At first glance recycling here is practically non-existant. There are no green or blue bins for people, no bottle banks outside supermarkets, no ads urging people to sort their waste into glass, cans and plastic. More or less everything just gets thrown in the bin.
But after a while you realise there is some kind of recycling system. Glass bottles, for example, you have to take back to the shop to get new ones for (or pay an inordinate sum to "buy" the bottle along with the drink it contains). Everytime I buy beer, for example, I fill a bag with bottles, go down the shop and leave them there, while picking up an equal number of new ones (by, well, y'know, paying for the beer).
Plastic bags, are another item that get endlessly recycled. If you go to the shop wothout one, you have to pay for a new one. So everyone carries bags to the shop with them. Most people in fact secrete a plastic bag about their person when they go out, even if they're not going shopping, just in case they need to buy something.
Then there are the scavengers. Our new flat looks out on to a kind of courtyard between blocks of flats, in which are the local bins - big skips, which get emptied once a day. At any one time if I look out the window, there are normally people searching through these bins to take what can be sold on, cleaned up or generally re-used. For about the first two or three weeks of living here I found this a fascinating cultural event to observe, but now I have to confess I just find it depressing. I tend, as much as possible, to sort things in such a way as to make things that I think they will want more accessible, leaving biggish items next to the bins so they don't get covered in garbage. But I have no idea whether someone opens the bags that I just chuck in there filled with dirty nappies, bits of food, and other unpleasant detritus. I sincerely hope not.
(There must actually be some kind of plastic bottle recycling system, since one of the blokes who comes round seems to do nothing but collect them. He must be taking them somewhere and exchanging them for something, unless he's building a really really really big raft in preparation for a second biblical flood.)
3 days ago