By Mira Khatib
Unpacking 173 boxes to settle down in our new home in Toronto was exhausting to say the least, but it was exciting as we felt the opportunity of a new start. Our friendly neighbors dropped by to introduce themselves and see if we needed a helping hand (something we were not accustomed to back home). I felt at ease knowing it would be effortless to make friends here. After our cup of coffee and just before our neighbors were about to leave they said, “by the way garbage day is on Tuesday.”
I knew Canada celebrated many occasions but I found it amusing that garbage would be in the mix. I whispered to my husband, “They celebrate garbage here?”
Our neighbors saw my confused expression and added, “The garbage truck comes by every Tuesday morning and only every Tuesday to collect your trash, and if you forget to put your trash out then you will miss it till the following week. And don’t forget you only get a limit of two garbage bags, if you exceed that you would have to pay for it. And don’t forget the blue bin is for recyclables and yellow is for copost.”
I was trying to let all this information sink in…garbage pick-up only once a week! I thought how could people live without getting rid of their trash daily? And how do they limit it to two only per week?
I remember the first Tuesday that came by we had four huge garbage bags and we had to pay for the extra ones. I looked around our street and was shocked to see the one tiny garbage bag placed in front of each house. “Don’t these people eat? Or clean? How come they don’t have much garbage?” I always wondered.
But then with some trial and error, and a lot of education about different kinds of garbage and how to sort them out, I got the hang of it and felt such a success when I eventually placed one small garbage bag in front of my house.
In Canada environmental issues is a big deal, and they teach from a young age to appreciate and care for your environment and community and do your part by being aware of what happens to your trash once it’s picked up. Recycling is such a major aspect t of this, there is also compost and how to make use of left-over food, leaves and other materials that fall into this category. In no time I found myself being so conscious of what I am throwing out, and I felt so proud that I am doing my small share to help keep our environment clean.
There were rare occasions when we saw a few people smuggle their extra garbage bags to public trash bins not wanting to pay for it, which is considered illegal and if caught a $10,000 fine would be issued. People are forced to do their part and educate themselves, because if you make a mistake there would be consequences. Like the time my husband placed a non-recyclable item into the recyclable container, the garbage man actually threw all what was in the bag over our front yard and refused to take it, he warned us not to do so again.
Now that I am back in the Middle East, I have the leisure to throw out my trash daily, even more than once a day if I wanted. But after learning to do what is right in Canada my heart feels heavy when I toss out trash without sorting it out. Sure it is easier, but I tried to recycle here in the Gulf and found it very difficult as recyclables are not picked up with regular trash and I would have to drive around till I found one recyclable bin to deposit my items in.
As we Arabs are known for our cleanness and high standards I wish that we could also show it towards our environment. I really wish and hope that governments would make sorting out trash a law just like in Canada and facilitate the necessities that would get it done. We could all do our part and teach our children this awareness, as what we do today will impact our world and generations to come.