Denmark is big on recycling, they are also big on buying stuff. it makes for a symbiotic relationship. If you can recycle your belongings it frees up space so you can buy more stuff. For many people, buying stuff makes them feel good about themselves, and recycling the crap you got bored means you are a better human being. It’s a win win situation.

Our housing complex is a typical modern Danish building, white walls, lots of wood, lots of glass. It can be quite dazzling in there around noon in the summer. And rather than a recycling bin, we have a recycling shed. That doesn’t really do it justice since it looks more like a clubhouse from the outside, The sort of place you amble back to on a summer evening with the applause of a slightly soused crowd ringing in your ears after a turning in a respectable show at the wicket. I sidled over there myself the evening before we left, the sound of cardboard and metal ringing in my ears as I dragged a large cardboard box of rubbish across the car park together with two retainer brackets leftover from when they delivered the new washing machine. It was raining.

My experience of living in Denmark is that order is high up in the, er, order of things. In the supermarket, items on the shelves are lined up with precision, the buses (usually) arrive on time, and when they don’t, many bus stops have a display that tells you when the next one is due. Therefore, I was somewhat taken aback by the disarray that greeted me when I opened the door to the clubhouse. It looked like a massacre had just taken place. Many people had taken the time to put items in boxes but, judging by the scatter pattern of a matching bed set and a Thomas the Tank engine pair of jammies, had then apparently hurled them against the back wall with such fury that the contents had been scattered across the room. Or maybe they had been fired from a trebuchet.

But it wasn’t just the way things were scattered, it was what people were choosing to dump in such a dramatic manner. Old VCRs made sense, although I was left wondering why they held on to them for so long. Even the charity shops in the uk stopped trying to flog video tapes sometime in the last millenium and it’s not as if i live in some far flung coastal extremity in the Kingdom of Denmark, Copenhagen is only 30 minutes away on the fast train. Cardboard boxes also seemed reasonable, as did old TVs from the pre flat screen era. But I would question the recycling value of a soiled pair of child’s jeans, although that could have happened when Daddy hurled the first box against the back wall. There were broken speakers from surround sound systems, desk lamps, table lamps & free standing lamps, as well as the desks and tables that were presumably where the lamps used to be located. It was just as well the floorboards were nailed down. There was even an exercise bike that seemed to be in good working order (I got on for a trial spin in the midst of the carnage). Judging from its pristine condition, I suspect they expended more effort getting it from the flat to the recycling shed than they ever managed while sitting on it.

I’m not sure if this was fly tipping at the communal level, or just a general uncertainty about what you are supposed to do with these sort of things when you are finished with them. In the UK, with the exception of unwanted offspring and asbestos panelling, you can drop off pretty much anything at a site owned by the local council, there is one bin for electronics, another for metal and so on and a tough looking gent making sure you aren’t smuggling in a box of depleted uranium or anything else naughty. And the council will take care of everything, such as shipping the uncool electronics to hellholes such as GuiYu, leading the way in lead poison. But at least we can get that slightly smug and self righteous feeling when we unwrap our new iPhone.


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