Sing along! “This is my landfill / this is your landfill”

(With apologies to Woodie Guthrie for the adaptation of his song lyrics in my title)

When in doubt, just trash it – that seems to be the way it’s done. I’ve found the day to day waste I’ve witnessed in the USA one of the hardest things to get used to. Actually, I’m not sure I should get used to it.

The one environmentally friendly thing I've noticed so far, which strikes me as window dressing in the light of how little effort is made elsewhere. By the way, motel towels in America come standard with at least one weave hair. Never human hair. If you don't receive yours, please ask at the front desk and someone will be happy to assist you.

Every morning at breakfast at Howard Johnson Express, Orange, the 50-odd guests would each use at least one polystyrene cup, one polystyrene bowl, one plastic spoon, one plastic knife, as well as a second cup (for juice), and a plate, for toast. Each branch of the motel chain throws away in one morning what I recycled in two weeks in South Africa. I bought my own mug and started taking it down, drawing curious stares from the other guests. Lucky I don’t work undercover for the F.B.I.

Consume your froot loops, toss the bowel. Try not to confuse the food with the packaging, as they do taste similar.

Starbucks smugly offers recycled cups for coffee, sometimes, but not for iced coffees, and nothing is ever, god forbid, ever served in anything “re-usable”. Recycling is good, when it’s the only option. It’s also very wasteful when you could just wash up. And everything from coffee to orange juice to a sandwhich tastes better on a real plate, or in real cup.

Luckily I’ve found a place down the road from college, called Chapman Cafe, that doesn’t have aircon but does have free wifi, and will serve you in a ceramic mug, if you request one. They also have day-old muffins for $1 that taste pretty damn fresh.

Then I found an apartment… a great one, at a good price (the reason for the good price, as it turns out is that it’s near the railway line and the sound of cars being shunted sounds like fireworks / small war every night from 8-10pm, but it doesn’t bother me!) I sort of assumed they’d recycle there. But when I asked about it, they were guiltily defensive.

“Um, no, we don’t do that here.” The lady said. “You’re allowed to” she added generously – there are a lot of rules in my block – “But you have to store it in your flat, and out of site from the community. Or maybe in your garage?” Thanks…

It takes a lot of mess and pollution to keep a place as clean and tidy as this is. The block managers were not receptive to my suggestion that we add some bins and get someone to collect the stuff once a week.


So, there’s just one huge dumpster, and everything goes in it. I’ve started storing up cardboard and plastics, but have no idea where to take it yet. What I have already is enough to fill all the bins laid out at the local Target. I miss Woolworths, for the organic range, too. Many shops here don’t even pretend to have free range meat or organic vegetables. Trader Joe’s has less of that than the average Pick N Pay in Cape Town. It’s so WEIRD and unexpected. Every time I eat a takeaway in a moment of weakness, I regret it for days. Perhaps you just have to get used to the hormones, like you get used to the weird tap water in Mozambique?

To make up, I bought a bicycle… but what I really want is a Ford Mustang. A filthy, gorgeous, wasteful, 30th Anniversary Edition Ford Mustang, with a spoiler, like this one. Yeah. Who am I to talk, with my craving for classic cars and my love of wine grown on land that should be used for farming food? But a sense of perspective never stopped me before – why clam up now?

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