I’ve been lucky enough to be overseas for the last two months – in Europe and South America – and apart from having a very nice time visiting friends and interesting places I have been keeping an eye on the waste services in each of the countries.
The best two things I saw were the kerbside recycling in Scotland and the Container Deposit stations in Norway.
As I ventured out one morning in Edinburgh I came across a truck and three men (a driver who got out and helped, and two runners) sorting the recycling. The recycling bins were crates with special little raincoat covers, similar to a shower cap with elasticated plastic to keep the recycling dry in the case of rain. The runners sorted the crates into holes in the side of the truck before returning the empty crate to the kerbside. In addition to the collection services the promotion of recycling was very visible – many city bus stops had a sign attached to them encouraging people to recycle and the packaging included elaborate instructions on exactly how to recycle (or not) the material.
Norway is like many of the Scandinavian countries in that it has extremely high recycling standards. Households sort their recycling into a large number of categories including food waste and plastic film.
Container deposit legislation means that many of the containers are worth a small amount of money when returned to a container deposit stations. Such stations are common and often attached to supermarkets of all sizes. I visited one in Rjukan and was shown around the back end of the station where the reusable bottles and recyclable materials are sorted and stored for transportation.
The most shocking things were the rubbish piles in Argentina. Kerbside recycling as we know doesn’t seem to exist there yet. I did see a few big bins on the street in Buenos Aires where people could sort their recyclable materials into, but for the average householder there was nothing but a rubbish bin that everything went into. Each night the street corners would gather piles of rubbish, and I saw people going through the rubbish pulling both food and things that were of value out. Watching these people made me think of the Global Alliance of Wastepickers and the work the are doing to support the Wastepickers of the world http://globalrec.org/