Sunday, 25 March 2007

Recycling with difficulties

In a statement from our local Partido Popular (PP) organization, I have learnt that Vilanova holds a number of sad records. Among other things, they say that we have Catalonia’s highest number of burnt out recycling containers. My family and I often doubt about the efficiency of our local waste collection. Why should we spend time separating paper and cardboard from other waste if the material usually gets burnt before it has been picked up? Well, in the end I interpret the PP claims in a positive way. They reveal that the poor situation we see in our town is an extreme, so let us all be happy that things work better elsewhere.

Things are improving here as well. Because of a yet another construction site starting up right across the road from where we live, we have got rid of the eyesore recycling station we used to have there before. It forces us to walk much further to throw our waste, but that is a price we are prepared to pay.

Step by step, the local authorities are replacing the big street level containers with subterranean ones which leave only a row of slots, quite similar to post boxes, in the street level. I just hope that there will be some resources left to maintain them afterwards. Since their construction is quite a bit more advanced than that of the old ones, there are much more details which our local hooligans can see as a challenge to break.

Maybe the subterranean containers can even reduce the number of arsons in the recycling paper. Without any engineering background, I assume that you can construct a container which limits the inflow of oxygen and thus makes it difficult to put fire to the content.

In some areas the local authorities take the right measures. In other, I think that they are wasting there energy. During February, to all citizens of Vilanova the ajuntament sent out an invitation to a drive to improve the collection of organic waste. We were presented with alternative places and hours where we would be able to receive more information. So, one afternoon this week when I picked up my oldest son in pre-school, I told him that I would not be able to carry him on the shoulders as I usually do, since we would go and pick up the special bin for organic waste which we had been promised in the letter. We walked up and down the rambla Principal, not only the corner with carrer Cuba where we had been indicated to go, but did not find anything. Later in the evening my wife made a new attempt, but with the same results. With an optimistic perspective, I guess that the authorities had been so successful in handing out brochures and bins in earlier phases of the campaign that they did not have anything left for this week, but who knows.

This gives us a nice excuse to continue to mix organic with other residual waste. In the end, I truly wonder what the ajuntament wants to achieve with the separation of the first. I understand that organic waste can be transformed in to useful compost and that the recycling stations will be less smelly without rotting food waste. However, let us be realistic about how we are all living these days. At least in our household, the amount of easily separable organic waste is minimal. The rest is stuck to plastic films, aluminum foils and other packaging materials so greasy that for hygiene reason we do not want to put them in our packaging recycling bags.

My family is quite good at recycling domestic waste. Maybe, I am just prejudiced but I believe that the results of recycling are much better in our native Sweden than here in Spain. There, organic waste is usually accepted as a part of the residual waste. Anything but that I think makes the work so complicated that it scares people away from the beautiful concept of recycling.

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