Once every week, I take out bags of used paper and glasses to the recycling point, five minute walk away from my flat. There are separate bins for paper and glasses waiting to be collected and made into a new form of usefulness.
I like that I can play my teeny tiny part to slow down the destruction of this planet. What I like even more is the thought that the glasses or paper grains are likely to be made into something else rather than rotting uselessly in a landfill. They would have a new life.
Back home in Vietnam, we don’t have recycle bins. Recycling has not yet been widely taken into account. Many people still need reminding to put their garbage into a bin instead of thoughtlessly littering on the street. I guess we have a long way to go in terms of centralised system and educated awareness towards recycling. There have however been forms of it since as long as I can remember.
When I was little, there used to be a communal bucket placed outside my house. Some farmers from some nearby village put it there to collect leftover food from the neighbourhood to feed a pig or two that they raised. After dinner, my mum would ask me to take any leftover out to spare in that bucket. Quite often I would find rats running away when I approached the bucket. I interrupted their feast, I guess. The rats might not know it when they ran away upon my footstep, but I was a scaredy cat. I tried to be brave when I said yes to helping mum clean up. The truth is I was scared of rats and the ill lit yard. To make it worse, the bucket always smelt rather bad. But as little as I was, I never refused to do it. I dislike waste more than rats.
When I was a school girl, I recycled paper in a more market-driven way. By the end of each summer, I would gather all my school notes that I took precious throughout the previous year, as well as old newspaper that I saved after Dad finished reading. For a whole day, I would wait patiently for a pass-by dong nat – someone who buy paper to resell it for money. I would get very little money from selling to them but feel very pleased. Mum always let me keep the money as well. More interestingly, breakfast snacks that Mum bought from the market, were often wrapped with used newspaper. It is totally unhygienic from today’s viewpoints, but the resource was scare in Vietnam in early 1990s. I actually liked seeing the used newspaper because, in my silly head, it could well be the paper that I sold. Life had extended to its next cycle.
I came home last year to stay in my old bedroom though I was no longer a little girl. I found notes from my undergrad years. They were full of economic principles and trading tactics. I found them so alien. 10 years has passed and I have done many things but followed those principles. So I spent an afternoon looking through them to make sure I didn’t miss out any love letters from the past. Then I packed those notes into a pile and waited for a dong nat. None passed by the whole day. According to Mum, the business was so small that hardly anyone find it worth doing now. They all turn into housekeepers or baby sitters instead. But a few days afterwards, Mum did manage to sell my old notes. She kept the money though. And I don’t think anyone can get away with using my notes for breakfast wraps now. In a way, everything has changed. Life in a new form – is that not what I like about recycling?