06 December 2010
BOTTLE RECYCLING IN S.A. CUCKOO'S NEST
WAVY GRAVY: THE CEILING OF AESOP BOTTLE SUPPLIERS IN ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA, IS MADE FROM RECYCLED BOTTLES.
Kesey's Ghost Keeps SA Clean Beverages Container Legislation Could Help Original Drinkers
by PHILIP WHITE - (from the archive, June 2010)
My first thorough exploration of the bottled grog racket was in the red hot summer of 72-73. That winter, the world had run out of petrol. In the evenings, I could stroll all the way home - from the University of Adelaide to my squat in posh Walkerville - in the middle of the road, whitelining.
There were no cars.
We staged a Wole Soyinke play, Kongi’s Harvest, in the Union Hall, directed by Rob Brookman, with Ben Yenge and yrs truly on congas and bongos, and nobody came. Nobody.
But once the juice began to flow again and the summer blasted in, Adelaide began a boozebinge that would have today’s interferist wowsers aflame with disgust. The very confronting notion that civilization stops without petrol seemed to fuel a thirst previously unseen.
THE EARLIEST AMPHORAE CLAY BOTTLES WERE MORE BRITTLE THAN GLASS, BUT IF BROKEN THEIR SHARDS WERE USED ON ROADWAYS AND IN BUILDING MATERIAL
In those days I worked from dawn til dusk in Brierly’s Boy Scout bottle yard in Carrington Street. Jalopies would come in from the pubs, stacked high with tattered sacks full of empty bottles. They’d reverse against a loading deck beneath a rusty galvo roof so low I couldn’t stand erect. But I’d unload the truck, unwire the bags in a crouch, drag ’em across the bench, and tip the bottles down a chute.
At the bottom was a fifty foot conveyor belt surrounded by leering women from eastern Europe: no spikka, until my exhaustion slowed me down so much I couldn’t keep the belt full, when they’d scream for more to avoid the boss’s tongue lashing. They’d expertly flick the bottles over their shoulders into various bins, depending on the colour of the glass. Beer came in 750 ml. Pickaxe brand bottles; they went into crates for refilling. The air was full of extreme noise and flying glass.
The roof was so hot that one day I flaked out, and slid down the chute face-first, embracing a bag of bottles. I came-to halfway down the belt, waking to the laughter of the lasses, my arms about my bag of shards. The boss, a giant hob-nailed blue singlet Italian brute from the Po Valley, turned the belt off, put me under his arm, slopped me on the baking asphalt and handed me a hot frothing Coke. The women’s giggles turned to screams of demand before I’d got half of it down, and the Big Po ordered me back on deck.
That week the bastard bit my pay for the Coke.
NOT ALL CONTAINERS PRESENT PROBLEMS IN THE RECYCLED GLASS CHAIN ... SIX BOTTLES OF MOUTON-ROTHSCHILD 1996 IN ONE AT THE FICOFI TASTING, KAESLER WINES, BAROSSA S.A. 2010 - photo LEO DAVIS
The half hour lunchtime was spent in the pub across the road, rehydrating with fast pints of Southwark. I could down six with my sandwich, then back to that hellish unloading dock. At night, I’d tip glass powder from my boots and the crotch of my jocks. The homeward ride on Hellie Sangter’s pushbike was rather abrasive.
Enriched with such hands-on research, I found myself consulting to the Department of Environment a few years later, sorting out the paper mess left after the passage of the South Australian Beverages Container Legislation. This inspired piece of brilliance was designed to keep the state clean. It’s hard to explain how much litter there was: the joint was disgusting. We’d isolate a piece of road, a park, or a beach, collect all the rubbish, itemise it, then bung a deposit on whichever item made up more than a certain percent of the total. So bagmen and scavengers would clean the state.
This was an act of thievery, really – we basically pinched the revolutionary Oregon Bottle Bill, which had been devised in response to the demands of Richard Chambers, an experienced backwoodsman and logging equipment salesman with a bright green bent.
Ken Kesey was also reputed to have had input in this bill. I never met Chambers, but thanked Kesey at an Adelaide Writers’ Week a few years later, and he certainly spoke as if he’d had something along the lines of a fair bit to do with it, but probably usually did quite a lot of that, given his enthusiastic demeanour. It's a terrible pity he's not available for more help now that the South Australian Labor government has knocked the mental hospital down and built a film studio in its place. A new version of Cuckoo's Nest would be apt.
KEN KESEY, STRIPED, CENTER, WITH HIS MERRY PRANKSTERS FROM THE ACID TESTS, BESIDE THE "FURTHER" BUS. KESEY DIED IN 2001, AFTER A STROKE, DIABETES, AND COMPLICATIONS ARISING FROM A LIVER OPERATION
The efforts of Vicky Berger, Chambers’ Republican Representative daughter, eventually saw the Oregon bill extended to include water bottles in 2007.
The breweries, Coke (which virtually owned KESAB - Keep South Australia Beautiful), and Pickaxe bottles fought like pigs to stop our borrowed act. They seemed to think that South Australia would suddenly cease drinking, which was plain stupid. But we prevailed, and suddenly the state was the cleanest in the land. It still works, yet remains unique in Australia.
Lately, I’ve been talking about the ravages of alcohol with mates on Blackfella country. With all other drugs, government’s gradually learning to attack the vendors, rather than the addicts, and it beats me why this isn’t applied to those nefarious peddlers of sweetened ethanol. The deadly havoc they wreak is obvious.
Since the template is there, solid in legislation in the Beverage Container Act 1975, it should easily be applied to the tribal lands for another purpose.
If the community leaders imposed a fifty cent deposit, the kids would collect all those millions of stubbies, cans, and silver pillows and hand them in for some serious pocket money. The collected containers could then be itemized and catalogued. It would suddenly be very clear who was supplying the drug.
In places like The Alice, the vendors remove bladder packs from their boxes at the counter, flatten the cardboard and stack it behind the cash register. The besotteds lurch out, guzzling from the glittering modern equivalent of the wine skin, leaving behind the cardboard, with its polite health warnings about standard drinks.
So the bags themselves should display the health warnings, and be bar-coded to identify the manufacturer and the dealer.
Once a community could present an accurate list of such garbage items, the list could be published, and we would see who was responsible for what. These companies could then be presented with an invitation to pay for the damage they had wrought, and concerned investors could adjust their share portfolios accordingly.
Only a fool would suggest that this would cure the disease of alcoholism, but the bush and its original inhabitants would look and feel a lot better, whilst those who profit from this disgusting degradation could be identified, and leant on for some rehabilitation funding.
Just a thought.
FRI 25 JUNE 10
MANY ORIGINAL AUSTRALIANS REACT ANGRILY TO PRESS IMAGES LIKE THIS (TIME MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2006 - "THE DEMON DRINK"), AND SUGGEST THAT ONLY A MINORITY OF THEIR NUMBER DRINK TO EXCESS, AND THAT WHITE PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY OVERALL TO DRINK TO EXCESS.