In Taiwan, there isn't one garbage night but five. Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the garbage trucks drive through neighborhoods picking up trash. For the past week my apartment has become cluttered with the small official garbage bags of Taiwan as I unwrapped new items for my apartment and frequented the local restaurants and 7-11s for instant noodles, dumplings, lunch boxes and papaya milk. So tonight was the night to learn about how to use this system.
Remember these bad boys? The official garbage bag of Taiwan.
Why are these bags official? Well buying these bags pays your fee for using the garbage system, thus the seal. When the system was introduced there was actually a problem with people making and selling counterfeit bags. So now there have been special design measures on the labels to help you identify the bags, and where to buy them. (7-11 is where I always shop.) For more information on the bags, check out the government site. Note: not all garbage has to go into these bags, see below.
What time? While the days are the same for each neighborhood, the time depends on where you live. Ask a neighbor, your landlord, or just listen for the trucks a few nights to determine the time. I learned from the clerk at Family Mart my neighborhood is at 8:45. So tonight I came home from class, downed my dinner, and threw every last bit of trash into the 2 bags I had.
Just as I finished I heard the ice-cream truck-like music as it was nearing my neighborhood. (Yes kids, here in Taiwan, garbage trucks play music to alert you of their arrival. Don't believe me? Check out this BBC clip to glimpse these mystical unicorns.) I burst down the five flights of stairs and power walked down the block. I got there just as the truck was finished backing up. The doors opened and everyone started throwing their garbage in. It gets pretty crowded, but luckily for me, I’m taller than most people that were there, and so I stood behind everyone and just hurled my bags over the crowd into the back.
So...what can I bring to this garbage party?
Food scraps - put these in a bucket, or another separate bag (not the blue ones.) When you get to the truck, look for the big round barrels, this is where you dump your scraps.
Recycling - also doesn't have to be in a blue bag, but not every item is taken every night. In Taipei, the typical schedule is Monday, Friday – Newspaper, Cardboard, and Plastic Bags/Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday – Bottles and Cans. Note: If you mess up and bring the wrong thing, they'll probably still take it, you'll just get a lecture. Take the recyclables to the truck following the garbage truck.
Everything else - The blue bag, throw it in the garbage truck.
It seems like a pretty intense system, but it works well for the island, and after doing it a few times, you'll be disposing of your garbage just like a local.