Thursday, April 4, 2013

Talking Trash

Teaching passers-by to classify their trash for recycling.
This weekend, city workers campaigned in La Candelaria to get people to classify their garbage for recycling. Thousands of people signed a statement promising to do it.

It's an important issue, both for conserving resources and extending the life of Bogotá's dump, Doña Juana, which is near filling up.

And here's the result....See any sign of classification?
A probably homeless trash picker looks for something he can use, eat or sell. He's doing the real recycling. 
What's in a name? Bogotá's 'Zero Trash' campaign, emblazoned on this garbage truck, hasn't quite happened yet. 

Unfortunately, getting people to recycle requires big cultural shifts...or imposing economic penalties. Just repeating a bunch of slogans won't do it.

Vistors fill these recycle bins in the National Park with random mixture of trash. 
Just try to recycle this stuff!
But Bogotá could take real steps to reduce the amount of trash it generates, with policies that have succeeded in other countries.

Disposable drink bottles. A deposit on such bottles could finance their recycling...and prompt soda companies to continue making returnable bottles. 
Not so long ago, almost all drinks were sold in bottles which the customer returned to the store for reuse. It's a sensible, traditional and environmentally friendly system - but drink companies are phasing out reusables and replacing them with disposable bottles, shifting the burden onto society. Why don't officials pressure the companies with legal or economic measures to increase the use of returnable bottles?
These bottles will be reused again and again.
Styrofoam plates never biodegrade. Shouldn't their makers and users have to pay for the burden on society and the environment? Why not replace them with a plastic bowl that gets washed and reused?

A woman hails a taxi outside a supermarket. Her purchases are in plastic bags which will soon be in
the landfill or floating in the ocean, where sea animals choke to death on them. 
Plastic bags, usually used once and then thrown away, constitute a huge portion of Bogotá's trash. In Ireland and other countries small taxes on plastic bags have reduced their use by 90%.

In one of Bogotá's traditional markets reusable plastic sacks, made out of plastic sheeting, hang for sale. 
Recycling advocates with a barrel of plastic throwaway plastic bottles. But should these bottles exist at all? 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Esben said...

Hi Mike!

You say that change can only come from huge cultural change or economic penalties - slogans won't do.

As slogans won't do, I think you also implicitly believe that economic penalties are the only tool for substantial change, right?

But then let's take it to the next step. Where can I sign up to push for city or even national action in the area?
Surely there must be some orgs. Have you heard of them if you were talking to the volunteers or something?