I recently moved to Spain to teach English and practice the language. Of course I had hoped to continue blogging abroad, once I'd unearthed some environmental issues in my town, Zamora. My Spanish skills are quite weak, and that is not just modesty speaking. So reading papers and magazines to explore the local conservation movement is beyond my current level. I do plan to use those resources eventually! In the meantime, I can write about personal experiences and daily observations. The first of which will be the not-so-glamorous topic: trash.
In mid-September, after spending groggy, lonely days in a hostel, I found a room to rent from the local librarian. It is the nicest place I have ever been able to afford. My roommate has leather couches, hardwood floors, original paintings and one tiny trash can. One!
It sits in the kitchen and is easy to open when you use the foot pedal to trigger the lid. I was surprised at the lack of trash cans, but it is easy enough to get used to. What surprised me even more was the dearth of recycling receptacles in the house. None!
I visited the school to meet the teachers and students, and the topic of trash and recycling was a million miles from my thoughts, until I left the building at lunchtime. Sandwich bags and candy bar wrappers floated across the front lawn, and the little bin was overflowing with chip bags. I thought to myself, "One can is sufficient in my modest apartment. But this school of 800 students needs more than a 10-gallon receptacle out front. Maybe by June I will have introduced recycling and trash bins to the schoolyard.”
So far, I have encountered two instances where recycling bins would be useful, but are lacking.
Before I ignorantly rip apart the city's lack of recycling infrastructure, based on my brief experiences, I must mention Zamora's beauty. The medieval castle, cathedral, churches and city walls are speckled throughout the town's narrow cobblestone roads. It is a constant reminder of the religious and cultural history of Zamora. In the early 1900s, the city, perhaps bored of the monochrome stone, embraced the modernism movement. Now, the ancient buildings are flanked by five-story, pink apartment buildings with stucco ginger-breading and glass balconies. This is what I see on a typical afternoon walk, when the streets are empty and the stores are closed for siesta. This is the same neighborhood where I spotted not one or two, but many stainless steel recycling bins, respectively marked, "Organicos, metales, envasos, and cartón."
Relaxing after my walk, I plainly asked my roommate, "Do you recycle?" I was quite reluctant to bring it up. My role in Spain is to learn about the language and culture, not tout the reusability of materials. Also, I'll be living with this person for eight months, and it seemed best not to tarnish our camaraderie so early on.
The next day, she showed me the makeshift waste receptacles. An old paper shopping bag now advertises "Papel" and holds receipts and a purple, empty cookie box that I threw in the trash yesterday. She must have fished it out and dubbed it "first recycled item."
Photos: Allie Taylor