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Why are Cubans forced to be litterbugs?

This topic came up on another thread and a few people expressed interest, so I thought I’d start a thread on its own. Anyway, here’s my thoughts…

1.) No facilities: Many places have no garbage facilities at all - not a dumpster to be seen - so the street becomes the garbage can.

2.) The facilities are poor: Even in places with garbage facilities they are woefully inadequate, thus the few dumpsters that do exist are allowed to overflow for days.

3.) It’s not my job: Cuba has an unseen army of retirees and otherwise unemployable people who descend on the streets at night to sweep and clean them. (These street cleaners work all day in the tourist zones.) All the garbage that’s thrown out of houses is magically taken away. The place looks good in the daylight. The “not my job” syndrome is rampant in Cuba - it’s the way things work there. You have an empty cigarette carton or food wrapper in your hand, where else would you dump it except right where you’re standing? After all, someone else will clean it up. Simple.

4.) Being poor: This is a much more a personal observation/thought, but I think a lot of litter originates simply because the person throwing it away is poor. In a society where you have nothing and must fight for every scrap you can get your hands on it makes a nice psychological kick to have the luxury of throwing something away. It gives you power. It shows you don’t have to hold onto every little thing. Throwing something away demonstrates you still maintain some personal authority and control over your life.

Anyway, that’s a few reasons why the whole Island is generally treated as an open garbage can by the locals, but still looks pretty good to our foreign eyes.

I remember one trip…my wife and I were casually strolling through Varadero…we happened to be directly behind two local guy’s (about mid 20’s) who were drinking pops.

Without warning, one of them tosses his half full can of pop into the street, shortly thereafter, his buddy does the same, except he took a few strides into his launch of the can.

We were amazed at how nonchalant their behaviour was. Even more, it was interesting how NOBODY batted an eye at their actions. Yep, it was as if it was completely normal and accepted to do this there.

Even more interesting…I notice here in the great white north, you’ll actually see people give a quick look around before they decide to litter…well some people do anyway…

I showed some Cuban pals a photo of a “$1,000 Litter Fine” sign on the Trans Canada Highway in the Rockies and it was flat out disbelieved. They ALL thought it was a joke sign. It was completely beyond their comprehension, and understandably so…

We had this exact conversation back in May with our Cuban friend. We had gone to Morales and Puerto Rico beach in Banes for the day…
It was littered beyond belief…complete with dirty disposable diapers…
When I told our friend, at home , we would be fined for that , he was surprised…
Also there was not a garbage can anywhere in sight!
It was such a gorgeous setting/beach. it was a shame to see it like that.

I do not agree that Cubans are the worst offenders , having seen far worse elsewhere. It also is my opinion that Cubans take pride in their country and that littering is a widespread problem, not exclusive to Cuba.

I have been visiting the same family in Cuba since 2004. When I bring candy, etc… for the children the little girl constantly opens the candy and throws the wrapper out of the wooden shutter (make shift,window). This is common practice for her. Every time I see her do this, I take her by the hand and go outside and make her pick it up. She does pick it up but just laughs at me.

I am use to seeing Cubans using the ground as a garbage can but what really shocked me was what I seen 2 years ago in Varadero.

I was walking down the street during the day (main street), and 2 ladies and 3 kids were trying to catch a ride with the passer byers.
Apparently one of the little girls had to pee and the mother dropped her shorts and she peed on the road just off of the curb.

No one said a word and I just stood there thinking what the heck is this. The group just carried on their way and no one seemed to mind.

I know kids have to pee at the darnedest times but I thought the group would have at least found a better spot for the little girl to pee out of peoples view.

Every trip to Cuba is just another learning experience for me, jejejeje. :wink:

Freedom Ryder 8-)…

Seeing kids pee in the streets of Havana is so common I dont really notice any more … But seeing an older lady squat and take a dump across from the capital building did shock me a bit … But no one else seemed to notice it…
ws Cuba …

Wow, all interesting observations.
Not being one to sit on a resort, I’ve seen a lot of the “poor” side of Cuba, but have never noticed much in the line of litter away from the resorts.
I have seen a lot of the behaviour(s) mentioned above here in Canada… including a young boy, with his mother right there, deciding to pee in the middle of the Sparks Street Mall in Ottawa.

I am with outgunner. We do both resort and open (non tour) travel around Cuba and while there may be the odd piece of trash - nothing like I have seen in the streets of ‘clean’ Toronto.

I thought that possibly it was because they are masters of recycling. lol but I would hate to think that "it is someone else’s job’ is that widespread. That attitude does occur in all societies.

There’s some confusion here…

I’m not saying the, “someone else’s job” attitude in Cuba is a bad thing - it’s simply how garbage collection works. If there is no garbage facility then where else do you put that empty cigarette carton except on the street? The street cleaners come by later, sweep it all up and deposit the trash in piles that is later collected and put into the garbage truck or wagon.

So the littering is not a slam against Cuba, it’s just the way it works there. Under Cuba’s present circumstances they literally have no choice - remember, it’s a country where a normal person can’t even buy a plastic garbage bag, they’re simply not available…

Just imagine if " Tim Hortons " was in Cuba :-/

Give it a try, SunBud…


To take Martians comment one step further that someone else will clean it up… where does all of the garbage end up? There cerainly is no recycling or sorting of garbage whatsoever. We have rented scooters in CL on various occasions and have gone exploring. There are two dumps per say on CL, that we have seen, and both are exactly that- “a dump”. Garbage dumped with no regard for the environment or the future of the island. I’m certainly not trying to come across as a tree hugger by any means but what they are doing is going to have disasterous effects down the road.

Has anyone every travelled to the ruins at Tulum, south of Cancun? The first time was traveled there I could not believe the garbage, along the road, in the ditches, and generally all over the place. A few years later we returned, this time with our children. It was again disgusting. I could not believe the government, or whoever is responsible for this tourist area could/ would allow such a mess to exist. Inside the gates of the ruins the area was impecable.
Ok- I know a bitch about Mexico has no place on a Cuba forum but just my little vent further to the garbage issue.

They don’t need more litter from coffee cups.
Just like at home - the locals litter not the tourists. :-[

Zuley, there are very few places outside of North America and Western Europe that treat garbage disposal with any seriousness. Your Mexico example is a case in point…Tourist centres are usually kept clean, but walk a few feet off the beaten path and it gets ugly fast.

The gully beneath the wall behind the Taj Mahal has an estimated 1,500,000 empty plastic water bottles clogging it. The landfill on tiny Koh Pi Pi island in Thailand, one of the most beautiful places on earth, has toxic slime oozing everywhere and rats that will attack cats, dogs and children - all within a 10 minute stroll from 5 star resorts. Cuba puts its garbage on barges and tows it out to sea to be dumped into the Gulf Stream where it heads to Newfoundland, then across the Atlantic towards Europe. The world is in sad shape…

Thanks Martian,
Being a Maritimer, it’s comforting to know my Cuban gum wrapper will, someday, catch up with me. Thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Downtown Veradero was pretty clean, considering.

The clean-up crew do a good job, otherwise the place would be piled high in a few days. Like other cities closer to home during a sanitation worker’s strike.

What a great make-work project.
Picking up your trash might put people out of work. In the cities, anyway.

The resorts are another matter. I’ve picked up more than my fair share of plastic, butt filled, drink glasses. They weren’t left there by poor Cubans who “didn’t know better”

Well stated.

An excellent reason for encouraging tourists to take down thermal mugs to use for their drinks rather than the plastic glasses supplied for drinking at the beach or pool. It’s disgusting how many of those glasses you see lying around left by people who should know better. Kudos to you, Spunky, for your cleanup efforts.

makes me think of a discussion we usually have on a littered beach ( by tourists)
The mother in me, compells me to pick up every plastic cup and litter around me , or on the way to the garbage container on the beach… whether it is mine or not!
My husband does not always see my compulsion as amusing… LOL
but hey, I don’t mind, and it looks better for the next person.
( Instilled in me at an early age, by my mother!)
At my work, I do the same thing. I do the job of the cleaners and the servers ,when need be. Rather than wait for someone else to do it…
I do draw the line at ppl hocking on the floor! That’s when I call for back up!
( ps, I do agree with Martian… this is not a “Cuban” problem, it is likely world wide… and more ppl need to get on board with cleaning the environment. IMHO>)