An unintended effect of developing country is their ability to recycle most things. Waste is a luxury of the rich. Here (and I imagine most developing countries) most people cannot afford drinks or products in plastic bottle form so instead most things are sold in bags. For example the majority of liquid cleaning products are not sold in ready to use spray bottles but in plastic bags. In need of a device to dispense the product most people take an old litro de coke, poke 2 holes in the cap and now it’s a spray bottle for your cleaner. When you buy a refresco (fresh juice) to-go from a vendor they serve it to you in plastic bag knotted at the top with straw and not in a plastic cup with a lid. My family ordered a pizza to be consumed at our house (a rarity reserved only for a special occasion) and we received it plastic wrapped on a metal tray that we had to return once we were finished. To a person unfamiliar with this form it may appear less appealing. Why? Most bottles for cleaning products are thrown out upon final use. Having the brand name on your drinking device or being served your food in numerous disposable containers doesn’t change its taste. I can only assume these things are considered less appealing by some because they have the stigma of being a product of the impoverished.
A bottle that once held body spray is now reclaimed to hold kerosene for the grill, used 3 liters (that’s not a typo) of Coke or Fanta are cut and painted to make light shades, ripped stockings or worn cables become clotheslines, old botellas (plastic bottles) my mother reuses to store water in case of a shortage or they are cut to become planters, glass bottles from beers or sodas are sent back to the distributor to be washed and refilled. Here little is wasted and most everything is reused. Recycling programs don’t exist because they don’t need to, it’s an inherent part of the culture. It makes me think about the worth of things and the difference in value systems between cultures. I understand that most things here are recycled due to a necessity directly determined by the wealth of the culture and not out of concern for the ever growing environmental issues caused by the abundance of waste (evidenced by the ubiquitous volume of trash). In the states people recycle not because they cannot afford to waste a product, in fact most products have a “consumer pays” recycling tax added on to the cost at time of purchase. We recycle because we feel that we are doing our part to curb some of those environmental ills. Maybe the more important thing is to change how and what we consume to produce less “things to recycle” and less waste. I don’t say this to discourage people and devalue their efforts to recycle. My concern is with the way things are packaged which is equal parts industry and consumer. As consumers I surmise that if the burden of the actual costs associated with the waste created when we throw out a bottle or box was bound to the consumers and the industry the demand would change. In turn this could cause the industry to find new cost effective and profitable methods of packaging goods that would not have the same toll on our world.