Mountains of Garbage on Havana’s Beaches Every Day

July 10, 2017 | Print Print |

By Daniel Benitez  (Cafe Fuerte)

Garbage left on the beach. Photo: Roberto Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Havana’s Playas del Este is the closest and most affordable sea destination for the Cuban capital’s over two million inhabitants, but they are being affected by the actions of those who leave huge amounts of garbage and waste on the sand every day.

According to the people responsible for cleaning Cuba’s northern coastal area, visitors who come here don’t have any trouble in leaving a reminder of their stay behind, cans and empty bottles, food scraps, containers and any items used.

The alarming revelations about Havana’s beaches now being converted in huge dumping grounds due to the indolence of beach-goers have recently appeared in an article by the newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

According to Eugenio Rodriguez, who has been on the clean-up crew in the area for fifteen years now, when he starts work at 6 AM, “it’s disgusting, especially in the areas where more Cubans go, because it’s always clean where foreign tourists crowd together. They are incapable of leaving garbage behind on the sand,” the newspaper says.

There are a total of about 30 people, split into two groups, who are responsible for keeping over 7 km of coast clean. Many of them agree on the fact that it is the Cubans who are less concerned about keeping their surroundings garbage free.

Sundays are the worst

It is estimated that up to half a million people come to visit these beaches on a given Sunday in June, July and August.

Surroundings plants also suffer. Every human stampede leaves trunks and branches pulled off the surrounding seagrape trees, which are used as protection against the sun in an area where there aren’t any beach umbrellas or other kinds of protection.

Carlos Rudy, the person in charge of the cleanup effort for the State company Arentur, recognized the fact that beach-goers use garbage bins as a support to improvise an awning and even as goalposts to play soccer.

The official also recognized the fact that the police are busy fighting other crimes while inspectors are supposedly meant to keep a look out to make sure the law is being followed, but they don’t pay attention to offenders either.

“In the ‘90s, there were inspectors to give out warnings and to fine people for throwing or leaving garbage behind on the sand and abusing property… It’s not like that anymore, but it needs to be,” claimed Rudy.


What's your opinion?

  • Dan Makgow Smith

    I thought we Americans were bad, and we are, but to see your beaches trashed like this is not good. People need to take pride in their communities and pick up after themselves. I assume that there are trash containers on those beaches or near-by.

    • Brigitte Schlemmer

      Hi Dan, I recently returned from Playa Ancon near Trinidad and was sadly astonished by the amount of garbage. We sat in two lounge chairs on the sand and as I looked about at the trash within the space of those 2 chairs wound up collecting a FULL grocery bag – that was buried in sand near my feet – so I recycled it and began picking up everything around us. Cig butts, rum bottles, plastic cups, straws, food wrappers. We ordered a beer and they turned up with FOUR single-use plastic cups instead of a can. I questioned the young man and showed him the garbage I had collected while basically sitting in my chair. He shrugged and said “it is the clients fault – not ours” and pointed to a nearby trash can. Sad.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Brigette as the saying goes: “You ain’t seen nutten’ yet”. Playa d’Ancon is pristine compared with Playa Salados west of Havana which was designated for Cubans not tourists. I have walked 3 kilometers on either side and the continuous litter includes old domestic appliances, incredible volumes of plastic, much broken glass – whole bottles having been taken, and general mixed filth. On the west side across the small river, there is an overgrown campground covered with litter and guarded by a lady to deny entry – there are ways of overcoming that!
        But if one continues through the campground (obviously one of Fidel’s ideas) a couple of km brings you to Playa Baracoa. There is a large empty car park and an open air swimming pool which is two-thirds filled with garbage – I joke not! Houses were built there for no longer required staff, so to make a little money they have tethered pigs.
        The beach at Salados is about 15′ of sand with a pier to enable diving into the sea. The rest is typical sharp rock.
        One asset remains available that is the shop, which importantly for Cubans, sells rum and beer along with some candies.
        The reason for the beer being in plastic is that the Hotel Las Brisas distributes free beer to those wearing their wristbands from a kiosk on the beach. If you wished for cans, you ought to have walked westwards to the beach ‘restaurant’ by the car park.
        You don’t have to try very hard to find publicity from the Propaganda Department of the PCC extolling the contributions made to improving the environment.

      • Dan Makgow Smith

        Cuba was my first time out of America. I’m glad it was Cuba. I loved that country even before I went. As bad as some of the beaches were, the enter city of Havana was worse. I would have thought that they would hire more workers to keep the streets cleaner. I write novels and one if them takes place in Key West and Cuba.

  • Ken Edwards

    Been to Cuba many times …the biggest problem is no garbage containers and if there are they are stuffed so full and never emptied …so what do people do ???It is also a learnecattitude that seems to work only when people get more affluent and the country can afford to dispose of garbage properly .In Canada we have a very good system of recycling and proper proper disposal …but it costs a lot of money , something Cuba does not have !

  • Moses Patterson

    Anybody who has spent anytime in Cuba, especially Havana, knows that Cubans drink refrescos and toss their cans in the street. They mop their floors and drain the dirty water on the sidewalk. The carcasses of animals sacrificed in religious ceremonies are left rotting outside in the Caribbean sun. And Cubans NEVER curb their dogs when they take them out for a walk. So is it any surprise that the beaches are dirty?

    • Sky

      Whaaat? “Anybody who has spent anytime in Cuba, especially Havana, knows…. They mop their floors and drain the dirty water on the sidewalk.” You mean they sweep it out of their bajos apartments over the sidewalk and into the gutter.
      And…? At least the water sluices down the infernal sidewalk dust.
      Also animals sacrificed are very often cooked and eaten as part of the ceremonies.

      I agree the attitude towards refuse is not good in Cuba but look at how many people in the US and Europe have no regard for the environment, despite all the education

      • Moses Patterson

        So are you disagreeing with me or are you saying its not that bad? By the way, in Santaria, not all animal sacrifices can be eaten.

  • Anna Artén

    I organize trips to Cuba for Swedish people a couple of times every year. They are shocked to see how Cubans leaves things on the beaches or throw cans and bottles from the bus windows or just drops it in the streets. What you need is a campaign to educate people and to put out more bins everywhere.I was brought up during big campaigns in Sweden and still I can´t even imagine to throw anything in the streets. My kids learned to walk with the ice cream paper in their hand until a garbage bin turned up. Unfortunately we need a new campaign in Sweden since the new generations have started throwing things in the streets.

  • John Saynor

    I have been going to Cuba, to the east beaches for over 30 years. I am appalled by the garbage on the beaches and not to repeat what others have said, but there are no containers for people to put their garbage and if there are…they are overflowing. Sadly, it is not just the Cubans who leave their garbage, but tourists leave theirs too. I am shocked especially by Europeans whose countries are immaculate who leave the beach with all their garbage sitting by their beach cots for someone else to pick up. But the government should launch a huge educational programme to remind tourists that they need to be careful and to teach Cubans that, although they might just throw their garbage at the nearest street corner, they shouldn’t litter the beaches.

    One more thing. I stay in Guanabo, which on the side streets is a massive garbage dump. An hour further east, you can eat off the streets in Matanzas! Why does one community get it right and another not, all under the same government?

  • Tina

    Its not just Cuba. Many tropical places are experiencing environmental disasters from pollution.

    Have you seen Ghana lately?! Its turned into a HUGE DUMP of electronic garbage.
    OUR ELECTRONIC GARBAGE!! Its disgusting.

    Paradise will be lost to “the nothing” if we dont do something about it right now.