I belong to a generation that lived part of its life under communism. We are allergic to big, snoring words, programs and “actions”. It hurts me when I see how thousands and millions of euros are spent on useless projects, seminars and colloquiums dedicated to the protection of the environment, while the country groans under garbage.

Mirel BanikaPhoto: Personal archive

The streets are full of cars that choke us with their engines, from which catalytic converters have been removed, which in any case cost more than a whole

The streets are filled with cars that choke us with their de-catalyzed engines, which in any case cost more than all that. In addition, in the past we had environmental actions that were almost more effective than the current ones.

I cannot help but enthusiastically welcome certain purely ecological projects. But which, in pure Romanian style, start well and end badly

Yes, selling milk and yogurt in recyclable glass containers was more awkward as a commercial gesture and action, but much more “sustainable” (a new buzzword so trendy that we have stripped it of its meaning like a naive spider sucks a fly, that got into the net) than sterile communication focused on the need for recycling. One possible example. Therefore, I cannot help but rejoice and enthusiastically welcome certain purely ecological projects, massive ones. But which, in pure Romanian style, start well and end badly. Two examples for illustration.

Three or four years ago, around the beginning of the pandemic, in the area of ​​Bucharest where I live, white square metal boxes with a slot in the middle began to be installed on the steps of the block. Designed exclusively for the collection of paper and light cardboard waste.

The project was called Recicleta and belonged to an association called Viitor Plus, sponsored mostly by a large commercial distributor, a retailer, as it is called in the new Romanian language.

The residents of these huge buildings, called “apartment buildings”, were reluctant to accept them, they occupied only a fraction of the small space available on the steps of the blocks.

At first, the residents of these huge buildings, called “apartment buildings”, were reluctant to accept them, they occupied only a part of the small space available on the steps of the blocks. They also threw a greasy McDonald’s bag or pieces of plastic into the container. Over time, they entered everyday life, were used correctly, constantly. Even with some satisfaction, a rarity in the world of modern ecology, which tends to require sacrifice without offering tangible benefit in return.

They also had a small didactic function, grandparents and parents who taught their children to collect, stack and store the paper produced by the family to then go for recycling at the weekend. I think that some of those who read these lines will recognize themselves in what I say. Not to mention that these white cubes, ergonomically placed at the exit from the unit, “thinned out” some of the garbage thrown into the trash.

As anyone with a modicum of technical thinking is well aware, the cardboard and paper removed from the pile, collected in the jaws of the “dry fraction” machine, along with the various bags full of liquid residue, end up on a sorting belt (if they really run out, another sad story ) in a difficult condition not to reuse it and it’s a real shame about the lost potential.

Another advantage of the Recicleta is that it was… a bicycle, hence the clever play on words of the original name. More specifically, the on-demand evacuation of paper-filled bags is done by human-powered mechanical means, some very practical and “green” bicycles, in surrounding traffic and congestion.

The processors were welcomed and respected, they exchanged impressions, even spontaneous greetings on the street from passers-by

The processors were welcomed and respected, exchanged impressions, and even received spontaneous greetings from passers-by on the street. In other words, they brought a bit of social and community connection to a hostile city in dire need of something like that.

A trash can and its metal boxes disappeared from the neighborhood where I live earlier this month. I have written to the representatives of the Association that manages it, asking for an explanation of this sad loss. I quickly received a very well-written reply, which told me that the main sponsor of the campaign decided to shift the center of gravity to schools and secondary schools in the municipalities of Bucharest and Ilfov, to draw the attention of children and teenagers to the issue of ecology, etc., etc.

Behind the “pillar” and good intentions hides (I say this neither ironically nor critically) the desire of large companies to be present around future users and consumers as early as possible, even through such didactic and educational actions; an understandable, pro-business attitude that has its own logic, dozens of studies and special books have been written about it.

But I wonder, as a simple inhabitant of the complex city of Bucharest and as a citizen truly concerned about the fate of the planet, outside the official ecology of “current consumption”, as I said, why the sector’s town halls have not taken control and expanded this idea? I don’t think it’s that difficult to work out the logistics and structure needed to make this simple and reliable collection system work even better.

The same can be thought in the case of the spontaneous collection, “to the gene”, which now falls on the shoulders of heroes and heroines

The same can be thought of in the case of spontaneous collecting, “in the gene”, which now falls on the shoulders of heroes and heroines (again, I do not play with words) who wake up at night to take care of the common spaces of the building in which we live with honor and joy Poorly paid and often scorned, undeserved treatment for the important work they do.

Mini-containers, ergonomically designed by an industrial designer, are placed inside the garbage can, which will greatly facilitate both the desire and possibility of collection, as well as the life and work of the stairkeepers. Until a final solution is found, even this simple and modest initiative, I think, will make a big difference.

I would also like to talk about the recently introduced Guarantee-Return System, SGR, from a consumer and user perspective. A great chance, perhaps the last, to rid this country of the plastic pets that will soon suffocate us. At the moment, it seems that everything started from the left, for several reasons related to communication, implementation, technical. But about all this in the next article.

N. Red: Mirel Banika is a researcher in the field of anthropology of religions.