Sardinia Living

Recycle Headaches

It is hard to take mundane everyday life and make people want to read about it. It may be a little different for us only because we are in a foreign country– but we still do the ordinary unexciting day-to-day stuff that everyone else does. Except we screw up a lot. I hope you won’t be disappointed.

We are serious about recycling on our little island. La Maddalena is a national park so I think the requirements are probably even stricter here than in most of Italy.  If you weren’t born here, you gotta learn to do it properly. By that I mean you can’t use the wrong kind of trash bag or put out the wrong thing on any given day. They won’t pick it up and they leave a sticker on it saying you will be fined 50 euros if you do it again, without telling you what you did wrong. Not much tolerance here.

So here is the deal. There is a schedule of what they will pick up on what days. There are 2 zones, so you need to know what zone you live in, because they pick up different things on different days. There is a list of categories and a description of what is in each category. For instance carta (paper) includes paper, cardboard, tetra-paks, etc. It took me awhile to even know what a tetra-pak was so I got it wrong a few times.

They collect carta  on martedi (Tuesday) so you gotta put it out on lunedi sera (Monday night). You have to put it in a cardboard box, plastic reusable recycle bin, or a paper bag. This makes sense because if you put it in a plastic bag, they would have to separate that out when they take it to wherever it is processed. Good so far.

These are some of the recycle bins waiting to be picked up. On certain days you should find only clear plastic bags lined up here in our condominium.

On mercoledi (Wednesday) they pick up vetro (glass) so you put it out martedi sera (Tuesday night). Simple! Or so we thought. It took many tries before we could get it right. The schedule also shows they collect lattine (cans) the same day. But they never seemed to take the cans, and the glass kept getting rejected. We got the sticker on the bag that said we were not in compliance and we were afraid to keep putting it out lest we pay huge fines. We couldn’t figure what we were doing wrong until a neighbor said not to put it in a bag.  So we put it in our recycle box. They finally took it. But still they left the cans.

The next week they were back to not taking our glass. I didn’t even bother to try to put out the cans, because I had tried several times already. I finally ended up taking the few cans we had into the town and I dropped them in a trash bin. We found out when we got our new recycling calendar that these two were collected on alternating weeks, instead of both each week.

Then there was the plastica (plastic). This is the most frustrating of all, not that they wouldn’t take it, but because it is so hard to figure out the little symbols on packages to determine which is recyclable and which is cellophane or else just trash (secco). Then you must not put it in a black trash bag. (Yeah, they got us on that one too.) It’s gotta be clear so they can see what is in it. Same thing as the secco.  It has to be clear.  And nobody tells you this stuff.

Three times a week they collect the organic stuff we always used to compost for the garden, plus bones and fat that you wouldn’t compost. They call this umido.  You put this out in a plastic bag and place it inside a recycle receptacle so animals can’t get at it. I wondered why they put this in plastic bags since you would have to cut them open to compost the contents. But I found out after only one mistake that they have biodegradable plastic trash bags and you must use these. I was surprised. I had no idea they even made these.

By the time a couple of months passed, I was so frustrated with the whole thing.  I have always been a recycler. Yes, sorting is a pain in the neck, but I have always felt it is important! I was really trying to do the right thing. The pages and pages of instructions were all in Italian. I don’t know the language molto bene (hardly at all) and couldn’t ask anyone.

When we put out our trash every night, we would be surprised in the morning if it was actually gone. It was a cause for celebration.  You have no idea how many wine bottles and glass jars we had managed to save up before they finally took them.  I felt like a huge weight had been lifted.

Now they accept our trash almost all the time, which is a humongous victory for us!!!!

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