Recycling exists in Krakow. I wouldn’t say it is developed on a huge scale, but if you want to make an effort there are containers for glass, metal, paper and plastic usually provided on some corner street or other. This means you have to take your recycling crap down and separate it yourself accordingly to the abovementioned communal containers. Hence, recycling hasn’t taken off as much as it should have, mainly because people are too lazy to bother. However, by 2010 Poland has to reduce its waste by 50 per cent, or else the European Union is going to get the royal shits and whack on massive sanctions. Or else turn their attention to Romania, the new EU member state predicted to fuck up big time. I long for the days when Poland is as organised as the Germans in terms of recycling. Instead of going shopping or to church on the weekend, the Krauts spend their sunny afternoons separating their trash in massive recycling depots. I applaud. But Poland has its wonder moments too. It has its very own scrap-metal-and-shit guys. These people are pretty incredible. At first glance they appear to be your regular bum, wearing layers of dirty stinky crap, reeking of grog and missing vital teeth for opening beer cans. But behind the bum exterior, there lies a working man spirit! Equipped with make-shift trolleys (either made from old prams, wheelbarrows, bike wheels, falling apart trailers) these scrap-metal-and-shit guys walk around from dusk till dawn throughout Krakow and collect recyclable waste that nobody wants, like old fridges, aluminium cans, computer parts etc. They then sell the products off at scrap metal yards and earn a good penny. It’s tough work too. We had two scrap-metal-and-shit guys come up to our apartment we were renting on the 4th floor to take out an old washing machine that broke down. The landlord organised it and warned me the day before not to be frightened of them (lucky good old Ben was visiting at the time). And sure enough, the two men who were probably 35 years old but looked to be 50 came in mismatched cardigans, stinking of beer, calling me ma’am and swiftly removed the old piece of junk that weighed more than 300 kilos. It then went straight to the scrap yard, bypassing the tip completely. Unbeknownst to most Poles who treat the scrap-metal-and-shit guys with distaste and scorn, these men are the true eco warriors.
I tried looking for some scrap-metal-and-shit guys today and to take their photo, alas none could be found. So this picture is taken from a Polish film called Edi, dealing a bit with the subject matter at hand. The dude who played Edi was a real scrap-metal-and-shit guy and the movie stirred some discussion about homeless people in Poland.