...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Much ado about trash

Edited 18 January 2008

As their new year's resolution, our building administrator decided that all we tenants should begin composting. So last week, we returned from our walk to find composting kits placed outside every apartment door. The welcome-to-composting-kit consists of a sorting guide, two bundles of compostable bags, and a compost waste basket, which is a plastic container about the size of a handbag with a breathable lid and a wire handle.

This whole national effort of recycling and composting seems to me to be a good idea. It seemed an even better idea when I first heard that commuter busses in Linköping drive on biogas, i.e. methane derived from biodegradable wastes like butchered cow parts and stuff that you flush down your toilet (Ed. commuter busses in Norrköping run on ethanol which I think comes from grain). The biogas plant is located outside of Linköping, and makes that part of the highway literally smell like cow fart. When the campus bus passes by this place, you could feel all 50 people holding their breaths, and gasping for air as soon as the smell had passed...

But as I was saying, the whole idea is not bad at all: reusable materials are recycled, wastes turn into something useful. Proper disposal of trash is also preserves ground water, which could otherwise be contaminated by dangerous trash juices of the kind that no doubt leaks from open dumps like Payatas. (Ed. Speaking of Payatas, I recommend that you read this upsetting but well-written Harper's magazine article about the lives of people there.)

Anyway, the whole business about recycling is so well-emphasized here that I presume it's not out of environmental consciousness that the building administrator decided to make us start composting. There's been a lot of pressure from the local government for everyone to conform to "proper trash disposal" that, according to the sorting guide published by the city, building administrators who do not provide a composting system will have to pay a fine. It's not a new year's resolution – it's a new year's saving! Otherwise, we probably would have started with composting much earlier; if I remember correctly, the city started out with a apartment-based composting plan as early as spring last year.

Or perhaps the building administrator saw that interview from one of the tenants here (our next-door neighbor in fact) in the so-called "Trash magazine" (Sopbladet), the city newspaper devoted to trash-disposal information. Asked if she had started on composting yet, she said that she would have liked to, except that the building owners hadn't introduced a system yet. The building admin might have recognized her dreadlocks and the nose ring and, due to the social pressure of having been exposed in Sopbladet, decided to introduce a composting system.

At any case, according to their letter they sent us, they're supposed to provide a brown trash bin (the color code for compostable trash) where we could dispose of the compost. We've been using the compost kit for a few days now, but... where is the brown bin? Our trash room looks the same, with four green (burnable trash) bins. The thing is, they didn't say where the brown trash bin would actually be, but only said that they've implemented the composting system for the whole block. This makes me wonder if we have to walk to the neighboring building with our little green bag of egg shells, banana- and orange- peels, just to get to a compost bin. Or should we – as usual – throw the compost with the burnables? It would kind of be self-defeating wouldn't it? Hmmm.

P.S. Since saving this entry as draft last week, I went down to the trash room again and found the brown bin. Good, because I've actually been putting an effort into this composting thing and our little basket is almost full. I guess I should have expected more from the building admin, they're trying not to be fined after all!

P.P.S. Speaking of trash and fines, my building in Holland had this sign outside its garbage room. For using the wrong bag, my neighbor was actually fined 75 euros (about 4,500 PHP) by the "Garbage Police", who checked the trash for signs of her name.

Well, as they say, everything for the environment. :-P


Anonymous Lea said...

Hi Joy! what do you mean by 'burnable trash'? Do they incinerate trash in Sweden? Yikes! anyway, we're also trying to improve the composting system we have here in montemayor. dapat na lang i improve yung segregation :)

3:03 PM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Hi Lea! Haha, shows that you're from Greenpeace :-)

Well, there are several ways to burn trash I guess. If you burn it at very high temperatures in a plant (i.e. not in your back yard), there will be few bi-products other than heat. They also use magnets to sort out the metals (e.g. batteries and stuff) from the trash before burning it, use filters in the chimneys, and they're regulated by the government environmental agency.

But, even better, the heat produced actually goes into the water that heats up the radiators in the inner city (it wouldn't be efficient to transport it to the countryside as well) -- More effective than electricity, and doesn't even use up oil!

Marcus says:

Improving segregation? I already thought that segregation was widespread in the Philippines, between rich and poor for instance.


10:34 PM


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