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Teaching separate collection

What is separate collection? are we all able to correctly do it?

Teaching separate collection

Where do I throw bills? In paper or in mixed waste?

Where do you throw cooking oil? Have you ever poured it into the sink?

Do you know that energy-efficient light bulbs contain mercury and that, for this reason, they should be disposed of by a proper consortium?

And what about tetra pack? And polystyrene? In this case rules change according to the local government so everyone should ask about it.

Did you know that all plastic boxes should be clean, empty and flattened? And that bottle corks are made from a different type of plastic that, in some geographical areas of Italy, require a specific waste disposal?

Did you know that napkins must be thrown into organic waste?


Separate collection is not something easy and so, I’m asking you were you able to answer to all the questions above?


One of the main points in our reception program for asylum seekers is to teach them how to correctly separate waste so that they can learn how to live autonomously.

Is it easy? No! Why? Let’s think about what happened to us in the 90s when the black bag disappeared and there was the introduction of violet, yellow, transparent, grey and biodegradable bags. Let’s go back to the introduction of separate collection, when everyone used to say: “Aw! What is all this for? There’s China that still pollutes!” and moreover: “I don’t want to go to ecological area to bring cooking oil! C’mon, this time I’ll pour it into the sink!
Every one of us, for sure, pronounced these words at least once and everyone contributed to inefficiency of separate collection and then to pollute our planet!

An example? The sentence “c’mon, I’ll throw it here!” could correspond to a cigarette end that remains in our streets for 1 or 2 years while an expression like “c’mon, this time I’ll pour the cooking oil into the sink!” means to generate problems to purification plants and to pollute water with a non-degradable substance.  Maybe you don’t know that a litre of cooking oil into water generates a pollution layer as big as a football pitch. That same litre of cooking oil makes water undrinkable and more over one litre of cooking oil pollutes one million litres of water (it corresponds to the amount of water that a person uses in 14 years)!

Maybe you’re now wondering why are we talking about recycling? Because some people complained on the web about trash bags they found outside our reception facilities.

The first complaint concerned an excessive amount of bread thrown away and people asked us to explain the reason for what they considered a “dissipation”.  Our reasoning, that we want to share with you, is based on numbers: if we multiply the organic waste every person produces every day by 30 (the number of asylum seekers in the reception facility) and then we multiply the result by 4 (the number of days between one day of collecting rubbish and the following one) how much waste do we obtain? We give our guests a catering service so that the meal is cooked and delivered to them and the quantity of food is based on the number of people that live in the house. Let’s suppose that every guest is given two “panini” (lunch and dinner): 2 x 30 people we obtain 60 “panini” a day. Going on, let’s suppose that 15 people every day only eat 1 “panino”; it means that in 4 days’ time there will be 60 “panini” exceeding. But, how could we arbitrarily decide to give our guests only one “panino” a day?

The second complaint was about the wrong collocation of trash bags. In this case the problem arises from the position of the reception facility, which is difficult to reach for street cleaners because of the presence of a lot of cars parked in front of it. To solve the problem, we were asked to put trash bags next to the road and so we did. We were also asked to pay attention to the way guests do recycling, and so our operators always check trash bags before leaving them outside. Sometimes it happens that the operator notices something wrong but every bag is marked with the number of the room it was into. So, the operator calls the guest to make him correctly separate rubbish. We shall pay more attention to the position of trash bags in order to peacefully coexist with our neighbourhoods.

Disapprovals, if productive, can be very useful and we are willing to answer to all your questions, in the respect of the privacy of our guests. Which are the real problems? Our facilities are always open and everyone can go and ask for an operator to discuss about every kind of problem or to propose a solution. In every reception facility, there’s always a supervisor (Italian or not) and so every person with a need could go and find someone to talk with.


Critiques should be considered like new shoes. They hurt you at the beginning but then, if they are high-qualitied, they make you feel better. ∼ Rudy Zerbi




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