Recyling In Moscow and the 1000 Bins Campaign

>> Friday, 1 July 2011

At last Saturday's Cybermummy, (nearly a week ago, how did that happen? Can whoever stole the last 6 days give them back, please?) one of my oldest blog mates Karen Cannard at The Rubbish Diet mentioned in her excellent presentation that she has recently started a campaign to raise awareness of recycling litter bins in the heart of the community.

I love recycling. I think it makes absolute sense. When living in London I was only too happy to sort through my rubbish and separate it all out; in my mind, it was an easy way to make a positive contribution to minimising my impact on the environment. Much like getting a vegetable box delivered every week (virtually no disposable packaging, seasonal locally produced vegetables and amazingly, lighter on the wallet than buying the equivalent in the supermarket. And my mother in law always loved the swede I could never bring myself to cook...), and taking UK only holidays.

OK. That last was in my dreams, the one where I wear a Cath Kidston apron whilst baking bread for my family and simultaneously writing an award-winning column for The Times from my eco-house in Cornwall. But still. Recycling? Win-win all round, to my mind.

But here's the thing, since I've been living in Russia, I have had to stop recycling. Pretty much completely, if I'm honest. Why? Because there are no recycling facilities available. Don't get me wrong; there used to be. Back in the bad old days (cough), it was a comrade's duty to recycle, so every one did it. But now, since people don't have to do it, they don't do it. AT ALL.

Part of the problem is that Russia is a country with seemingly inexhaustible natural resources, and one of them is space. Sure, they have 150 million people, but they also have vast tracts of unused (and in many cases, due to the extremes of climate, unuseable) land. A few landfills can't hurt, they reason. Why not just dump acres of waste in previously pristine forest, no-one's going to see... It's not true, obviously. But there will need to be a huge change of mind-set before many Russians realise that.

That is why, whilst walking in the Sparrow Hills in Moscow recently, I was delighted to see a proper recycling bin, with separate sections for different types of waste. It's not much, I know, in the whole scale of things, but it's a start, and so - way before I knew about the 1000 Bins campaign - I took a photograph to record the existence of what might be the only recycling bin I ever see in Moscow.

I know. Most people take pictures of views; I took one of a bin. Maybe that's why Karen and I get on?


nikki 1 July 2011 at 22:46  

hello, found your blog through the blow your own blog hop on mummys little monkeys.
that is so sad that peeps dont recycle if they dont have to, they should do it because they want to!
cant change everyones view though i suppose :(
nikki xo

MsCaroline 2 July 2011 at 00:57  

The Russian attitude sounds a lot like the American one used to be: out of sight, of of mind, so why bother? Fortunately, that's changed quite a bit. Here in Seoul, they (understandably) take recycling to the other extreme: In our apartment building, we have bins for glass, paper, plastic, cardboard, metal, etc. as well as a disposal for food waste, which is composted and used for fertilizer. We have very little to throw away these days.

Anonymous,  2 July 2011 at 09:13  

The thing is, although they don't recycle at all, they do do the re-use bit of the mantra a lot better than the Brits. In fact, a lot of the things that I would put into the recycling bag get saved in our house for Other Projects.

Especially plastic containers and bottles. And clothes. And cardboard. And glass jars. Oh, god the glass jars. It's time consuming but does save us a fair few pennies. I felt quite naughty the other day when I finally broke and pitched a number of glass jam jars out in favour of a shiney new set of the slightly more convenient (plastic) storage boxes from Asda.

Of course, this happens because most Russian people can't afford to be forever buying specialised food containers, seedling propagators, and new clothes. Give it time, of course. My parents, being war babies, have much the same attitude. But I don't have to, so I don't. At all. Or rather wouldn't if I didn't have to contend with my MiL and Husband's horror at another glass jar wasted.

Ideally what you would have is an equal amount of energy into both aspects. People are people though. They do what's easy. Or, of course, imposed. No matter where they are from.

Incidentally, I loved the Soviet idea of getting tokens for new books in exchange for bringing paper for recycling (and other things?) Now that's what I call an incentive.

Almost Mrs Average 2 July 2011 at 11:38  

Thank you so much for adding another bin to the photo collection and what a marvellous summary of what's going on in Russia and the changes that have taken place. Love the extra info from Solnushka too. It was brilliant to see you at Cybermummy. I think we both knew it would be a very brief catch up, but if you are about for a while it would be fantastic to meet up properly in London. And I promise it doesn't have to be flask and sarnies next to a bin ~ unless you want to of course ;0) K x

Almost Mrs Average 2 July 2011 at 11:59  

Hello again Potty Mummy..don't know if you're on FB, but I've just added your blogpost to the Facebook page. If you are on Facebook, would you mind sharing the original photo on the Facebook wall so it automatically gets added to the collection. Thanks lovely xx

Potty Mummy 2 July 2011 at 21:02  

Nikki, it's just not important to many people there, though I suggest you read Solnushka's comment below about reusing which, she's absolutely right, does happen more in Russia than in the UK.

MsC, sounds like where my parents live in the UK!

Solnushka, you're absolutely right of course - and thankyou for such an interesting comment!

Karen, Potty Mummy is on facebook but have to admit I never use it... (shocking I know; it's the last stand of the luddite in me!) As for coffee etc, will be in touch! x

Mwa 2 July 2011 at 21:44  

I used to find it very unsettling to put glass in the bin when we moved to Edinburgh. Belgians had been recycling glass for years and years by then, and the Scots just put it in the bin. Which felt so wrong.

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