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November 2014
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Cuba and Learning to Recycle

Cuba and Learning to Recycle
November 7, 2014
Elvira Pardo Cruz

HAVANA TIMES — Despite the existence of a law – passed in 1975 – which
establishes that all entities whose productive processes or services
generate waste that isn’t re-used in any way must recycle that waste,
there is indisputably no habit of recycling among Cubans.

Though Article 235 of Cuba’s recycling policy, approved by the Council
of Ministers on December 22, 2011 as part of the implementation of the
Guidelines drawn up during the 6th Congress of the Cuban Communist
Party, is aimed at “encouraging increased recycling and added value of
recovered products, prioritizing activities of greater economic impact
and fewer resources and their re-capitalization, as permitted by the
economy,” the problem of recycling has not yet been properly addressed.

Though little is done in this connection, at least recycling legislation
exists for State companies. The question, then, would be: how can we
educate people to properly recycle raw materials?

Raising the awareness of the public – and the managers of State or
private businesses – about the economic and environmental importance of
recycling recoverable waste products could keep such waste products from
reaching garbage bins and ending up in dumps, something which is harmful
to the country’s economy and contributes to the accumulation of waste in
the city.

Though it may seem strange, the first link of the recycling chain are
garbage bins (though the recovery of raw materials should actually begin
at home, with the separation of different waste products).

The direct consequence of not separating garbage products are people who
pick anything of any value out of garbage bins. These dumpster-divers
apparently make ends meet this way, to the detriment of the city’s
cleanliness and their own health.

In some cases, these individuals are mentally challenged or alcoholics.
In others, they are elderly people whose pensions aren’t enough to cover
their basic needs. Sheer need makes people of both genders and of all
ages rummage through the garbage in search of glass or plastic bottles,
cans, pieces of cardboard and paper and other items that can be sold.

These materials are also collected at dumpsites, where books that can be
useful to students sometimes sadly end up.

Another weakness of Cuba’s recycling industry is that the Recycling
Companies Union does not have the infrastructure needed to transport,
treat and process these waste products.

That said, the country has made efforts to develop a recycling and
environmental care policy, such as the Recuperadores del Futuro primary
school movement and the campaigns organized through the Committees for
the Defense of the Revolution, whose contribution has not been

Recently, the Gestion sostenible de residuos para una vida mejor
(“Sustainable Waste Management for Better Living Project”), launched by
the Italian company Bacino Salrmo in collaboration with Havana’s Office
of the Historian and co-financed by the European Union, encouraged the
recycling of paper, cardboard, plastic, aluminum and non-ferrous metals
in the city’s old town.

Cuban society should seriously ask itself what recycling is and why it
is important, for we are part of the global village.

Source: Cuba and Learning to Recycle – Havana –

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