Of Recycling, Rubbish and Rethinking

Before Christmas I have posted pictures of our town’s recycled Christmas tree. Strolling through Santa Maria, I noticed that there seems to be quite the recycling theme going on this year. So on my next visit to town (we live a few walking minutes outside) I took my camera and caught some of the awesome ideas:

Wine bags as a garland

Probably my favourite: Flowers made from the top bits of plastic bottles

Stars made from the bottom of plastic bottles

More recycled bottles

Christmas trees made from egg cartons

The other night, we went to the Christmas party that my little monster’s day nursery had organised. They also had a large display of artificial Christmas trees, hand-made by the kids and not few of them from recycled materials:

I love the one in the front, made from flotsam and jetsam – including bits of plastic fishing nets

Toilet roll leftover recycling

As Linda of one of my favourite blogs Rangewriter said in a comment, “For now that’s a lovely way to squeeze extra life out of all that silly plastic.” I agree, and I am just glad they are teaching the kids here the value of resources and creative recycling. Linda continues “But what happens at the end of the year?” Very true, and I only hope that one day they will do away with all the single-use plastic water bottles altogether and go over to a reusable scheme.

2012 has actually seen an island-wide campaign to get rid of plastic bags. More effort than England can claim as I complained about in another era. Unfortunately, the plastic bag ban here seems to be working only in theory. I generally have to fend off the plastic bags that I am given when shopping, even though I am usually there with the little monkey’s pram and its generous basket underneath, plus waving around my cloth shopping bag with the Berlin motive. Sigh.

The going argument is that people here, in a developing country, have more basic problems to worry about than a bit of plastic spoiling the landscape. Really? A nation that increasingly relies on tourism as an income source can afford to have foreign guests disgusted with litter-strewn beaches?

The other day I was watching a team of workers, without doubt paid by the municipality, cleaning the salt pans, one of the attractions of Santa Maria. The relentless wind here carries all kinds of garbage around, and the little salty lakes are first-class collecting basins:

Would you like to use this sea salt to season your food?

Would you like to use this sea salt to season your food?

Not very attractive. My hope is that the young generation is learning now that avoiding rubbish is cheaper in the long run than cleaning it up. The rethinking is probably not going to happen in 2013 but one day…

To all of you a very happy and successful new year with lots of adventures, friends, love and laughs.

14 thoughts on “Of Recycling, Rubbish and Rethinking

  1. It’s already 2013 for you, as I write this, preparing to go to a NY Eve party. (In itself an unusual event for me.) I love the wine bag garland! Actually all of these were fascinating. The flowers made from the tops of the plastic bottles? So cool. My Gruenepunkt friend would love this post.

    • I know, aren’t the flowers downright beautiful? Who is this friend of yours, I am sure we would get on like a house on fire.

      I hope you had fun at your party and have started into a great new year for you. I am so looking forward to reading more from you this year.

  2. It certainly is time that plastic bottles were phased out, all over the world. Who the hell needs them, anyway? When I was a kid we collected our glass bottles when they were used and took them back to the shop in exchange for a few pence usually. That was enough incentive to return bottles – which were then washed and sterilised and used again. Ditto milk bottles. Why can’t that happen again?

    Anyway – I wish you a happy new year, Sandra.

    • I am so with you on the deposit scheme. Granted, water is not cheap out here either to use for cleaning the bottles but in my eyes it beats the use of non-renewable resources to create rubbish by a long margin.

      Thank you and a very happy new year for you too, Val.

  3. Well, what to add. You know, that here in England they are also still behind, when it comes to recycling. I’m happy that we are at least sorting our rubbish now. Nice pictures. Happy new year to you and your boys, Peggy

    • How true, I seriously feel funny when I just open our one bin and throw whatever it is – paper, plastic, nappies – in. It feels all wrong!
      Happy new year for you and your boys, too, Peggy 😉

  4. Sandra – I am the GrünePunkt friend Linda was talking about. Nice to meet you, and Happy New Year!
    The pictures you posted and the report on the problem caused by plastic waste did resonate with me, all right… Especially the problem of Ocean Plastics is one we just start to learn about, and something we need to act on. Interesting fact is, though, that 80 % of all plastic waste in the ocean is carried in from land – because of bad or nonexistent waste management solutions. And of course, as you write, it is best to avoid waste at the source. But here, too, avoiding all packaging cannot be the answer. The carbon footprint and resource use caused by food waste is about 20 times as high as that caused by packaging. Reducing or avoiding packaging can cause more food waste. About the plastic bottle issue, the most sustainable solution is to just drink tap water! Refillables are not always the best options, considering the effort in transporting and cleaning empty bottles before they can be refilled.

    Oh boy, I could go on for hours. If you are interested (and I suppose you can read German) go check out our facebook page “Der Grüne Punkt”…
    Keep up the good work, and posting those pictures!
    Greetings, Ursula

    • Hi Ursula, thanks so much for dropping in and leaving such a thoughtful comment.

      Unfortunately, over here most tap water is won through desalination of ocean water (a process that comes with its own environmental concerns). There are filter systems that can purify this water to a drinkable state but the cartridges are not cheap and end up in the landfill as well. Looks like there is just no simple solution…

      I will definitely check out your fb page. I am a huge recycling fan. It does feel so wrong to put all my rubbish here into the same bin, paper, glass, plastik, everything!

  5. This is fascinating. As a spoiled American, I’m one of those people who never really thinks about where my trash goes. I put it in a bin and someone else takes care of it.

    It’s great that the locals have found fun things to do with their old bottles, but I agree with Linda, at a certain point, the craft projects will become trash again — or your kids will start asking, “Mommy, how come everything on this island is made from old plastic bottles?”

    Good luck on your new adventure! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Hey Jerry, how lovely of you to pop in and leave a comment.

      Sadly, today in town I realised just how right you are: the nice and puffed-up wine bag garland looked all deflated and ready to take down and to the dumpster. Let’s hope that people realise just how much better off they would be avoiding this rubbish altogether.

  6. Every day, I see plastic bottles or cups left on the road or in a parking lot. Even if you leave out the environmental issues, isn’t clean aesthetically better than littered?

    Great post and photos, Sandra. I loved the flotsam-and-jetsam tree, too.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Charles, but as I said, the standard reply over here tends to be: Leave us alone with your first-world problems, aesthetics will show up on our radar just about the time when our unemployment rate drops beneath the 50% mark. Which is kind of funny because when it comes to clothing, people here tend to dress more neatly than we foreigners. Especially the ladies are very fashion-conscious.
      In any case I am grateful already that the kids learn the value of recycling, so when they grow up it won’t just be us expats who call for a more sensible approach to rubbish.
      Thank you for your comment and your continued support, Charles, I feel very flattered.

  7. Pingback: Developing and getting there | island monkeys

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