What do you put inside your garbage bag?

What do you put inside your garbage bag?


There is a garbage collection point right at the entrance of my university residence. I have noticed that almost eve

ry time when the trucks came to collect the garbage, the crew would grab whichever bags and throw them onto the trucks without any activity of examining or sorting. It had been bothering me a lot ever since. By the way, I live in a very tiny little town called Bayonne in the south of France. I am a Chinese.

Personally, I sort my own garbage. I have been doing it for two months (not at all very proud though). The motivations are very simple. It’s the right thing to do. It makes me feel like a responsible citizen to the society and a responsible human being to the environment. It is beneficial to my own well-being as it increases the quality of my life. However, what I have been trying to do will turn out to be totally in vain if those garbage men aren’t ever going to improve their practice.
I fully respect and understand them that even when they do want to, it will still be a mission impossible because, for one, all garbage bags in France are non-transparent (I’m talking about the ones specifically manufactured to store garbage, not the transparent ones in the supermarket to carry your apples or cucumbers; for two, as human beings, we have bad habits. It will be a daunting task and even absurd for the crew to open all the bags only to discover that we have mixed everything and that it will take forever to sort them out. Will looking into people’s garbage bags be violating our rights to privacy? An interesting question.
Last month, my French professor gave us a presentation assignment. I wanted to take this opportunity and to share with the audience something substantial. So I decided to look into this whole garbage sorting activity and practices with the aim to identify the motivations and challenges underneath. Most importantly I was expecting that my audience, myself included, would look at this issue from different perspectives and realize its greater significance. I did some research and interviews, which made me feel like a private investigator (lol).
On 19th of April, I did it. It went pretty well. I stuttered every once in a while though. Imagine I had to do it in my second foreign language (phewwwwwww~). It was my second presentation in French after living in the country for one and a haft year. By the way, I’m not the kind of guy who reads scripts in the presentations. I do free style and I improvise. The audience were fantastic.They were French, Basque, Russian, Chinese, British and Hungarian. I am really grateful that they really participated and contributed wonderful ideas.
The next day, I shared this presentation with one of my best friends. She would like to post it up online to share with the public. So she asked “would you be able to write a script for your talk so that I could post it together with your presentation?”. “What a brilliant idea”, I thought. And here I am, hitting the replay button, looking back at the presentation in retrospect. Only I’ll translate everything into my first foreign language (a shorter pheww this time lol).

You can open my presentation by clinking on the image below so that you can watch my slides in French while reading the scripts in English. I hope that your computer screen is wide enough for you to do both at the same time.


For the ease of your understanding, the script below will be organized correspondingly with the page order of my slides. I cannot be more grateful for you interest and attention. I wish sincerely that you would enjoy my presentation and would not feel bored with the way I talk. 

By the way, you will be seeing repeatedly the two letters indicated below in my scripts. They perform different functions during the delivery of the presentation.

(T): meaning “turning to the next page”

(P): meaning “pause” for the purpose of adjusting the rhythm, giving audience time to think, letting key points sink in etc etc.

In my script, there are also 18 “()” with numbers inside, these are references to support my speech. The detail of the references will be presented at the end of my speech.

Okay, here it goes.

Opening: “Hey guys~, thank you all for coming to today’s presentation. I’ve decided not to record the session so that everyone could participate freely with total relaxation and no constraints at all (It’s a long story)”. “Today, we are going to talk about something that are rarely brought up in our daily topics. But I guarantee you that it will be something interesting and substantial. Before revealing the topic, we’ll start with a fantastic adventure. Here we go”. (staying on the 1st slide)
Slide 1:
– “I believe that most of us must have known or have seen this film GRAVITY?”. Some audience were registering. “Would anyone be able to tell us what happened in the film. More specifically, I would like you to tell us what was the accident that had destroyed the space shuttle.” One Hungarian guy said something about space debris.
– “Precisely, it was the space debris that had destroyed the space shuttle in the film”. (T)
– “According to scientific research, there were 1,900 tons of debris in our space (in Low Earth orbits) in 2002(1). This figure has shoot up to 5,500 tons by 2006(2)”. “The sources of the debris come from spent rocket launchers, retired and abandoned satellites as well as from space accidents. There are also several lost objects by astronauts while they were performing space operations. Lost objects in the record include a pair of gloves, two cameras as well as a wrench.” (3) (P) “Now we are traveling to our next destination. (T)
Slide 3:
– “Has anyone ever heard of ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ or ‘The 7th or 8th Continent’?” Some were registering, others not. “Somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is a large zone with enormous garbage concentration”. I pointed to the spot on the slide to show approximate location of the Eastern Garbage Patch. “It was formed due to the movement of ocean currents. Most of the waste in the Pacific Ocean resulted from human activities are concentrated in this area.”(4)
– “According to several estimations for the area of the garbage patch, the smallest is 700,000 km²(5). And do you know how big France is? (P) I’m telling you, guys, France is smaller than this.” Some audiences were taken aback (P)(T)
Slide 4:
– “Please pay attention that when I say garbage patch or a continent of garbage. It does not mean that it is physically a huge floating ground on top of the water piled up with garbage. I would like to be as objective as possible without any exaggeration. In fact, most of the garbage are, I quote, ‘translucent’ and are floating just ‘beneath the surface of the water’”. I pointed to the photo. “They are not able to be captured by satellite photos and can only be seen from the boat deck.”(6) (T)
Slide 5:
– “This is the man who discovered the garbage patch in 1997, Captain Charles Moor.”(7) “Now, look at the sample of water that he took from that area.”(8)(P) Some audience frowned their eyebrows, hope I didn’t turn their stomach.(T)
Slide 6:
– “And this is ‘a dead albatross chick photographed on Midway Atoll, a strip of sand and coral in the North Pacific’. The photo showed ‘the actual stomach contents of this baby bird in one of the world’s most remote marine sanctuaries’”.(9) I did not show this photo in the actual presentation for the concern that it might arouse the emotional side of my audience. I would like them to remain their objectivity. (P)
– “We have been in space, then in the middle of the ocean. Now we are returning back to the continent. (T) And here we are coming back to France.”
Slide 7:
– “What we are looking at right now is one of the landfill sites in France (10). I believe we have all seen trucks like this every once in the while on our streets”. Trucks like this are commonly seen in the region where I live. “This is the type of truck that navigates from one location to another collecting our garbage then send them off in sites like this for landfilling. A piece of info: Garbage can also be sent to recycling and incineration facilities. Landfilling is one of the methods to dispose our garbage.”
– I pointed randomly at some of the garbage bags scattered around on the sites. “It is highly possible that one of those bags may come from our home or our residence.” (P)(T)
Slide 8:
– “This is another landfill sites in France. Let’s read the explanation offered here for ‘The functioning of landfill sites’: The waste stored at the landfill sites are the ultimate waste, which is to say that there exists no more value that could be extracted or recovered from these waste; all valuable materials have already been recovered (11).However, I beg to differ.” (T)
Slide 9:
– I zoomed in on the objects being discharged. “We can easily tell from the photo that there is a pillow, a mattress, probably a duvet, several bed sheets, rugs, plastics and woods etc. As far as we know, woods and plastics can in fact be recycled. There exist also technologies and processes that have been developed to recycle textiles. Again, they say that all valuable materials have already been recovered. I would prefer to keep my reasonable doubt on this one.”(P)
– “Here comes the end of our adventure. We have traveled to the space, then to the ocean and finally to the continent that we live on. Now I would like to ask everybody a question: what do the three adventures have in common?”
– “There are wastes present in all the three adventures”, one student answered.
– “And?”, I continued to ask.
– “And, those wastes are from human beings”, he replied.
– “Exactly”, I repeated again just for the effect, “there are wastes EVERYWHERE on our continent, in our ocean and even in the space. Those wastes are resulted from us, from human activities”.
– I continued “Today, we are going talk about one human activity that has produced one of the outcomes above mentioned”. Time to reveal the topic. (T)
Slide 10: “Sorting your waste – what do you put inside your garbage bags”. (P)(T)
Slide 11: a slide to entertain 🙂
– “I would like everyone to know that the objective of today’s presentation is NOT to find out what are the actual items inside your garbage bags. It is NOT to teach you how to sort and recycle your own garbage. Since we are many nationalities from both developed and developing countries where the situations vary greatly. The objective is to simply look at this issue objectively from different perspectives and to make everyone realize its greater significance. If, by the end of the presentation, you are able to think and think differently. My objective will be very well achieved.” (T)
Slide 12: Structure of the presentation
1. Context and significance of sorting and recycling waste
2. Brainstorming (All audiences were engaged)
– Advantages & Motivations
– Challenges & Barriers
3.  Case Study – How Japanese sort their own trash.
4. Country Rankings (Audiences of different nationalities would rank their own countries)
5.  Summary
6.  Psychological game
7. The closing speech. (T)
Slide 13:
– I did not manage to play this video during the presentation due to technical problem, basically it illustrates the waste problem resulted from human activities in a model of linear economy where we take, make and waste. It demonstrates the concept of circular economy. It explains the benefits as well as challenges to achieve circular economy. In the end, it accentuates our essential role as responsible citizens and consumers in “closing the loop” through proper sorting and recycling (12). The video is in French, but I’m sure you won’t have any problem in grasping the main idea. Do enjoy. (T)
Slide 14:
– “This illustration of supply chain in linear economy (13) explains perfectly that we, as consumers, are the sources of the problems. Economics 101 has taught us that it is always the demand that drives the supply. If there is no demand coming from every one of us, this supply chain would not have existed. From this illustration, we have companies that take resources from the earth, those that manufacture using the resources, those that deliver and us, yes us, the consumers”,(P) I pointed to the icon of shopping cart within the red circle, “around whom this whole chain operates. Then after, it’s those that deal with the waste that we have produced directly and indirectly. Eventually you’ve got the waste piling up each and every day. We throw away way too much and we seldom give serious thoughts about the scale of the waste we have produced”. (P)(T)
Slide 15:
– “This photo is from an article published in LIFE magazine in 1955 (14). Throw-away living at that moment was a fashion and a way of modern life. Just look at how cheerful this whole family looks for having so many disposable items that have made their life so much easier. I guess that it must be the housewife who is the happiest. I recalled that I once saw an old advertisement that promoted disposable dishware featuring a housewife skipping in chanting out of the kitchen. The great invention of disposable items had finally rescued her from all the daunting housework. She now could finally enjoy more time with her family and friends.”(T)
Slide 16:
– Scanning the audience, I went, “now we are in the 21st century and we are still throwing away. The difference is that nowadays we begin to throw way less and throw away wisely. But still we are throwing away… We are the sources of the problem therefore we should rightful provide a solution. (T)
Slide 17:
– “Fortunately, we now have a solution which is called circular economy. As we can see from the illustration (15) that it is now a loop instead of a linear model. In this new model, all materials can be properly used, recycled then recirculated back into the value chain. Eventually we will no longer need to extract new resources from the nature. However, as consumers, we have an essential role to play during the whole process. If we are not able to sort and recycle our waste properly, this loop can never be closed, which now leads to our brainstorming.” I raised my index finger and gave my audience an intriguing smile.  (T)
Slide 18:
– “what are the motivations and benefits as well as the advantages to sort our own wastes? I love this photo by the way :)” (P)(T)
Slide 19:
– “And what makes your think that ‘I just can’t do it’? What are the barriers and challenges in doing so? Apparently homework is too much pain for this kid :)”(P)(T)
It was a fantastic brainstorming, though it lasted for around 7 minutes. Everyone has really contributed great inputs to the discussion. Here I attach to you in the table below the factors that we have discovered.
Benifits and Motivations.PNG
Slide 20:
– “I am sure that we have had enough discovery through the brainstorming to ascertain that change starts from individual action. However, individual action alone cannot amount to substantial effect. Collaboration is the key to success. All parties on the value chain must collaborate altogether to make sure the loop will be closed firmly. Collaboration is essentially important. But how? (P) “To seek the answer to this question, I have engaged my private detective.” (T)
Slide 21:
– “We have carried out some serious investigations. We’ve done researches and interviews. Finally, it came to our attention that in Japan they have a very good collaboration in managing their household waste. The information I am going to present you about Japan is not only what we have discovered through online
research. These are also information verified not only by my friend who has been living in Japan for at least five years but also by my two Japanese friends.” (T)A short glance at 22 (T)
Slide 23:
– “This is one corner of a guide that gives instructions on how to sort PET bottles in Japan (16). Guide like is available in every community, if not in every residence. It’s a surprise to find out that the Japanese rinse their bottles before disposing them for recycling. They do this for the bottles for juice, milk and oil etc. My Japanese friends told me in the interview that when they went to the beach or the stadium and if they could not find a way to rinse their juice bottles, they would bring them home, rise them then throw them. My Chinese friend in Japan told me that you actually could throw them without rinsing, but she pointed out the possibility that someone who collected them may still rinse them after. “(T)
Slide 24:
– “All garbage bags in Japan are, as required by law, transparent, so that when people come collect your garbage, they’ll be able to see through the bags to identify the items inside. Be careful that if you have not properly have them sorted out, the garbage crew have the right to refuse your bags.(17)” (T)
Slide 25:
– “Yes, this is exactly what you think it is. In communities where they have more stringent rules, you must sign your name on the garbage bags before your send them away. Meaning, you may find your bags returned to your door if they are not properly sorted.”
– “My jaws dropped when I learned about this from my Japanese friends. I asked them ‘what if I sign someone else’s name?’ And immediately I was able to capture the subtle contempt emerging from their faces. One of them replied firmly, ‘ No no no, in Japan we do not do this, people who do this are considered very very bad person’. While he was speaking, he dropped his hand and waved it somewhere close to the floor, which is to say that people like this are considered very very low like the dirt at the bottom of the pond. Whoever does this bring only disgrace onto him or herself.” (T)
Slide 26:
– “Over here in France, we have garbage collection points with different bins lined up next to every residence where we can go at any hour of the day and dump whatever we want and no one is there supervising. However, in Japan, the types of trash and hours of disposal are strictly controlled. There are garbage collection points like this in Japanese communities where there is a small area next to the light pole. There is a panel hung on the pole which tells you the schedule and types of garbage that are allowed. Rules must be firmly respected. If you dump the wrong garbage in the wrong hour, for sure yours will be rejected. (T)
Slide 27:
– “My friend sent me a photo which she took personally on the 6th of April. Let’s check it out.”(T) I zoomed in on it in slide 28. “Apparently, someone was confused and dumped the wrong garbage. So there was a notice placed on top of it, which says something like this “You are not allowed to dispose this type of garbage today. To find out more information, please call this number indicated below”.(P)(T)
Slide 29:
– “And here is something even more incredible. Say you have a chair, a gas top, a microwave or a piece of big furniture that you no longer need. How do you dispose it if you are in Japan? (P)Here is how it works”, I pointed to the procedure flow on the right side of the slide, “First of all, you call the government to buy a ticket. Now you have a ticked to justify that you have prepaid for the garbage you are going to dispose. Then, the garbage guy comes to collect the item but he’ll check your ticket first. Once he has verified that you have indeed paid for it, he’ll take care of the object. If not? sorry can’t do~. Items of different types or sizes also have different collection fees.” (T)

Slide 30:
– “This is one of the comments to the article ‘Trash in Japan: Keep ‘em separated’(18). I would like you to read the words underlined in red (During the actual presentation, I asked a British girl to help me translate the sentence into French for the audience). Yes, your trash will be returned to you if not properly sorted and disposed. This someone who checks your trash could be from city council, could be local community worker, could be a volunteer, or just someone who is retired and wants to contribute to the community. Regardless of his or her identity, there will be institutional pressures that make sure that the rules are well respected.” (P)
During the interview with my two Japanese friends, I asked them “do you personally think about the environment while you are sorting your household waste?”. To my surprise, they replied no, by which I was a bit taken aback because I was expecting a positive answer. Instead they provided me with an even better one. They said “we do it naturally without thinking about anything else because it has become our habit. We have been doing it since our childhood. When we were small, our parents taught us how to do it. While we were attending schools, from primary school all the way to university, it had been the students ourselves who did the cleaning all the time, while in the schools in many other countries they have the cleaning ladies to do the job. Moreover, in Japan, we have a deep-rooted mentality among the overall population that we always think about someone else. We do not want to bother or bring inconvenience to anyone else. The more I do from my part, the less the next person will do for his part and it goes on like this.” I went momentarily speechless due to the series of incredible discovery. (T)
Slide 31:
– “So to summarize, the reasons why Japan emerged from this investigation could be explained by the following 6 criteria:
1. The awareness and mentality of the Japanese at large.
2. The education and habit developed since childhood.
3.  Collaboration: Transparent garbage bags; Transparent garbage bags with signature.
4. Collaboration: disposing oversized garbage.
5. Collaboration: The collection of the trash and the right to refuse.
6. Collaboration: Support and supervision from local community.”
– “Please pay attention that even though I have given Japan 5 stars according to all criteria, it does not mean Japan is the best in everything related to sorting and recycling waste. I’m sure there are a lot of things that Japan can learn from other countries as well.” (T)
Slide 32:
– For the next 10 minutes or so. I invited my audiences to rank their home countries based on the 6 criteria aforementioned.
Slide 33: (T)
– I have attached to you what we did during the presentation. Please excuse my sloppy drawing of the stars. By the way, the students from Peru and the US didn’t show.
– From this table, we are able to clearly identify the gap between developed and developing countries. As a Chinese, I am very well aware that we are still too far behind in all these aspects. This table has also helped me understand what developing countries need to improve in both the short and the long run. It came to my surprise that the Russian student gave only 1 star to her home country.
Please also pay attention that all the rankings are reflections of personal opinions which may not be representative of the actual situation. I apologize if you may feel embarrassed or offended because you come from one of the low ranking countries. (T)
Slide 34: (unfortunately I did not have more time to finish the rest of the presentation because the building that hosted the French class needed to be closed after certain hours. Another long story pheww~~. What I tell you from here onward is what I had planned but did not actually do)
– “Last but not least, I would like to invite all of you to play a psychological game. I discovered this game by accident from a video that I once watched. I never played it before with any group. I would like to try it out in today’s presentation. I assure you that it will take no longer than 2 minutes to play. Are you guys with me 🙂 ? Okay here we go.”
– “Now I would like all of you to close your eyes. Eyes close? (Voice going soft and deep and slow) Okay now imagine in your mind a place of tranquility, a place where you are in total relaxation and peace. (P)You got it? Okay now raise your hands if you are somewhere outdoor in the middle of the nature.(P) And finally open your eyes and look around you.” (The ideal result of this game would have the majority of the audience raising their hands up).(T)
Slide 35: Closing speech.
– “Look around!! This is a perfect example to demonstrate our relationship with the nature. We are highly dependent on the nature for our own well-being.” (T)
– “We used to be very outrageous and we have this habit of criticizing countries and companies who have negative impacts on the environment. But who are those companies producing for? They are producing for us. It is highly possible that every time when we make a purchase, somewhere in this world, a company is polluting the environment just to produce the product to meet our demand. It is always the demand that drives the supply and we are the source of the problem. But when was the last time that we actually thought about our own environmental impact resulted from our personal actions? It is time to think about this question…” (P)
– “Imagine that each one of us is standing in front of a mirror. Now we are looking at ourselves, right? I would like every one of us to raise our finger, look at the figure in the mirror, and ask this question: what is your own environmental impact resulted from your personal actions.” (P)
– “We always uphold this value of being a responsible person. We respect and appreciate those who are, for example, responsible parents, responsible friends, responsible employers, responsible professors, etc. etc. We’d despise those who escape responsibilities. But when was the last time that we actually thought about being a responsible human being to the environment, to our one and only mother nature. It is time to think about this question…” (P)
Slide 36:
In the end. I would like to again encourage every one of us to look at our own environmental impact and to take responsibilities for our personal actions. We are the source of the problems and we should rightfully provide a solution. (P) Brighten the corner where you are. Today we have just learned one way to start. (P)(T)
Slide 37:
Keep calm and sort your garbage. (P)(T)
Slide 38:
“Thank you all very much for your attention 🙂 ”
(I apologize sincerely for any information that were not correctly delivered. I am sure that you may not agree 100 percent with what has been presented here. I am open for discussion and criticism. I wish you all a very lovely day)


  1. Space Transport Development Using Orbital Debris. 
  2. Warning of catastrophe from mass of ‘space junk. 
  3. Space Debris.
  4. Great Pacific Garbage Patch. While I was gathering the detail of my talks and confirming my sources of information, I realized that I had said something incorrect during the presentation. I said “Most of the waste in the Pacific Ocean resulted from human activities are concentrated in this area” while I was pointing at the Eastern Garbage Patch while in fact there exists also Western Garbage Patch.
  5. I realized that I have misrepresented this information as the area for the Eastern Garbage Patch, while it is in fact the estimation of the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
  6. De Hawaï au Japon, l’océan poubelle. 
  7. Charles J. Moore. 
  8. Pollution in the Pacific: A watery garbage patch. 
  9. Pollution in the Pacific: A watery garbage patch. 
  10. One landfill site in France 
  11. Observatoire Départemental des Déchets. 
  12. Économie circulaire
  13. Institut EDDEC 2015 – Tous droits réservés. Design Graphique : Marie Reumont
  14. Throw-away living. 
  15. De l’économie traditionnelle à l’économie circulaire. 
  16. Garbage collection procedures for foreign residents. 
  17. Japan’s innovative recycling and energy conservation takes “green” to a whole new level.
  18. Trash In Japan: Keep ‘Em Separated. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s