Bludgeoned into submission by active greens over the last twenty years does tend to leave an impression. Not being the earthiest of citizens, the habit of recycling was something that crept up on me slowly at first, made a serious acceleration when pay-by-weight refuse collection came into place and finished off at a rubber burning pace by the time I had left Ireland. Deftly handing the shoebox back to the assistant, as I just took the bag, became an ingrained reaction. The very sight of excess cardboard and superfluous packaging would instigate a rough calculation on the cost to dispose and of course the effect on the atmosphere. Buying a washing machine was no longer a carefree Saturday morning job, browsing through different spins and cycles, it had become all about what would happen to the old one! How to bring a broken washing machine into a recycling centre in a Mini Cooper with pearl metallic paint?, or how to ask your brother to bring it in his van, which is insured as a commercial vehicle and not for personal/domestic use?
Life in Qatar doesn’t pose such problems. Recycling, or the notion of recycling is something that takes up an office in a government building somewhere with a well-written 5 year plan to back it up, just in case some visiting environmentally aware official asks. The Qatari recycling campaign, ironically, is well supported by stacks of glossy handouts, which are distributed at the high-level conferences discussing the importance of recycling and their great expectations to incorporate recycled materials into the construction of new developments to save the environment and raise the general awareness of recycling methods over the coming years. Signs of pro-active recycling don’t trickle down to everyday life in Qatar, where one can dispose of everything from a bottle to a battery at no monetary cost to ourselves and no vision as to the effect on environment. The one great advantage to living in a country with a blinkered view of environmental issues is, yes, you’ve guessed it, the good old plastic bag. Reminiscent of twenty years ago in Ireland where after the big weekly shop you’ve an abundance of plastic bags which have never ending uses, it’s hard to keep focused on the environmental effects and easy to park our past recycling efforts right up beside the customary 4l petrol powered 4 x 4, standard issue in the Middle East.
Among the commodities that Qatar doesn’t recycle is people. Qatar takes the crème de la crème of human resource , thousands of the most highly qualified people in Construction, Oil & Gas, Finance, Medicine and Education from all over the world, arrive in Qatar to work in, build and develop Qatar. The rate of expat home ownership in Qatar is nil. The rate of expat planning to live out their days in Qatar is nil. The encouragement expats receive from the Qatari Government to set roots down in the desert sands of Qatar is nil. These sandy dunes, see people ebb and flow from Qatar and the only footprints left on Qatar’s land progress and development as Qatar employs on an as required basis and you need company sponsorship to enter. There are no government pensions or payments are due to expats at any stage, no matter the investment made and no loyalty is offered for in many cases, years of good service. Employers have the security of the NOC in place, allowing companies operating in Qatar to seek and employ professionals without having the implication of possible company hopping and sporadic salary increases, as on employment in Qatar, you are bound to that company until you leave and cannot return to work in another Qatari company until two years have passed.
So while Ireland is flat out saving the world by charging 22c for a plastic bag and on the other hand, crippling themselves by paying out EU. 207.38 a week to thousands of unemployed expats, along with free housing and a range of social welfare benefits, it’s possible that perhaps Ireland should take the lead from Qatar a bit more and reduce and reuse their expats and maybe in turn Qatar would recycle a few plastic bags. It makes you wonder, which country is looking at the big picture?. You’ll never see a Qatari emigrate leaving an unemployed Indian to rent their home and live in their country and be funded to do so by the Qatari government and if you do, I’ll buy you dinner.