Environmental consciousness has taken the world by storm as massive conglomerates do their part for our planet (which makes sense as this saves them money and improves their public image). But how many individuals can really call themselves environmental crusaders?
Truth be told, many – me included – will only go the extra (green) mile as far as it’s convenient. (Greenies, criticise as much as you like – that is the way it is.)
We live in a hectic world. One where there’s barely time to look after yourself and have some TLC “you time”, let alone time to sort through your trash and dash to the recyclers. (There are those who manage to do it all in the same 24-hour period that everyone gets, but that’s why we buy their books and go to their seminars …)
This project isn’t working in other parts of Joburg, and that’s just because people aren’t willing to sort through their trash – shame on them.
Personally, I recycled when I lived in Johannesburg. Pikitup made things easy … general refuse went into the wheelie-bin, plastic, tins and glass in a clear plastic bag and paper/cardboard into an orange sack. I sorted everything as the week went on and gave myself a pat on the back when the trash stood outside to be collected. “A little goes a long way, and my sorting skills are doing my part for the environment;” I thought to myself as I left for work.
“This project isn’t working in other parts of Joburg, and that’s just because people aren’t willing to sort through their trash – shame on them.” But the shame was on me …
All the recycling fervour disappeared when I moved to Cape Town (Somerset West to be exact – which is administratively included in the Mother City’s municipal area). There was no separation at source project where I was staying, so instead of just having to sort through everything, I’d have to take it to the recyclers as well. “Not a big deal”, I told myself – but this never happened.
From there I relocated to Stellenbosch, and the non-recycling continued. “You’re too busy,” I reassured myself as the trash went into the same bin. “How much time could it take to dash to the recyclers once a month,” my conscience questioned. “But there’s no space to keep everything until it could be taken away,” the excuses kept on coming …
After Stellenbosch came Paarl, where things changed. My conscience didn’t win – a little is just going a long way …
It takes time to figure out how things work when you’ve moved to a new place. I knew what weekday the garbage truck would collect our refuse, but I didn’t know at what time … so, the first Wednesday I rolled out before the break of dawn, but there weren’t any other bins to be found.
I work from home, so I thought I’d wheelie the bin back in until I heard the truck. This plan changed at 10 am as I got tired of scrambling like a mad person every time a truck came past (the new place is in the CBD, so there are quite a few that make the rounds).
After a while I heard a ruckus and decided to investigate. Spying through the spare-bedroom’s window (which faces the road) I saw someone rummage through the rubbish – sadly not an unfamiliar site nearly everywhere in South Africa.
So I asked the rummager to please put everything back once he was done. He politely said that he would and did. (I was a bit hesitant as a Johannesburg colleague once told me that a dumpster diver met his request with a less polite version of “go back to England”.)
This got me thinking. We don’t need a “separation at source” project, we just need to be a bit more accommodating to our fellow man.
After the week’s unpacking, the next Wednesday saw a lot more rubbish – which I thought I’d have to split (throwing the boxes away over a few weeks) as the garbage truck only removes what’s in the bin, not around it. But another roaming recycler came past as I wheeled the bin out, so I thought I’d ask him if he’d like some boxes, paper and moving supplies that we were throwing out …
The man spent almost three hours going through everything (I used my spying glass to check up on him every now and again), grouping all the different recyclables – shrinking the pile of nearly 25 bags to four (which he placed neatly in the bin when he left).
I was amazed at how he stacked the paper, boxes and plastic onto he’s makeshift trolley and how the four remaining bags shrank some more as the day went by … each passer-by leaving the bin as neatly as he found it.
This got me thinking. We don’t need a “separation at source” project, we just need to be a bit more accommodating to our fellow man. Don’t shout at the guy who’s going through your rubbish bin – he’s reusing what you don’t want and just trying to earn a little cash through recycling.
I know that some do leave a mess after they have gone (it’s happened to me as well), but I’ve started to sort my trash again, as this makes things easier for the polite recyclers and ensures that the unaccommodating ones take what they want without leaving a mess.
You don’t need to be an environmental crusader, but by doing a little and working together we can really go a long way in helping each other, and the planet, out.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I’ve learned that a few sentences can be worth much more … My parents dubbed me “Johannes Jacobus de Klerk”, but I prefer “Jaco” (or “the beard of this operation”: my aim is to grow a “yeard”) … Read more