Tuesday, 4 September 2007

I really miss Whole Foods.

The French like their packaging, bottled water, pre-wrapped single servings, individual yogurts...But they don't like recycling. Or at least not in Lille.

You can make all the jokes you want about NJ and our dumps and our nuclear waste, the garbage on the Jersey shore or garbage barges floating in limbo in NJ/NY waters or what have you. But I grew up recycling. As I kid, I often went to the dump on Saturday morning with my dad. And sometime in my adolescent years, our town began mandatory recycling. Can you imagine a major American city that has no readily accessible recycling system?

So, I was relieved when Lille started a tri selectif* last spring. The city provided special recycling garbage cans to the inhabitants (the cans can be attached to the garbage truck by the eboueurs**) which they pick up once a week. This is a big improvement over the "experimental" system we'd had going on in our neighborhood for the past 2+ years. There are large underground bins on a few blocks around our place which were emptied by huge, mini-crane equip ed trucks about once a month. Needless to say, by the end of the month they were full beyond capacity. And why they chose our neighborhood, I'm not sure. Maybe because they thought all the drunks would choose to recycle their empties? Not sure...

So, with the new garbage cans, they provided a list of things that CAN and CANNOT be recycled. Luckily, empty water bottles are a CAN, as is paper, glass and metal. But most everything else is a CANNOT (including broken plates and dirty diapers in case you're wondering).

And French babies eat a lot of the CANNOT containers. Snack options for French kids are 1) fluorescent colored fruit flavored dairy snacks made "with real fruit pulp" that come in packs of 6 brightly colored single serving containers or 2) petit suisse which are a bit like cottage cheese, wrapped in paper and then in a single serving plastic container, also packed in 6. And all those lovely individual yogurts? They're all CANNOTs.

This all pains my environmental sensibilities. Since Suzanne is a more or less "sugar free" baby we avoid most of the CANNOTs. I try to buy larger quantities of food to avoid the mini plastic containers or yogurt in glass containers (only available organic in medium size quantity), but options are limited. I flat out refuse to buy option a) mostly because of the sugar and coloring but I've been known to purchase option b) with my ecological-consciousness tail between my legs.

But I did give into Les Deux Vaches (Stonyfield Farms à la française), packed in convenient 4 packs. But do I miss quart sized Stonyfield farms banilla yogurt made with organic milk and raw sugar.

We've also switched to tap water, in an attempt to be more ecological and practical since it's pretty hard to carry a 6 pack of water with a baby. There's even publicity at the moment to get people to drink more tap water (called Chateau d'Aubry here in Lille after the mayor) and less bottled water. But I'm not holding my breath on that one.

So what's my point besides the fact that I'd love my own Wholefoods market here and just wanted to rant about all the waste? Nothing really.

*selective sorting
**garbage man. Doesn't it sound so much nicer in French?


Elisabeth said...

Excellent post on a topic I had never really thought about, as far as France was concerned.

wcs said...

We recycle, too, but here in the country we have the big bins placed at strategic locations and we haul our stuff to them. So I have some small bins in the garage for glass and other recyclables.

I always forget that the yogurt containers can't be recycled. It seems so natural that they would be.

And, I kid you not, the word verification for this comment started with "eco."

Bolder said...

It's funny you mention the recycling issue in France because one of the things that shocked me when I was teaching in a French public school three years ago was that the CM2 kids were getting the same "introduction to recycling" lesson, as a new concept, that I had 20 years ago in my Colorado elementary school... I guess (and hope) that for this French generation recycling will be second nature as it has been for me!

Riana said...

I would love some of these recycle bins for our city. I am so sick of schleping all of our bottles, cans and plastic to the giant bins outside of town. It is crazy that they are so behind the times.

We have started drinking tap water too, its good and less plastic bottles for the environment. I make my own yogurt, I know, homesteader lady that I am, but its super easy and really good. I reuse big glass bottles to make it in too. Yum, then I have control of the sugar or no sugar or I add my own fruit.

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