Talking Trash

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on August 18, 2013 in News & Opinion |

This is probably not about what you think it is about. I’m not going to be writing about White Trash – or any other color for that matter – or about Twitter and Facebook people – much as I am tempted with this post title! – I am really going to write about trash, rubbish, waste, the stuff we see on the streets on a Sunday morning after all those with nothing better to do with their Saturday night have discarded fast food wrappers wherever they happen to be. I know that it a controversial subject because I have been warned against it, but controversy shouldn’t be something which holds anyone back.

Photo Credit: ‘Ajnagraphy’Creative Commons

Warned about writing on trash? Well, yes. A friend of mine from the UK advised me not to after his experiences. He used to write a very good and successful blog and wrote about trash separation – as I am about to – and then had his blog damned to oblivion (almost) by a rating site. Funny thing is, the rating site collapsed and burned long before his blog did. And my thoughts on trash come about thanks to this article which talks about trash separation plans in the United Kingdom.

The idea behind separation is to make it easier for trash collection companies to sort and recycle the waste that we produce, and that is no small task. In Europe alone so much waste is produced that we could cover several small countries with it and still have some left over each year. In Germany waste separation has been a fact of life for quite a long time, and is still expanding. In my area we were recently introduced to new trash containers, green (garden waste) and yellow (plastic and metal waste). We already have red (household) and blue (paper) containers but not ones for glass, yet. They are emptied at regular intervals – usually in a fortnightly cycle – and line the streets early in the morning. Hardly, you might think, a pleasant sight, but a necessary one.

Photo Credit: Mr. T in DCCreative Commons

And what happens then? A massive truck drives through the town several times a week and empties the trash and takes it away. In the old days, I’m told, this meant driving it to one of the massive landfills which surround most major metropolitan areas and creating, over many years, a new urban landscape. Nowadays the trash is taken to recycling facilities, sorted again, and then sent on for re-use. Plastic is compacted, paper is shredded, metal is melted down, garden waste is composted. The landfills of the past are gradually ending their days and becoming green hills which, as the waste disintegrates, sink back to a lower level. Our water supply, taken predominantly from Mother Earth, is cleaner and the companies which collect and sort before passing their new products on are making a fortune.

Photo Credit: \!/_PeacePlusOneCreative Commons

Well, maybe not a fortune, but we are benefiting from the whole in that trash collection for most commodities is free of all costs. All we have to do is decide which trash container to use and, this is the awkward part, have several different containers within our homes for the different substances. No one goes out to the main containers every time they unwrap their food!

Does this make things better, or is it just a new level of bureaucracy? A bit of both. Germans are used to it; they’ve been partially separating their trash for many years and the addition of two new containers is merely an expansion of what they already do. Will the English be able to cope? I think so. There is no reason why those living on the islands across that small stretch of water shouldn’t be able to adapt. Except that this is an European thing, and the English set themselves against almost everything that smacks of European power or oversight.

And the fast food wrappers thrown on the street or left next to trash containers? Sorry, but they are still there. What is missing as far as fast food is concerned is a certain level of education, a certain  level of pride. As we all know, it is much easier to throw the remains of your burger out the window of a speeding car than to wait until you get home and put it in a trash container.

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