings in the village on how to separate the garbage. The intention is to process the organic waste into compost for sale in support of the project while the recyclable non-organics will be sorted and packaged separately by type. Eventually all recyclables, any remaining non-recyclables (namely just plain garbage) will be removed from Santa Cruz and trucked to Guatemala City. This means that our organic waste will become useful in gardens and crop fields, but everything else will be removed from town altogether. The recyclables will be sold in the capital to businesses that reprocess the various materials and the rest confiscated appropriately. Among other advantages, this all-inclusive process should eliminate any further illegal burning of garbage in Santa Cruz.
Sounds like a great plan, but . . . there are several troublesome issues with using the original dumpsite as a collection center in terms of logistics, legalities and costs. Briefly, it is not and cannot become vehicle accessible, there are no utilities on site and the extreme slope is not conducive for building for a start. Furthermore – but this is Guatemala – there seems to be a halt in the planning there has been no apparent activity at the site since it has been closed. So, there must be a better way . . .
Wait a minute, hasn’t Jaibalito already started recycling?
The answer is yes. The foreigners got together and now pay Q100 a month for 2 indigenous women to empty non-organic garbage from large blue AMSCLAE bins found at strategic locations in town. They bring it down to a shed (rent Q50/mo) near the lake where they separate it. Then, once a week Hans brings about 15 costales with him on his weekly trip to Pana. He calls ahead to the muni of Pana saying he is arriving with a boat of recyclables and a worker from the Pana collection center meets his boat to haul Jaibalito’s recycling to their site. This is Jaibalito’s system that now is working best for them although they have had to get over several bumps along the way.
Hey, so what do you say we learn from their experience, too? Lets pull together our own Cruceño version of a recycling campaign. This way we can get at least some recycling going here in the meantime while AMSCLAE and the Muni work out their end of the situation.
Please leave your ideas and comments below.
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