Slow boat to China
I am a reasonably committed recycler. I have lived in a variety of towns and cities in Europe and the US where the rubbish/trash collection has been easy to sort into different bins, and where the local collection service clearly distinguished between the different sorts of container, and what should go where.
Cambridge has never been quite so clear. It's often been the case that you have diligently weeded one sort of plastic from another and then discovered (if you were around when the truck came) that the whole lot went into the same big garbage truck. Result: you feel good (so long as you didnt actually watch), and the stuff just goes to the same landfill anyway. Middle class angst assuaged, but no more.
The other trouble with Cambridge is that it has kept changing what you can put in which bin. Which sort of plastic container has been allowed in the blue bin has been over the last couple of years a specialist subject worthy of Mastermind (internal bubblewrap, yes or no?.. search me).
Now we have just had a new (loathsomely enthusiastic) booklet, explaining yet again what kind of rubbish can go where (ok, so it's aerosols in the blue bins now..thanks for telling us). And it also explains that our plastics are being sent to China for recycling.
Oh shit, you think. That doesn't sound too green. But DO NOT WORRY says my local community info newspaper. Loads of ships bring products from China to the UK and go back empty. So this is fine, we can send back recyclable trash in them.
Doesnt sound too great to me. Read this as: we buy stuff at bottom end prices, made by exploited workers, and then send out even more worthless trash back on the same boats.
Or: once upon a time we actually made something, but now we just transport rubbish around the world. (It does remind me of all the old arguments about how Athenian painted pottery got to end up in Etruscan graves.. one idea was that those lovely pots were 'saleable ballast' sent by ships from Athens which were really aiming at picking up Italian metals. Ok but now we arent sending anything we have MADE.. )
So I guess I try and do my citizenly best and sort my rubbish. But the idea that it is off to China isnt a great incentive.
And besides I cant bear the boy-scoutish environmental enthusiasm of the council's PR. Especially when I know that they know exactly what's been going on the last 10 years.