Thursday, 25 June 2009

Of recycling and plastic bags

An update on how my recycling pledge is going. My mission (which I have chosen to accept) is to not use plastic bags for a week. Results so far.... not good.

Day one - wrote the post about the pledge, was all on a high and feeling good about what I was about to accomplish. Realised that I was 10 minutes late in picking the boys up from nursery. Ran out of the house. Without plastic bags. Totally forgot until in the bakers and no way to balance the number of bread items with 2 toddlers, scooters and greedy dog. I think we could safely say, in the terms of that splendid game Battleships: 'MISS'.

Day two - there are now plastic bags all over the place. In every pocket of every item of clothing I can think of, in the car, tied to the dogs lead and pretty much a few tied to my wrist. Ran into the store and had a sudden panic. Had these plastic bags had raw chicken in them? Our plastic bags are usually used for picking up dog poo so I don't worry too much about the previous contents. But suddenly I was panicking about salmonella. Retreated from store carrying the goods in my hand. Not sure if it is a 'HIT' but wasn't a 'MISS' either.

Day three - HIT! Had bags, bought items and went to put items into said bags. The shop keepers thought I was a bit mad, tried to bag them up for me in order that I could put them into my bag. My Bosnian is improving but doesn't stretch to 'I've made a pledge for the (British) National Recycling week not to use plastic bags, please just give me the goods and I'll sort myself out'. I sort of shrugged, snatched and contributed to the impression that the British family down the road do things a bit differently to everyone else.

Day four - we shall see. I'm on day four now and haven't been near a shop yet. Judging my own performance it has to be said it looks as if I'll be getting up on Sunday. Curses.

In the meantime, I've been thinking a bit more about recycling. The other British bloggers in Bosnia, We Do Adventure, wrote a moving post about the recycling efforts in Mostar a bit of which I shall shamelessly steal now:

"It is true that most Bosnian shopkeepers would be genuinely offended, bemused, or both, if you tried to exit their store without your purchases safely wrapped in a generous selection of carrier bags. I could talk about how these bags end up blowing about the city, adorning trees and shrubs like some exotic form of flora. However, I’m going to lurch off in a slightly different direction.

I remember one occasion after a particularly windy day when I should have stopped and photographed a field full of this freakish foliage. It was a truly sobering site, all the more so because it bordered the rubbish dump where many of the young people we know live and work with their families. We put our rubbish in the large bin on our street. They come around and rummage through the bin rescuing anything useful, like bottles for recycling or metal for resale. They are the heroes of recycling in Mostar".

Here in Tuzla there are also many people who go through the rubbish bins looking for anything that can be reused. I have made a new pledge to myself, to separate out anything that might be useful and leave it in a separate bag for them to easily access.

Just in case we should be thinking that the rummaging of rubbish is a Bosnian (or less wealthy country) characteristic, Califlorna also writes about this in her home state in California:

"Here on the Balboa Peninsula, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re all crammed into a tiny space. There’s just not enough room for all the different recycling bins. Newport Beach City Council takes everything away and recycles it. Apparently there’s a big conveyor belt which it all gets dumped onto and sorted. I’d like to think this is more productive as they look through the rubbish and take as much as they can and maybe do a better job. Having been trained to place everything into different categories for recycling, it now feels very strange to put everything into one bin.

The other side of this is that we get people constantly going through our bins looking for items to be recycled. It’s heartbreaking. Families spend their weekends rummaging through all the bins collecting cans and bottles. My neighbour gets cross with them and claims they’re stealing from the city. I can’t get cross. If you need to take your family around, including young children, riffling through filthy rubbish bins, take as much as you need. There needs to be a better way to help. I try and separate out my recyclables so that they don’t need to dig through our rubbish, but they still open the bags, just in case there’s something in there. They don’t realize I’ve gone to the trouble of separating it out for them."

I only mention these blogs as it has served as a wake up call for me. Just because there are no recycling bins or recycling pick ups, does not mean that there is no recycling. So, I'm widening my pledge to include doing more recycling and to get back into sorting out our rubbish. There is a chance I can reclaim my Sunday lie-in after all.


Kathryn said...

One thing I forgot to mention is that here people often leave things they don't want next to the bins (could be a coat stand, bike, corner cupboard, CD stand etc) happy in the knowledge that someone will have a use for it - we fund scooters for the kids that way and I'm happy to say anything we have left there (a lamp and a CD rack) disappeared within a couple of hours - Italians may be extravagant at times but they aren't generally wasteful

cartside said...

Fascinating post!

Anonymous said...

Hi, me in Sarajevo again :) The system I came up with is to say "hvala, ne trebam" (thanks, I don't need) the second I see them reaching for the plastic bags, accompanied by a hand gesture (palm up, "stop" :)) and then put the stuff in the canvas bags I carry around with me (most of the times). I have to be quick though, I sometimes fumble in my handbag looking for the canvas bag too long and they still do it. I don't yet have the heart to take the stuff out and give them their bag back but it's coming...
We do actually have recycling facilities here - large bins next to the big Merkator.

clareybabble said...

It's amazing what families have to do to survive. Makes me realise how lucky we are.
I think you are redeeming yourself and should get that lie in!!


I love the detail of your challenge. It took me ages to remember my bags. I ended up buying so many bags for life I've now got no excuse for not being sorted. Took me far longer than a week though :-D

Thanks for sharing the other quotes. It's wonderful to compare how others do things and opens your eyes to so many new ideas and understanding :-D

dolly said...

Its high time, we need to realize the harm plastic bag does and why we should not use plastic bags? I was shocked to learn that plastic bags take anywhere between 400 to 1000 years to vanish. I guess the ultra thin plastic bags are real culprit, we need to use plastic baskets though they are bit difficult to carry but can be used over and over thus reducing the usage of ultra thin plastic bags. Thanks for the article.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Kathryn - they do that here too. Nothing stays around for long.

Cartside - thanks! looking forward to hearing about your pledge.

Sarajevo Anon - welcome back. I'll try that. I also think the Mercator here might be hiding some facilities so I'll have to go and conduct a proper hunt (probably complete with lightsabres as I think the boys could get really into it).

CB - I might cry if I don't get my lie in. Luke is a terrible sleeper and a very early riser. The lie in is key to my sanity!

AMA - I think it is just about the routine (which I don't have) and being organised (which I'm not). I keep trying

Dolly - thanks for the link - interesting article!

"Moaning Mum" said...

a short while ago I found our home had been overrun by millions of plastic bags. I swear they are breeding...and of course everytime i pop to the shops I never have a bag with me so have to buy one, which only confounds things more (sigh). I agree with you - plastic bags are evil :)

Anonymous said...

Nothing happens overnight. Making the effort does firstly changes your way of thinking. And then, because you're being a bit awkward, you start to get other people to think about what they've been taking for granted.

In London it's not just the major supermarket chains who ask if you want a bag, even some of the corner stores seem to be aware that providing plastic bags automatically isn't an essential part of "customer service" (of course they're still useful sometimes).

Metropolitan Mum said...

I guess handing out vast amount of plastic bags is kind of a sign for the developed world. Very American to bag everything for you and only put two items max in one bag. Maybe the shop keepers think you'd assume the would be too poor or too stingy to give you a bag?

The wife of bold said...

I feel ashamed now at my abysmol lack of effort to carry through my pledge - what an eye opening post, well done!

Chanda Hidanovic said...

I am enjoying your blog! I am an American who just moved to Tuzla three weeks ago. I am a bit desperate to speak English to anyone!! If you would like to talk just send me and e-mail please. I am 35 and married to a Bosnian. We just relocated here from the US.

Mum Gone Mad said...

Well done on your recycling challenge, I have managed to get some of the kids old stuff into the charity bin up the road (I said I'd recycle textiles) but feeling a tad lazy and unimaginative now lol. Thanks for the visit BTW luv Karen x

Sparx said...

Great idea to separate out the useful stuff; we don't live with that sort of poverty out here and it's easy to forget that it exists.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

MM - they do breed and get everywhere. But when you need one where are they? Grrr.

Owen - surely it makes sense not to provide plastic bags automatically, it costs the shops less after all and these money concious times...

MetMum - I think it is just habit. As is it habit when I go to the shops without one. I'm going to keep on trying to crack it and get into the groove though. Surely it can't be that difficult.. can it?

WoB - My effort was fairly dreadful really. I'm going to keep going though.

Chanda - welcome to Tuzla. Always available for English language gossiping. I'll email you, hope we can meet up soon. PS - try the no plastic bag thing here, see if you can do better than me!

MGM - Thanks for coming by. 'd have gone for textile recycling but I haven't got anything in that vain to recycle at the moment. ONe of the joys of moving around means we do have less stuff lurking in the back of the cupboards

Sparx - it is my new mission. I now have a pile of bottles (not all alcoholic!) waiting to go to sit beside the bins.

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