Trash 'R' Danes

When the washing machine finally gave up the ghost, clunking and leaking its way to a shuddering halt, my father smiled in anticipation. Being the tinkerer that he was, this would amply restock his supply of mechanical 'bits' - bits with no home but lots of potential.

And it wasn't long before they were in use again. The greenhouse needed a watering system for the month and a half we were away each summer. So began the transformation of the clothes washer. A little motor, some tubing, a nozzle for the tap, gutters, a cork... the Professor Brainstorm contraption took shape. And the tomatoes and cucumbers were appreciative in our absense.

Recycling in a slightly less complicated form is now a given in developed countries. For most of us, it's a mundane and minimal process. We dutifully separate our tin cans from our newspapers and dispose of toxic batteries at drop-off points.

Compared with the Danes, however, we're infants in this second-time-around business.

Denmark has not just salvaged recycling from the fringes, but has made recycling so much a part of the national consciousness that Danes consider environmental protection more important than economic growth, writes Colin Woodard (Page 17).

Read his story on how the Danes have closed the loop so that the waste of one industry becomes the raw materials of another, making the Scandinavian nation a world leader in "green" industry.

In case you're wondering whether I spent the rest of my childhood running around in unwashed clothes. No. My father did buy a new machine before dismantling the old one. And we had an abundance of tomatoes.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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