One of the problems with living in a modern society is that you need to be aware of everything. We are bombarded with awareness campaigns of all sorts, telling us that we have to be more aware of global warming, more aware of inequality, of racism, of the time spent looking at screens, of road safety, of our sugar intake, of our power consumption, of so many things I find it all quite exhausting. I sometimes look back at the old days fondly, when we lived much less stressful lives in the bliss of ignorance.

In our village, a new system of rubbish collection was recently introduced, the door-to-door system that is becoming increasingly common, particularly in villages and small towns. The door-to-door collection system requires each household to separate its rubbish into different containers, which are left outside the house on set days to be picked up and, we can only hope, taken to be recycled. According to government data, the door-to-door system is almost twice as efficient as the traditional system of dumping your rubbish bags in large communal containers at the end of the street.

Mind you, it’s also a lot more work for the average citizen. We now have a series of containers to manage, each needing its own type of bag, all colour coded so that even stupid people like us can understand, along with a timetable (also colour coded) telling us when we can and cannot put out our organic, glass, plastic or paper rubbish. Any other type of rubbish goes in the grey container for general refuse, which only gets collected occasionally.

A problem I noticed last month, when I was standing in the garage surrounded by bulging plastic bags, is that there is nowhere for old clothes. As a family, we had taken advantage of changing out our summer wardrobe for our winter clothes to collect together all our old items that were no longer wanted. Now I had the problem of what to do with them, and there was no way they were going to all fit in the tiny grey refuse container.

I loaded the bags into the car and drove into the local town to put them in the large orange containers provided for old clothes and fabrics. I got there and found the container was overflowing and in fact was surrounded by bags of clothes, many of which had opened and spilled their contents all over the pavement.

I decided to drive (all the time aware of my petrol consumption) to the next town, where I remembered having seen another orange container. When I got there, however, the container was gone. A local informed me that there had been problems with gangs emptying the container of the clothes to sell and make money from them so the local council had decided to remove the container. In the end, after the bags spent a few days in the car boot, I finally got rid of them by taking them to the local dump where I found another orange container.

The experience left me dissatisfied. The organic rubbish collection, for example, worked like clockwork but what the hell was going on with the clothes recycling issue? I was fortunate to find that the El Punt Avui newspaper had just published a report on this very topic (Tuesday January 23). You can read it for yourself if you’re interested, and it explains very well what the situation is, how only 10% of clothes in Catalonia are recycled and that the other 90% ends up in landfills or incinerators. This obviously won’t do in today’s world and so steps are afoot to rectify the situation , beginning with - yes, you guessed it - a series of awareness campaigns!


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