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Swedish Rubbish

By Gerry Coburn

This week I want to talk about cardboard. Ah I can see you turning the page already, but hold on for just a moment. Let me bring you on a journey. You had purchased a table and chairs from Argus. The boxes have now arrived two days later. You have said goodbye to the driver of the large white van with Argus stencilled on the side. (So much for passing your new furniture off as Habitat originals to the neighbours. You think to your self why they can't deliver at 3am.) You close the door and eagerly get your Son in Law to move the boxes into the kitchen. You tear open the boxes. Reveal the beautiful new furniture and after two hours of post assembly you sit back and are unable to see them. You can't see them because of the huge amounts of cardboard now littering your Italian tiled floor. What to do. Break them up; fold them over and over until they are the thickness of a small child. Picking them up you go into the back garden and try and squeeze them into your black bin. They won't fit, you sigh and plonk them behind the bin and try to forget about them.

Well I am recently arrived in Sweden and as is the custom here I went to IKEA to purchase furniture. Apartments here come unfurnished. Well at least they do in the Dixon apartments - Dixon's are one of four major trust fund properties owners in Gothenburg. My girlfriend is a Dixon babe and thus we have a Dixon apartment but more about that in another letter - surfice to say they don't have rental agencies in Sweden. In IKEA we purchased an armchair, TV unit, curtains, a table and lots and lots of cushions for about 2000sk (220 euro).I drew the line at getting a couch, they come in boxes the size of a town house in Meath Street and to be honest I am unsure our relationship can take the strain of it's complicated assembly. We get home and for the next three hours we assemble and drink coffee and assemble and we don't argue. (later I am told that if you build IKEA products and you don't argue with your loved ones you are blessed with eternal love, however the big test is to build a couch (so I was right), not arguing during that build actually means that you must get married straight away and the government pays for it.)

Anyway after the building has been completed we are left with, and I don't wish to exaggerate here, about three tons of cardboard. I sit on the new armchair and sigh. AM doesn't look perturbed, maybe I think to myself that she has not yet thought about the issue of disposal in so much as she is still high on the eternal love in the room. I don't wish to bring her down to earth yet so I just kind of kick the card board with my foot and I sigh again. She looks at me. What's wrong with you she asks? I point at the cardboard mountain and ask what will we do with the cardboard? I am about to add that if she thinks I am spending the new three hours bending and twisting it into disposable shapes she is very much mistaken. But she says "put it in the Sopprummet, when you bring the bins down". Sopprummet means garbage room. I hadn't been there yet. My recently arrival had allowed me a period of grace from the general daily household tasks. Apparently that period was now over. I mutter something about bins in Europe not big enough to take the cardboard, but she has disappeared into the kitchen to eat cereal with yoghurt, probably. I rise and pick up as much of the cardboard as possible. I tuck it under my arm and make my way down to the Sopprummet. I dump the cardboard at the door of this garage like structure that sits in the communal courtyard. I have a key to open the door and when I do so I am reflected in the glory of government controlled recycling. To visualise it, think when Honey Bunny opens the case in pulp fiction.

For all I know the contents of that brief case was an easy way to recycle cardboard. I stand with my mouth open. Inside this innoxious garage sits the Mecca of recycling. Along one wall sits huge bins. Each with helpful photographs illuminating which refuse it takes. Glass, paper, food, green glass, aluminium cans, tin cans, and an extra large bin for cardboard. I am surprised the picture on the front of the cardboard bin is not one of IKEA and a table. I set the door so it sits open and I lug the cardboard into the garage.

I open the bin for the cardboard and I plonk the offending packaging in to it. It fits, I am rid of it, and I didn't even have to bend or manipulate it in any way. And I am doing the planet a service. Quickly I pop back upstairs and I grab anything and everything that needs to be thrown out. I run gleefully back to the Sopprummet and pass a fruitful 20 minutes putting things into the right bins. I know understand why, as a child, we spend so much time putting square pegs into square holes and round pegs into round holes. It was training for a recycling utopia. When I am finished I put the empty plastic bags in the plastic bag bins and I feel good. I actually feel happy. Why do I feel happy? Because it was so easy! It was just so easy. To do some good for the planet and to save myself from having to spend two hours sitting on various sizes of cardboard.

I lock the garage and almost skip back up the stairs to our second floor apartment. I am ready to volunteer myself as the person in the apartment in charge of rubbish. I mean in a more literal sense that the current title my friends have for me. AM is washing her cereal bowl and she stares at me. I grin at her and go sit on the armchair. "Maybe", I tell her in the tone of one happy with the world, "we should buy a couch?"

About The Author

Gerry Coburn is a 29 year old smoker who once felt Bjrk's bottom in Thurles in Co. Tipperary. He once fell in love with a Swedish girl. Upon wakening he found himself living in Sweden. He now writes articles for his website He finds money annoying. Copyright ©


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