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What could possibly go wrong?

May 9, 2016

Yes.  Well.  It’s a noble idea and functions smoothly to benefit the environment and general population.  Somewhere else.  I’m talking trash.  Not throwing shade… yet.  Actual trash.  When we arrived here, the garbage collection system was to carry one’s refuse up the street to the dumpster and pitch it in.  Some time after that, giant underground bins were installed for garbage plus glass, paper, and plastic recycling.  And in an uncharacteristic move of self-awareness, a monstrous receptacle for used cooking oil (note the lack of aluminum recycling).  Also lacking was any suggestion as to which types of plastic to deposit, which immediately led me to believe that none of it would be recycled but rather all of it hauled off to an illegal dump run by the mob.  As it always has been.  But the appearance of recycling would appease the EU.  And justify the expenditure of whatever EU funds were sent to bring the place up to code.  Perhaps larger bins would ameliorate the piles of garbage which mushroomed by the dumpsters as they overflowed before they were emptied… or someone was too lazy to put their bag inside, thus giving the impression of overflowing and setting the precedent for everyone else.  Evidently, none of this came to pass.  Garbage plus recyclables continued to accrue on the sidewalk and the EU mandated a more complicated and potentially enforceable scheme of collection.

Which brings me to the day I saw a poster in town about a new system of recycling.  I understood that at that very moment, new household bins were being distributed at the theatre.  I was, as I so often am, mistaken.  A talk was being given on the subject.  Nothing happens in Italy without an affliction of oration.  I listened to the man describe all the various types of garbage and recycling which may pass through a household.  And what particular sorts of food we may have purchased in said packaging.  Yeah, I can identify all the things.  I used to live in Santa Cruz (CA).  So, I asked a young mother at the back, jiggling a fussy baby on her hip, if they were distributing the bins today.  No, that will be another day.  Right, that’s enough of that then.

Immediately upon exiting the theatre, I bumped into a life-long expat friend who owns a shop in town.  She is always a font of useful information.  There had already been much hand wringing and hair pulling on the subject amongst business owners.  There would indeed be bins.  And bar codes.  I said I would like to participate.  I’m all in favor of ecology.  And I love fresh, new organizationals.  Yes, IKEA is a little patch of paradise for me.  She said, yes we would like to participate because it will be legally mandated by the EU.  HA!  I’d like to see them enforce it.  Really, I would.  But in a country with an order of magnitude more laws than even France, who invented bureaucracy, the only laws enforced with vigor are the unwritten food rules.

Some days later, I spotted a stack of notices at another apartment building’s door.  Relying on previous experience with whomever is responsible for delivering things to us, I snagged one on the way past.  There were none at ours.  It was the announcement of our Date of  Bin Distribution.  Which fell while we would be away.  Same friend, J, to the rescue.  She used her ‘foreign but known’ status to collect bins for the ‘unknown foreigners’ who weren’t on the list.  Our landlord has said nothing of this new, legally mandated scheme we’re to join.  There were barcodes, but they were not in any way associated with us.  So, where the voluminous instructions speak of Yellow Cards for putting out the wrong bin and Red Cards for mis-sorting the recyclables, J speculates said Cards are solely for education.  There won’t be enough Red Cards to get down the street.  I’ve observed how my neighbors “sort” their refuse.

So, I have collected, in theory, one year’s worth of:  yellow plastic bags for all plastic and metal (really? I am again suspicious; nobody takes every type of plastic with no mention whatsoever of the number codes), large paper bags for paper and cardboard, a plastic bin for glass, large grey plastic bags for non-recyclable/non-rotting trash (which is called “dry”), and <drumroll please> one large solid plastic bin, one small perforated plastic bin, and a stack of small paper bags for everything that rots: fruit, veg, meat, fish, terrace garden pruning et al.  They call it variously “organics” or “wet.”  Yes, the paper bag is for this.  Ostensibly, it goes under the kitchen sink, in the plastic basket, with the holes in the bottom.  It puts the rubbish in the basket or else it gets the hose again.  Not in my kitchen, it doesn’t.  That whole operation can live on the back porch and I will shuttle out discrete quantities of rottables.


Along with all these bins, bags, and baskets, came Instructions.  And a booklet of every thing one might want to dispose of, listed alphabetically, and how to do so.  Quite thorough, really.  It’s a crying shame that most of the population won’t be bothered to give it a thought.  Rumor has it that it’s been implemented in the larger city just down the road.  And is, as expected, an unmitigated disaster.  Our new system was to come on-line May 1st.  The man and I decided that as we don’t create much garbage, we’d just wait and watch, see what our neighbors do, as the exhaustive Instructions do fail to note just where we are to place the bins and bags at the designated days/hours of the week.  The scheme is called Porta a Porta, “door to door,” but our door is at the end of an alley beyond a lift gate.  I have little hope for seeing the end of walking around town carrying sacks of garbage.  But we were ready, bins, basket, and sacks.


As I went out to the gym on May 2nd, I noticed exactly nothing outside our building’s door.  The girls at the gym were talking about it.  Nope, not today.  Maybe next week.  Maybe two weeks.  One of them gave me a FaceBook page to check for information.

The meeting to determine who would receive the contract for collection was going to be held… wait for it… May 4th, three days after the whole dog & pony show was supposed to be fully under way.

To be continued. . .

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2016 20:12

    Good compost post! Sounds like it’s not the most carefully rot plan. Hopefully it doesn’t reek havoc around here, because that would stink (thought I’d join you with the trash talk :)). Excited to see how it all turns out.

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