Continuing on this positive vain, I’m impressed by the European effort to protect the environment. One of my big frustrations in Japan was that people pretented, even believed, that they were being environmental, but they really had no idea. Most separating of garbage was limited to burnables and non-burnables, but the primary example of the former was polystyrene and as far as I could see, it all ended up in the same garbage truck anyway.
Belgium has taken garbage collection to the opposite extreme, providing a schedule for pickups of recycling, tree cuttings, electronics/chemicals, compost and general rubbish. The less environmentally friendly it is, the higher the price of the containers, which encourages everyone to separate out as much as they can. But it’s regulated and if someone tries to cheat, their bag will be left on the street until they rectify the problem.
The only problem is that I haven’t been able to find many of the bags / containers for some of the more obscure collections, so I still end up with large bags of general rubbish. That’s one of the big problems with trying to find your way in a new culture. There are only so many times you can ask each neighbour where to find something before you feel that you should be paying them a guide fee.
Environmental parties enjoy mixed respect here, too. Unfortunately, there seem to be limits to what people will accept in the name of keeping Gaia healthy. I’ve often heard that the Green party has won seats in certain cities and begun some good changes, but it’s usually accompanied by grumbling. I can understand this of corrupt politicians – moving the flight path from the local airport away from the party leader’s house can’t help the environment in any way that I can see – but most of the moves towards sustainable development cause a public outcry. There’s talk of blocking access to Brussels Centre for private vehicles not belonging to residents and this was actually implemented in Grenoble. The outcry from my friends astounds me. ‘It’s not going to change anything. It’s just going to annoy people. They’ll still drive as close as they can.’ Yes, but then people will walk in or take the bus. There’ll be less traffic and Brussels will be an even nicer city than it is now. And if it annoys them enough maybe they’ll take the bus all the way in. They’ll find it a lot more convenient than facing the traffic. I know I do.