Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lessons from Dumpsters

Trash—Lessons from dumpsters

Perhaps how a society rids itself (or does not) of its trash must say something about its civic nature. Kartvelia(s) (Georgians and I probably have the transliteration wrong as I don’t yet know how to form the plural of a formal Georgian nouns) place these mini dumpsters throughout the neighborhood where I am staying. Here is a picture of how they look.

The city visits these dumpsters seemingly daily because I have yet to see one overflow. In contrast, I think of a dumpster out in Wilderness Park where Sarah and I sometimes walk Scout that is usually overflowing from the trash of Lincolnites who use it for free disposal. Free riders in our capitalistic economic system. Or the dumpsters in Estes Park, CO that are locked so that the summer tourists (like us) have to search for some way to dispose of trash, else, the Estes Park city bureaucrats must reason, they would overflow.

So, in Tblisi, the city provides for trash removal. I do not know how this service is supported. I see people use it in the morning, walking to a dumpster with a yellow plastic bag tied neatly up. Plastic is everywhere. The local Popoli where I sometimes buy groceries loads a shopper up with many plastic bags. I am starting to use my backpack when I shop and this draws a few stares. I know I am an odd object of interest since I am clearly not blending in. For one thing, I need a pair of black chinos or cargo pants and a pair of black shoes. My LL Bean boots do not speak Georgian.

Back to trash. I wonder about our Lincoln (and somewhat American) practice of contracting what might be seen as a civic function to private garbage collectors as we do in Lincoln. I believe Lincoln has a law that requires that Sarah and I buy a weekly garbage collection service. At any rate we do. So this is constitutes a public law that requires that as individuals we buy a private service. In a voluntary way we buy a service that recycles a good part of our refuse stream. Or, the service advertises that it recycles waste. I’m not sure what really happens to the mountain of catalogues and advertisements that the postman crams into our mailbox. As the earth heats up, will our city council pass a law that says we have to buy the private services of a re-cycler as we now do a garbage company. And, of course a large part of our re-cycling consists of these unwanted solicitations from private business through out publicly supported postal system. In Georgia, there is no reliable mail service, I am told. Some basic monetary exchanges like paying utility bills is apparently done through a store front place that handles such matters. I haven’t figured it out yet. Am I seeing an example of the difference between an Eastern European quasi-socialist country and one of the world’s most extreme form of capitalism? Different systems, that is for sure.

I also have to recall how frustrating it was to live in Israel whenever one had to deal with a public agency--very indifferent to a person's need and very arrogant by and large. I anticipate some sort of rude awakening here in Georgia about the way that public bureaucracy functions.

1 comment:

  1. As off beat as it was, I was quite entertained with your garbage post. In certain parts of the country, recycling is required part of trash disposal. I am surprised by the use of plastic bags - I would have thought for some reason they would have been using more reusable containers to transport their groceries - Perhaps we need to ship you some canvas bags to use in place of back pack - however, they would not speak Georgian either.