So here in Paraguay they try with recycling…err, somewhat. At the office we have two different trash bins. One is for trash that can be composted, (orange peels, pasta, tea, apple cores, etc) and one is for non-compostable goods, (styrofoam take out dishes, plastic, etc.) We separate this out because we care. Unfortunately, all of the trash leaves the office in the same bag…regardless of the time we take to separate it out. Whether this is a fault of the country and it’s lack of appropriate resources, or this is the lack of knowledge of the women who clean the office who don’t realize the difference, I don’t know. I’m not sure where the ignorance lies, but I do know that I was quite impressed at the Expo to see TIGO, (a huge telephone company here in Paraguay,) had bins in front of their storefront labeled “Plastic” “Glass” “Metals” “Paper” It was the first of its kind that I had seen in Paraguay, so of course I took a photo.
Despite these color-coded bins screaming out for recyclable goods, on closer inspection we discovered plastic in the paper bin, and even more disturbing was the woman cleaning the grounds putting whatever trash she found on the grounds within whichever bin was empty. I went over to her and suggested, “This bin is only for Plastic,” to which she looked admonished and a bit confused, as I guess one would if this were either a new concept or if you were unable to read what was written on the bin…still unsure of the culprit here.
I guess it is slow going for a country where so few are conscious of the environmental repercussions of their actions. While walking near the horses at the Expo, I watched a kid throw his bottle on the ground and continue walking. I yelled to him, “Why did you do that? Pick up the bottle and put it in the trash.” He looked at me, probably more surprised than anything, and said, “Oh, okay,” to which he threw the bottle into the trash receptacle a mere 5 feet away from his initial dump. It just displayed a complete lack of caring and awareness of the true problems of dumping garbage wherever you want.
To further intensify this problem, in my first days here I was told about the system of “recycling” in Asunción. There are “Trash People” who are quite literally people who live in the trash. Apparently the dump for the city and surrounding towns lives at the bottom of a hill, along with this group of people. It is their job to separate out the trash and the recycling that enters their dump. Whether they actually do this, or where the recycled goods go, I have no clue, but it is well known that this “system” exists. In the past, the government has tried to implement better systems of recycling where each person can take responsibility for their own garbage and recycling, and the trash people have protested since they would be left without work. I think this is a particularly biased way to look at the situation, as I am sure there are many Asunceños (as people from Asunción are called,) who do hope for a better and more conscious future, however the overwhelming evidence lies in the lack of organized recycling to raise social responsibility and raise people’s awareness of caring for their homes, cities, and planet.
I am lucky to work in an office focused on preservation of the plant and her natural resources. For the launch of this water campaign we just had, Laura pointed out that the pamphlets should be printed on recycled paper, since we have no idea if the paper will actually be recycled once it leaves our hands so we can at least ensure that we are not producing additional waste, (unfortunately the agency did not follow through on this request.) Also, Laura has recently been looking into companies that exist in Asunción who would be able to help us eliminate, (or at the very least lessen,) our garbage output. Little steps like these might help spread the word a little further out from WWF on the benefits of “reducing, reusing, and recycling”…one can hope!