Posts Tagged ‘Household waste’

Belated newsflash

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Stockholm trash collector’s wildcat strike is over, as of yesterday morning (sorry, haven’t had time to blog the news). But there is a but! Although the battle-axe has been buried after a meeting between workers and the new (hated) entrepeneur, an agreement hasn’t been finalized, and things are still a bit shaky. For now, we can only idly watch things unfold.

For myself, the 4-day strike gave a good opportunity to look at my own trash. What happens if I can’t take it out? The result has proven not to be very scandlous. I went from a bag filled about 20% to a bag filled about 40%. And this while taking at least two daily cooked meals at the house. No diapers, no food thrown away, no filling the trash with recyclables such as metal cans or paper. Living by yourself seems to be helpful in trash flow control.

(More drama happened in the house though! A new note appeared next to the first one, that had announced special trash bags would be placed in the trash room. The new note stated how revolting it was that these bags had now been stolen. Although it felt wrong, I did have a good laugh over this.)

Then again, more resources are used per capita for heating (we have Winter I kid you not) when people live by themselves, not to mention the multiplied numbers of furniture, bed fabric, houses and all that stuff that makes our lives so Modern. It’s a bit like cars really. Which incidentally reminds me of this terrible episode of Oprah when people were advised to save the planet by keeping reusable bags for groceries in your car, instead of discussing the debatable strategy of going shopping with your car. Crazy.

Interview with Mattias Hagberg

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Followers of this blog perhaps recall this post about the book Skräp (“skräp” being Swedish for “garbage”) from November. Today we are proud to present an interview with the author, Mattias Hagberg.

Mattias Hagberg, journalist resident in Sweden's second city Gothenburg, author of Skräp

Mattias Hagberg, journalist resident in Sweden's second city Gothenburg, author of Skräp

Before we start, a little recap: Skräp is a book about garbage, in which Mattias Hagberg starts off with discontinuing the routine of taking out his family’s trash. Instead, he hides their fully loaded plastic garbage bags under the sink. This soon becomes a ridiculous exercise, and Mattias proceeds his experiment in a secret room in the cellar of the house, keeping neighbours using the cellar unaware. However, Mattias quickly understands the practical limitations of this project, and gasping for breath moves his horribly stinking trash collection (only a few days old) to the garbage container room.

Back in his apartment, Mattias Hagberg ponders over where his trash actually will be going, now that it’s out of his experiment and back into the system. Since the early 90’s, Sweden’s had an idea of system called “The Nature’s Cycle”, an idea based on the notion that our garbage can and should be recycled, i.e. return to the Nature’s Cycle. Much like Mufasa teaches his son Simba about how lions die and turn to grass, eaten by anthelopes, in the Disney blockbuster The Lion King.

Skräp, the book

Skräp, the book

Mattias Hagberg soon discovers that trash isn’t much of a happy circle-of-life story. Instead, he gives a thrilling tale about the cash in trash, how “recycling” still produces tonnes and tonnes of toxic waste and how our electronic waste ends up in slum quarters in Ghana and China, in a chain starting at your local recycling depot, going through multi-national corporations, to the mafia.

Hello Mattias Hagberg, how are you, what’s up?

– Doing alright thanks, slight headcold, other than that fine. Working on what feels like a gazillion of projects. I think most relevant for your readers is an article about the Swedish auto industry, with the angle that the point is not to save this industry, but understand that the whole system of autoism is in crisis. That constructing and buying new cars simply won’t do.

Cewl, looking forward to reading it! So, why did you decide to write a book about garbage?

– The idea was actually my editor’s. At first I was scpetic, it all felt very technical, I didn’t really know anything about garbage, had this vague idea about the recycling system working smoothly. Then I did the experiment, stopped taking out the trash, an experiment you know proved do be quite stupid. But it inspired me to take things to the next level. I realised that while we have a functioning recycling system, that system doesn’t recycle everything, far from it. And the system is suffering from the fact that we keep producing increasingly more waste. As everyday citizens however, we have a veil above our eyes for this fact, we are never confronted with the real problem: That we buy a flat screen TV when our old TV works quite well.

Which  part of the work surprised you the most?

– The insane amount of garbage each of us produce in one year. Several hundrered pounds! In the average family, about 20-25% of this garbage is food, that is most often perfectly edible! I was also intrigued by how fooled we are that there is a connection between “recycle” and “close”, how we pervive recycling to be this story about a process in harmony with nature. It’s a global industry, run by multinational enterprise. To me, it resembles the middle-age trade in letters of indulgence. For example, when garbage is burned, energy is produced that heats houses, and filters keeps the smoke clean, but the toxic remains after burning, and the poisons caught in the filter, still remains, and needs to be kept somewhere.

How has this changed your relationship to garbage?

– I think that deep down, we are all aware of that more consumption is just foolish, but we ignore this and continues to buy. For myself, of course the work with the book has effected what I buy and what I do with it, but at the same time I’m a bit fed up with the individualist perspective. We must focus more on the systemic errors of our culture, bring the debate from the behaviour of people to the behaviour of enterprise. Right now we have no debate, and we know that the resources of this earth will end. The garbage system of today is something we really need to adress, together.

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