Thursday, 27 August 2009

Where does all the rubbish go?

I often wonder if the Turks invented recycling. It appears to be second nature to them to find a good use for things that would normally end up in the rubbish bin.

In most gardens or balconies you will see flowers planted in old cooking-oil cans instead of flower pots. These large cans are also sliced in half diagonally..attached to a broom handle, and together with a brush made from twigs, used by the street-sweepers to pick up rubbish.

Plastic carrier bags are used as bin liners. In fact they must be used for all sorts of other things as I've yet to discover, because it's not unusual to see them washed and hanging out on the line to dry. I've seen children tie plastic bags to a piece of string and use them as makeshift kites on a windy day.

There is not an excess of packaging of goods here, unlike other countries. We don't have a lot of ready meals. Most food is prepared from scratch. Any packaging that exists will be put to good use once it's empty. For example, the Nutella-type chocolate spread here comes in a glass jar with a plastic lid. The empty jar is used for storage...or in the case of one of my a drinking vessel. She has a set of them now which she uses for tea or coffee. I know this to be true because the remains of the label could still be seen on one that she was drinking from the other day.

In most towns and cities, rubbish collection is very efficient. There are large wheely bins dotted along the streets, which are emptied by the rubbish trucks every day. There is very little thrown in these bins in the way of waste food. There is very little in the way of food wastage at all. The Turks generally can't afford to waste food. What little there is leftover, is usually placed on the ground beside the bin for the stray cats and dogs. Although the cats also jump in to the bins to scavenge. It's not unusual to be startled by half a dozen cats jumping out of the bin just as you are disposing of your rubbish.

Any plastic bottles and cans that find there way into the bins are usually removed by men (and sometimes women) who collect them up in their small hand-made carts. I assume they make money out of this...although I've never asked anyone where it all ends up.

You may sometimes see bags of old and unwanted clothes and household items sitting next to the bins. It's not considered the done thing to give your unwanted items to those in desperate need. The Turks are a proud race and don't like to be seen accepting charity. So they are left by the bins for anyone who needs them and usually disappear during the night.

When we moved to this village three months ago, one of the first things I noticed was that there were no rubbish bins to be seen anywhere....and no trucks ever call to collect rubbish. But I have to put my rubbish somewhere, so I bought a large plastic dustbin with a lid and placed it outside the gate. It has attracted some attention...people stare at it when they walk past..some even lift the lid to see what's inside. So as well as being the only people with a toilet inside the house, we are now the only ones with a dustbin.

So where does everyone else's rubbish go? I don't know where they store it, but every so often they will light a bonfire and burn it. As Mr Ayak is away, I've avoided doing this. I'm not good with bonfires. They have a habit of getting out of control and I don't want to risk burning the house down. Therefore, I've managed to find some large plastic refuse sacks, and everytime Mr Ayak manages to pop home for a night, he sets off the next morning with a couple of large sacks (the last time on a motorbike which was quite difficult) and drives 5 km out to the main road to find a bin in which to dispose of them.

It's not an entirely satisfactory arrangement as far as I am concerned, but I'll have to get used to it. These people have managed their rubbish for centuries...who am I to change it?


  1. Oh that is quite amazing Ayak, to think they use everything, and have a place for everything.

    Thinking about the Nutella jars, why not use them to drink coffee or tea, they are as good as anything.

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  3. Hi Ayak - some very interesting ideas there! We use all kinds of jars, as well, to store stuff. Sometimes I buy yoghourt that is sold in little glass jars, which I wash and use to serve jell-O or pudding, they always come in handy, and especially at the kids' parties, where we started out by using plastic cups, and soon realised what a waste that was, and expensive, too.
    I also re-fill small and medium plastic bottles as often as possible, from a large container, so I have to buy less new bottles.
    There used to be a very Portuguese tradition: the bread bag. Every home had a textile bag where the bread used to be transported in. You'd take the bread bag along whenever you went to the baker. Nowadays, bread comes in plastic bags, either pre-packaged, or the baker places your bread in one, which he supplies. Can you imagine how much plastic could be spared if we did the simple gesture of using textile bags, whenever possible?
    I have a large textile bag which I use every day to bring the bread and the fruit home, that I need to buy every day. I basically spare one plastic bag every day.
    The Turks probably do this out of need, as they cannot afford to buy new things - but the fact is, the concept beneath re-using everything that we can re-use, for as long as possible, is more modern than ever.

  4. Ann: Yes the nutella jars are actually quite pretty empty (minus the label!). I use them for odds and ends.

    Astro: I like the fabric bag idea. Its actually reminded me that Turkish women hardly ever use handbags or purses. There are some shoe shops that sell their shoes in small fabric bags. These get used instead of handbags or purses. I too have a large fabric bag that I use for shopping to avoid plastic bags. I also have a cupboard full of yoghurt pots, icecream cartons, etc, which are ideal for freezing food.

    Mr Ayak only gets home about once a fortnight. If I was in the UK I would imagine my bin would be overflowing and smelly. But it's not because I've got used to disposing of so little these days.

  5. Oh and I forgot to mention empt coca-cola bottles...these are washed and used by the olive growers for selling their oil in the market. And also for fresh milk straight from the cow.

  6. This is a recycling household...there isn't much food waste, but what there is goes down the food chain to the poultry. Glass jars get re used for packing things like the basil leaves in olive oil, open packs of spices, jams and chutneys.
    Plastic bags are bin liners....but I can't do much about the packaging modern commerce seems to think essential.
    What gets me is the local dump - or recycling centre. Bins and skips for everything, a dictator in overalls who won't help unload, mad fools loading the place with their garden waste rather than composting it, and the travelling people waiting to seize on anything vaguely convertible into money. We have to pay for the inconvenience of driving there to dump stuff, and they are the only ones who make anything out of it.

  7. I always love seeing those empty cans turned into flowerpots. They are everywhere you turn in Turkey.

    Gosh those villagers would have a field day if they looked into a British dustbin. I think Britain tops every nation when it comes to packaging. Just look at a pre-packeged meal from Marks & Spencers. I´m always amazed about the amount of rubbish that it creates.

    I guess the only negative is the burning of rubbish.

  8. Amag: Yes the burning of the rubbish bothers me a bit but it's not an every day occurrence fortunately.

    Mel: Thank you xxx

  9. Well this is just too familiar! We never throw out cans or bottles or containers either and reuse them, sometimes again and again. In the east, they just don't have an idea about the concept of disposability. We have 'kabariwalas' here, who for a small amount will buy your old household rubbish and they even take old papers and magazines & make paper bags out of them. As for me, I'd just leave them outside the gate and let them be taken away for free, but my people at home will bargain away for a better price and enjoy every minute!

    Ayak, thanks for your lovely comment a few minutes back. I've missed you. I've promised myself I'll take an hour out over the weekend and have a great time catching up on your posts; I find so much in common with the things you write - and thanks for awarding me back!! Love, gael...

  10. Fly: It doesn't sound like your visits to the dump actually give you the encouragement and incentive to recycle. Bit of a nightmare?

    Gael: Thanks for your kind words. don't worry about trying to catch up here...I'm not going anywhere..take your time. It's been a difficult week for you, but the worst seems to be over...thank goodness ((xx))

  11. Well, we just do our own thing and only go down to the dump when strictly necessary - it is just too depressing.


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