Empty battery (Lasting Words)

Empty battery (Lasting Words)
Empty battery (Lasting Words)
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My wife is from Brazil. This makes it possible for me to see things that I would have otherwise not seen. For example, during my latest holiday in Brazil I somehow ended up on a cow pasture close to Tres Rios in the North of the province of Rio de Janeiro. It was there that I saw something that got me thinking. Somebody had just dumped an empty battery.

I was born in 1970 in Wörgl, Tyrol. The street in front of our house had not been tarmacked yet, and you could argue that some of the side branches of the Inn Valley were pretty isolated during winter. We regularly dumped our garbage in a hole in the forest. No joke – this was our town landfill. All our garbage? No – even back in the 1970s, batteries were special: special waste, to be precise. The first special waste that I can remember.

Today, 40 years later, waste separation is pretty much a commonly held dogma in Austria. People often ask me if there are cultural differences between Brazil and Austria. Waste separation is one of them. There are things that we automatically do (not do). To me, this is one of the reasons why sustainability is economically relevant.

Once something has become part of society, it also makes an impact. There are rules that we have to obey. The same applies to the field of sustainability. We as a society want regulations about how to handle waste. We want companies to render an account for what happens to special waste such as batteries. If companies fail to comply, they are punished. Directly by the government, and indirectly by the critical public and the consumers.

I would not be an optimist if I were unable to see the upside in all of this. Sustainability is often regarded as post-materialistic topic. To paraphrase Brecht: “First comes food, then morality!” Brazil’s GDP today is similar to Austria’s GDP in 1970. I think it will not take 47 years for sustainability to become part of society in the emerging economies.



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