Before I left the UK in 1997, I lived in Taunton. It was simple to recycle stuff. You took bottles, cans, paper and plastics to the local big supermarkets (which also recycled their plastic bags) and clothes, books, usable junk to the charity shops. Garden waste could be taken to the recycling centre and exchanged for bags of compost. I assumed everywhere else in the UK worked the same way.
So it was a bit of a downgrade when we arrived in Lithuania. The arrangement for our flat was that we put the rubbish in a bag in a cupboard outside the front door and it magically disappeared within two days. Eventually we discovered we were paying the mentally handicapped "boy" downstairs a few litas for delivering it to the refuse truck which came at 3pm most afternoons, which we never saw, as we were never home. This arranged lapsed one day when we were having a party, when the "boy" came to the door with an axe and told us to be quiet. It disrupted the party a bit, but not a lot. Luckily the following week, rubbish skips were installed just down the road and we could take out our own rubbish, in a civilised fashion, whenever we wanted to. Eventually we found some places where bottles and paper could be recycled, eg in the international school car park. I forgot to check how far recycling has got in Lithuania recently, but the plastic bag problem is still solved by making you pay for every single one in the supermarkets.
In Athens, recycling was non-existent when we arrived. This is what you would expect for a city with a horrendous landfill problem (I wrote about it here, I don't suppose it has improved) and a country with an EU Commissioner for the Environment! One of our pet hates was the supermarket bags, which were free, small and not very strong. This encouraged you to use hundreds with every shopping trip. Anyway, recycling started with little canvas bags for each household for your bottles and paper and cans, which you were supposed to put (all mixed up) into a separate skip from the usual one. But as the usual ones were normally full, people just filled up the ones for recycling with ordinary refuse. Eventually our local supermarket got big containers for cans and paper and bottles, but these were usually full or blocked. I suppose this proved recycling worked.
In both Lithuania and Greece, we found that when we moved, it was easy to recycle the stuff which would have gone to the charity shops. You just left it out by the skip and it was gone as soon as you turned your back.
When we came back to Oxford, I found things appeared to have gone backwards. None of the big supermarkets in Oxford seem to recycle stuff. There are no skips for private houses, (probably because there is no common land to put them on). Refuse collectors come round once a week to empty our house bins. They won't take cardboard which has to be recycled. Bottles, paper, cardboard but not plastics have to be left in a green bin ready for the recycling truck, which is separate from the ordinary rubbish truck. More recently we were given green sacks into which we could put garden refuse and cardboard, but this had to be collected by a separate truck again.
As if this arrangement was not complicated enough, we are now being issued with "green wheelie bins" and blue boxes (to complement the green boxes). Ordinary rubbish in the wheelie bins will be collected one week and recycling from the green box, the green sack and the blue box on the next week. New green wheelie bins have to be issued to each household because of the extra rubbish to be stored to compensate for collections being only every two weeks.
In our household we find it hard enough to remember to put the rubbish out once a week, without having to remember which week is what, and which materials can be recycled in which box.
Which brings me to Slovenia, where all is simple. Outside in the street are skips:
The green one is for glass, the blue one for paper, the yellow one for all manner of plastic packaging. The small ones on the right are for so-called biological waste, stuff for composting. Everything else goes into the big skips on the left.
Collection is available every day, so there is none of that confusion about which day the rubbish is collected. It must be cheaper to buy containers on this scale than for every house.
Oh why can't the English learn to ............. be like the Slovenians.