Unwilling to be a silent victim of waste

Updated: 2013-05-28 06:54

By Lisa Carducci (China Daily)

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Unwilling to be a silent victim of waste

Some may think I'm a thrift maniac, and they may be right. I don't know where this comes from, but I can't stand any kind of waste and always try to give trash a second chance.

Last September, I started teaching art and crafts to migrant workers' children living in my area. On Saturday, the middle school students come to my place, and we have great fun recycling into wonderful creations old material that would otherwise be trashed.

With plastic bottle caps, we made nice lanterns; with cigarette packs, a large poster saying, "Please, let us breathe"; with pieces of cotton, we created marvelous dolls; while strips of magazine pages and beads became elegant necklaces. I made five nice handbags from unusable jeans.

Over six days, I collected the used chopsticks from a hotpot restaurant close to my home. I gathered thousands, which we will use to make place mats, pencil holders, plant pots covers, and photo frames.

It seems that the government's "frugality campaign" launched across China effectively reduced restaurant extravagance and waste during the Spring Festival. During that period, I was traveling in Bangladesh, where I was pleased to see that no food is wasted.

In restaurants, rice is served in a large bowl from which you take just the quantity you can eat, and you may take more if needed. Portions of meat, fish and vegetables are small, but convenient. When one has finished eating, one's plate is empty. This is perfect! Also, there is no obesity in Bangladesh, while in China, "the number of obese people under the age of 18 has reached 120 million, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention", according to a China Daily report on Feb 23.

I remember when I visited China for the first time in 1985. At meals, a bowl of rice was served first, then came two to three dishes. In 1989, the rice was ready but you had to ask for it if you wanted it together with the dishes. And from the 1990s, people filled up with meat and vegetables, and often had no space left for rice, noodles, or other cereal-based food.

During the four flights I took to and from Bangladesh, I realized once more how much not only food but also environmental resources, energy, money, are wasted daily, even hourly, let alone the pollution this creates.

Each passenger receives a nice box containing a piece of cake and three slices of fruit, packed separately in a plastic container and wrapped, plus another bag with a plastic fork, knife and spoon, an extra napkin and an individually wrapped toothpick, as well as a wrapped bread and a pack of pickled vegetables (to accompany what?). Only the fork was necessary, in fact, and all the rest will be trashed, including the box.

Several passengers don't touch anything but the main dish, served in an aluminum container will not be reused or recycled, and even the food wrapped for long preservation will be squandered.

Chinese airlines will refill your plastic glass, if you offer it, but don't promote this way as a way of saving resources, even if one takes the same beverage twice. On international airlines, I always have to insist on reusing the same glass. Imagine! Each flight may consume a thousand glasses!

There is still more waste on international airlines: two toothpicks, salad dressing even if no salad is served, soy sauce, a small pack of salt and pepper, sugar and creamer.

If we frequent flyers don't react we are accomplices of a crime against nature. Every time I am in such a situation, I complain to the staff on board, who can't but say, "You are right, it's not environmental friendly". But this is not enough. Catering services done this way save time, but can we accept the "excuse"?

We are tens of thousands who travel by air daily. We must take massive action. I suggest that we prepare a short letter, print several copies, sign and add identification, and on each flight, ask the staff to forward it to the concerned authorities. They can't refuse. At the end, pressure will force airlines to act. This is what I will do immediately. Otherwise, I will be a silent victim of a system I disapprove.

Contact the writer at sundayed@chinadaily.com.

(China Daily USA 05/28/2013 page09)