Eco Rant

Scotland’s shame

Last week one of my friends commented that recycling was the ‘new middle class obsession’. He wound me up after my passionate plea to use less packaged supermarket food and buy locally. I was horrified when others in the group joined him, saying that they had no trust in local governments and believed recycling was a big con because all the recycled items end up in the landfill anyway.

I once heard an influential broadcaster state on TV that she will begin to separate her cans and paper from the rubbish when China and India does something about their pollution.

It was reported last week in a Sunday paper that Scotland is one of Europe’s worst recyclers with 71% of our rubbish going to landfill. No wonder with attitudes like these from intelligent professional people.

Ten years ago I worked in Sweden and Denmark. There were no individual bins in the office. All rubbish was separated into recycling bins. When Swedes and Danes moved to work in Glasgow a few months later they could be found wandering the office floor with empty cans and plastic bottles wondering where to deposit them, they were mystified at our lax attitude towards the environment. 4% of Sweden and Denmark’s rubbish ends up in land fill.

Does no-one care! My efforts might be small but at least I am taking control of things I can contribute to saving our world. I can do little to change China, or India. If I could I would.

Check out the waste aware website to make a difference

Tale of two cultures

Biosphere, Montreal

Culture One

Even though I love the mountains, I also love cities. I love the buzz, the hotch-potch of smells wafting from competing restaurants, the clatter and honk of the traffic, the sirens and the expressions on people’s face as they go about their business. So it was a treat for me to end my holiday in Canada with a drop into two cities listed high on my ‘must visit’ wish list.

After we parted company from our trusty camper-van, we took The Ocean to Montreal. This is a sleeper train that leaves Halifax daily at midday and travels down the St Lawrence River to arrive in Montreal at 8.00am next morning. Unfortunately Canada is thick with trees, meaning the views in daylight are restricted and by the time the train reaches the St Lawrence night has descended. Never mind, the food in the dining car is adequate for a galley kitchen and the bunks are comfortable. Sleep came late however because the train rattles along at a hell of a speed and lurches like a fairground ride.

We spilled, disorientated, into streets filled with commuters. One lady stopped and pointed ‘you are here’ on our map and directed us to the best place to catch an early coffee.
In the café, above our heads, a TV blared morning news read in French. The waitress greeted us with ‘bonjour’. We soon discovered, back on the street, that French is the dominant language and culture. I fell in love with Montreal within minutes of arriving. The restaurant menus, the street signs, the toilet signs, all French. If it weren’t for the big trucks trundling along the roads I would have believed I was in France.

We headed for Old Montreal, by the river and found a boutique hotel, Auberge Bonsecours run by a very French matriarch, who dresses impeccably from head to foot in red and apricot. The bedrooms are furnished in red and apricot, even her dog is an apricot French poodle. And the breakfast she serves is a splendid feast of pate, spreads, cheese, ham and six or seven different varieties of bread (not forgetting the strawberry and apricot jams). What a wonderful way to start the day.

On our first evening we traipsed round the rejuvenate harbour area, dodging the ambush of restaurant staff trying to grab the trickle of custom in the dying days of the season. We settled for a French Restaurant ‘Forget’, which sat opposite our Auberge. The service was attentive and the caribou I ordered was lean and uncluttered.

The highlight of our second Montreal day was the Biosphere, a remnant of the ’67 Expo exhibition. Here we attended a passionate lecture on wind farms, geothermal energy and natural water treatment, all deliver by Veronique, who oozed zeal but was regrettably tinged with a little cynicism after all the knock back this kind of work receives. Keep up the good work Veronique, we will win in the end.

1 Comment

  1. God, so discouraging about recycling. In Halifax (and to a lesser extent in Lburg), the waste management was remarkable, at least on the part of the municipality. When I moved to Nova Scotia in 2000, there was already a compost program in place, and coupled with the recycling program, the city claimed to have diverted 70% of its waste from landfill.In practice, it was more discouraging. As you say, people are so lazy and unwilling to buy into new programs. At my university, no one could be bothered to sort their waste, so it was all thrown out together. At one of my apartments there was no compost bin provided. At a condo where I worked (48 units, at a guess), there was virtually no effort to compost OR recycle. They were so divorced from the process, they just threw everything into a dumpster in the basement.But I also lived in two smaller buildings where everyone took their responsibilities (and they are responsibilities) seriously. We’d carefully peruse the sheet to determine which plastics could be recycled and were careful to keep cardboard from getting wet so it could be recycled instead of composted.It really does all rest on the people. Government can only do so much.


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