Trashy fascism

 
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By Christian Nielsen

I spend so much time sorting my rubbish that I’m thinking of putting it on my CV as a skill or taking it up as a profession.

1 April 2010

I’m serious about this. The yearly calendar issued by the local council in the Belgian town where I live is colour-coded to help hapless citizens know which sort of rubbish goes out each week – recyclables, organic and garden waste, ‘big rubbish’, clothes, cartons, Christmas trees… Apparently, it all gets ferried off to a giant sorting centre and eventually repurposed into children’s playgrounds, or something more useful than ground fill and high-temperature incineration.

[I’m not going to get into the rumours that it actually just gets piled up somewhere hidden and eventually incinerated or shipped to Africa. That would be too cynical.]

All I know is if you get this recycling and sorting business wrong, there will be consequences. You come home from work to find your blue recycling bag has been left in front of your house for all to see what a ‘recycling twit’ you are – a large red sticker with some sort of insignia, maybe a middle finger, leaving no doubt you have been punished. You drag the thing back through the house again, dripping a trail of sour yoghurt, and sift through the contents to see what offensive material you have dared to try to throw out – sorry, I mean save the planet with.

So now, I wash out milk cartons before putting them in the blue bag, hold up washing liquid containers to the pictograph guides to see if they’re ‘acceptable rubbish’, consult the website when new yoghurt packages come on the market to see if they’re to be included.

As I pass the environmental ‘black houses’, those who bear the shame of ‘fout’ sticker on their garbage, I feel something akin to self-righteous anger. I now put in the time, do the homework and the sorting groundwork during the week, so why can’t they do it?

And this is how it starts. Maybe I’ll join a citizen’s movement and we‘ll mete out some rough justice, a scalable set of punishments for anti-green garbage behaviour. Or I’ll start a vigilante group scouting the nearby forest for illegal rubbish dumpers, the ones who don’t want to pay the whopping sum for ‘general rubbish’ bags – containing everything you’re too lazy to sort. This is the government’s very own punitive measure to make sure citizens use the recycling bags or facilities, which are naturally cheaper.

In this scenario, the garbage Gestapo put dumpers on the lowest wrung of the social ladder. They would be made to wear the red fout stickers as an arm band. Repeat offences could even lead to banishment, some sort of Gitmo for environmental antisocialists. The climate change sceptics could also go there, along with smokers, frequent flyers, and people who have too many children, drive big cars and have dogs and cats (apparently they have a big CO2 footprint, what with all that meaty food, pampering and shit) – not necessarily in that order.

I’d love to go on and create a whole fantastic new ‘garbage’ world order, but it’s Wednesday night – rubbish night, as it happens – so I don’t have any time to waste. I wouldn’t want to get it wrong this week.

Published with the author’s permission. © Christian Nielsen. All rights reserved.

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