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Nº 3 – I don’t produce garbage

I heard that sentence almost 40 years ago at the very beginning of my journalistic life. My editor-in-chief sent me to a big city where a woman who wasn’t willing to pay for the municipal services to empty weekly the garbage can. In Germany at that time, the citizens of a city had to buy stamps for their garbage cans from the respective city administration, so that their garbage cans were emptied once a week. And so it should be with this woman: she claimed not to produce any garbage at all and refused to buy the fee stamp. She complained that if she didn’t produce garbage, she wouldn’t have to pay. Wrong idea: at that time it was obligatory to buy this monthly fee stamp. Almost 40 years ago it was inconceivable that someone had no garbage. The idea was to prevent garbage from simply being dumped in the woods or on the roadside.

So we drove with our television team from Hamburg 450 km to Bonn and visited – by appointment – the woman without garbage. My editor-in-chief had told me that I should check it out extensively. Look carefully, young colleague, what is the woman doing with her tampons, what with her tea bags and all the packaging? We stayed a week and accompanied the woman with the camera, for example while shopping. For each piece of cheese or sausage, she had a glass jar with it she went to the cheese and sausage counter in the supermarket. She only bought fruit and vegetables from the farmer at the daily market. She toolk a carrier bag  from home. She bought the bread in a cloth bag, etc. She was the special person who sensitized me to the subject of garbage at that time. She brought her green waste from fruit and vegetables to the compost. She did not use tampons. She bought the tea directly and she also had her container for it. Her garbage can in front of the house was really empty. So why should she pay garbage fees?

I asked for the WHY. She replied that if everyone threw their garbage into the bin, there would be no more space on this globe and the planet would only consist of garbage if the word growth remained our mantra. It was a good experience and I told the exciting story for television at prime time. What I didn’t expect: my report about the woman without garbage was never broadcast. It ended up in the garbage itself, in the PANORAMA archive of a programme from the 1st ARD programme in Hamburg.
Today, November 30th, I start not to produce any garbage for one month. Will I succeed? An exciting story?
Maybe. Will you join me? Do we exchange our experiences?

Uwe Heitkamp

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