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Taking Out The Trash – Italian Style

September 29, 2022

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 America 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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  1. Good thinking, Allen. To me, recycling is logical and good for the environment, but think the process has to be logical and doable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The Swiss have made recycling a religion. After living here for 25 years I am a convert of sorts. They don’t police per se you just have to put up with the raised eyebrows if you put green glass in the brown container. Our trash bags cost a small fortune so we really stuff them to the brim. And we have to use the ones allowed by the area we live in. Put out the wrong bag and the trash man leaves you a snarky note!

    Liked by 1 person

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