Bless our cotton socks, we’re a great nation to get introduced to an idea and run with it. Thirty years ago, I was a sticky happy kid, sitting in the back of the car at the dump, watching people fling bags of rubbish out of the boot like it was a national pastime.
Radios, leftover food, fridges, paper, old records, no problem, just pull in and pile it all high on top of everyone else’s. We marvelled at how there was always someone surfing the gigantic piles looking for treasure, anything at all, an ironing board, a child’s pushchair, we’d see them root out the treasure and haply take it home, not a bad system.
Until someone let it slip about the ozone layer. I remember it well, I was in fifth class and the teacher said that if we kept spraying deodorant and throwing sweet papers on the side of the road, we were going to burn a big hole in the sky, just above our heads the result being that there would be a tree a plant or a single person left, we were all going to get burned alive by the sun. So naturally at the age of twelve when it’s a toss-up between burned alive or discarding your rubbish properly, you choose the latter and thus started a nation of eager eco-warriors, all to varying degrees but most sincere in their efforts to save the ozone.
The next few years were fun as we sifted through our household rubbish and gasped at the number of non-biodegradable items there were, we made charts at school, we pushed the idea of recycling with our parents and learn the lifecycle of a plastic bag. It took a while to catch on but the real clincher was when pay-by-weight refuse collection came in, then it was all about the weight and it was bad enough paying for the bottle of wine to come into the house but paying for it to go out again was a step too far, so faster than you can say, ‘buy a plastic crate and put it in the car’ we started recycling every glass jar rather than disposing of them. Next came the recycling bin, another godsend, it took all the paper and plastic from the household waste and then we went a step further, we levied the humble plastic bag, funny how 22c is enough in Ireland to see the plastic bag almost disappear but 9.60 for fags is still sustainable.
I was all greened up until I left Ireland. Recycling was a wholesome chore to be carried out on a Saturday morning, sorting plastics and paper became part of my psyche. The thoughts of surreptitiously leaving a banana skin on the bench at the playground was out of the question, I’d have swallowed it sooner, banana skin not bench.
By a couple of years in the Qatar, the UAE and Jakarta, diluted my greenness and left me more aware of recycling in a global sense, as in, nobody else cares, why are we bothering?
Qatari’s park massive skips at the end of streets and housings areas and let them fill with fridges, cats, orange peels, anything you like. Jakarta go a step further watching c. 250 million people with no disposal ethic, not to mind recycling ethic will undoubtedly affect your eco-conscience. All those years I spent separating egg-shells and tea bags, all those years I spent trying to make the perfect compost for my organic pansies, all those years I ruined my nails trying to tear up washing powder boxes and for what?, for everyone else in the world to totally disregard our efforts here in the Emerald Isle, as we struggle with roll-on deodorants and they use aerosols, on impulse, not fair.
The more time I spend in Ireland and witness the massive efforts being made everyday by everyday people, the more I think, what is the point? If everywhere else in the world is making the hole in the ozone, why are we making all the efforts? I stroll along the Crosshaven Walk, by Renville in Galway by Spanish Point in Clare, I breathe in the fresh air, appreciate the clean surroundings and I ask, I wonder why there aren’t walks like these in Jakarta?