Recycling in Italy

recycling bins in Italy

One of the most perplexing things about living in Italy is how they handle trash and recycling. To say it’s not straightforward is an understatement.

Back in our hometown in the States recycling is a no-brainer. All recyclable materials go into one bin together: cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard and aluminum foil. And recycling gets picked up the same day as the garbage, so you only have to think about it once a week.

Not so in Italy. Here you practically need a PhD to understand the rules for recycling. It’s so convoluted that they give you an eight page booklet to explain it.

First off, you need to sort your trash into several categories:

  1. Plastic and metal cans
  2. Paper, cardboard, aseptic packaging
  3. Bottles and glass
  4. Organic waste
  5. All other garbage

Each type of trash and recycling goes into its own color-coded bag and then into the designated bin at a roadside pick-up location. You pick up the bags at the comune offices: blue bags for plastic and metal cans, brown for paper and cardboard, white for organic waste (“umido”) and yellow for all other garbage. Glass doesn’t get a bag. It just gets dumped directly into the roadside bin, though of course you need a bag or bin to keep it in at your house until you take it to the collection bin.

Oh, and they don’t pick it all up on the same day, so you’re always trying to remember what gets collected on which day. In our comune Monday is garbage day, Tuesday is plastic and metal pick-up and Thursday is paper and cardboard collection day.  You can put glass in the roadside bin anytime. You can also put out the organic waste anytime but not every collection point has one for organic so you may have to drive to another one to leave your umido.

I shouldn’t complain. I read somewhere that Italy is #1 in the EU for waste recycling, so I guess it’s all for a good cause. Back home, where they make recycling so easy, I’m pretty sure a lot of it ends up in the landfill.