Belfast is really big on recycling and being environmentally friendly. The whole mentality over here is geared towards simple ways to be less wasteful. I think it is fantastic that people in the UK and Europe are trying to change their habits and making so many changes to their lifestyles in order to help the environment. I know that there are a lot of programs at Temple aimed to help the environment and encourage awareness, but I’ve just realized how much more accepting and responsive the European perspective is towards the environment and I hope that people in the States can follow suit.
Anywhere there are trash bins, instead of one recycling and one “trash” like in America, there is actually a line of trash bins. They are organized into “household waste”, “aluminum cans”, “plastic bottles” and “paper”. Outside people’s houses they have multiple colors of trash bins. The colors are brown, blue and black. The brown is the compost, blue is recycling and black is trash that can’t be recycled. My aunt and uncle individually sort their cardboard waste, plastic waste, aluminum cans, paper and regular trash to take to the dump themselves. I guess they just want to ensure that it gets properly recycled.
Most kitchen sinks in Ireland do not have a waste disposal to grind up the scraps of food that fall down, so instead of risking clogging up the sink, the Irish have come up with a different method for getting rid of food scraps. In household kitchens, people have a little brown container with a lid that most people set on the kitchen counter. Throughout the day, they scrape leftover bits of food and teabags into the bin and at the end of the day, (or when it gets too smelly), they empty the bin into the brown compost trash can that they have outside. Then they put a new plastic bag in the little container and begin the process all over again. I think it is a great idea because it means that no food is wasted, instead it is turned into compost and is good for creating rich soil. (Which is useful for the farmers across Ireland and the UK!) With the amount of food that is wasted everyday I think it is great that the Irish have come up with a way to try to limit their carbon footprint.
There are signs everywhere in Belfast warning not to litter and to make sure to pick up after your dog. The fines are pretty steep if you get caught doing either one. A new set of commercials are running on the television at the moment, threatening an £80 fine for anyone caught littering. The ads call the litterers, “litter piggies” who “squeal all the way home” once they get their fine for dropping cigarette butts; dropping bus tickets; or leaving their food trash behind.
Grocery stores hardly use plastic bags. Everyone brings their own canvas bags to carry home their shopping purchases. Stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury’s, Iceland and even Primark have their own line of canvas shopping bags that only cost about 50 p, and can be reused every time one shops. It actually encourages people to buy and use the canvas totes, because everyone else is doing it. At the super market, I sort of stood out when the cashier had to reach under the counter to find a plastic bag to give me to carry my purchases.
Primark is a popular clothing store that sells really cheap clothes. It may be cheap, but the clothes are pretty good quality and are the latest in fashion trends. When walking around Belfast, you will not be able to walk down the main street in the city center without passing lots of girls (and guys) carrying their purchases with the big, Primark logo on the side of the bag. Primark uses brown shopping bags that are 100% recycled and made from old Primark brown bags. So rather than cutting down more trees and making more brown bags, they are simply reusing the discarded bags.
I like to be environmentally conscious and always try my best not to be wasteful. I carry a plastic water bottle that I wash and refill, rather than buying lots of bottles of water. I hate the thought of drinking from it once and throwing it away. I like the idea of the compost bin and hope the idea will spread! In the meantime, I will continue to see what other ideas the Irish have come up with to protect the environment.