We have surpassed numerous obstacles in our purchase of a house in Italy, including starting a bank account, hiring a geometra and notaio, setting up all our utilities for automatic payment, obtaining my carta di identità and repairing some problems with the electricity. Until yesterday, we had one more nagging problem to solve, one that would seem to be among the easiest—yet it took us almost four months of living here off and on to figure out the proper way to dispose of our garbage.
Don’t get me wrong; we didn’t have four months of garbage piled in our living room. We had found a way around the problem, but we knew it couldn’t be a permanent solution. We had asked our friend Angelika, whose mom actually lives in Montecarlo, what we should do with our garbage. Angelika said her mom, who lives alone, just packs it with her when she goes shopping and puts it in a dumpster along the way or at the grocery store.
We figured we would do the same until we could learn the proper way to do it. We saw that people put out different types of trash on different days of the week, and we started taking notice. Monday and Friday mornings, we saw organic waste bins put outside doors. Since we had inherited a bin from the previous home owner, we could easily participate in this practice.
We did have some problems getting used to the schedule, because we realized that the pickup came early in the morning, and people didn’t put the bins out until very late at night or very early in the morning—logical, since nobody wants to walk past compost bins on the streets all afternoon in a popular tourist town. But about half the time, we forgot to put the bin out, and then we either had to keep the smelly stuff around for another three or four days or take it to an organic waste dumpster somewhere else. We usually chose the latter.
|Happy garbage day! Bins, bags, instructions and calendar give me a strange feeling of satisfaction.|
Paper and cardboard were picked up on Thursdays, but we didn’t have a bin for this. We would keep it in a plastic bag in the kitchen, and then sometimes we just added it to a neighbor’s bin on the proper day. But often, our bag would be overflowing halfway through the week (or we would forget to put it out), so we often just tossed it in our car when we were going out and looked for a carta recycling dumpster.
Glass bottles were picked up every other week, on Wednesdays, but we also didn’t have a bin for this. For those of you thinking we should just go out a buy a container, I should mention that the bins all seemed to be of the same color, shape and size, yet we had never seen them for sale at the hardware store. It was gradually dawning on us that they may have been issued by the agency that collects the trash.
What really prompted us to seek help, though, was the multimateriale leggero pickup days on Tuesdays and Saturdays. What fell into this category of “light multi-material?” And why did people put their multi-material in special blue bags inscribed with the abbreviation ASCIT? There seemed to be a list on the side of the bags that described what could be placed inside, but it was hard to read. We needed those blue bags, because apparently we couldn’t put out our multi-material—whatever it was—without them.
It would have been nice if the city hall people had told us about garbage collection policies when I received my residency card, but probably this was a different office, different agency. I could try going to the city hall and asking, but I knew the answer could be complicated, and I preferred to have the help of someone more fluent in Italian than I. So we asked Elena, who asked Davide, because garbage disposal is a job for men.
Davide said we had to go to a special office in Montecarlo that was below the library and only open each Wednesday morning and afternoon until 2 p.m. Luckily, it was Wednesday morning when he told us, so we made it there in time. The office was hidden away inside an inner courtyard, in an unmarked room (even though we knew where the library was, we still had to ask someone for directions to the garbage bin office).
We found a man behind a desk who asked if we were enrolled. Yes, I had registered as a resident in the city hall, but that wasn’t the same thing. I had to be enrolled with ASCIT, and for that I needed the bill of sale for our home and a document that showed the size of the house. I had these in my desk at home and returned within 10 minutes. He tapped on his computer for another 10 minutes, and then went into a back room and returned with four bins and several rolls of colored and labeled plastic bags. He also gave me a schedule to post on the kitchen bulletin board and a booklet that describes in great detail what goes into each bag or bin.
I carried my bins and bags down the street to our house—proudly, I might add, because they symbolized another step forward in our attempt to become Italian. I went to work translating the instructions and sorting out our garbage to put it in the proper containers. The translated instructions and lists are complicated and fill an entire page, but it was worth it. No more will we need to carry bags of garbage around in our car. Well, except maybe on the days I forget to put the right bin out on the right day.
The trash sorting is a lot more complicated and labor-intensive than in Gig Harbor, where we have everything picked up once a week with one bin for the non-recyclable trash and another for recycling, with machines separating the different articles to be recycled. I doubt that the Italian program would be effective in the states, because people wouldn’t have the patience to sort and leave out different items each day. Lucy’s not thrilled about the idea of having six separate bins or bags (there is also one for non-recyclable materials) in the kitchen and on the terrazzo. But the Italian people are more accustomed to having to cooperate while living in close quarters while following a plethora of bureaucratic regulations.
For me, I get some satisfaction out of being able to properly sort out the rules of living in Italy. Even when they are demanding and sometimes arbitrary, it’s a little like solving a jigsaw puzzle when we’re able to put another piece of our life in the right place.