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  • Day96

    Plastic pollution

    June 14, 2019 in Russia ⋅ 🌫 21 °C

    "No, we don't want a plastic bag." As it did in Japan, this sentence causes much confusion in Russia. Sometimes not only confusion but also inconvenience. We learnt to weigh our fruits and veggies in the supermarkets, but little did we know that they will be weighed again at the check-out. It's a bit of a nuisance if all your apples, carrots and who knows what else are rolling around freely in the shopping cart. You should have seen me with 10 different price tags sticking to my fingers, trying to give the cashier the right one for the goods she was trying to balance on her scale....
    And once again, we're short on words on how to explain why we don't want a plastic bag. Stupid language barrier. But working towards a waste free world is simply too important to us to give in. (To avoid disturbed supermarket staff we seem to have to shift to street stall sellers. Better for the local economy anyways. Or pickled veggies in glass.) If it really can't be avoided, we reuse the bags as often as we can.
    At many of the campsites we stay at, we realize just how weird our refusal of plastic bags must be for the locals. Trash everywhere. Bottles, cans, bags, you name it. No one seems to care. If you park by a remote lake in the forest and you're surrounded by 200 beer bottles and just as many cans, it just spoils the wilderness experience. In addition to simply being bad for nature! And while we used to pick up litter in Australia (look up the "take three for the sea" campaign), we don't even know where to start here. We don't have enough room to take that much trash. And we wouldn't know where to throw it away either :(.
    So we do our bit of at least leaving nothing but footprints and move on. Sometimes, if the amount of litter is manageable, clearing up the site as well.
    But then we pass garbage collection points in the villages and smaller cities, as well as a dump site and understand the problem a bit better. The dump site is in the middle of forests and marshland and the way the garbage is dealt with, is being dumped there to rot. Some piles are smoking, suggesting the waste is being burnt. No one seems to care if toxic waste reaches groundwater or toxic gases are released into the air. Maybe I'm exaggerating and I don't know enough. But it just seems so wrong!
    Russia seems to have a long way ahead in terms of its waste management. Hopefully, it will get there fast. Prohibiting and putting a fine on littering might be a good start. In the meantime, we'll try to keep our impact as low as possible. And find words to explain why it is important.
    (Mind you, our campspot tonight is almost spotless. These places exist as well!)
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