Why my German boyfriend never sort out his garbage?

Today, we are talking about garbage recycling. 

Starting from the global trip, to living in Canada, to recently moved to Germany, there is one thing that no one can ignore. That is, should we category our garbage?

First of all, recycling is a really important deal in Germany. 

Here, the blue bin is for paper and cardboard, the green and white bins are for glass, the yellow/orange bin is for plastic, metal, the brown one is for biodegradable goods, and the black bin is for everything else(Berlin & Germany, 2020).

Therefore, I was happily putting my banana peels and apple cores into the compost box, collecting my milk boxes, and waiting to bring them down to the garbage bins. My German boyfriend was standing quietly behind me, and said, “Don’t bother. I never really do it.”

今天我们来聊一聊垃圾分类。

不管是之前在世界各地旅行,在加拿大居住,还是最近搬来德国生活,有一件事情总是在生活琐事中占据着重要的一部分。那就是,垃圾到底要不要分类?

首先,垃圾分类在德国是非常受到重视的。

在这里,蓝色的桶是放纸制品和纸箱子的,绿色和白色的桶是放有色无色玻璃制品的,黄色是塑料和金属,棕色是biodegradable(可降解)垃圾,灰黑色的是其他垃圾(Berlin & Germany, 2020)

于是当我勤快的将香蕉皮和苹果核整理到compost的盒子里,把牛奶纸盒一个个码在袋子中准备带到楼下垃圾桶的时候。我的德国男朋友从后面轻飘飘的来了一句:“别麻烦了,我从来都是把所有的一块扔进’其余垃圾’里的。”

[ 中国 ][ China ]

在中国住了二十多年,我很少进行垃圾分类。一个是条件不允许,当时也没有什么分类标准的执行。其次是,如果其他人不进行分类,我一个人的分类也起不到应有的效果。

Honestly, living in China for more than 20 years, I never separated my garbage. First, we don’t have any established recycling system. Second, if nobody else is categorizing their garbage, there was no point for me to do it alone. 

不过,在中国,我们有一个不太一样的回收系统。在我小时候,纸张和瓶子都是要收集起来卖给收破烂的的。其实这样挺好的,有效率也有积极性。然而这也意味着,只有有价值的东西才会被回收。

But we do have a somehow different system. When I was a kid, paper and bottles are something you will collect and sell to the recycle man. I mean, it was not bad. Anything valuable will be reused, and everyone is motivated by the potential extra money. But this also means – recycling will only happen when it is profitable. 

旧塑料瓶由于油价的跌落而丢失了身价的时候(新的塑料瓶制作起来也很便宜),我们似乎就没必要回收旧塑料了。

When the price of used plastic bottles dropped after the decrease in the oil price (producing new bottles are cheaper and more reasonable), we barely collect those bottles anymore.

华盛顿邮报中说到,“直到八十年代,中国只有很少的垃圾。那会儿国家还不算富裕,人们不会买很多,自然也不会产生很多垃圾。”(Fifield, 2020)

‘Up until the 1980s, there was relatively little garbage in China. The country was poor, so people didn’t buy much, and they certainly didn’t waste much. ” (Fifield, 2020)

然而,二十一世纪所有的事情都不一样了。经济的爆发也带来了大量的垃圾。我在网络上的点击,外卖平台的下单,带来的除了便利和快捷,还有大量的包装垃圾。

And then, entered the great 21st century, everything changed. The economy growth also brought us tons of waste. Every click I had online, every delivery I ordered for lunch, brought me along with convenience was the magnificent amount of garbage. 

我们几十年前就认识到了这个问题,标语和垃圾回收桶在社区里随处可见。但是,我们为了什么要进行垃圾分类呢?如果它们最后还是会被混合到一起,我自然是不愿意浪费时间处理这些垃圾。人之常情,也有理有据。

The government has realized this emerging problem decades ago. Slogans and recycling bins are everywhere in the community. But what is the motivation for residents to sort out their garbage? Of course, we are not willing to separate those garbage. What is the point for me to waste my time if I know they will be mix at the end anyway?

上海几年前开始推广强制性的垃圾分类,但是结果并不是非常理想。上海的分类要求为干,湿,可回收,有害。因为我不曾住在上海,也欢迎上海的小伙伴进行指正,不过,有一点我很好奇,为什么其中没有“其他垃圾”的选项呢?

In 2017, Shanghai started its mandatory waste classification. But the result was not satisfactory. Shanghai’s regulation requires people to sort trash into four categories – dry garbage, wet garbage (kitchen waste), recyclables, and hazardous waste. I have not lived in Shanghai but I would like to post this question for my friends who live there – why there is no option such as “general garbage”?

这次的执行方式也引起了不少人的反弹。其中最大的争论就在于工作和分时投放的冲突。年轻人抱怨每当自己下班回家,垃圾桶都已经被上了锁。

Of course, the absurdity of the process has posed many complaints from the resident, which focus on the conflicts between working hours and the recycling hours. Young people complain about every time they go back home from work, the garbage bins had already been locked.

知乎上有一篇文章就叫,“被垃圾分类逼疯的上海人”(“知乎盐选 | 南风窗 2019年14期”, 2020)

There is an article on this topic on zhihu.com. it is called “the Shanghainese who drove crazy by their garbage ”(“知乎盐选 | 南风窗 2019年14期”, 2020).

改变一项习惯需要时间。

规则很容易指定,让它如何真正达到应有的效果却需要更多的思考。与其强迫居民去做一件事,或许,鼓励机制的方式会更有效果。

Changing behavior can take a great amount of time.

Rules are easy to make, but how to make it work is the problem we need to think about. Rather than forcing the residence to do something, motivating them might have a better result in this case. 

[ 德国 ][ Germany ]

在德国,瓶子有自己的回收机制(Pfand system)

123185720_1867188810126299_2684741901700783546_n

(超市里的自动回收机 The recycling machine in the supermarket)

当你买一瓶饮料的时候,你会支付所谓的瓶子押金。而当你退还空瓶子的时候,你会拿回这笔钱。一个普通的瓶子大概是25cent,也就是人民币两块钱。这适用于啤酒瓶,塑料饮料瓶,铝罐等等。

In Germany, there is a bottle return system called the Pfand system. When you purchase your drinks, you pay a deposit for the bottle. When you return the empty bottle, you get your deposit back. Most of the bottles cost 25cent, about 2 yuan in Chinese currency. This applies to Beer bottles, Soft drink bottles, Aluminum cans, etc.

当我之前在欧洲旅行的时候,我总是会把这些瓶子带回超市。自动回收机会吐出一张带条码的收据,这张收据待会儿就可以被用来在超市的收银台结账买东西。我特别积极主动的去做这件事。为什么?这可是两块钱一个的瓶子啊!

123074690_1889012704573558_3262044837438690337_n

(几个瓶子就有四欧元的押金,大概是人民币32块钱 A recipt of 4 euro for a few bottles)

When I was traveling around Europe, I always return those bottles to the supermarket. And the machine would give out a recipe which you can then use for paying your grocery in the cashier. I was very motivated to do so. Why? Come on, it is 2 yuan a bottle!

在德国,有件事儿可能看起来挺奇怪的。

There is something you might find weird in Germany. 

大街上有很多啤酒瓶就靠在垃圾桶的旁边。这是个大家都默默遵守着的规则。如果你不能把这些可回收的瓶子带回到超市去,那么不要扔到垃圾桶里,而是要放在旁边或者上面,给无家可归或者是有需要的人

There are plenty of beer bottles sit outside of the garbage can. It is kind of a rule that everyone follows. If you do not bring this recyclable bottle back to the supermarket, then leave it outside or on top of the bin, someone later will take it back for the deposit.

不仅仅是在公共场合翻垃圾会让人感到耻辱,而且有些地方翻垃圾桶甚至从垃圾箱中取出东西都是违法的。由于缺钱而在垃圾中翻可回收瓶子的人也可能面临巨额罚款。

Not only is it saving the shame of going through the garbage bins in public, but in some places, it is even illegal to do so. People who take things out of the trash for those bottles may face huge fines. 

123388314_1665170336995353_8477911597066174514_n

(在瓶子上,你也能看到支持“把瓶子放在垃圾箱外”的标语,右上角标志

And there is even a slogan for it. Pfand Gehört Daneben.)

[ 北美 ]

[ North America ]

在温哥华,显著不同的一点就是这里流浪汉的数目。

因此,捐赠(donation)是非常方便的方式来处理自己不再需要的东西。

In Vancouver, the significant difference is the number of homeless people living on the streets.

Therefore the opportunity for donation is widely available and it became a popular way to get rid of the things you no longer need. 

123093408_828233227947611_3107746121770112500_n

(我捐掉了所有的书和杂志给当地社区 Donating all my books)

在我搬离加拿大的时候,我把自己所有的东西打包装在纸箱子里,大部分的衣服进入到了当地女性sexworker支持中心,大部分的厨具和家用品我送到了流浪汉收容所。两个地方的名字分别是:Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre和Wish drop-in center.

When I moved out of Canada, I donated most of my clothes to local charities. They are easy to find and open for donations most of the time during the day. Most of my old clothes went to a charity for female sex workers. It is called the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

And all of my household supplies went to a shelter for homeless people in easter Vancouver, which is called Wish drop-in center.

123130153_2726519770940689_4203583186754224765_n

(整理捐赠的衣物 Organizing my old clothes for donation)

我并不是什么高尚的人。而是我知道,如果我把这些大件垃圾丢在普通垃圾桶里的话,我极有可能会收到巨额的罚款。

I am not a noble person. But I know that if I throw these large pieces of garbage in the ordinary garbage bins, I will most likely receive a fine.

[ 相关研究 ]

[ Related Study ]

英国的一个关于“为什么要回收”的研究里,有几个重要的因素影响着人们的决定:

* 意识程度和理解

* 态度和习惯

* 人们对相关服务的感受

* 信息透明度 (Thomas et al., 2003)

In one research conducted in the UK, it indicates four factors, which are:

  • General awareness and understanding 
  • Beliefs, attitudes and behaviours 
  • What people feel about service provision  
  • The key influencing factors and trusted information sources  (Thomas et al., 2003)

其中我比较想解释的是最后一点“信息透明度”

男友和我抱怨回收垃圾太麻烦了,而且回收之后如果还会有机器再分类一遍的话,我们现在分不分类有什么区别吗?

Among those factors, the last one I would like to add a little bit of my understanding.

My boyfriend complained once about the inconvenience of recycling, he said, what is the difference if they have a machine that can scan and sort it out again later?

垃圾被放到指定的垃圾桶里之后会被如何处理?如果我没有进行分类会产生什么样的影响?如果这些信息和数据可以更容易地获取,或许我会在扔垃圾之前再想一下

If people can get informed about what happens to the garbage once they have been collected, or the consequences or their own behaviors, it might make them think twice before they throwing out their garbage. 

还有,长期未能有正反馈回报。我们很难很快看到垃圾分类的好处。试想,如果每次你把垃圾袋扔进回收垃圾桶里的时候,都会跳出两块钱来,你回收的动力是不是就高很多了?缺乏正反馈,这其实正是我们每每减肥不成功的拦路虎之一。我们知道健身对身体有好处,但是我们总有很多借口今天不去健身房不是吗?

Also, another factor may also contribute to this: extra long term feedback. It is hard to see the benefit of recycling to our environment in a finger-snap. Try to think about this, what if you can get a free toy or 2 dollars every time you recycle? Will you be more motivated?

It is the same reason why we can not eat healthily and keep fit. We know it is good for our bodies in the long term. But we always have excuses not to go to the gym today, don’t we?

123144171_2846954908867603_1857688377010576682_n

(去超市退还瓶子的我们 Returning bottles)

或许下次你可以做个小实验,收集你一周之内产生的所有垃圾(用大塑料袋)- 包括包装袋,塑料,食物残渣等等,然后在最后称一下有多重。结果会让你大吃一惊。

Maybe you can do a little experiment next time. Keep every garbage you produced in a week, including packages, plastic, food waste, and weight it at the end. For some people, the result will be mind-blowing. 

我去年做了这个实验。包括所有的,我在一周内一共产生了5公斤的垃圾。这仅仅是我,一个人

I did this experience myself last year. And including all, I produced 5kg waste in a week. That was just me, one person

如果是两千万人生活在一个城市里呢?

如果是78亿人生活在一个星球上呢?

How about 20millon people live in the same city? 

How about 7.8billion people live on the same planet?

References

Berlin, L., & Germany, H. (2020). How to sort your trash and recycle in Germany. Retrieved 1 November 2020, from https://allaboutberlin.com/guides/sorting-trash-in-germany

Fifield, A. (2020). Teaching China to recycle, village by village. Retrieved 1 November 2020, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/teaching-china-to-recycle-village-by-village/2019/01/31/c33f44a8-1439-11e9-ab79-30cd4f7926f2_story.html

Thomas, Christine; Slater, Rachel; Yoxon, Mark; Leaman, J. and Downing, J. (2003). What makes people recycle? An evaluation of attitudes and behaviour in London Western Riverside. In: International Solid Waste Association World Congress, Nov 2003, Melbourne, Australia.

知乎盐选 | 南风窗 2019年14期. (2020). Retrieved 1 November 2020, from https://www.zhihu.com/market/paid_magazine/1134211588772003840/section/1134211746117091328

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