In my Austrian pension room in early December, I noticed signs about the country's strict waste laws. Apparently they applied equally to hotel guest, administrator and chamber maid. The sense I got from the tone of the multilingual signs was that all three can be locked up for the same one violation.
So I mastered the categories of Austrian waste -- bioabfall, restmüll, et al -- sorting and packaging everything in my pension room like a true anal retentive chef.
Not long after returning to Tallinn, I found that Estonia has also adopted laws that allow me to apply the same skills.
While it's no doubt high time, there's been some talk in the press of how the transition has been too sudden and whether people were really ready to go overnight to European-style recycling.
Especially as there is a subspecies of people in Tallinn who could help with the sorting. They're called prükkar. Though undoubtedly a bottle-scarred breed, they're not really bums -- they don't lie in doorways or shoot heroin or the other really nasty stuff. They are these grey people who move around in the early morning light collecting bottles and other waste. And the thing is, they're really efficient. I can only liken them to urban macrophages or human vacuum cleaners for inorganic waste.
OK, maybe everyone's been there at some time or other. Everyone's been a prükkar. But still...
When my wife was in Barcelona, leaving me with the domestic duties, the garbage piled up for a couple days, unsorted. I had it positioned near the door in three bags. Then I had the three bags positioned outside the door (which in our case leads directly to the street), ready to be taken into the courtyard. For whatever reason, there they stayed, overnight. When I finally got around to it, in the morning the bags were gone. Not gone, as in ripped apart by raccoons or something with garbage strewn everywhere, but gone without a trace. Only a bag of ashes from the firegrate was left. The prükkars had opened it and retied it.