One of the most unique things about Taiwan is its garbage.
Or rather, its garbage collection (although I’m sure you’d find some pretty funky stuff in its garbage too).
First, there is the Maiden Call (9:30pm on the button in my neighborhood):
(I take no credit for the production of that video, but it was masterfully executed :) )
…Then, the garbage minions duly arrive.
You must separate plastic bottles from other plastic, cardboard, paper, and your old rotting foodstuffs. This is all highly confusing to the wee foreigner even after a year’s time, but the friendly recyclables collection men are always there to help.
I have to say, as annoying as it is in many ways (ie: the awful tinny music that is everywhere to be heard around the entire island of Taiwan; the mysterious dearth of public trash bins around the city; the fact that I’m roused out of my room on the 6th floor with no elevator at 9:30 at night; the fact that I *ewww* have to touch my trash), the system works and it really makes you conscious of the waste you produce every day. Back home in the US, it is very easy to be blind to all of the crap I throw out–and usually not separated in to the proper bin either; just throw it in the trash bag, put it on the side of the road and–like magic!–it’s gone! The recycling system Taiwan has managed to implement is really remarkable. When there is a trash bin to be found, there is usually a recycling bin right next to it. All of the waste bins on my university’s campus are separated into four different types, with only one actual “trash” bin. Taiwan also charges a small fee for every plastic bag used in grocery stores, convenient stores, etc. In addition, there are also special blue garbage bags I have to purchase in order to be able to throw out my trash (no charge on recyclable products).
I’m not sure if a similar system could work in the US, but small things–like a tax on plastic bags (which some places have already implemented) or a tax on garbage bags (but not recyclables) could perhaps go a long way.