This time last year, the Walkers returned from month-long wild camping where they collected selected waste for recycling and kept reminding followers on social networks of the already prepared action on the occasion of World Cleaning Day, when able to catch the Internet somewhere along the way. Like a shotgun, we were ready for an event in which we are participants, as well as local organizers, and which we foresaw would become, as well as all the days that mark something, a significant reminder of how deep we got ourselves in.
On the main road Belgrade-Obrenovac, along the bank of the stream Stepashnica, there is a yard of a collector of secondary raw materials in the settlement of Umka. Packed up with jumbo bags, with carefully separated cans and PET packaging, hard plastic, and iron, the small area of Mecca land is Umljan’s savior of recyclable waste.
During the time that preceded the active raising of consciousness in our village, angry at the people throwing garbage on the street, we were crossing roads with our Zoran who was collecting raw materials and we used to stop and ask him if he got tired, what he lacked in materials, to “push” a little in the neighborhood so they would bring him.
Tough as he is, with a hoarse voice, he shrugs his shoulders and smiles, ashamed to talk, waving his hands that are dirty from collecting waste that ended up outside the container. The collector of secondary raw materials, a Roma, a local, an Orthodox with a large family, Zoki and his wife, are not the only ones who run around the town and collect cans, PET, hard plastic, iron, paper. And Zoki has no rickshaw, nor broken van with a loudspeaker, he hasn’t even got a proper collection cart.
He made some kind of his scam and rolls around the village with it.
If according to the World Bank report, ‘88 year, 2% of the world’s population belonged to a marginal group related to collectors of secondary raw materials, and according to the UN report, these same people collected up to 100% of recyclable waste in urban areas, as much as from ’88 to the present day that percentage has changed accordingly with the growth of the population on the Planet. And, in what direction did it go ?! Are the citizens of Serbia aware that they would have swum in the waste 30 years ago if there were no Romas who make up 90% of collectors of secondary raw materials in Serbia ?! Not to mention that 25% of people who deal with this bloody business are younger than 18 and that the average age of collectors is 46 years. What are the health risks of secondary collectors, and what are the health risks in general? We do not dispose of recyclable materials as we should, because we are mostly uninformed or we are not interested in finding out, but, without thinking about anything, we gallantly snort them in the municipal waste bin. How many citizens of Serbia know what the term primary selection means, and how many of them know what “the collector of secondary raw materials” means? Because the officials from the local self-governments did not move a finger so the population would have received instructions on recycling before they had given us blue bins for primary selection and concluded: “What we did, is enough.”
Do you know, the citizens of Serbia, that most of the projects submitted to various competitions that concerned the improvement of the position of collectors of secondary raw materials, were not selected by those who announced those competitions? Because if the projects had passed, a lot would have changed for the people who have been cleaning up after us for decades. Do we know anything? Do we deal with anything?
OOO Yes! We deal with it! Walking by the Earth deals with it every day. But we do not have what our primary goal is, and that is the support of the local community. In all our activities so far, we received the only unreserved support from elementary school “Saint Sava”. Social margin again. Children with special needs. Beings who are “not” for society. Those, whose photographs are not allowed to use for tribal purposes and show how capable they are for contributing to this failed system and the society within it. And during all this time, the local community has been sitting with its ears plugged and its eyes staring at the doors of municipal offices, waiting for public companies to take pity and do their job as it suits one regulated and legal state, the one we have been talking about in vain for decades.It is clear to us why things rarely function. We do not put up with excuses, we do not tolerate going downstream, we do not wait for someone to warn us what civic duties – responsibility and conscience, are. We are rightly angry and demand that something is done based on the existing law, which should be implemented, supplemented, and improved.
Aware that we cannot solve the systemic problem concerning primary selection on our own, we do not give up on the goal of doing something about the significant problem we have with waste and numerous topics related to environmental protection in the local community.
Until the next recleanining…