Sardinia Travel Tips

Complicated waste separation in Sardinia - this is how you separate correctly and protect nature and the environment

written by Thomas Waldschmidt on 08.09.15

Do you remember the last German spelling reform? Scholars conferred for years trying to advance the evolution of German written language. The results were groundbreaking. So now, three “L’s” are permitted to be written one after the other and “plazieren” was arbitrarily turned into “platzieren”. What would have become of us, if those well-paid experts had not led us to such lofty achievements?

Why am I writing this? Well. When my Sardinian friends introduced me to the newly revamped waste separation system in 2013, and I was able to convince myself of its ineffectiveness in the following two years, I could not help it: my thoughts drifted back to our spelling reform. How long must the regional and communal representatives have sat together, just to have their good intentions turn into totally impractical implementation? But let’s not talk about that.


So what does all this mean in practice? Every Sardinian household now possesses – depending on the community – between two and four different containers for waste collection. Instructions - as to what belongs in which container - are extensive, and it requires that the person separating be highly alert and knowledgeable of the different materials. If just one single thing is separated incorrectly or not separated at all, the containers are not picked up.

Every type of waste has its own pick-up day. In accordance with the “waste calendar”, the different containers must be placed on the street the night before, so it is easier for the disposal companies to pick up the waste. Quite often though, the nightly island wind will take care of the disposal company’s job and knock over the containers – which are much too small and therefore too light – distributing the contents all over the landscape. And since this whole story is set in Italy, bureaucracy has of course created a draconian array of penalties for “waste criminals”. So if there is a problem, you pay!

Small side info: every waste container is assigned to a specific household by code. Penalties for “small offences” start as of €100. This of course begs the question whether the current solution has been created by the municipalities’ environment or their budget committees. I have got my suspicions… 

Tips how to separate the waste


After all of this “trash talk” I would like to finish off briefly and objectively by giving you my personal waste tips:

1.) If possible, take waste to the local waste site yourself. The staff there is very friendly and you will not be stressed out by the “waste calendar”.

2.) Make sure to separate waste according to specifications. I have shot a little instructional film for this purpose.

3.) If a container is missing or already overflowing, just buy transparent garbage bags at your local supermarket. They are accepted as a substitute.

4.) Always place the appropriate waste container on the street the night before the particular pick-up day (see local waste calendar).


Tips how to protect the sardinian environment


And while we are at it, I would like to finish with a few of my personal tips concerning effective island and environmental protection. All of this is definitely not intended to sound like preaching. These are simply some thoughts on how to do one’s bit to preserve the wonderful nature of Sardinia without a lot of effort.


Plastic: our Italian friends are having a difficult time breaking their habit of eating and drinking from plastic dishes and similar packaging. Though awareness of this subject has grown in the past years, restaurants, supermarkets and private households still often choose the “disposable solution”. My tip: make a statement and specifically ask for alternatives everywhere that plastic is used in an unnecessary way.


Beach equipment: it begins with food and often continues with beach equipment and toys. A bucket, a shovel and a water mill for the kids, mom gets a parasol and dad sits on the foldable beach chair. The result: most of the time all of this rubbish hardly makes it through the vacation and ends up in the garbage.

My appeal: think about whether the “complete holiday set” is really necessary before purchasing it. Maybe only a few, but higher quality items will also do the trick. And if you want to do the next guests a favour, you can just leave everything that is still usable upon departure. They will be just as thankful as the environment.


Dune protection: At a time when the sea level is constantly rising, the dune belts that create a natural borderline for the beaches are becoming more and more important. In Villasimius, the areas around Capo Carbonara have already been declared marked-off nature preserves. Visitors will find detailed explanations on how their behavior influences the dunes.

In short: please only use the main paths to the beaches. Cross-country strolls across the dunes will rapidly harm the sensitive dune flora that supports the sand walls.


Water sports: despite any criticism, those responsible in the Sardinian communities are very eager to keep summer tourism’s negative effects on nature to a minimum by enforcing restrictive licensing for providers of water sports gear.

If you would still like to take a ride on a jet ski or motor boat - which is quite enjoyable by the way - pay attention to the few, specially marked access routes to the beach. My tip: it is better to follow the strict rules. Any violation can be costly.

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