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Taking Out The Trash – Italian Style

July 19, 2019

Okay, so most of you know that I have lived in Italy since 2002. Bene!

Today, I would like to explore taking out the trash – Italian Style! Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Well, read on:

First one must understand that Italy likes to think of itself as a “green country.” They insist on a myriad of environmental laws but see nothing wrong with re-circulating poison from apple growing back into the drinking water supply here in the Val di Non. Let’s call this Italian Logic 101. It sets the stage for the tortuous adventure that awaits all who simply need to take out the trash.

The curbside affair is strange in itself. Garbage must be sorted according to secco (dry) and umido (wet). There is a separate trash can for each. These cans are of about 8 liters so obviously an American would want to fill about 10-15 of them a week. But allora, you are only allowed one of each. (Couldn’t find a head scratching emoji….)

Ah, but the plot thickens. You must recycle every imaginable piece of trash including glass jars, all plastic bottles and containers, cans, plastic packaging and even string. The trash police are watching! I am not kidding; they actually employ police here to check your recycling compliance and to be sure you don’t deposit so much as a Kleenex in a public trash can (of which there are practically none). I once saw a poor female police officer pawing through a public trash container looking for any name or address that would provide a little prova of the culpable act. We in American can only bow our heads and mutter, “Pathetic!”

These recycle items used to be deposited in nearby bidoni (large containers) but the powers that be decided it would be fairer to ask the entire populace, including very old people, to schlep their recyclables to the Centro Raccolta Materiali , a huge public junk yard which lies many miles away. There, under the watchful eye of some babbling idiot from Palermo, you are required to manually sort your recyclables into a myriad of containers: Milk cartons in one, bottles in another, cans in another, etc. Almost always an officious asshole will yell at my wife because she forgot to remove one metal cap from an olive oil bottle. Repeat after me, “Colpa mia, colpa mia, colpa mia!” Scherzi!

I can assure you that a trip to one of these recycle centers is not a picnic. You have to load your passenger car (sorry, I don’t have a tractor) with stinky crap and drive 7 miles with bottles clanking around your passenger compartment. Of course, there is also the stink. You then have to jockey among the rude and restless to do the deed. Occasionally, some impatient maleducato will throw bottles over your head into a bin because they are too lazy to wait their turn at the trough. It is a lovely experience being showered with the contents of who knows what in the Third World.

For this unique privilege, you are charged a mere 150 Euro a year (resident rate – double if you don’t have residency). Please note that I am an ardent supporter of recycling and have been for decades before it became fashionable. It is just in Italy they make it so damned hard to be a good citizen! Why not offer curb-side recycling like any other civilized nation? When I inquired years ago why the bidoni near our house had been removed, I was treated to a typical lame Italian explanation: “The people from the nearby village (that German one) were putting their bottles in our bottle receptacle.” Again, Scherzi!

What can a poor Americano do? I dutifully schlep my crap down the valley to the recycle center, cursing in Italian all the way. My wife? She just tugs on her newly donned rubber gloves like a proctologist and sits silently pissed. This is our weekly routine. In between we must collect this stuff in our cantina. No wonder the plague wiped out most of this country several times!

If you live elsewhere in Italy, maybe you have a better experience with your trash and recyclables. If you live in Napoli, you can just throw it all into the street. If you live in America, count yourself very lucky!

A little light-hearted side note: I often tell my wife that if I croak here due to the stress of all this bureaucracy, just port me to the curb with the umido on Giovedi…. 🙄

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12 Comments
  1. I know your plight is not comical, but it was a fun read. Really! It sounds so intense as to not seem real. I believe you, however. We in America do have it much easier than that…but perhaps, too easy. Here, there is recycling, but it is not mandatory. I suppose Italy is onto the right concept, but the guidelines are very stringent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. KiM permalink

    I had no idea. Sad looking sight. My hubby has seen the recycling truck at the dump add their truckload to the main pile, making us wonder why we bother to sort into our large plastic bins. What they want together changes too. Then I’m pretty sure we pay to truck our trash somewhere else. Wonder what was so wrong with an incinerator for all the stuff that can not be recycled? Heck, it could even power something while it burnt up the huge footprint of trash filling up the land.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good observations. I remember the incinerators from my youth. As for recycling in Henderson County, I have seen them throw all of the stuff together and wondered if I was just being a sap for separating, washing and porting all of that stuff out to be recycled.😞

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the laugh at your expense (that closing line!).😂
    It does seem like they are being pretty ridiculous. Unfortunately, our consumption produces so much waste that very little of it actually gets recycled, despite our efforts. I’m trying harder to resist over-packaged products. A friend started a re-filling business so I can just refill cleaning products and such. But most of my trash and recycling is from food. sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I applaud your recycling. We recycle almost everything, re-use containers, etc. and yet I fear the companies in the U.S. who collect the trash often just haul the whole mess to the dump, recycles included. I would like to think my efforts are helping. (double sigh)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sheila permalink

    Allen, I thought Trentino had a better trash system than that. I’m so surprised. Here in our Abruzzo town we do have curbside recycling pickup. We only have to cart extra large items to the isola ecologica (ecological center), like furniture and such. Each day we put out a different trash container: umido (organic), glass, paper, plastic & metals, and non-recyclable items. I’m glad we have such a good system here, because like you, we’ve been recycling for years even before it started catching on. Anyways, here’s one cheer for Abruzzo!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ovviamente, Abbruzzo è più evoluto. Siamo ancora più che un po’ medievali qui. 🙄

      Like

      • Sheila permalink

        And I thought Abruzzo was bad. In some ways it’s far behind Emilia Romagna where we used to live. And there’s Cilento. It’s pre-Medevial! But then that’s part of its enchantment!!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Sure doesn’t sound like La Dolce Vida.

    Liked by 1 person

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