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RE: [greenyes] Garbage in Developing Countries - Garbage for Food
- Subject: RE: [greenyes] Garbage in Developing Countries - Garbage for Food
- From: "Heide Feldman" <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 7 Jan 2004 12:59:43 -0800
- Thread-index: AcPUqVHn0T98jLf7Rqaiz/0NgnpxvAAnpyWwAAXOzcA=
- Thread-topic: [greenyes] Garbage in Developing Countries - Garbage for Food
Interesting you were in that region so recently! I go to Nepal about
once a year and have had many discussions about the litter problem with
locals there. Like you, I believe there are many complex issues around
the problem. It begins with the children who don't learn litter
prevention--give them a candy and they will drop the wrapper
immediately. Another element that makes a difference in this society is
the caste system. Street sweepers are the lowest caste and the other
people don't want to help with the lowly task, or touch other people's
trash. I also found that some trash piles in Kathmandu streets were
regularly picked up, there just wasn't a container for them in between.
That meant that the wild dogs and holy cows could eat what they wanted,
kids could play in it...not a pretty sight.
There are some areas with more litter awareness in the Nepal, though,
mostly in the outlying trekking areas. Passengers flying to the
Annapurna circuit, for example, are routinely asked to remove plastic
bags from their luggage to prevent litter in the mountains. Bottles and
cans are recycled there, and water filtering stations have been
installed to eliminate the need for disposable bottles. In the Solukumbu
area, near Mt. Everest, a Sherpa friend of mine has painted and
installed signs to warn about litter. However, when I hiked there and
picked up litter along the trail, everyone thought I was very strange
(including my American trekking partners) !
Could it be that litter falls under Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs"--when
you worry about your next meal or about having enough water for your
family and wood to cook your food, you don't give a hoot about litter
and its aesthetics.
Public Education Coordinator
Monterey Regional Waste Management District
Tel.: 831/384-5313 FAX: 831/384-3567
From: Dan De Grassi [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2004 10:57 AM
Subject: RE: [greenyes] Garbage in Developing Countries - Garbage for
Having just returned from a four week journey to Kathmandu, Nepal and
its environs plus numerous cities and villages in northern India the
thread of these posts has caught my eye. Second to the amazing seemingly
uncontrolled chaotic, but fully functioning, transport system in those
countries, what struck me most was the garbage everywhere. Large city or
small village, litter was rampant. There is for sure a cultural
difference across the globe in how litter is regarded. I did see a few
collection vehicles in some cities and even 1 or 2 'dumpster'-like
containers. But they were not common sights. Drivers of these vehicles
would shovel up piles of garbage that accumulated here and there along
the streets. Many times we saw people living on the street burn little
piles at dawn or dusk to warm themselves. Litter containers were
non-existent... litter control probably does not exist as a public
service. Not a high priority when so many have so little. Litter is
perhaps a luxury of the non-poor.
I asked a friend one day what the biggest difference was between now and
30 years ago when he was last in India .... garbage everywhere. Today's
garbage is a mix of organics (e.g., discarded vegetables) and packaging.
The packaging, of course, was plastic, in its many emanations. Bags,
wrappers, boxes, bottles, all the minutia we take for granted. You
didn't see broken toys , old magazines, worn out clothes, bent lawn
chairs, just basically plastic. The goods contained in this plastic were
primarily those of the industrialized world: toiletries, cosmetics,
batteries, snacks, etc. Food was fresh and displayed beautifully in open
baskets or on tarps.
Travelling through villages where shops lined the streets the space
between the pavement and the shopfront was the area where litter
accumulated. Shopkeepers diligently swept off their front steps
(reminded me of leaf-blowers blowing leaves into the public domain). I
think most people like to be neat and tidy, that not fouling our nest is
a human (survival) trait. It's more a matter of where the nest ends. And
in these many many small shops were cases of empty returnable Coke and
Pepsi bottles, no bottles in the litter piles.
I doubt most residents of these countries would think in terms of
environmental justice. I suspect the people I observed would be glad to
have money or food or other basic resources no matter how it came to
them. We traveled with a number of Brasilians, including some from
Curitiba. They felt the litter for ticket system worked as a way to
ascribe value to resources that, for us industrialzed/developed types,
shouldn't be lost to disposal and as a way to provide support to those
who have next to nothing. Curitiba is a progressive city and hopefully
their progress can spread to other developing countries.
From: Christine McCoy [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 06, 2004 3:07 PM
To: Doug Koplow; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
Subject: [greenyes] Garbage in Developing Countries - Garbage for Food
Hello All -
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
I think this is a very interesting concept, but have some major concerns
about environmental justice issues related to this type of program. Why
should the rich have collection services and the poor or "under served"
to exchange their trash for food or some other "need"? Seems to me that
could be a huge problem in terms of marginalizing the poor even more
they already are. Besides, with little controls on access to (i.e.,
landfills [read: dumps] in countries such as these - who's to say that
aren't just going to the dump and filling bags with garbage?
I lived in the Caribbean for a while and it seems to me that there is a
strong cultural/educational component inherent in littering. In fact, I
told by a friend that she littered because she didn't want anyone to see
with garbage in her hand - that she would be embarrassed. I also got
explanations as "the sea will come and take it away" and of course the
inexplicable "a lizard will live there" (in a beer bottle!).
I firmly believe the reason people litter may also have more to do with
significant changes in how food is delivered and consumed in these
countries. These populations have gone from producing what was once
organic waste streams to huge increases in inorganic transport and
waste - with little or no education regarding the consequences of
When writing my thesis on solid waste in the Caribbean I intended to do
surveys and personal interviews to delve into this more deeply, but
unfortunately I realized it was more work then I could do in such a
time. However, if anyone has done any such work in this area - I would
very interested in hearing more about it!!
I'm actually in this business because it broke my heart every time I
one of my students say "Ah Miss, just throw it Miss" - essentially
to litter. Each time I told them "no" and attempted to explain why
wasn't the answer. I'm not sure it helped much since their other
were those who made the comments I mentioned above!
Also let us not forget that a study was just released that 30% of Native
Americans do not have adequate solid waste services - not to mention the
rest of rural America. So, in reality we are still dealing with these
issues right here in our own backyards! Trying to implement such
here would likely lead to cries of injustice.
Just my two cents!
Director, Environmental Programs
Rural Community Assistance Program
1522 K Street, NW #400
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202/408-1273 ext. 104
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