Plastic plague 2. One-euro-job for ecology. Autumn 2013.

Everyone of us is aware of how package is increasingly filling up the world. I heard, there is even continent forming in pacific out of plastic. Rain separates plastic microparticles from trash laying on the ground and takes them to the groundwaters or river waters, then to the ocean, where they are slowly taking over the surface pushing plancton away. Ocean produces 70% of all the oxigen in the world, only then the rainforests and mangroves do the rest of the job. In the end, places with trash look just ugly.

I heard, that in africa people leave their trash just outside their houses. People in the north are of course “much more” civilized and environmental – they hide their trash away from themselves in the forests. In case of Latvia it is so:

First they clearcut the forest, then they create a deep sand career there, then there goes the trash on top of witch some clay is put. They probably think, clay protects water from trash or vice versa. Anyway I am glad, we have so much clay, that we can afford putting it into the trash instead of making strawbale house or some pottery. Some people probably find it pointless to pay for such trash management, and I must admit I can’t argue, so they simply follow the example and bring their trash to a nearby forests or just any forests, or sometimes just drop the bags out of their cars to the roadside.

The very first activity when somebody is moving to live in the country in Latvia is always collecting such garbage from newly-acquiered property. It is rediculous, because at this point person must do everything to get some production going, but you collect some trash instead.

Fortunately we have some national “big cleanup” event every spring, when population is provided with PP bags that afterwards can be given away for free in a parish center or sometimes even on your site, if the government car has to pass buy anyway. Later organizers sort the contents out, so you can save time and just stuff everything in a bag without bothering, what is plastic, what is glass. If you have been given enough bags of course. I must mention, that some people put old leaves in these bags, but organizers say, it was not so bad in 2013.

Anyway, it is much too little, to solve the problem, if people drop trash every day and collect it only one day. So I decided to collect it every time and everywhere I can. If I go to the town, I go by bike and take some empty bags with me. Sometimes you don’t need a bag, because bag is already there at the roadside with trash in it. But then I just started to get late everywhere. I hope God forgives me – I started to be late to the church as well. In the end I didn’t go at all, because I started to feel uncomfortable to show up in the midle of service and I also felt dirty both physically and emotionally. But nothing to do, that was my sacrifice.

Then I started to think, that I must put this trash collecting into some civilized frames, otherwise um just an ecobum. First I started to give glass bottles to local shops. It was a very heavy work, bottles often had to be washed and it would give me only euro or two for several hours of efforts. Then my connection to Estonia made me notice, that some of the bottles are marked with letters. It was a deposit system, that Estonians already have for some time, but Latvia is only thinking to start it in 2015 – a person can exchange even plastic and metal package for money. Closest taarautomaat (deposit machine) is 20 km away from my home and plastic and metal package are lightweight enough to be carried there by bike. I could easily carry two bags, that would give me up to 8 eur. The more small cola cans, the better.

Then since I am officially unemployed I must attend one-euro-jobs that give some 7 euro per day. Idea came to my mind, that I could propose municipality, that I travel around with my bike and collect trash at the roadsides and everywhere else, which is municipal property or responisbility. They were quite glad and provided me with some bags and for heavier loads even transportation by car, not to count, that unrecyclable stuff they gave away to official dump on their account.

After some time of thorough garbage picking in the parish centre settlement and roadsides I decided to pay more attention to one of illegal small dumps in the forest close to one of my properties. There was so much trash, that I spent most of the four month time there.

The formula of that trash site was mostly bags containing food leftovers and ash mixed with different package of alcohol, cigarettes and European foodpacks for the poor issued by local Red Cross. In one of the bags I found crotalia (marking earring of a cow) with all the data, which let me identify the place, where the trash could possibly come from. Latvian agriculture data agency database indicated the closest house, of course, but it still didn’t make sense, because there were quite desent people. Their neighbours however were some of the guys that robbed me. Them again… During these four months somebody managed to bring more bags while I was away. Of course, there probably were more people to leave trash there. There were some bags full of used pampers and I am not sure those guys have small children.

Once I was watching another documentary on 3sat, where they showed some ukrainian guy havin a job in Germany at Alba Group, that was similar to another thing that I did. There is a problem, that people trend to put everything they can and can’t into coloured containers for recyclable materials. Since that was disturbing my work, because I needed to put plastic bottles somwhere, but container was filled with, i.e., used pampers, so I started to take stuff out. I didn’t have the key for the box and was not much successfull. Anyway I somehow won enough space for PET bottles that I brought. I’d like to note, that these containers here belong to Alba 5, I guess they are members of mentioned Alba Group. But they definetly work differently.

One day one guy came and started to stuff another bag through the small bottle size hole. I came and started my usual lecture: “plastic here, paper…”, “… there! I know! I know!” interrupted the guy leaving me with no opportunity to tell the most improtant, that every thing has to be put separately, not in a bag. He went away, I took out his bag to look, what’s inside, and of course, he put package together with some fish in it. I remember one saying in russian and put some extra to it: “Рыба не мясо, но и не пластмасса”, (riba ne mjasa, no i ne plastmasa – fish is not meat, but also not plastic). Well, at least local cat was quite happy.

Strange weather with delayed winter made me think, that God was very much FOR my work. Normally it is impossible to collect trash if it is under the snow or frozen to the ground. Bicycleriding with loads is also difficult on snowy or icy road. Usually we get snow already in november, but this time was like never before. I am sorry for poor America of course. I guess they got all European snow on their shoulders. But they still can be happy, because it helped some weird guy to pick up plastic trash on the other side of the globe, making global waters potentially less polute. My one-euro-job term is over so snow may finally come.But  I will get another four months again. Hopefully during that big-cleanup event in 2014. Then I will make this cleanup really BIG.

There is a distant lake Lukumietis, that I though can never be reached by trashers. But one person at recycle containers told me, that this is the most polluted place in the region, if I am interested. People go to that nature rich place to pick berries, he said, they go by car and easily bring their trash along. “The deeper in the forest, the crazier,” he used some old local saying.

I also helped my disabled neighbour to carry some of his recyclable trash to containers, since I had to go to parish centre anyway and that road was already clean. He gave me his old bicycle for that. “I can’t use it anymore anyway,” said he.

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About Pavels Melnis

Independent ecology activist, family farmer, gardener and forestkeeper. Musician: violin, guitar, singing. Hobbies: traveling by bicycle, learning to play different music instruments - accordion, piano, recorder flute, harmonica, drums; languages, theology, prehistory, logbuilding, repairing and recycling. Religious. Ecological. Love all things ethnic and traditional.
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3 Responses to Plastic plague 2. One-euro-job for ecology. Autumn 2013.

  1. Pingback: Support removal of plastic pollution and other trash in forests of Aluksne region in Latvia | Pavels Melnis

  2. Well done, Pavel. You may only be one, but if the forest gets dirtier then people think it is even more acceptable to dump rubbish there. I hope you are able to turn the tide.

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