Sunday, March 9, 2014


Containers on the street for various types of waste: yellow lid = paper/cardboard, green = non-recyclable solid waste, small blue container = glass/plastic, brown = food waste (compost!)

I never thought I would write a blog post about, of all things, garbage in Italy. However, while I'm sure the system has its flaws, the complex and ecological "trash separation" campaign that seems to be in place here suggests a do-it-yourself, earth-friendly culture of little waste that I really appreciate.

I quickly realized that, in my apartment building, there is no convenient "garbage shoot" or even shared trash containers in some common location. When I asked where to throw out the trash and recyclables, I was informed of the detailed separation system for garbage and directed to look for various containers for non-recyclable solids, paper/cardboard, glass/plastic, and "organico" food waste, on the street.

After a couple of days, I decided to find the recycle containers for glass/plastic and paper. Turns out the closest ones are about two blocks away, so, as with all activities here, recycling involves walking! Since that day, I have noticed people of all ages and walks of life carrying small bags of trash/recycles to toss into the street bins on their way to work or wherever. No garbage pick-up here! Also, thankfully on one of my many walks I noticed a woman throwing trash into one of the larger, "non-recyclable solids" bins. I had been wondering how I was going to lift the huge lid and simultaneously get my trash in… no fear! There is a foot pedal I had not noticed. I saw this woman step on the pedal and, voila! The lid opens, you toss in your trash, and don't even have to touch the gross bin. Awesome.

I should mention that the trash separation system is also supported by the set-up of small trash bins inside the individual apartments here. There is a small bin in the bathroom (solid waste, not recyclable), and a surprisingly tiny box with a drawer, under the kitchen sink, holding two very small containers (each for a supermarket-size bag). I decided to use one for "organico" (food waste) and the other for regular trash (solids). I put the glass/plastic and paper on top of the box. Basically, my whole trash set-up is about the size of two shoeboxes. Compare this to the giant trash bins we use in the U.S.!

However, the system is working! I am in awe of the tiny amount of trash I produced in one week here.
My trash after one week. The bag on the far left is my backpack, included to show the small size of the garbage bags. So, after the backpack, there are the bathroom and kitchen "solid waste" bags, my recycles in the white paper bag (including one pizza box!), and the "organico" food waste in the small bag on the right. 
As someone who has always wanted to compost but never actually did, I am happy they make it so easy here in Italy. 
Yesterday, after one week, I took out all the trash, using the foot pedal to dump the actual garbage, and walking an extra block to the recycle/compost containers. One more detail… I also noticed, here in the apartment building, in one of the common areas, students have taken initiative to collect plastic caps (which are not recyclable the same way as the bottles), and have set up a small container right here in the building. I guess now I will have to set those caps aside, too…

Save the caps! 

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