Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Not all wine and roses

To most people, the Netherlands is a quaint little country full of little houses and canals and windmills, and lots of pot. It's charmingly bucolic in nature, with fat and happy cows next to rows and rows of tulips. They think those things because they haven't been to the ass-end of Nijmegen: If Costco and Sams and Walmart were aliens that tried to take over the world, then the ass-end of Nijmegen is where they've begun--klik after klik of warehouse-type offices/stores/warehouses, each one getting steadily uglier and uglier, until you end up at the power plant. And the dump, next to it.

I'm in the process of cleaning out our storage unit, and much of what is currently within our spot in the basement are old electronics. The Dutch are a bit more anal-retentive about trash than, say, Philadelphia: you must set out your trash on the designated day, in special bags. "Green waste", or food waste, should be separate from the normal waste--the company provides a green bin for that, but they stopped doing it for apartments. Recyclable plastics are set out in a special bag. Oude papier is set out once a month. Bottles that once contained dangerous chemicals, as well as batteries, are to be taken to the "chemokar", a special truck that parks in different locations in the city every day of the week for a few hours. For old furniture, you must contact a kringloopwinkel (secondhand shop) to have it taken away. You must take everything else to the dump yourself.

I call it "the dump" out of laziness, and not to imply that the Dutch would actually allow people to just randomly pile unwanted things in a designated spot. Most people drive there in their cars. They pull up next to a checkpoint, where someone asks them what they have, and if needed they pay a fee. Things like wood waste from home remodeling projects cost a certain amount per cubic meter. Things like small electronics are free.

Fee assessed, you are then allowed to go to the area where the dumpsters abound. The dumpsters are labled, so that your carpentry waste gets tossed into one dumpster, your small electronics into another, huge hanks of broken glass into yet another. God help you if you get mixed up. There's even a special dumpster for things suitable for kringloopwinkels. Yes, there is a market for trash.

I was on a bike--and plus I came in through the back way--so I popped up behind the checkpoint. I only had one speaker, though, so the guy just waved me to dumpster 1. Speaker dumped, I went home.

The trip served one main purpose, and it was not to get rid of an old speaker: it was to assess how far away the dump is from our apartment, and how difficult the trip would be if I had several additional broken electronics. I discovered a long time ago that roads in the Netherlands don't always mesh with what Google Maps thinks--plus trips planned with a driver in mind don't always consider the fate of a cyclist. It also gave me an excuse to finally--after four years--get a fietstas (panniers)--as I realized that no, I wasn't going to get old electronics onto my bike any other way.

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