Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout

Don’t worry, this post discusses garbage only in general terms and contains no explicitly disgusting content.

There is a new mayor in our little town. I admit that we were predisposed against him just because he beat the incumbent, who is both the reason Tony has Italian citizenship and the reason he has a job. But now we have another reason not to vote for him when he’s up for reelection. He won’t take the garbage out. No, really.

Normally in Italian cities (at least all the ones where I’ve thrown out trash) every block or two there is a set of dumpsters for the various types of refuse (glass, metal, paper, plastic and unrecyclables). They often even have a special receptacle for old clothes to be passed on to the needy. Everyone just pays a yearly refuse tax. Apparently though, the new mayor thought this system was too expensive. So now there’s a private company that does the garbage. Their system is even more organized. Some might call it TOO organized.

Each type of refuse is picked up on a different day, e.g. paper on Tuesday, glass on Wednesday, plastic on Thursday, etc. Not only that, but there is a special bag for each kind of garbage. For example, the bags for plastic are large and grey. The ones for paper are like large paper grocery bags. There is even a special bag for diapers (whether it fits in a diaper genie or not, I’m not sure. I’ve never have one). The bags for regular garbage are red and very small. I guess they figure that once you’ve separated out the recyclables there’s not much left (not necessarily a correct assumption, or maybe I’m just not meticulous enough about the separation . . .).

Now maybe you’re one of these people who think that this system sounds like it was invented by a genius. Well, if it was, that genius has never tried living under his own regime. There are a few problems with the system. The bags are notoriously hard to find. So much so that we have yet to track them down after having lived here for a month. Yes, this is a problem. Our kind neighbor told us that when the system first came into being, everyone in town lined up for garbage bags, which were distributed at city hall. But now she doesn’t know where they are. We asked at city hall, and they vaguely gesticulated toward the west and said we could pick them up if we went down the street to the Area Ecologica. Hm. Ecological Area? Sounds like a wildlife preserve . . . We didn’t have time to go that day, which it turns out was a good thing. Upon further questioning, our neighbor said the place was a kilometer out of town, but she didn’t know in which direction. She did give us some of hers, so we actually have been using them. At least somewhat. I forgot to ask which day what is picked up, and she didn’t have any extra of the little red bags for real garbage. So really we haven’t successfully left any bags out to be picked up.

So is there a month’s worth of garbage piled up in my apartment? NO! Of course not. The plastic bottles, paper, and metal, which don’t really pile up that fast, are still on their first bags and tidily tucked away in the cupboard. And luckily our neighbors have a compost pile. This means we get a discount on our garbage bill. But more importantly, it means we can throw out our organic waste (vegetable and fruit peelings, etc., of which we have a LOT). I can’t imagine what people do who live in town and can only get rid of that stuff once a week. My container gets moldy and covered with a halo of fruit flies sometimes as it is, and I empty it daily.

But for our regular garbage, we have been forced to resort to subterfuge. I confess. We pack it up regularly in the trunk of our car to dump it in the bins of a neighboring town that still uses the old system. This was my neighbor’s suggestion, so I know we’re not the only ones doing it. (After all, if you miss the day for, say, diapers, it can make for a smelly week.) We try to vary our route and destination to avoid being caught by . . . we’re not sure whom. There are eight different police forces in Italy. In fact, they have the highest number of police in Europe, both overall and per capita. Now doesn’t that make you feel safe?

Sometime we really are going to track down those little red bags. Someone must know where they are. Until then, our trips in the car will mostly be smelly ones.

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