Recycling is hard

This weekend we had probably the most difficult recycling experience of our lives. Recycling in Santiago already isn’t particularly easy. We make the pilgrimage up to Punto Limpio in Vitcura every couple months because we care about the planet and all that jazz, but there is still a pilgrimage involved – none of this home pick-up stuff I’m used to in the US.

Punto Limpio Vitacura

This time, Rodolfo thought it would be fun to try the new recycling center he’d seen in Las Condes. Yes, this is what passes for fun in our world, switching up our recycling spot. We know, we’re pretty crazy.

So off we set toward Parque Araucano to do our part for the green movement. Unfortunately, I think we canceled out the goodness of recycling with the amount of gas we wasted trying to get into the damn parking lot. There is only one entrance (along Cerro Colorado, if that means anything to you), and of course that entrance required making several turns and driving a couple extra blocks.

We rolled up – finally – only to see a sign asking us to present our neighborhood credential showing we are residents of Las Condes. We live in Providencia. Because they’re just getting started and because there was literally no one else there except the employees who looked pretty bored, they let us recycle despite our incorrect address. In the future, however, we won’t be so lucky, although the good news is that we can still attend their informational talks about recycling.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that there is a service to educate people about the environment and recycling. And I understand if this particular center doesn’t have the resources to accept recycling from all of Santiago’s nearly 7 million residents. But somehow I don’t think we’ll be making the trip just for the talks without even being able to leave our crap there.

So, back to Punto Limpio for us. Of course, that doesn’t solve our other recycling-related problem. You see, our apartment is often the gathering place for friends. And friends sometimes drink alcohol. And when we don’t have time to get to Punto Limpio for a while, we have a tendency to end up with a mountain of recyclables that makes us look like alcoholic hoarders.


Maybe that’s the real reason Las Condes didn’t want us.

34 Responses to “Recycling is hard”

  1. Colin says:

    It’s a shame the lack of recycling programs here in Santiago..and in places that could afford it like Las Condes…We’re lucky enough to have a curbside program in Ñuñoa that picks up once a week. I think Vitacura is a bit easier to drop off..although its a bit up there. These munis should really step it up a bit…these “punto limpio” type projects are pretty much lipservice to look eco-friendly. Maybe we need deposits on all cans and bottles?

    • Emily says:

      That’s awesome that Ñuñoa does curbside pick-up! I’m kind of surprised Providencia hasn’t gotten on the recycling bandwagon yet (or if they have, that they haven’t publicized it more) since they’re usually pretty up on this kind of “quality of life” stuff.

  2. Kyle says:

    I’m going to send an email to Hoarders and tell them to start an international version featuring you and Rodolfo. I’m sure they’ll think it’s a good idea since you two are already hardened reality stars :)

    • Emily says:

      We’re not really hoarders, I swear! Although the stash did get to embarrassing levels this time. It’s just hard to find the time to go drop it off.

  3. Vincent says:

    The reality is that the poorer the area the better the take-up of initiatives like full re-cycling. It seems counter intuitive but there you go.
    I’m curious though as to the reasoning behind the ‘switching up’. And don’t they have bottle banks in the neighbourhood. Mind-you that’s probably worse come to think, as all the locals will hear the plink of glass bottles and think oxoholic even if you’re fully paid-up soldier of the Salvation Army.

    • Emily says:

      There are some other recycling spots – these random domes on some streets that are for depositing glass, one of the local supermarkets – but since none of those is walking distance from where we live, and we’d have to make a special trip anyway, we just save it all up and go to a big recycling center when we get the change.

  4. Oneika says:

    Nobody recycles in Hong Kong… :-( So bizarre because I’m from Canada where there is a culture of recycling!

    • Emily says:

      That’s strange to me because I always hear about how HK is so clean and modern, both of which seem like they would go along with not only good trash pickup but also some recycling programs.

  5. Eileen says:

    I have to bring my stuff to the downtown domes (in Plaza Brasil and Plaza Santa Ana), but first I do a reconnaissance mission to be sure that there’s room, which there often isn’t. It’s goofy, I tell you, how hard it is to recycle! One day I rode all around from Quinta Normal to Parque O’Higgins and found no where to recycle anything. Disappointing! Also, nowhere to recycle paper. Maybe I should just make homemade paper. BTW, your parties look like fun! You alky hoarder.

    • Emily says:

      I think you can recycle newspaper at Punto Limpio, but we never have any. I’m not sure about regular paper. But that’s crazy that your domes are so often full!

      And considering our last party ended with people dancing in our living room, I think they’re pretty fun. I’m not sure our neighbors would agree.

  6. Sebastian says:

    Nice of you that you care about recycling. Most of south and central american countries they don’t care at all and you see the streets full of rubbish. It’s really sad but how should they know if they don’t get the right education.

    • Emily says:

      It really is all about education. I volunteered with kids in a shantytown here in Santiago. We took the kids on a field trip, and one threw trash out the window of the bus. When I told him not to, he just did not understand what was wrong with littering – no one had ever in his 9 years of life told him that throwing his trash on the ground was bad.

  7. Ceri says:

    Alcoholic hoarders? That made me giggle. When I was in uni, the town was a student town and it showed because on a Monday morning, all the recycling left outside everyone’s houses for collection was bags and bags of empty bottles and cans as well as pizza boxes!

    • Emily says:

      That’s what our recycling looks like! I swear we drink lots of water and eat lots of non-pizza meals, but since bottles and pizza boxes are recyclable we end up having a lot hoarded away.

  8. Abby says:

    We recycle paper at our office. It goes to one of the foundations (like the glass goes to Coaniquem) but I forget which one. When I first moved into my apartment I was really excited because there was a “closet ecologico” on every floor so I thought, “Great! My building recycles!” A little over a year later I found out that they just throw the recycling into the garbage. What is the point of that? So now I hoard my glass and look for a dome and recycle my paper at work.

    • Emily says:

      Yup, our office does the paper too, and it goes to Fundación San José which helps kids get adopted.

      I’ve heard other people have the same experience with what they thought was a recycling program – I guess the constructoras have realized that building the space makes them look good, but the programs haven’t actually been implemented yet.

  9. Abby says:

    Oh my gosh! Costa Rica actually had a huge recycling program, but it was really hard to get the locals to participate. Also, the country has no paper mail, few paper bills, etc., so they do a lot to conserve in the first place (even though that’s so not the reason they do it ha). Now Vegas on the other hand, which is still the Wild West in so many ways, is JUST NOW starting to do home pick-up in a few areas!

    • Emily says:

      So no one sends letters? What if I sent a letter to a friend in Costa Rica? And how do people get bills?

      And that’s crazy about Vegas, I didn’t realize they were so behind the times with recycling!

  10. Sheryll says:

    “Yes, this is what passes for fun in our world, switching up our recycling spot.”
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This sounds just like Johnny and I.

    But how crazy! I can’t believe there isn’t home pickup. Like you, we typically have people over at least twice a week, so the bottles of wine and various spirits adds up pretty quickly. But I can just put it outside….where normally homeless people just come and take it all anyways.

    But I applaud you for going to recycle, despite the inconvenience. Sadly, I feel like a lot of the people I know wouldn’t even bother :(

    • Emily says:

      Oh good, I’m glad we’re not the only extremely cool people out there who enjoy mundane things like this :)

  11. Alejandra says:

    I am so confused because I thought that the new “departamento” buildings in central Santiago had that all taken care of. With all the talk and ads about “solar systems” that produce electricity to keep the bills down and so on. I thought this was just one of the perks of the new departamentos. But what do you guys do with all the other “trash”? Who takes care of that? I am pretty spoiled cause we have the recycling bins just around the corner of our place here in Stockholm.

    • Emily says:

      I would imagine that several of the new buildings have a “shaft ecológico” like Abby mentioned which is really just a marketing gimmick. And as far as solar goes, I understand that’s just for water heating, not electricity generation. That said, our apartment isn’t new, so we would still have this problem even if the new buildings really were green.

      For regular trash, there’s a shaft that runs the height of the building and dumps everything into dumpsters in the basement. The conserjes take the dumpsters out to the street twice a week for trash pick-up.

  12. Valerie says:

    Funny, I was talking with my pololo about how hard it is to recycle in Santiago just yesterday. Kudos for making the effort.

  13. Maria Ignacia says:

    Hi Emily, Congrats on your page, I just discovered it and I’ve been having lots of fun reading it. I’m a 30 year old Chilean who has lived 20 years abroad in different countries, so I understand you very well! And I appreaciate you sharing your opinion and recomendations on Chile.
    A tip for recycling: Most Lider supermarkets have a recycling spot, usually at the corner of the parking lot, with different containers for paper, glass, plastic and tetra-pack (milk cartons), all supporting different non-profit foundations. Check it out if it works for you.

    • Emily says:

      Thanks for the tip! Our Lider doesn’t seem to have the recycling – or at least I haven’t seen it – and the Jumbo does, but it’s always overflowing. Which I guess is a good thing because at least it indicate that people are recycling.

  14. […] always top the to-do list. Emily, an American in Chile, who publishes Don’t Call Me Gringa, blogged: This weekend we had probably the most difficult recycling experience of our lives. Recycling in […]

  15. […] always top the to-do list. Emily, an American in Chile, who publishes Don’t Call Me Gringa, blogged: This weekend we had probably the most difficult recycling experience of our lives. Recycling in […]

  16. Kaila Yu says:

    Wow, this really makes me appreciate how easy it is to recycle in the States! At the last place I lived, you didn’t even have to separate the recycling, the garbage service would just sort the trash and recycle it for you!

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