Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, May 2, 2008
I've been searching www.Wired.com for a link to an article I read the other week in their print version, but I can't seem to find it so I'm going to loosely paraphrase from what I remember. It was talking about Toyota and how in the light of the Prius and the environmental factors behind selling cars and purporting to be green. It seems that the Prius doesn't make them as much money as they'd like, so to offset that, they've changed the engine in their pickup truck (in the North American market it's the Titan, I think down here, where we get the General Specification versions known as the Hilux.

Just to go off on a bit of a tangent, I didn't know there was such a thing as General Spec. vehicles. Basically what it means is that it's the un-modified versions of the cars that come off the assembly line. Things like Daytime Running Lights, which are required in Canada, or the California Emissions Package which we all grew up hearing about on The Price is Right are things that are added on after the fact for a specific market. Down here where really anything goes, you can buy a right hand drive Nissan Skyline GT-R with a 3.5l engine that's been modified and can put out hundreds of horsepower over a stock vehicle. You can also buy a left-hand drive car in Miami (like I did from autotrader.com) and put it on a ship and send it down here. There are some dealerships in south Florida that actually have "export sales" people who are familiar with the ins and outs of shipping and specialize in people who are buying a car to export.

So back to Toyota. They've changed the engine in their best-selling (worldwide) car--the pickup truck-- from a 3.5l V6 to a 5.4l V8 in order to compete with and retain market share from people buying F-150s instead. Funny though... Toyota's known for the Hybrid Synergy Drive and gets all this "green cred" when they've gone the other way with their higher-selling cars(trucks). "Look at this hand, look what it's doing, never mind what's going on behind the curtain!" Hopefully, like another well-known magician they'll be saying "I've made a huge mistake" :)

The whole point of this story is that it IS hard to be 'green' especially down here. I can't remember how old I was when we started recyling paper at school. Then there was the "bliue box" distributed by the municipal government for your recylables and now there's the yellow bag, the blue bag, the green bag, the blue box and then the garbage as well. Even "old dogs" like my parents have learned the "new tricks" (no offense, Mom, really.. it's just an analogy) and sort paper from glossy paper, cardboard, glass from plastic and put the boxes out on the right days for the recycling trucks. I was pretty well-trained too in 1998 when I left.

When I arrived here in Cayman, I was at first horrified that people just threw EVERYTHING in the garbage cans. Then I noticed a big green bin around the side of the Lobster Pot that said "aluminum only" and was full of cans. I felt better about it, slightly, and then was horrified, saddened and lost all resistance when I saw the Department ofE Environmental Health truck (garbage truck) pull up and dump the whole thing into the back of the garbage truck. What's the point?

Over the next few years, I gave up all resistance and forgot everything I learned about recycling. It still bugged me when I heard (more than saw) the garbage bags being changed behind the bar that were 30-40 lbs of empty beer bottles being taken out and put into the garbage bin and from there to the landfill. Finally it culminated in my trip back home in May/June of 2000. I went to a housewarming party at some condo down on the border of Yaletown. It was BYOB, but they had mixers there for everyone to use. I went into the kitchen to pour myself a drink, killed the bottle of Coke and chucked it... the 2L plastic bottle... in the garbage. The music stopped. Everyone stopped talking and gave me dirty looks.

"Oh. I'm sorry, did I finish off someone's Coke? I thought the mixers were sort of communal?" No one answered me and then the party just sort of resumed and I was cold-shouldered the rest of the night. As we were leaving, I said to my friends who I went with "What the hell was that all about? Why did everyone get so mad at me for finishing the bottle of Coke??" It was then that someone piped up and said it was because I threw the empty plastic bottle in the garbage. Oops.

Now, 10 years later, there's at least a lot of lip-service being paid to recycling in Cayman. The head of the Dept of Environmental Health has been vocal in the newspaper about raising funds to establish a proper recycling plant, and for people that go to the effort of taking their stuff out to the landfill, they do have separate bins and a separate facility for oil, paints and things like that. HazMat Jenny even went so far as to start up a Freecycle group down here and got some corporate sponsors on board, but general apathy from the public doomed it to failure before it even really got off the ground. I still get the emails from them with the guidelines and etiquette rules of the freecycle program every other Sunday, but have only ever received offers once or twice.

There was even a mention in the paper of a glass-recycling plant on the island and they've managed to grind up a couple container-loads of glass for export and recycling. This one seems like the no-brainer of all the plans. The sheer amount of beer bottles and liquor bottles from all the bars and restaurants alone would make this one feasible.

I don't know the ins, the outs, the what-have-yous about recycling and shipping, but the scuttlebutt I've heard over the years is that it's not profitable to recycle down here because it's costs more to ship the recyclables back to somewhere they can be made use of. I would believe that to be true, but it can't be THAT high. Not compared to the huge pile of garbage just upwind of George Town "lovingly" referred to as Mt Trashmore. Ships bring containers down here, I can't see them being that full going back to Miami/Tampa/Port Everglades. The containers have to be sent back, and I don't believe they're all full heading north (someone correct me if I'm wrong). Would it really cost that much to fill some of those containers with, say, ground-up glass? I think the difference in the cost of fuel from sailing a ship with 200 empty containers vs 180 empty and 20 full containers would be less than the goodwill generated by advertising that XYZ Shipping is supporting a cleaner, greener environment for Cayman. Perhaps that cost, once it's quantified could be "given back" to XYZ Shipping by the Government in the form of rebates or duty-free allowances pour encouragez les autres?

Of course, I could be completely off-base and talking out of my ass (as has been known to happen from time to time) but surely something can be done to preserve the island for the future? The whole reason I've brought this up is of course my impending departure in August or September. I'm going to have to re-learn all the little nuances and rules of recycling and what goes where. Compared to remembering to drive on the right, I think it just might be the one hardest thing I have to re-adapt to!

Friday, May 2, 2008 8:45:33 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [0] | Cayman#
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