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Rubbish Management 2018

Published in Environment

Rubbish management is a hot topic, not to say hot potato, around the world at the moment, especially in Croatia, where the European Directives which were laid down some years ago are finally due to come into force on November 1st 2018.

Binning litter, do it right! Binning litter, do it right! Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Most visitors from other European Union countries have been shocked to find that on Hvar, up to now, there has been little attempt to separate household waste into recyclable, compostable and non-recyclable units. That is all set to change, as local authorities roll out the new programme. Households are being issued with bins and bags for separating recyclable and reusable materials from waste. Householders now have new contracts with the waste management company operating in their area. Inevitably, individuals will pay more in fees for the new system.

Mayor Nikša Peronja takes delivery of Jelsa's new rubbish carts, July 2014. Photo:Vivian Grisogono

Up to now, some places on Hvar have enjoyed doorstep collection services, while the majority of households have had the use of rubbish bins in the vicinity. In either case, the rubbish was collected on a regular basis, with more collections during the busy summer months. Under the new system, each household has a bin or a bag for mixed household waste, besides bags for recyclable waste. Different sizes are available, according to the individual needs of each household. Hvar Town is issuing general rubbish bins for 80, 240 or 1100 litres, or bags with similar capacities. Door-to-door collections will continue where there is direct road access to properties. Otherwise householders have to leave their waste at a designated spot at appointed times. Hvar Town has issued winter and summer schedules for the collections, the price list showing how the services are charged (in Croatian), and (in English) instructions for separating rubbish as required. 

Recycling bins in Hvar, 2014, waiting for their time to come. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Rubbish is to be sorted into the different materials which can be recycled, and organic materuial which can be composted. Recyclabler materials are collected in the householders' bins or bags, or they can be put into the appropriate bins in the so-called 'green islands' (zeleni otoci) which are to be placed in various locations around Hvar's main settlements.

Recycling bins must be used properly for the system to work. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The success of the new system depends on people's co-operation. Before the arrival of the rubbish containers and regular collection services on Hvar, waste disposal was a big problem. Rubbish was either burned or disposed of as and where, around the countryside and fields, in ruined buildings, in every nook and cranny where it was at least half hidden. Old habits die hard, and it is still all too obvious that many people, including youngsters, drop litter and dump rubbish thoughtlessly, selfishly and indiscriminately. The result is a mess, and, much worse, untold ecological damage and pollution.

Trying to get the message across on Jadrolinija ferries. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It will certainly take a strong educational campaign to create compliance. We have to hope that the island will not sink back into a universal habit of littering, rubbish dumping and fly tipping. Of course, the law envisages fines for people guilty of flouting the rules, but I don't know anyone who believes that enforcement will be adequate, or that the threat of punishment will produce the desired effect.

Careless littering, a bad habit. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

We welcome the principle that less rubbish will be dumped in landfill. Separating materials for recycling will be an improvement on sending all types of waste to pollute the earth and sea. Croatia is due to have some 97 recycling yards to fulfil the Directives, with some 80% of their construction costs being financed by the EU, assuming that local authorities prepare their project proposals correctly and on time. It seems most local councils have delayed applying for finance for recycling depots until the last moment (you can read about this in Croatian here). From the recycling depots on Hvar, the separated materials will be shipped to the mainland. So far so good. But then? There are recycling works in Croatia (article in Croatian here), but the facilities have not developed to the extent that seemed to be promised back in 2006 (article in Croatian here).  So it is not clear what can happen to the recyclable materials from Hvar, other than storage in the hope of an eventual solution.

How not to dispose of poison packaging in Stari Grad's historic Ager. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It is clear that we need to reduce the amount of non-degradable waste we produce, regardless of whether it can be recycled or not. Individuals in different countries are showing the way by example. One of these is Bea Johnson, whose website, 'Zero Waste Home' is a blueprint of ways for people to reduce their rubbish footprint. Her book of the same name1 is a number-one bestseller, which she has presented in numerous countries around the world. It is published in 20 languages, and has been translated into Catalan2 by Esther Penarrubia, agronomist and English teacher, who has also been spreading the word during her travels around Europe. On Friday March the 5th, in Stari Grad's elementary school, she presented the English version of the book to a receptive audience.

Esther with organizer Nora in Stari Grad. Photo: Jelena Gracin

The weather was fierce that evening, with rain and one of Stari Grad's famous high flood tides, so the relatively high turnout was witness to the real desire of local people to do something positive for their island environment.

A good turnout on a stormy night in Stari Grad. Photo: Jelena Gracin
Bea Johnson's prescription: "Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order) is my family’s secret to living waste-free since 2008!"Reuse is a logical way to reduce waste. Glass bottles and jars are the cleanest type of container for liquids. The old-fashioned system of washing and re-using bottles and jars provided secure employment for some, including disabled people. Unnecessary waste was prevented. Reuse was clearly more economical than creating new containers while spending on destroying the old ones. What is recycled glass used for? Very little goes to producing new glass products. In truth, recycling glass makes no sense at all.

Plastic containers for foods and liquids make no sense at all either. They are potentially harmful to human health. For instance the phthalates (used as plasticizers in plastic bottles as well as other uses) have been found to affect the human thyroid gland, and have been implicated in children's behavioural problems3. By contrast with glass, plastic food and drink containers should not be reused.

Micro-plastics, which have the widest variety of uses, are now recognized as a major environmental scourge, alongside plastic bags. Not all plastics can be recycled effectively. Left in the environment they will last for hundreds of years, causing ever-increasing damage to wildlife. The only logical solution is to reduce the use of plastics to the barest minimum, and to revert to more environmentally friendly materials for food and drink packaging,such as Beeswrap for sandwiches.

There is reason for cautious optimism. There is worldwide awareness of how badly plastics have affected the environment, and there are many initiatives aiming to curb the problem.

Giving consumers the right to choose products without plastic packaging is a big step forward. Consumer power can drive change. With enough awareness, habits will change for the better and the world will be freed from an ever-increasing spiral of degradation. 

 

© Vivian Grisogono 2018 

References

1. Johnson, B. 2013. Zero Waste Home, The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste. Scribner, New York (UK edition Penguin, 2016)

2. Johnson, B., Trans Penarrubia, E.,  Residuo Cero en Casa. pol-len edicions 

3. Engel, S.M., Miodovnik, A., Canfield, R.L., Zhu, C., Silva, M.J., Calafat, A.M., Wolff, M.S. 2010.  Prenatal Phthalate Exposure Is Associated with Childhood Behavior and Executive Functioning. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118: 565-571 (37 references)