Thursday, June 08, 2006

Sanctions and Recycling.

What a fuss they make in the U.K. “Oh dear, all our landfills are almost full. Goodness me, all these ‘new’ regulations from Europe. What ever happened to the good old days when we just fucked the shit into the Irish Sea, at least it gave the Paddys some flotsam to eat during the potato famine.”

Where I live, in North Wales, besides some rather half hearted attempt by the hotels to toss all glass into a separate bin, everything else goes in the black wheelie. As this is a seaside resort catering to the brain dead of the midlands, there is a proliferation of ‘Made in China’ rubbish shops. The boxes the tons of this plastic crap come in are stuffed with unbounded glee into ever increasing sizes of bins, some now resembling small containers. No effort is made to compress the cardboard so more could fit in; who cares – what you think council tax is for?
Then after the fat kids have been supplied with their plastic buckets and spade sets, guns and fake Barbie dolls from their grossly obese parents (Mum and Dad competing who has the most gut hanging out over the jeans) it’s off to the beach. Then by six in the afternoon the adults are rolling drunk down the high-street followed by screaming brats demanding replacement ‘toys’ as the last lot disintegrated into multicoloured shreds. Still; the good old council will clean it all up!

I will tell you how to cure the people of this nonsense, hit where it hurts; their wallets. Pay; I say and pay out the nose. I tell you about two other lands I lived in and make your own conclusions.

Rhodesia was a rogue state and as a result the international community of goody two shoes with shit for brains slapped sanctions on the land; the idea being that 28 years down the road
they can do it again but in severe moderation in a vain attempt to get the butcher of Zimbabwe to go away. It didn’t work then and the paltry effort imposed now is just worth a few silly lines in left wing rag mags.

Now when I was a boy we had real sanctions; yes siree, they didn’t ban us from travelling like the modern ones, we got jack shit officially from the outside and that made us strong. It became a normal way of life to recycle. This was war and we all mucked in. My Scout troop needed a truck for us lads and all the equipment. So we collected newspapers. Door to door we collected and tied them in huge piles and when there was a large mountain of the stuff threatening to collapse in the hall, it would be picked up and the troop would get two and half cents a kilo. I remember an awful row when I did my axe test between a committee member and the Scout Master. I had chopped a tree down in the Scout Halls premises and this rampant break of conversation rules was severely criticised.
Every home had a tin foil bag. The foil caps on the milk bottles would be washed and collected. We would take the squeezed balls to school where they would receive money from the scrap metal merchants. Every house had compost heap at the bottom of the garden for food scraps. Glass was as precious as diamonds. Every bottle was returned from where it came from. There were no fancy drinking glasses. Ours looked like jam jars; that’s because that was exactly what they were, just had the screw bit smoothed out. The breweries were forced to stop making the popular ‘Dumpies’ a popular 330ml beer bottle shaped somewhat like a Second World War Mill’s hand grenade. Oddly enough, besides the wasteful use of glass, these things were so thin they easily broke and the shards were lethal with both barefoot humans and wildlife receiving horrific cuts to their feet. Even as late as the mid eighties I would purchase a Coke where the contents was the same price as the deposit on the bottle (5 cents) and I would get a kick out of reading worn print such as ‘Bottled by Coca-Cola of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, making that particular bottle forty odd years old!
There was not one tinned beverage. (Besides the best orange juice in the world, Mazoe Bezant.) My friends would sometimes bring a tinned Coke back from a South African holiday and we would look at this thing in wonder.

I remember plastic bags hanging on the washing line! Our family were not poor but plastic bags were a rare commodity. In supermarkets your purchases were put into large recycled brown paper bags. You would never see the country-side ruined by free holdalls flapping from trees.

By 1973 our school note books were made from an off cream/white paper that reacted to our fountain pens like blotting paper and much to our delight we were all allowed to use ball point pens. These were also made in Rhodesia.
Around about 1974 the government calculated they could save over a million dollars of desperately needed foreign currency (approximately 600,000pounds then) by simply repacking cigarettes in recycled paper cardboard boxes with plain labels rather than the fancy foil such as the Benson and Hedges packs. Tobacco was Rhodesia’s biggest forex earner and at the time produced the finest in the world and was the third biggest exporter. Clever men flew around the world making shady deals and whilst we never got a fair price, it gave us the currency to purchase things we could not make – petrol and ammunition. The major tobacco companies refused to go along with the scheme saying it would tarnish their brand image. We didn’t give a shit about image and almost overnight the international brands disappeared to be replaced by new local names such as Kingsgate, Madison and Everest. These brands still exist, albeit in short supply; the farm invasions have reduced tobacco production by 70%.

Brass bullet casings were collected on the rifle range to be melted down, car wrecks were non existent. Rhodesia led the world in mine proof vehicles; you will be amazed what you can do with an ancient VW Beatle chassis!

Plastic toys were almost non-existent; any steel wire found would be turned into the most amazing toy cars by the African population in a perfect 1:20 scale with real moving parts. The steering wheel would protrude out the ‘roof’ and be used by the owner as he steered the prized possession around. Beaten flat old nails or other bits of scrap iron would be used to make Mbira instruments (see pic) and rubber tyres were converted into sandals, old inner-tubes made everything from catapults to just about the best way to strap things down onto a bicycle or car rack.

Rhodesian made vinyl LP records with recycled paper covers; all rare collectables now and the largest denomination note of ten dollars would be the cost of a night out with the girlfriend in a top class restraint, (hah hah, stupid spell checker, I meant restaurant ) not a wheelbarrow full of 50.000 Zimbabwe dollars needed now.

We became the recycle entrepreneurs of the world, a skill recognised by the dozens of lands that welcomed the ethnically cleansed White Rhodesians. Show me a rubbish tip - I’ll show you a fitted kitchen. We had no rubbish - we HAD the cleanest and most self sufficient land in Africa!

Bavaria, the wealthiest state of West Germany became my home for two decades. Even with zero understanding of the culture or language, I fitted in perfectly, as there was something about this spotlessly clean land and disciplined population that sub-consciously appealed to me. Recycling was relatively easy to install into their mind set. I became so use to separating the rubbish; I cannot even recall when it became law. Bringing things to the depot was always a treasure hunt and amongst some of the gems I picked up was a pair of large stunning Marantz speakers, there casings of wood putting the modern counterparts to shame. A quick assessment to the reason of their disposal concluded that the rubber around the main bass speaker had perished. For the cost of £3 for a plaster’s replacement sponge pad, cut into strips and a tube of silicon had them singing sweet as pie again.
When the loony socialists of Gerhard Schroeder took over nine years ago, the coalition government automatically gave their Green party members the environment portfolio. Some of the policies were down right bizarre, but some produced interesting results. A carrot and stick approach to household rubbish had anyone with a small garden install a container to create their own compost and even though we were a family of four, the smallest wheelie bin on the market would be only half full when it was emptied every fortnight. You needed bigger bins: you paid for it big time. Laws were passed to make car manufacturers take back their old models and minimum limits of recycled materials had to be part of a new vehicle’s construction. Roof drain pipes had adapters installed to pass rain water into large barrels, the water used for the garden, saving on both water and the stealth ‘water disposal’ tax.

A forced deposit on tinned beverages created a twelve month chaos which resulted in almost the complete obliteration of all forms of canned drinks. What riled the German public was that unlike their British counterparts; outside of a public gathering such as the ‘Love Parade’ or a pop concert, they didn’t have a tendency to throw the empty tins around the streets or country side. The beverage manufacturers instead cleverly created a recyclable plastic bottle with deposit. The beer bottle was pure brilliance, having a screw top and double walls that kept the contents cool and fresh.

More must be done to teach the British public the benefits of recycling; the celebrity obsessed youth should be guided by their idols (after they been trained and paid) and the charge of disposing rubbish considerably raised. However, the government along with the local councils, must also make more effort.

It doesn’t help much when the seaside resort where I live has only one allocated spot for a few bottle and paper bins. ALL supermarkets should have them in their car parks. Nearly all large shops in Germany actually have special bins where you can immediately strip the packing and leave it there. And the packing must also be tuned into saving the planet and not just catching the eye of the beholder.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man! - this post bought back many memories. Washing and compressing milk bottle caps and all - what a rush! The last of the Rhodesians still have a lot to offer the world. See