“In 2010 the world emitted 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. If you want to know how big 30.6 gigatonnes is, look at your children and imagine them dying from skin cancer and lack of water, and then stop asking stupid questions and just do your fucking recycling.”
– Frankie Boyle, Work! Consume! Die!
I’ve spent the majority of my adult life living abroad, and for the most part I found it more bearable than not doing so; but if history has taught us anything it is that all foreigners are little more than vile savages before a fear of the Christian Lord and a good command of the Queen’s is raped into them.
One thing that some of them do seem a hell of a lot better than us at though is recycling; from India’s slums to the supermarkets of Denmark, it is understood that there is money in ‘waste’, be it sorting through what others throw away or collecting the deposit on all the dog-end filled empty bottles littering your apartment after a party.
It was almost 18 months ago that my then girlfriend and I moved to Glasgow. We lived in that fine city for over a year and during that time continued recycling just as we had in Copenhagen.
In Denmark, in addition to recycling banks, they have the ‘Pant’ system of paying a small deposit on beer and soda cans, glass and plastic bottles; typically, you return your empties to any shop that sells similar and get your deposit back; it’s a great way of funding breakfast or for a die-hard few, collecting these empties is just another day at the office.
I remember some kind of returns system on the big lemonade bottles we would get when I was a kid but that seemed to die out as soon as plastics became the norm. Growing up in Portsmouth, recycling seemed to mean using your empty as a stabbing weapon or when my Dad would make a bong out of a coke bottle.
Council leaders predict this country has around seven years worth of land-fill space left. I won’t bore you with the dry science of how long it takes a plastic bottle to bio-degrade because you should know already that it’s plenty; you should know that we are living on a small rock hurtling around an average star and our finite amount of resources are being rapidly squandered as we poison an atmosphere equivalent to a layer of varnish if our rock were an ordinary classroom globe.
When it comes to the small matters of climate change; mass extinctions; preventable deaths; and equal access to food, shelter, and protection, it may feel like you are just one of many; unremarkable and voiceless, that as long as you keep your mouth shut and carry on, everything will be alright, but taking a step back and looking at things, it really won’t.
Forget conspiracy theories for a second; it doesn’t matter what the Illuminati or the Greys or the Republicans or Al-Qaeda or Stalin’s Ghost are up to – we’re all fighting over the same damn rock.
So when I moved to university housing I assumed that this, of all places, would have a good working system for recycling. University, after all, is supposed to be the proving ground for ‘future leaders’ and I didn’t think it such a stretch of the imagination to believe that the screws had Mother Nature’s back.
I asked around among fellow students and administrative staff and although I was told the other student halls have a scheme for recycling, King Edward’s Square – my ward – does not. I hassled a couple more people and was told that there are recycling containers here but they are only open when the cleaners are doing their rounds in the morning. If an individual wishes to recycle then they can do so then. Fair enough, no different than a lot of places, but the trouble with that, is that people aren’t.
The last job I had before starting university was running a small kitchen which was an adjunct to a larger business – for the same reason I won’t go into specifics of who I spoke to on this campus, I won’t mention the name of my previous employers. I was fired in the end for what amounted to gross insubordination but began simply as trying to get people to put glass in one bin, plastic in another, and so on.
I’m told that there is a similar problem in Teesside University despite there being multi-compartment recycling bins all over campus; there is confusion and there is ignorance of which we are all guilty but the small insight I take away from all this is that when it comes to recycling, many of us fall into the following three categories:
- Lazy fuckers
I’m not sure I have thick enough skin to start some kind of crusade and I know from experience that it wouldn’t make me popular; so short of gurning my concerns into another frustrated attempt at a grass-roots movement doomed to fail – last time I was given full pay in lieu of notice, they just wanted rid of me – I see little I can do but stockpile my individual waste.
Perhaps I’ll weigh it all at Christmas then multiply the number by the number of residents here and make a graph; perhaps I’ll bag it all and go dump it in the office of the people in charge as some kind of protest; or perhaps I won’t – it’s more likely that come Christmas I’ll be seen scurrying over to the refuse cage like some manically-depressed Womble with three months worth of booze empties, red letters and take-away menus.
I will go into more detail in the Vox Pop article I have to write for next month. I’ll need some good opinionated people who don’t mind me taking their mug-shot so give me a shout – maybe you agree wholeheartedly with me or perhaps you think I’m an opinionated dick who should leave you the fuck alone – I want to hear from you all.
My angry agenda will be put on the back-burner for the article so it may well turn out objective and fairly representative enough to get on Teesside University’s news blog. As long as I can keep from swearing all the pissing time.
I’ll also be plugging this on the radio, Thursdays 8-10am.