Dear Dirty Dublin and an Estonian take on rubbish

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Almost a hundred years ago James Joyce described Dublin as dear and dirty. Despite a pioneering levy on plastic bags introduced six years ago (of which some of the customers in my shop still seem to be unaware) Irish capital is suffering from chronic littering problem.

The government reports that the 22 cent we pay for each plastic bag help to finance local environmental projects such as recycling facilities. Recycling is great and many Irish are more aware of it than the people of Lithuania. After a recent chat about sustainable energy with my 14-year-old niece who had been living in Ireland for the past 8 years, I had to admit that when I was of her age, I knew much less about those issues.

In addition to a gradually increasing plastic bag levy, as of July Ireland is introducing a new emission-based vehicle taxation system and soon we will have to replace traditional bulbs with low-energy ones in the country's pursuit to be as green as possible.

The initiatives leave many countries behind. Yet despite them there is one thing I've learned as a kid and after visiting other European cities it seems that many Europeans have learnt the lesson as well, while Dubliners still seem to be struggling with it. That is even if you pay for plastic bags and drive an emission-free car, you should put the litter in the bins provided.

Last autumn it was revealed that Dublin had the most litter on its streets when compared with nine other major European cities, including Riga, Vienna, Strasbourg, Cologne, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Zurich, Stockholm and Amsterdam. I have visited four of them and I must say the survey proves what I have seen. After cigarette butts, food-related litter, packaging litter and paper litter are the largest categories of environmental littering in Ireland. Last year the Department of Environment announced that almost a million Euro will be given to local authorities for anti-litter public education and awareness initiatives.

When I leave my house in D8 I have to walk for about three minutes before I find a bin. I've done the calculation. There is no bin in my bus stop and neither there is any on the one where I catch my bus after work. There are plenty of cigarette butts around both, though. So what do you do if you are not super green and don't want to carry a sticky wrapping paper from your "Cornetto" in a bag? You let it slip out of your hand as if by accident and quietly continue to move on along the street...

Don't get me wrong - Irish seem to quite happily participate in various anti-litter campaigns, even though two years ago they were the biggest waste producers in the EU, with the average Irish person producing about 869 kg of rubbish per year - twice more than the Finns do (I seem to have lost the link to this fact, will try to find it). Last year over 398,000 volunteers participated in the National Spring Clean campaign, aiming to involve as many Irish as possible in various cleanup events in a period of one month. It is reported that 3880 tonnes of litter was collected, which is about 10kg per head. Impressive, isn't it? That is until you consider a recent campaign in Estonia.

This spring two Estonian internet entrepreneurs organised a nationwide clean-up day called "Let's do it!" Using cutting-edge IT technology, illegal garbage dumps and their photographs were mapped out on Google Earth. On the 3rd of May about 50,000 Estonians - about 3 percent of the population - hit the roadsides, forests and public areas. Over 6000 tons of illegal waste was collected or 120kg per head - twelve times more than the Irish did. Yet, as the spokesperson for the cleanup campaign said, the aim was not just to clean the fields and forests. "We also wish to kind of clean the brains of those people who have left that garbage", she said.

Maybe it was the fact that the cleanup happened in a day, or maybe it was the innovative software that allowed to see the pictures of the garbage and the real-time progress of the campaign. So how about if a million Euro given to the local Irish authorities for anti-litter public education and awareness initiatives is used to supply more bins in Dublin and hire a few Estonian internet gurus?

Actually, after Estonians announced about the campaign in February, ever ambitious Lithuanians rushed to organise a similar one on the same day. Yet they only had four weeks to prepare and only 3,500 out of 5,000 registered participants showed up on the day. If Ireland plans better, the Emerald Isle and its capital could indeed be greener. And a bit dearer.

PS Sorry for a month of silence :)

This Post has 3 Comments Add your own!
Arturas - June 23, 2008 at 11:38 PM

Paskaitinėjau ir aš. Yra dar tų žmonių, kurie dalijasi protingomis mintimis už dyką...

Man patiko T-shirt PR ir tas apie močiutę ir Delfi...

Tiesa, šiek tiek to mums visiems būdingo noro pasakyti ką nors linksmai blogo apie Lietuvą irgi radau...:)

Paskaitinėsiu ir kitus.

Lina - June 24, 2008 at 12:28 AM

:) aciu arturai

Anonymous - June 24, 2008 at 10:59 AM

I am sure that Estonia and Lithuania were keen on the clean ups because they all remembered the subotniks from 20 years ago. This was when whole schools, blocks of flats or factories would pick up litter when the snow melted in April. Traditonally held on Lenin's birthday on April 23 (I think).

Therefore the whole concept of a collective effort to pick up litter was familiar, with a modern IT-led take.

Ireland is entirely unfamiliar with the concept of the subotnik. Here is the UK, there are occasional ¨community clear up days¨ often tidying up streatches of river or beach. However, they are not part of the national consciousness. Everyone has the attitude - It is not my problem to pick up ltter.

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