Postcards from the Edge

of Bangladesh

Feeling guilty

About rubbish. Actual throw-in-the-bin rubbish.

Rubbish collection and removal and/or recycling*, as concept, doesn’t really exist in Bangladesh. Or not as far as I can tell. In apartment buildings in Dhaka, you put your rubbish out on landing and in time, it disappears. Like magic. Ok, so someone obviously comes to collect it but I have no idea where it goes. Straight out onto the street in front of the apartment building, by the looks of things? Occasionally one does see a rubbish collection type cart thingy in the streets. Usually being pulled by a small child. Or an old women. But I can’t tell if the cart is for official, or personal use.

At any rate, rubbish collection certainly does not happen here in Rangamati. And most definitely not here in Moanoghar. It’s either swept into little piles and burnt. Or it is thrown down the nearest slope/hill, or even just outside the back door. So that it’s out of sight, but really not very far away. It’s the same in India. I remember being amazed at how much time and almost obsessive effort was spent sweeping leaves (you know, natural, makes-sense-for-them-to-be-there leaves) off a path way, while a casual look to the left reveals a veritable dumpsite of plastic and all other things non bio-degradable. But it was the LEAVES that bothered people. Just. Did. Not. Get. It. And it’s the same here. But I do wonder who we’d all manage in the real world without council/municipal rubbish collection. We get through WAY more trash in the real world, with all the packaging and ready made products. Witness England during a bin man strike. NOT pleasant.

I just can’t do it though, randomly scatter rubbish outside my house. Sure, tea bags and veggie peels etc, no problem (one of the many ‘not even started’ ideas I had when I arrived here was to set up composting heaps for such things). But with plastic, no. It’ll be here waaaaay longer than I will. Not the legacy I want to leave.

So I squirrel away my plastic, and save it for a rainy day. Which means I have little bags and piles of plastic in various places around my house. A very 2010 interior decor look. With the plan that I’ll take into ‘town’ one day and deposit it there. Somewhere.

Last night was my first plastic run. Carried one bag of plastic bottles with me to the market. Bins don’t exist here, so I umm’ed and aah’ed about where to dump my plastic. Because I’m hardly inconspicuous in the market, if I just kinda dropped it while walking or left it somewhere (for you know, the rubbish fairies to collect) , someone would run after me to return it. So there I am, lurking around, looking for the perfect place to dump my stash, when I see someone from work. Who insists I share a baby taxi home with them. At that point there was NO way I could dump my stash and run. The questions. The confusion. The disbelieve. It would have all been too much. So I ended up back home, WITH my bag of plastic. FAIL.


Must try harder.

* While recycling doesn’t exist, re-use it massive here. For example, at the end of the year, the students school notebooks and textbooks (apparently the textbooks change annually/very often here in Bangladesh…WTF) are sold, by the kilogram (10 taka per kg). These are then made into little stapled paper baggies that are sold to shops/market people who use them to sell for example fruit in, or road side snacks etc. Or as napkins in these little road side shops. So now I’m used to wiping my hands of pages of maths textbooks and on pages of hand-written English essays.

PS Plastic bags are officially banned in Bangladesh, unless there is no other option. So you don’t find plastic bags any in Dhaka (except the road side shop I buy my breakfast dhal in…), but unfortunately here in Rangamati there are still quite a lot of plastic bags. Way less than say England, but plastic bags none the less.

PPS Yes, I know that rubbish in the real world actually just ends up at the kitchen door (metaphorically speaking) of someone else further down the economic food chain. Besides the odd bit of recycling, none of our rubbish in the real world disappears either. It’s buried, piled high or sometimes even shipped to 3rd world countries and dumped there. Think about it. It’s disgusting. Have you SEEN WALL-E??



  clive wrote @

I once saw a school text book which told children to respect crows because of the good they do in turning rubbish into shit (perhaps not in those exact words… )

BTW, kids’ text books are often ‘interactive’ (can’t think this morning) – they expect answers to be written in them. I would imagine that works better when it comes to revising than having a separate exercise book for answers. Solves your WTF?

  estellevisagie wrote @

A good point, Clive, a good point. But in another, related WTF, I do think the Bangladeshi curriculum does change with changes in ruling parties. Especially history textbooks as both major parties are bent on etching their founders’ names into the history books. With a change in government, there is a corresponding change of school textbooks, bank notes, national holidays, and even airport names. Sigh.

  clive wrote @

I guess it keeps people employed 🙂 Confused, too!

My rubbish fairy is the grandmother next door. She sorts through everything – even bags inside bags inside bags (don’t ask!). So when she feeds me something inedible I have the problem of how to dispose of it. Before now I’ve dropped it on my walk to work, washed the guts out of it and mashed it down the drain, fed it to goats or put it in someone else’s bin.

But plastic. BIG problem.
I try to avoid bottles but have ended up with a pile from other people (thanks ever so much guys!). There’s a place up the road which distributes bottled water and I plan to throw the empties over their wall one dark night. But it’ll likely come back to haunt me in the form of a stinky, smoky, smouldering cineration 😦

  estellevisagie wrote @

Ha ha ha! That seriously made me laugh out loud (no, I simply cannot make myself say ‘lol’). I’m the same with the food my neighbour feeds me. Most of it lovely, some of it not so lovely. So sometimes I have to try surreptitiously throw some away on my out-of-kitchen-door-rubbish-slope. But that also happens to be THEIR out-of-kitchen-door-rubbish-slope. Some times it involves midnight dumping, some times the mashed beyond recognition technique, and other times it languishes in my fridge so long that it changes colour so many times it’s no longer recognisable. It gets complicated, doesn’t it. So nice to know I’m not the only one faced with such complex, covert, ‘by the light of the moon’ rubbish disposal dilemmas.

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