Kate’s Communities Field Note

Title: Nowhere to Recycle


This was a really hard field note for me to write! I’ve been trying to find out about recycling ever since I arrived in Poland. As far as I can tell, Poland is a bit behind other European countries when it comes to recycling and disposing of other types of trash.


IntroductionHow do nations meet their communities’ needs? 


Nations meet communities’ needs by providing services. Poland, and other European countries sometimes provide more services than the United States. Health care is free in Poland. Workers have more protections. But because Poland is somewhat poor compared to other European countries, other services don’t work so well.


What community need did I learn about?


I learned about the problem of trash. You can see from my pictures that there is a lot of trash on the streets and in wild places. The biggest trash problem (in my opinion) involves plastic and glass bottles. I found so many of them when I went to see the river last week!


The issue of trash was really on my mind this week. This week marked the start of Juwenalia, which is a big festival for Polish college students. Ever since Wednesday, May 8, there has been a big concert or party somewhere in Lublin. I went to the opening night concert at Lublin castle Wednesday. The music was great – lots of rock, reggae and hip hop. But there was so much trash, it was hard to walk. I hope the event had plenty of clean-up staff!


Why does the community have this need? 


The recycling industry in Poland still doesn’t work very well. It started in the 1900s. Recycling is done by private companies in Poland, like it is in the United States. An article I found said that many of these companies didn’t have the knowledge or resources to recycle correctly, but that things are getting better now that the EU is helping.


Is this need being met? How?


You can find the answer to this question below. I found out as much as I could about recycling, and I hope to find out more before I go home.


1. Are there ways or places to recycle in the local community, and if so, is it easy for people to access?


My husband and I have nowhere to recycle our cans and bottles. We have to put them with our other trash. Every Wednesday, Kom Eko (the garbage company), picks it up and takes it to the dump.


In larger apartment communities (called bloks), you will often see something that looks like a cage. People can put plastic bottles, cans, and glass in these cages. But often, these cages are full for long periods of time. There are also sometimes recycling cages outside of stores, but not always. I asked my students about recycling, and they weren’t able to tell me much, so I guess it’s not so easy to access recycling facilities.


2. What is the public sentiment about the state of the environment, and do young people think they play a role in protecting the environment? If so, how?


Polish people really love nature. My landlady, like many people, has a house in the country. People like to go hiking, biking, and fishing. In the decades after the fall of Communism, people did a lot to try to clean up the environment. Polish industry had really damaged many lakes and rivers. Now, though, young people don’t seem to be as concerned about pollution.


I had hoped to attend some events related to Earth Day, but I couldn’t find any in Lublin. In the United States, people tend to be more active in trying to protect the environment.


3. What innovative solutions do you observe, or hear people talking about?


One thing that I did learn about, is that Polish people are not as wasteful as we are in the United States. One of my students did a presentation about an American reality TV show about people who live for free by collecting other people’s trash. One lady on the show said that she never used paper towels. A student in my class said she thought it was ridiculous that people used paper towels at all.


People in Poland have things like iPods, cars and computers, but they seem to use them for a lot longer than people in the United States. I see a lot of old, beat-up cars when I walk to school. There are many used clothing shops. Most people I know shop at these stores regularly. Where I’m from in the United States, people sometimes shop at used clothing stores, but not if they don’t have to.


4. Have there been changes to environmental laws lately, or have new systems of solid waste management been introduced in the past five years?


Poland is part of the European Union, or EU. In the EU, the countries are kind of like states, and the EU is kind of like a national government. The EU has a lot of laws to protect the environment. According to an article I found, Poland recycles less than three percent of its waste. Other countries, like Germany and Sweden, recycle almost ninety percent. Poland is not currently obeying EU law.


To help Poland meet EU standards, the EU gives Poland a lot of money. An article I found from 2009 talked about the city of Krakow trying to build trash incinerators. People in Krakow protested these incinerators because they would make the air quality bad. The article said the city wanted to build the incinerators because the recycling industry didn’t work very well. It seems like the recycling industry needs more help to deal with all of the trash in Poland.


5. Are there any youth groups, community organizations, NGO or INGOs actively working to address solid waste management issues in your community? Who are they and what are they doing. What can we learn from them? If possible, take a field trip and check out their work!


Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a pretty new thing in Poland. I’ve done some research on NGOs in my area, and most seem to do things related to human rights and economic development. One organization, Homo Faber, does some activities related to sustainable development. I tried to organize a meeting with them this winter, but they never got back to me.


6. Work to get information and opinions from local people. Identify the different variables that affect the way people are addressing the issue of trash. Try and find a local person who has an action plan or idea for how to address the problem. Be as specific, detail-oriented and factual in your observations and interviews with people.


I couldn’t find anyone with a solution to Poland’s environmental problems. But I can tell you some things about how Poland deals with waste. There are trash cans everywhere on Public streets. People mostly use them. But people who smoke do not always use them. There are always a lot of cigarette butts on the street and sidewalk.


One thing my Polish friends are able to do to help the environment is to use cloth bags or reuse plastic grocery bags. You have to pay for bags at the grocery store, so this motivates people to reuse. At the same time, most things at the grocery store are packaged in plastic. Poland sells A LOT of beverages in plastic bottles. The water in my part of Poland is pretty bad, so people often buy their water at the store. Some people, like my husband and I, have a water filter pitcher so we don’t have to buy plastic bottles.


Another thing people do is shop at local markets. People sell fruits and vegetables at markets and on the street. A lot of times, they put them in plastic bags, but many people bring their own bags or baskets.




Krakow Waste Incinerator, Poland. http://bankwatch.org/our-work/projects/krakow-waste-incinerator-poland


Recycling in Poland. http://www.toomanypages.pl/biz_and_hr/p-r-m-a-122-recycling_in_poland/intermediate.htm


Waste Management in Poland. http://www.iswa.org/uploads/tx_iswaknowledgebase/Klysz.pdf

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