A Pebble in Our Shoe

Even after three years of living in Valencia, and another six months in Palas, we are still learning how things work. We make assumptions based on our experiences in the US. And it hobbles us.

After moving, it took some time to unpack all the boxes and get settled. Moving to a house filled with furniture, moving things to the barn, giving some furniture to our neighbor, Marie Carmen, moving some things back in the house. Then trying to sort through a full kitchen already packed with dishes, pots and pans, and small appliances. This, while ours were in boxes in the barn. Its been challenging.

But we are unpacked, sorted and organized now. Mostly. And that means we have a ton of cardboard. Not to mention all the Amazon boxes, boxes from tool purchases, and boxes from new furniture that has arrived. We stacked it all up in the barn. When the old junk take-away crew from the Concello de Palas de Rei left with all our stuff, it was clear what the elephant in the room (or the barn) is now. Cardboard. Piles of it.

We have an Audi station wagon. You can’t fit much in there. Or on top. It would be 25 loads, after finding many cardboard recycling bins in the villages in the area. This, while getting the hairy eyeball 👁 from the locals living near one bin or another. I know this, as I have dropped off small bags of plastic and the like in town. People always frown. Who am I to use their municipal recycling bin that is paid for by all our taxes. So we were in a holding pattern.

I had found a large recycling center in an industrial area, but it would still require the 25 trips. Yes, they collect paper recycling from a blue bin we put out on our street on Wednesdays, but that will hold only a few boxes. In a year I might make a dent in the pile. Ugh. Head scratcher.

I kept putting it off until we bought a farm truck. But then we went to buy a truck and there are no trucks. Due to the global chip shortage, and that cars are rolling computers now, we can order a truck today, and get it in a year. I am not kidding. And don’t say, just buy a used truck – it’s the Hunger Games for used trucks. They are as expensive as new trucks, and when you see one for sale and go to purchase it, it’s already gone. So our cardboard pile got bigger.

In the US, garbage collection is for profit. Large waste management companies have monopolies on garbage collection. Up until the 1980’s it used to be a racket by mafias, who controlled unions, who influenced city councils. It was big business and run by guys with broken noses (ala The Sopranos). Today, they have gone legit – Bill Gates owns a huge stake in waste management in America. But they charge people in the US an arm and a leg to throw things out. And don’t even think of putting something, even a small box, on top of a full can. They will charge you for that extra box. At a premium. In some cities, they will examine how you sorted your trash, recycling, yard waste/organic materials, and the like. If you do it wrong once, you get a nasty warning. Do it wrong again and you get a hefty fine on your bill. They can suspend you and refuse to take your trash, if they want.

I was putting out our cardboard container the other day when the guys came by in a Xunta de Galicia truck and picked it up. And it got me thinking. They don’t do for profit waste collection here. Anywhere in Spain. So, I decided to do an experiment. Tuesday night, we dragged a bunch of boxes to the gate and put them out with our blue paper/cardboard can. Then we waited.

On Wednesday, Jeff was in the kitchen when the truck showed up. We ran out on to the terrace and watched. Two guys got out and they loaded all that surplus cardboard into their truck, and emptied our can. Like it was nothing! Jeff and I high-fived each other. ‘Yes!!!’

So, next week the rest of the mountain of cardboard in the barn will go out to the street. The barn will be practically empty. I’m sure all the workmen who have been in our barn over the past six months have thought ‘Why are they hoarding cardboard? Is this some weird American thing?’ But no. It’s just two people making bad assumptions based on where they come from. Now Jeff can spend the winter building his workshop. And I can check off Please Lord, help me find a way to recycling cardboard from my list. Its never the big things that trip you up. Like a pebble in the shoe. It’s always the small stuff that hurts the most.

2 thoughts on “A Pebble in Our Shoe

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