Puerto Rico’s trash problem
There is a rancid smell in the air of Toja Baja. A former soccer field has been converted into a towering trash heap following the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Citizens are beginning to become agitated over the smell and the problems that the heap is causing. According to the Solid Waste Authority in Puerto Rico, in addition to the trash problems the islands were experiencing before the hurricane created over 6.2 million cubic yards of waste. All things considered, it will likely take Puerto Rico over 20 years to completely eradicate its garbage problem.
In 2017 it became major news that there was a problem with the trash disposal systems in Puerto Rico. Not only were landfills closing, but those in operation were leaking hazardous waste. This problem has only compounded following the devastation. The starting price point for renewing the waste systems in Puerto Rico was quoted at over 600 million before the storms, and has only risen since. In October the Army Corps of Engineers were tasked with assisting the municipalities in managing their trash, but this hasn’t had a huge effect as there are still inaccessible areas where garbage collection is not possible.
Though local governments have been instructed to separate out compost and other organic material for recycling, it does not seem to be having an effect on the makeshift waste system in place, as many are still throwing all debris away in the landfills. Dumps are become more and more hazardous every day and are attracting all sorts of creatures that could harm nearby communities. Many of the landfills were under orders to close even before the storms hit and Puerto Rico is running out of options. The islands are in for a long haul of trash reform on top of other reform problems. In the meantime, the municipalities on the islands are doing all they can to keep things clean and functioning in the best way they know how.