While I love living in Italy, one of the things that intrigued and bothered me is the lax attitude versus waste management, recycling and garbage collection.
Sure enough, there are many "parts" in Italy, each with their own habits, procedures, administration, and culture, so I can not speak for the parts I have not lived in, or travelled through, but it seems in many parts the garbage collection is done in the same way: People dump their waste in garbage skips scattered along the streets, both in town centers and along the roads in rural areas. A garbage truck comes along every so often to empty the skips.
There seems to be no limit as to what people can dump in these skips. You can find anything from normal household garbage, the contents of entire file cabinets, chemicals like paint, engine oil and cleaning products, leaves and branches from the garden, bicycles, fridges, microwaves and computer screens. Just about anything goes. And if it is too big to put inside, people just leave it next to the skip.
Often these collection points, separated by only a few hundred meters in the towns, become a concentric area of scattered broken glass, plastic bags, tins and cans that were either spilled while throwing them in the skip, pulled out by street dogs, or just dumped on the spot, next to the skip.
There are mainly three types of skips: one for generic waste, one for paper and cardboard and one for plastic and glass. In many cases, though, you can only find the one for generic waste, so "recycling" is often only a remote thought in Italy. A thought confirmed if you look what people actually dump in the recycling bins. It seems like they are used as an overflow for the general waste skip.
Most of the time, the skips are not emptied fast enough. What is the "well-intended waste generator" to do? He or she put his stinking and leaking garbage bags in the car (guaranteed to leave a smell for the next two months) early in the morning (what else do you need to start off a nice day), drives to the skip only to find it full... Of course people will not drive to the next one, or come back the next day. They will dump it right there.
I was glad to finally see some recycling bins in my neighbourhood. Previously I had to drive 3 km to the nearest place where I could conscientiously dump carefully separated paper, plastic and glass.
Unhappy I was to find the "glass and plastic"-skip is never emptied. It just stands there, full. And has been for the past four months..
More on The Road about living in Italy.