Saturday, 6 March 2010

Garbage selection

Back home in Belgium, we had to sort our garbage. It was not only a choice, it was made compulsory by the fact that all garbage that could not be sorted would end up in a garbage bin that would be weighed by collectors, and you would need to pay taxes according to the weight. A clever system I think. So we would divide the content of our bins into paper, cardboard, white glasses, colored glasses, biological garbage (those would end up at the bottom of our own garden), cans + drink cartons + hard plastic, batteries, and all kinds of things that would end up in different containers at the garbage sorting area. I like it, I love taking part in the recycling process, I really hate the idea of all my garbage ending up together in a huge pile while we wait for it to... to what ?  Melt ?

When I moved to Finland and settled in Mr Bear's cave, I asked how I could sort the garbage. He explained that you needed to bring cans and bottles, including plastic ones, to the store so you could get some refund. He would put everything else together. I insisted on at least keeping separate the glass pots, because I knew there were glass collectors closeby. But for the rest of the selection, he had an answer ready: "we don't really have separate containers here, all garbage just ends up at the same place anyway". I must say I didn't enquire any further, I had so many things to get accustomed to at the time.

The thing is, since we live in a building with appartments, we need to bring our garbage to containers in a separate building. This one is small, dark, long and narrow, with a low ceiling, and I just hate it: being inside makes me feel strongly claustrophobic. So Mister Bear always took in charge the task of bringing the garbage bags to the containers, and I never really went there.

A couple of weeks a go, I visited a friend who does select garbages. She explained to me how she did it, and I went to the containers of her own building.  I felt guilty that I didn't do it myself. Then a couple of days later, I had to go to the garbage containers building myself. Mr Bear was gone for the week-end, I had friends visiting the next day and I just couldn't leave the garbage bags alone. So I gathered up courage and truly visited the place for the first time since I came here. And I saw. There were many different containers, with labels that I could now understand, and we had exactly the same kind of selection as is made at my friend's place.  Mr Bear had been lying to me ! Not really on purpose, as it turned out: he only meant that he wasn't really sure the collectors were recycling everything, but when I misunderstood him he didn't bother correcting me, he was too lazy to start and organize garbage selection in our tiny place.

So I announced I was starting it right now. I asked to go and buy some special bags for biological garbage. Then Mr Bear said: "we don't need to !". He opened a cupboard, a small closet inside the cupboard (it is supposed to keep toxic cleaning producs away from children, Finns really think of everything), and inside, together with the bags for the vacuum cleaner, was a big pile of brown paper bags made on purpose for hosting biological garbage and turn into dust together with their content. I had never, ever noticed them, they really look like the vacuum cleaner's bags and I thought he just had an insane collection of those. He actually bought them when he moved in but soon realised he wasn't eating enough vegetables and fresh products to use them.

Now that's what I love with living here: I keep discovering new things, up until in my own kitchen. I love uncovering the little tricks Mister Bear has been playing on me, and I'm not mad, I just find it very funny and even cute somehow.

And now I love sorting the garbage  :)


  1. How could you not realize that earlier? You can see recycling bins in various places. In 2008, YTV distributed a pamphlet on waste management in every household. I posted a few tweets on the topic too, I think. I've been sorting waste ever since I came here, which was new to me.

    My flatmate also is a lazy ass who sorts nothing so I'm doing it for her. People who can't be bothered to sort annoy the heck of me. It's very simple, cleaner, it takes no time if you're well organized, and in the end it feels very satisfying.

  2. Well let me defend myself a little ;)

    1) recycle bins are often hidden inside and those that I saw I did not pay attention to the labels since I couldn't read them. I only noticed those containing glass and I've been sorting glass since the beginning.

    2) I did not see any pamphlet on waste management, maybe because I didn't read any Finnish at the time and didn't bother guessing what every paper we get is about.

    3) sorting garbage is not simple: I haven't yet really figured out how what gets into the "energia" one and what doesn't. You also need to make room in your kitchen for five different bags + the cans and bottles + the glasses and go to three different places to get rid of them. Altogether you use more space for garbage and you tend to get rid of them later since they don't fill so quickly, so I wouldn't say it's cleaner (at your kitchen's level) either.

    But I totally agree it's satisfying.

    By the way, since you seem to be a specialist in the field, do you know where I can get rid of electronic appliances, such as an old big tv, broken digiboxit, etc ?

  3. Fair enough! Perhaps it's because of my job (cleaning) and because I have moved many times that I pay attention to the location of the recycling bins. I tend to notice them even when they have nothing to do with my present activity.

    YTV has a detailed web page in English on waste management... or had. I see now they have changed everything since their reorganization. How stupid ! :S A few pages have survived in Google's cache:

    We don't have an "energia" bin here, but I had one in some other place I lived, I never used it because I didn't understand it either. I know it's what they burn for energy but I'm not sure what goes and what doesn't (sometimes you may guess by checking what the others have thrown, though they may do it wrong too). I think it may include plasic bags and wrappings, but not sure.

    Our kitchen is an awful mess thanks to my flatmate but I tend to organize myself this way: I leave the glass on the border of the sink, I put kitchen cardboards in the second trash bin under the sink, which is normally used for food scraps but I put that in a small plastic bag that I take with me and empty in the trash shed, wrapped in newspaper. Because by the time I go there, the decomposing food in the bag has become sort of compact and it's easy to empty. That's a personal trick ! :D

    When I say it's cleaner that's because you don't put the food scraps with everything else, which is what makes the trashes so dirty, big bags dripping with filthy liquids (also from unrinsed food containers).

    For electronic appliances, I never did it myself but I think you have to bring them to a special collection point. All this was explained before on their site, now all that remains is a map:

    However ! It seems some blue metal trash also accept electronic appliances, strangely. This is the case in the one we have here. First I was wondering who the hell are the idiots who dispose of their TVs and computers in the trash for metal cans, but it looks like it's the normal thing to do. Hihihi >< ! If you have a metal bin too, check what's written and what other people put in. If you keep seeing TVs and electronics in it, should be safe to do the same.