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.

Let’s talk rubbish!

Christmas tree

Imagine if we adults would get stuff too!

Christmas is over, hallelujah! And what a gift orgy it was again. Mind you, in my family only the kids get presents, we others just enjoy their excitement, great food and spending time together. Still, with parcels arriving from grandparents, great-grandparents, godparents as well as aunts and uncles, not to mention our own little share in our offspring’s spoiling, the space under our dinky Christmas tree was getting scarce.

But I am not going to get into a rant about this overabundance’s possible negative repercussions for the little monster’s character development. Instead I wanted to talk rubbish.

I hate rubbish. “Yeah,” I hear you say “who doesn’t?” The point is, I also make an effort to avoid it.

To be precise, I am a bit of a compulsive recycler.

And why not? It’s good for the environment, it doesn’t take much effort, and it does actually save us money. So why don’t more people here do it?

The other day I couldn’t help but gather photographic evidence. Take a look at this here:

rubbish

Gives the term visual aesthetics a whole new meaning

On the left, our ‘little’ pile of rubbish/recycling. This is all the plastic (in the clear bag) and garden waste three adults and one toddler accumulate in two weeks, plus one week’s residual waste (in the black bag) which is, at least in our little town, not recyclable. On the right is what our neighbours churned out in – you guessed it from the colour of the bags – residual waste over one week. I am not entirely sure, how many people live in their household but I can tell you that their house is identical to ours (yeah, the cheerful British terraced houses), so it’s certainly not more than one family.

Unfortunately, they are not the only ones in our block who can’t be bothered to recycle or even to avoid rubbish. The little monster loves to watch the dump trucks collecting our rubbish, so whenever we hear the telltale beeping sound of a reversing lorry on Fridays, we run outside. Which means I get a pretty decent look at our neighbours’ waste disposal habits. It regularly makes me want to use alliterations! I can barely refrain from rummaging through their rubbish and remove all the recyclables. Is it so hard?!

Our council offers a rather extensive recycling scheme free of charge (other than council tax, that is). Yet every so often I can hear the clinking of glass (i.e. more than one bottle) in those black bags, and it drives me up the walls. Then there is the amount of food scraps that our residential stray cats are so fond of ripping out of the bags and scatter around. Would it be so revolting to have leftover meals every now and then?

But what I saw the other day nearly made my blood curdle: a whole black bag stuffed with empty plastic carrier bags!

I mean, apart from the fact that all the grocery stores in the area have bag collection bins (and presumably recycle the bags too), why on earth do you island monkeys have to squander these things like there was no tomorrow?!

Whenever I go grocery shopping, I either have the little monster’s pram with its generous shopping basket underneath, my backpack, my bicycle basket or, in the rare cases that I use the car, a collapsible crate on me. Only every once in a blue moon I am compelled to use one of the free plastic bags all the retailers offer, and these I always reuse as bin liners.

Maybe I’m just shopping in the wrong place, but at ASDA, part of the WalMart family, which happens to be my food store of choice because I can walk there within 10 minutes, I am always looked at with incredulity at the checkout when I reject the wad of plastic bags shoved into my direction in the assumption I’d use them like pretty much everyone else. But then the same happens on a regular basis in high street shops as well. I am eyeballed like a unicorn when I ask to put whatever it is I am buying into my backpack without the free shop advertisement plastic bag to protect it from, well, my backpack. Urgh!

Seriously, people, plastic bags are bad! Where I come from, hardly anyone carries home their grocery shopping in single-use plastic bags. Mainly because they cost money. Funny how a marginal fee of 10 cents per bag can coax people into not forgetting to take their jute bags when they leave the house.

Not so here in the UK. In fact, 2011 has seen a fierce debate about introducing such a fee, and I recall with horror the arguments against the campaign: Not convenient, not practicable, not fair in the current economic climate. Really?! As a consequence, only in Wales was a 5p charge per bag introduced. I haven’t seen any results yet but it’s expected to cut plastic use considerably.

With the exception of a very few valiant pioneers like Marks & Spencer, the rest of the UK simply continues their wasteful shopping practices. Outrageous!

Wake up, Brits, or do you really want the world to be taken over by this here species?

 

PS: Our Christmas tree is not made of plastic, and it came in a pot it was grown in. So I hope we can plant it outside when the season is *really* over.