Germany is ahead on some very important issues, like green energy. I am rather proud of “my Germany” in that respect, and yet I sometimes wish it were not so. Because with being ahead comes responsibility and having to set a good example at all times.
What´s wrong with that? Noooothing…. Except when it is a tiring, boring, time consuming and reiterative exercise, which could be avoided if we spent a little more time thinking about it in the first place. Maybe if those in the position to make decisions for change, spent a little more time dealing with the consequences of their in-actions, change would come very quickly.
Like the rest of my family.
In the meantime:
I sit in front of several bags of clothes, shoes, books and other materials and agonize. I want to move into a new house. I have to lighten the weight, but I can´t just dump it all in the next trash container. I have to act responsible.
There are so many things to consider. Would a charity be happy to have the clothes – clean, but well worn? And I can´t let them ship the stuff to Africa, because I cannot contribute to the downfall of a fragile african textile industry. Why do relatives keep buying new stuff, when I could equip them with an entire wardrobe for their little ones? Do I have the heart to tear it all up and turn it into carpets or paper? Why did I accept many second hand clothes in the first place? Waste not want not, can be: Didn´t waste it, but didn´t want it either!
What about the books? Old computer and software manuals for hardware and software that nobody uses anymore (don´t say have – because I still do of course, even if I don´t use it). Novels I read only the beginning and end of – somebody else might like it. Childrens books hardly scribbled in or with only one torn page, but in various languages.
What about the accounting details, some 10 years old or older? The print is so faded that I can only tell that is was a shopping list from Spain. But it is a shopping list from Spain. What good times we had there, what nice things we bought.
Do you understand now why I feel a bit desperate when my family walks in with a bunch of beautiful leaflets, picked up at the shopping mall. They are all about history, evolution, dinosaurs and the Senckenberg Museum. I can see myself leafing through them in ten years. Ach.
Before paper made from trees came along, it was made entirely out of cloth. Collecting “Hadern” was business, but they were becoming rare during the 18th century as cloth leftovers were needed for other purposes (cheap clothes!), so new technologies were developed to use plants and trees as paper producing sources. And got us stuck with more problems.
And don´t ask about the electronic “trash”. When does it cross the line? When is it replacement pieces and when does it become unusable and when does it transition to museum pieces? I am glad that my attic has a cement flooring, so I don´t have to worry about it buckling under the weight of our precious resources. But my new place does not have an attic, so something will have to give, and I don´t want it to be my mind.
I see a ghostly myself standing next to me, as in one of the notorious german soap ads of years gone by. Instead of telling me that my wash needs to whiter than white, it whispers: “Look at that itsy-bitsy pyjama. Do you remember when your kids wore it? Can you really throw it away and with it the memory?” Arghhhh, of course I cannot!
That is why we should not let our daughters watch TV. The image of the perfect, organized and industrious housewife is burned into the young, malleable minds and resides there to haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Germans became so good at separating and recycling that heating plants that used trash to provide heat, ran out of trash to burn. Or collected plastic were exported to other countries for separation and often just ended up in somebody else´s incinerator or land dump. Computers still are exported to countries, where they are rid of their precious metals without respect for health issues. Although these beginnings were and are not so smooth, once a German subscribes to an idea, he will stick to the enforcement come what may. So despite these initial hickups the basic idea is not scrapped and here we are thirty years later and with four trashcans to a family.
When it all got too much in the early days I could take a break in England or Italy. Throwing everything into the same bin, became the hidden pleasure and luxury of a holiday. Alas, those days are over. When I arrive in London now, the first leaflet that greets my eye explains how to separate my paper from cardboard (don`t let the Germans read this – they don´t separate the two YET), or telling me that Glass will be picked up every 2nd Monday and my eco-trash (garden cuttings and such) every second Wednesday.
Of course I can´t do anything else than mark the days in my calendar and follow the rules. Because I know that it is for the good of mankind, because I don`t want to leave mountains of junk or trash to my kids, because I will have done my moral duty. Because I think ahead. Because I will start producing less trash from now on.
And because if I don´t who will?