Saturday, May 2, 2009

Three really tough R’s

Reducing, re-using and re-cycling, is hard, time-consuming work. And it can generate a lot of heat, since all the hot air generated by the shouting and screaming is adding to the glaciers melting at the poles. Which raises the levels of the oceans, changes regular currents, adds to the eddies around the River Princess and knocks off large areas of Candolim’s once-lovely beach. That’s what I tell the Man Of The House hereinafter referred to as MOTH when he yells at me, the Sweet Lady Of The House hereinafter referred to as SLOTH.

Much before Panjim’s Chaka-Chak campaign the MOTH was ruthlessly supervising the segregation of waste at source. Designer plastic bags were kept under a mattress for when the kids wanted to look high-maintenance while carrying assignments etc to school. Plain plastic bags were washed properly, dried and stored for re-use. Milk packets were washed, dried and returned to the milk booth to get a half-litre of milk free for a hundred bags. Large plastic bags containing rice, sugar, flour, etc were returned to the grocer who first looked puzzled and then pleased.

Bottles were washed, dried and kept for the Lamani woman who was stabbed in the belly by her drunken husband and lived to tell the tale and show off her scars. Newspapers were also sold to her. Old clothes and shoes that were outgrown but in good condition were dropped off at the Missionaries of Charity at St Inez. Those clothes that one was embarrassed to give away because they were too shabby were turned into dusters. Once the dusters turned into rags they were used as oil cloths for cleaning the vehicle and then burned. All this before the segregation at source in Panjim.

Food waste like vegetable trimmings, fruit peels etc went into the public bin before the CCP removed it and had door-to-door collection. Meat trimmings went to the stray dogs outside and fish waste should have gone to the stray cats, but the MOTH hates cats and issued a diktat that we had to use the fish waste for fertilizer. The fertilizer idea was not a good one. The children were convinced we were trying to kill them with the smell. The SLOTH hit on the bright idea of boiling the waste and grinding it in the mixer then adding it to the plants. It acted like steroids on a weightlifter, the roses looked like dahlias and then like steroids, it killed all our plants. So the fish waste went into the public bin.

Now with the door-to-door collection, we have a tiny amount of biodegradable waste collected every day and a small amount of non-biodegradable waste picked up on Mondays and Thursdays. That should be that for our contribution to keeping the planet safe, but no, there’s more.

Since CCP has no landfill site we have not retiled our sad cement mosaic floor in our otherwise beautiful flat. The MOTH does not want to add to the piles of construction rubble all over the highway. Ants had eaten away at the masonry of our almost 50-year-old bridge-type staircase leading to our front door, we had to re-plaster and tile the bridge. So we used mosaic made out of broken coloured glazed tiles. To the MOTH it was re-cycling and a clever, artistic use of waste, to the SLOTH who wanted a terracotta look, it looked gaudy. To a fancy relative of ours who lives in The Foreign, it looked like the work of Gaudi. I thought she said ‘gaudy’ with an accent but she meant Antoni Gaudi the Catalan architect. The only problem with the mosaic bridge is that the stray dogs still pad up and down to be fed and as such the bridge which has a lot of cream coloured tiles has to be washed regularly. So the MOTH will not waste water and uses the soapy water from the semi-automatic washing machine to wash the bridge, then the clean rinse water to wash the soap off. We wash clothes twice a week and the bridge gets a soap and water treatment likewise.

As the SLOTH I would find it so much easier to use a hose and tap water to wash the bridge. In the blink of an eye I would throw all the plastic bags and containers away. It would be child’s play to throw the trimming away instead of cooking it for the stray dogs who now consider us part of their family. But the MOTH keeps me in line. Reducing, reusing, recycling. These three R’s are tough. This planet owes us big.

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