One of my pet peeves about Japan is the trash (garbage, rubbish, junk, "pilau" in Hawaiian). For starters, they over-package everything here. I mean, why is there a cellophane bag around the bananas? Bananas come with a wonderful biodregradable wrapper on each and every one right off the tree. Apples here come in cardboard trays with individual foam netting around them. Give me a break! Japanese apples have no flavor to start with (they've never tasted one from Washington State I guess), even Fuji apples from New Zealand taste better. Japanese apples cost a fortune and are loaded with pesticides, so what's the big deal with the packaging? Could it be to justify the absurd prices? That and the fact that Japanese consumers want blemish free produce, even if it is poisonous. Go figure. Or how about the cookies which come in what would be a one pound package in the USA, but contain only half as many cookies, if that, each individually wrapped?
Then there's the bottled water/canned soda/coffee/beer machines on every street corner syndrome. Not only do they add to the rubbish equation, the machines use up energy and the refrigerated ones contribute to global warming with CFCs. Wouldn't a simple drinking fountain do? Fast food (sic) restaurants and convenience stores produce more than their share of trash (or rubbish for you British folks) as well. Add it all up and you have a country with the most incinerators in the world (even with the small population) and perhaps record amounts of trash along the roads.
OK, let me say right here that this is not intended as a rant about Japan. I could think of far more important topics if I wanted to do that, and frankly as someone who holds a USA passport (at least for now) I find it difficult to point fingers at other countries these days. This is just day to day kine stuff. But, even so, what to do? "Ah well, that's the way it is, just live with it" is one way of seeing it, and for a year or so I have done so. But I'm not a "just live with it" kind of person.
Last week I was reading the Bula Fiji blog about the problem of rubbish on public beaches in Suva, Fiji. I chipped in with my comments that in Hawaii, groups of people - businesses, churches, temples, community associations, etc. - "adopt" a highway, and that section of the road is posted with their name. Every so many months, they go out and clean up the litter with bright orange bags and the County of Maui comes by and picks it up to take to the land fill. It is a never ending job, of course, but at least for a while the roadways look clean. I like the story of a Maui motorist who threw a cigarette butt out his window in front of the mayor of the time, Hannibal Tavares, who was driving behind him. Oops! Mayor Tavaraes followed the man until he stopped, then made a citizen's arrest for littering. I loved it.
So the other day, while walking Momo (or was Momo walking me?, I forget which it was) I saw a beer can in the same place it had been for the last four months - not on a highway mind you, but on a street in my little village neighborhood - and it irritated me, to put it politely. Like the nail under the dog you read about on Robin's blog recently. Something in me clicked and I thought, "If not now, when? If not me, who?"
So, I have "adopted" my Momo-walking routes in our neighborhood. I carry two plastic bags with me. I've always carried one anyway for Momo's waste that goes into the "burnable" trash, and now I carry a second one for "non-burnables" such as metal cans, bottles, etc. As we walk I wear a plastic glove and pick up any rubbish we come across and put into the appropriate bag. I was astounded at how much there was the first time I did that! We take different routes each walk, so I pick up different areas each time.
The burnable trash gets picked up from a neighborhood bin twice a week. The non-burnable (which ends up in a land fill) gets picked up once a week. Bottles and cans and some other things we could recycle, but most of what I pick up is too dirty or broken to prepare for that.
People who throw things from their cars haven't changed their habits yet of course, but the amount I have to deal with each time gets less and less, my little neighborhood is cleaner, and I'm happier. I'm thinking of putting up a few anti-litter signs too.
I can't change the world, so I'll try to focus on what I can change. By the way, if you happen to pass through my neighborhood, wave if you see us, and beware that if you litter, something bad may "inexplicably" happen to you or your car!
So if there is something bugging you, think about what you might do to tackle the problem yourself, and join "Momo's Brigade". Who knows? We might make a whole lot of things better.