Hiding things

Today I listened to one of my favourite podcasts, 99% Invisible with Roman Mars and this particular episode was all about recycling and garbage (refuse).

We would all be familiar with Beethoven’s ‘Fur Elise’ but apart from listening to it at a classical concert, we might also be used to hearing it on an ice cream van or an advert. We would not expect to hear it being played on a rubbish truck unless you were a resident of Taipei in Taiwan.

Taiwan is a densely populated relatively small island and therefore, there is not endless space for rubbish and until 20 years ago they have been pretty poor at recycling. Gradually they have gone from a few % being recycled to a now very impressive 50%.

How they have done this is making a refuse and recycling a very well seen and noisy activity, they enlisted the citizens in the whole process and why not, after all, it is their environment. They charge for the blue bags for general non-recycled waste and the bigger the bag, the more it costs. However, unlimited amounts of recycled waste are free and they recycle almost everything.

Now how they have brought it to the attention of all is to add music to the rubbish trucks, they come 5 days a week, the citizens gather on the street corners and wait for the music. They put the general waste in the yellow trucks and the rest gets sorted with help into all the different compartments of recycling on the white trucks.

Making rubbish and recycling a musical community event has had the desired effect.

Now, this may not work in all cultures, however, the point is, rubbish and waste in many countries is a silent almost hidden activity, where trucks early morning quietly whisk away our waste to hidden places to be dealt with.

Like many things, if you want change make a noise don’t hide the challenge away, enlist the community.

Music is just one way of drawing attention to something.

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