Tuesday, August 9, 2011

confessions: recycling

We have lived in Brazil for 18 months and 4 days. In that time, I confess that I have NEVER knowingly recycled. For those of you who know me from my former life in the states, this is quite a shock. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I lived in Eugene Oregon for 4 years. I was very disciplined about recycling, I reused things, took cloth bags to the grocery store, bought recycled clothes, composted, and saved the salmon. I was the picture of environmental conscientiousness and a little bit high and mighty about my recycling ways.

And then I moved to Brazil.

The funny thing is that Brazil has something like a 96% success rate for recycling aluminum cans. But I just couldn't figure out how to do it. I saw the coleta selectiva (recycling) trucks in our neighborhood. I saw big, strange looking "bins" on the Contorno for collecting recycling (hard to take a bag of beer bottles there when you don't have a car). And some of the grocery stores have areas where you can recycle. But we didn't have much space in our apartment. But the big thing was the garbage collecting in our building. In the garage/basement, there were 3 barrels, labeled "glass" and "paper" and "cans." But they were always just full of trash. And the nice ladies who cleaned the common areas of our old apartment would just take all the trash out there and put it out on the street (that's where you put your trash for collecting here). So, it felt kinda pointless. But the thing that didn't make me feel so horrible, and made me feel like my environmental soul was not going straight to hell was knowing that there were people that would look for my cans and bottles and cardboard in the trash. There are people who make their living digging through the trash. Not a great way to make money, but they have found a way to make it.

But now that we are in our new place, I made it a priority to figure out how to recycle. We have outdoor space, so I can store our stuff out there. There is actually a recycling bin in our building too! Though I found out that we can't use it because it gets too full in the weeks time between pick ups. But I learned that recycling day is Tuesday, and all I need to do is just put my stuff out on the curb. Voilá! And I can sleep better at night, knowing that I'm doing "my part."

1 comment:

  1. I've got some friends who live in a building that resolved the "trash in the recycling bins" problem by creating a strategy/agreement that all the money raised by recycling would go to pay for the Christmas bonuses of the porteiro and fachineira. So if people payed a little more attention -- they saved money.

    Welcome back to the land of the recyclers.