April 5, 2010

Holiday Monday in Taiwan – Tomb Sweep Day. To get a ‘foreigners’ viewpoint on this holiday, have a look at my April 4, 2010, entry.

I was reading through the other three blogs, that I know of, in English. Yes, there are probably millions of blogs on the internet, but I only know about three: my mom’s (http://bilbet.wordpress.com/), my dad’s (http://billyjack1942.wordpress.com/), and my sister’s (http://stripes24.wordpress.com/). I was looking over each of their latest entries to find some inspiration for my blog entry today.

My mother’s blog was about her ‘accident-prone’ younger brother, Bob. I haven’t actually seen Uncle Bob in so many years, I definitely wouldn’t recognize the old guy now, if I bumped into him on the street. I wonder if he would recognize me though. About the only thing that really sticks out in my mind, is that, being the youngest of three children, Bob was, in my opinion, my grandmother Ellis’s favourite. That may not be correct, but that is what I tend to remember. I can still hear her voice calling him, “Bobby”.

My father’s blog was about him blowing things up with dynamite as a kid! W-O-W! And he used to get upset when us kids would play with matches??!! It is fun reading dad’s blogs about when he was a kid. As I’ve mentioned to him a few times, it’s like reading the books or watching the old television program, “Little House On The Prairie”! I do have a vague (well, more than vague) memory of me trying to set the house on fire on Elias Street. Can’t quite remember the circumstances, but I do remember my two younger brothers watching as I was trying to destroy evidence by lighting it on fire in the kitchen! Ah, those were the days!!

My sister’s blog was about ‘Earth Day’. I was intrigued with this one, because it brought back just how environmentally-friendly, Canadians have become. We, as a nation, try to clean up our environment. Making the lakes and rivers safe again for swimming and wildlife, replanting our forests, recycling newspaper, metal, and other recyclables, reusing items as much as possible (paper, bags, bottles, etc.)…

I don’t know if we (Canadians) are any better off, or whether we do more than we did say, 10 years ago. I remember living in Ottawa years ago. Now, you must or should understand that Ottawa, besides being the capital city of Canada, is also an international city. Yes, when my little darlings here in Taiwan talk about Canada, they know Toronto and Vancouver. However, most world travelers know that Ottawa is the capital.

While living there, and especially working for the federal government, I had the opportunity to work on Parliament Hill. Now, being that it not only is the seat of government for the country, but it is where most of the world’s embassies are located. Rockcliffe Park, a city within the city, is the home for many of these dignitaries. These ambassadors read newspapers from their home countries. Each morning, newspapers from around the world arrive by airplane and land in Ottawa. In turn, these newspapers are sent to the embassies, and to various convenience stores in downtown Ottawa. If you are lucky enough, at any given time, you can pick a newspaper from all the major countries around the world. Of course, it may be necessary to understand a language other than English or French, but you can, if you want, get a copy of any newspaper, printed in any language. It’s actually quite impressive.

Now, Ottawa is not a large city by Canadian standards. I believe while I was living there, the population was in the 3/4 million mark… if the other suburbs were added in, the population is just over a million. Compared to cities like Montreal or Toronto, Ottawa is a village!

So what happens to all this newsprint once the embassies, government, various other businesses, and individuals are finished with them? Way back when, they were thrown out, but now, recycled. What I remember, when recycling paper was just in its infancy, was watching a television program about five years later. It showcased the ‘recycling centre’ near Ottawa that handled all this paper (regular bond, newsprint, cardboard). It showed a rather large building, with bundle after bundle after bundle of paper waste. The problem back then, as with bottles, was that it was easier and sometimes cheaper for manufacturers and printers to just purchase new paper and bottles rather than reuse or recycle the old ones.

The process of cleaning, mashing up, remaking new paper, was just too expensive, compared to the raw, brand-new paper being produced. Therefore, the warehouse was filling up and up with bundles of paper every day, but no one to purchase it. Same as companies that used glass containers. It was easier and cheaper to just purchase brand new bottles, rather than clean and melt down and reform new containers.

I’m sure that in the almost 10 years I’ve been in Taiwan, things have changed. I hope the government, for the sake of the environment, has introduced legislation or increased the taxes levied on new materials, thus, forcing business to take an active role in helping to clean up our country.

I think about Taiwan. Yes, they do have a program for recycling. You can either wait for the recycle truck to come around, or if you prefer, you can cart your stuff to the various recycle areas and they will weigh it and give you cash. The program, in essence, is a good program. It forces people to separate their recyclables from their non-recyclables.

However, people here, are stupid! No one will reuse a cup, because of ‘germs’ or ‘it’s dirty’, so the idea of using a mug like you could purchase at Tim Horton’s for your coffee, is out of the question. I see people every day, with tea. There are literally thousands of tea shops in Tainan. Multiply that by all the other cities, and you can see that people drink a lot of tea. Okay, so we drink coffee. Big deal.

But these people, are idiots sometimes. The tea comes in a styrofoam cup. It has a piece of plastic wrap sealing the top. Then you get an INDIVIDUALLY wrapped straw, because, well, germs again. Then, I would easily say, 99% of the population wants it in a plastic bag. I was told by someone one time, was that the plastic bag keeps the condensation from dripping. Well, first off, not much condensation is produced on the outside of a styrofoam cup. Styrofoam is used as insulation, so it keeps the inside cold.

Now, I have begun to enjoy oolong tea. I like the flavour. However, I always say, NO BAG. I realize that this is only a ‘spit-in-the-ocean’, one person not asking for a bag, but I figure, there’s so much other waste associated with a 20nt cup of tea, that I don’t need to add to it by asking for a plastic bag.

I think that, since businesses that manufacture plastic bags and cups have been around for so long, that to do something like, NO BAG DAY, would drive some of them bankrupt. Peoples salaries are not at all comparable to North Americans, the cost to the consumer is not a lot, so to request the country to not take a bag with their tea for one day, would be such a blow, it would take a long time for the country to recover.

I try to keep my recyclables separate. I recycle all my paper from the computer. Any that is printed on one side only, I take back to one of my schools, and they reuse the other side for photocopies, or kids to draw on, or whatever. All the tin cans from my voracious kitty cats, is placed into a large bag. Once the bag is ‘full’ of tin cans, I set it outside, and some street person will grab it and cash it in. Okay, so I could do it myself, but then again, if someone else will do it for me, hey, they can have the money.

As far as plastics, well, I try as much as possible not to get this stuff. However, it is unavoidable at times. I do reuse plastic bags, and in fact, I keep them and use them as garbage bags, for the non-recyclable waste. I try my best to not leave too big a footprint on Taiwan.

In keeping with the ‘Earth Day’ theme, I don’t think that a program like this would be widely accepted in Taiwan. There is so much trash accumulated in this country, it almost boggles the mind. When I first moved here in 2002, we had garbage pick up twice a day. And that was everywhere. Then they shortened it to once a day. I ended up moving to an area, that due to garbage truck routes, we still ended up with garbage pickup twice a day. Now, I’m in an area where I have no idea when the garbage pickup is. I’m usually en route to work, or perhaps at work, when the garbage truck makes its rounds. So, I end up saving up my garbage, and about once every couple of months, a person is called to pick up the trash. I take it out front of my home, they come by early in the morning, and haul it off to the dump site – no charge to me. I’m sure they get a pittance for dropping the stuff off.

What happens to all this trash? Well, I have been told, that all the trash in Taiwan once collected and separated, is burned. The burning thus creates energy for the electrical grid in Taiwan. Okay, saying this is true, and I have no other reason to doubt it, then what about the air pollution caused by the burning? What about all the ash that left over? Sometimes, it’s better to just leave it alone. I can’t force my North American values on Asian cultures. That’s not what I’m here for nor hired to do. That is for the governments of the world to do.

I will, however, in my own little way, keep recycling, reusing, reducing…



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2 responses to “April 5, 2010

  1. I抳e already bookmark this article and will definitely refer this article to all my close friends and colleagues. Thanks for posting!

  2. I found your site via yahoo thanks for the post. I will bookmark it for future reference. Thanks

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