Most days I close my eyes, hold my breath, and throw away my glass and other recyclables because as far as I can tell, there is no way to recycle here. There has to be some way to recycle, though, because very very occasionally I will see a бабушка (babushka: grandma/older woman) collecting aluminum from the few garbage cans around the entrance to the metro or from the ground. None-the-less, at work, at home, and in restaurants, recycling is something that is not understood or cared about in Moscow, by most people. Which begs the question, why? Why don’t the 15 million people who live in Moscow care about recycling? Don’t some of them live by a landfill or understand how many tons of waste (toxic and non) they throw out every day? The solution here is “out of site out of mind.” Muscovites are not concerned about the tons of garbage they accumulate because they throw it away, or throw it on the ground, and never see or hear of it again. The waste is shipped out to Siberia and the litter is picked up by immigrant workers – only when you take a маршрутка (marshrutka: minivan that is basically a cross between a taxi and a public bus, but the ride is closer to the price of a public bus) out of the city do you see the litter that has accumulated because immigrant workers aren’t hired to clean up the sides of the highways. Really, it’s appalling. At first I thought it signaled some sort of lack of pride or lack of respect for Russia’s largest city, but it’s more like displaced responsibility and who knows which came first – the workers whose job it is to pick up the trash or people littering without care?
Regardless of how much I try to close my eyes and hold my breath and recite the “out of sight out of mind” mantra, I am continually disturbed by new evidence of waste. Yesterday I was told that the copier’s drum cartridge would probably be thrown out, after which I tried to politely inform that there is a recycling project for this type of “waste” and all you have to do is sent it back to the supplier. Then I let it go – it’s out of my hands right? Or is this the attitude that has led to a lack of recycling in Moscow?
There is some hope – I believe. While I haven’t yet translated the flier I was handed two days ago, it looked like it was appealing to people to start recycling and to get a recycling project going. Time will tell if Europe’s largest city takes responsibility for its waste.