I’ve often wondered what happens to the bags of recycling (hui shou) I set outside our building every other day for the garbage man to come around and collect on his single speed rusty tricycle. Do my empty cans of whole peeled tomatoes, collapsed cardboard cereal boxes, and paper towel and toilet paper rolls end up in a landfill somewhere or in a plant where they get sorted into the appropriate numbered categories?
The do-gooder in me wants to believe these things go on to thrive in another life as part of another useful product. A few of my expat neighbors told me when I first moved here that yes, of course, these things get recycled. I believed them.
The realist in me would like to tell my do-gooder self to, quite literally, get real. After all, it’s hard to ignore the supporting, mounting evidence. You may recall my appalled reaction upon witnessing a garbage man dump recycled items into the normal trash bin at the Qingdao airport. So imagine my reaction to discovering piles of the expert village’s old tennis and basketball courts dumped in the public land surrounding the village. One evening, Iggy and I walked to the beach just across the street from the village and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Piles of the old craggedy courts were dumped right along the dirt path leading to the beach.
If we lived anywhere else in the world, I would be entirely surprised by the fact that the courts had fallen apart in just under two years. But as many a global citizen knows, quality designed products aren’t the norm in China. I hate to say it, but the truth is, well, hard to deny when you encounter it up close and personal on a daily basis. The courts were in god-awful shape, all chipped and cracked. An annoyance to say the least and a safety hazard at most to this wannabe Serena Williams. (I may be nowhere near on par with the great lady of tennis, but I sure as hell could rival her in the drama she brings to the game. Just ask Iggy.)
So we were pretty happy when we were informed that the courts would be closed for a week for repairs. One week turned into more than four but so what? There are a lot of courts and we appreciate them. After two weeks of waiting, I went over to check on the progress. Probably a bad idea considering the surely cancer-causing paint fumes I inhaled as I strolled around the courts’ perimeters. It was a similar experience to say taking a swig of a Diet, Caffeine-Free Coke. You just know that aspartame will come back to haunt you as some horrible disease later in life.
But I digress. Sorry. Back to the courts, which are now shiny and new (seriously, the sun reflects off the bright blue surface). I have been loving the fact that I no longer have to worry about overturning my delicate, brittle ankles. I have not been liking the fact that the more we play, the better Iggy gets, making me look bad. Is he the Sloane Stephens to my Serena? I think not.
All joking aside, what really irks me is coming across scraps of the old courts dumped by the beach and along a dirt path I like to walk along. Tall rows of corn now line the path, which cuts between the expert village and the Blue Ocean Holiday neighborhood and serves as a short cut for dogs, walkers, bikers, and even cars. Maybe the court remnants couldn’t have been recycled. No problem there. Randomly, semi-discreetly tossing the scraps just outside the village? Lame.
Even if it’s a waste of time, I don’t care. I’m still going to separate my recyclables. Maybe my one small act of do-gooderdom will rub off on the village garbage collectors.