To paraphrase the old Police song:
Every bottle you throw,
Every bag you trash,
I’ll be watching you …………
And yes indeed they are watching, and when you least expect it, nemesis will catch up with you. Nemesis being the trash collectors who also serve as trash police (I have no idea what their official title is).
The canton of Vaud where I live introduced strict garbage disposal rules starting this January. Well German speaking Switzerland has had them for years (St. Gallen as far back as 1975) but the French speaking areas were more laissez faire till now (and even now Geneva city is holding back). Household trash can now only be disposed in special bags issued by local authorities. What’s special about the bags? Nothing really except the price. An average dustbin sized bag costs all of 2 Swiss francs. And I am lucky as in some parts of the country it can cost as much as 6 francs. The price is the ‘tax’ that is levied for throwing garbage. The more you throw the more you pay, simple as that. But that's not all. Not only do you have to use the right bags to throw your garbage, you have to make sure that you only throw what you are allowed to throw …………….
As I said, if you sin and throw what you can recycle, or use the wrong bags, you will be discovered. We witnessed this in action a few days ago when we saw the garbage truck stop by at the large bins at the end of our street. While loading the garbage they found that some of it was in the wrong type of bags. Well they simply opened up the bags and started rifling through the trash, taking the odd photograph, until they came across an incriminating piece of paper (which no doubt had some clue to the identity of the garbage thrower). Leaving the bags behind, the truck disappeared only to reappear 10 minutes hence with a red faced man in tow. A long ‘discussion’ ensued as the bag and its contents were displayed to the man who seemed to grow redder by the second. An embarrassing 5 minutes later he walked off with his trash bags in hand.
|PET bottles being brought to the recycling point in such large numbers after the new rules that the collection bins have no space for them|
None of the Swiss friends to whom I narrated this, found it unusual, uncommon or even mildly offensive. If you break the rules, you should be named and shamed is it not? Well maybe it’s this fear, maybe it's the natural thriftiness (something that Indians of our parents’ generation had and we have lost) or their pride in their environment or their civic sense but Switzerland consistently has the best environment performance index in the world and is the country that recycles more of its waste than any other country (52% of all recyclable waste does get recycled). And with us French speaking Cantons getting their act together, this percentage can only rise.
I suppose cleanliness comes at a price. As for me, I have now become rag picker of my own garbage way before it leaves the house and Saturday mornings are devoted to ‘sanitizing’ my trash. You get used to it. Hmm …I know there are places to throw green bottles and white bottles and brown bottles …but what do I do with my little blue one? Is dog poo legitimate trash? Oh and I brought myself a paper shredder to get rid of all my identifying and incrementing junk ……except that I don't know where to throw all the paper confetti that the shredder keeps generating!