Garbage

One of the most unique things about Taiwan is its garbage.

Or rather, its garbage collection (although I’m sure you’d find some pretty funky stuff in its garbage too).

First, there is the Maiden Call (9:30pm on the button in my neighborhood):

(I take no credit for the production of that video, but it was masterfully executed :) )

…Then, the garbage minions duly arrive.

Garbage collection time is social time. People wait around with their bags of trash until the big yellow truck comes, chuck their blue bags in the back of the truck, and then go on their merry ways.

You must separate plastic bottles from other plastic, cardboard, paper, and your old rotting foodstuffs. This is all highly confusing to the wee foreigner even after a year’s time, but the friendly recyclables collection men are always there to help.

The compost bins.

I have to say, as annoying as it is in many ways (ie: the awful tinny music that is everywhere to be heard around the entire island of Taiwan; the mysterious dearth of public trash bins around the city; the fact that I’m roused out of my room on the 6th floor with no elevator at 9:30 at night; the fact that I *ewww* have to touch my trash), the system works and it really makes you conscious of the waste you produce every day. Back home in the US, it is very easy to be blind to all of the crap I throw out–and usually not separated in to the proper bin either; just throw it in the trash bag, put it on the side of the road and–like magic!–it’s gone! The recycling system Taiwan has managed to implement is really remarkable. When there is a trash bin to be found, there is usually a recycling bin right next to it. All of the waste bins on my university’s campus are separated into four different types, with only one actual “trash” bin. Taiwan also charges a small fee for every plastic bag used in grocery stores, convenient stores, etc. In addition, there are also special blue garbage bags I have to purchase in order to be able to throw out my trash (no charge on recyclable products).

I’m not sure if a similar system could work in the US, but small things–like a tax on plastic bags (which some places have already implemented) or a tax on garbage bags (but not recyclables) could perhaps go a long way.

***UPDATE: Taiwan’s garbage made it to the NYTimes!************

About Danielle Sleeper
Passionate about facilitating international cross-cultural exchange, enabling others to effectively communicate and understand the world.

3 Responses to Garbage

  1. That’s one of the things that gave me headaches in the beginning. It’s certainly raising one’s conscious of the waste you produce, but it’s doing this in a very brutal way, haha. I remember I was few days in Taipei (actually I stayed in Xinzhuang) and my girlfriend and I went to the cinema and I said let’s grab the trash and throw it on the way. She said there are no trash bins. I said, what? Come on. I’m sure there are some… well, there weren’t. We walked and walked and nowhere any bins. That’s where I realized I need to take special care of the garbage. Slowly I adapted, but my heart doesn’t support this system, I’m not a fan of it. And sometimes I walked to the MRT station and the garbage truck drove slowly beside me with the immensely loud “Per Elise”… That was annoying, too. I guess I’ll never hear the beauty of that classic masterpiece again, I will always connect it with garbage :P But well, that’s Taiwan. And I read somewhere that the mayor of Taipei said they have the best waste collection system in the world. I’m not sure about that. Some parts around Taipei are not the cleanest, besides there’s a lot of noise and air pollution produced with these trucks.

  2. Ah, I commented a long one, but seems it wasn’t published. A pity.

    • ds8607a says:

      Hey Kafka-
      Sorry about that. For some reason WordPress filed your comments into my Spam folder.
      Totally agree with you; I don’t think I’ll ever manage to discover the beauty of Fur Elise or the Maiden Call ever again. It reminds of me a bad cell phone ring tone, which are also quite prevalent around here. The garbage system is annoying in more than ways than one. Still, I’ve never thought about my trash so much until I came here. Now I always have to figure out when and where I should be throwing out my next day’s waste and if I really need to buy *that* thing because it will produce more waste. No system is perfect it seems :/

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