Latin America has a growing trash problem. In the major cities the garbage lines the sides of the roads until locals start small fires to diminish the piles. This creates smog and the cities smell more and more like trash. There are a few ideas that we have had to help with the problem. The first and most major problem is that everyone buys the small single serving plastic water bottles. This problem is intensified by the fact that the water from the tap is not drinkable in most places. Sure, tons of people have drank the tap water from birth, and most boil, but everything else is purchased in small bottles. They do sell the big bottles, but people don’t think ahead, “Maybe I will drink more than 600ml of water before I die…” And to make maters here worse, NO ONE knows how to use trash cans. When you are riding in a bus someone will eventually come onto the bus to sell small waters and sodas. As soon as people have finished the drink, they open the bus window and dispose of the bottle onto the highway. There along the highway it will sit for years and years making a larger and more disgusting pile. Is this the peoples’ fault? Yes and no. I don’t think there has ever been proper education on disposal of trash. Many times you have to carry your trash through half the city before you can find a can to toss it into. There is no recycling system set up. Sure, there are people (pickers) that sort through all the trash for recyclables and sell what they find to the recycling companies, but there is no specific place to throw the recycles. Not that the average person would even know what can actually be recycled. In a few cities we have been to there have actually been three cans side by side, (like in San Francisco) “Trash, Compost, Recyclables” but, since no one knows (or cares) which is which, the three cans are all full of the same things (mainly plastic bottles).
What can be done and who is at fault? There needs to be better education on how and where to dispose of your garbage. There needs to be more trash cans and more reliable collection. Basically, the South American governments need to start addressing this as a serious problem. Yes, there is major poverty, hunger, class division… but by the time they fix these problems, the entire continent is going to be covered in an inescapable pile of filth. Compared to all the stupid things that I see governmental money going towards (like huge stupid statues in the center of every tiny village…) I think they could spring for a few trash cans and a couple of people to collect garbage. Maybe the whole problem is that life is so hard for so many people here that it’s nearly impossible to get them plan farther in the future than tomorrow. The attitude is to worry about today first, then think about tomorrow.