After my first few weeks in Russia I noticed that I was starting to amass quite the collection of plastic water bottles. Due to the fact that the tap water in St. Petersburg is unsafe to drink I resorted to buying bottled water more frequently than I ever had in the US, and because my heart aches every time I throw a plastic bottle in the trash I began saving my plastic without any real idea of how I could go about recycling.
Neither the university nor the city has public recycling bins set up (although there are talks of initiating a city-wide recycling program in the next few years). However, I asked around to some of my contacts with SRAS as well as did a little digging in the internet and I was able to find two possible options for recycling in St. Petersburg. Both of these options present their own benefits and downsides.
The first option is to take recyclable materials such as paper, plastic, and aluminum to 47 Borovaya Street. To get there from the university, you must take the metro Purple Line from the Spasskaya station to Obvodny Kanal, then walk along the canal until Borovaya Street and take a left. The recycling center will be on the right. The downside to this location is the distance; in total the trip is over half an hour each way. However, the convenience of this location is that it is open Monday through Friday from 6pm-9pm and on the weekends from 9am-12pm.
The second option can be found closer to the UNECON campus, only a 10 minute walk away. This drop off location is one of approximately 20 set up around St. Petersburg by the NGO RazDelniy Sbor, an organization that helping to set up recycling locations across Russia. In St. Petersburg, there is a pop-up location set up on the first Saturday of each month from 12pm- 2pm in a parking lot at the intersection of Gorokhovaya Street and the Fontanka Kanal, across the canal from the Pik shoping center. So, while it is closer, the window to catch the drop off is quite limited.
Being as I did not accumulate more than a couple bags worth of plastic over my first month in St. Petersburg I chose to check out the RazDelniy Sbor drop off area. I was blown away by how organized and friendly the operation was. I arrived towards the end of the operational hours, and I would have understood if the volunteers would have been frustrated that I didn’t understand them the first time they told me to remove the caps from the bottles (pro tip: remove and separate bottle caps before leaving the dorm, but take them with you, they can be recycled too!). Even though I clearly didn’t know what I was doing the volunteers and other residents dropping off their recycling were friendly and willing to help me get to know the system.
The whole experience really felt like a community effort to come together and try to make environmentally conscious decisions, and even if you are not as passionate as I am about recycling, the RazDelniy Sbor drop off locations are worth checking out just to see this unique way of recycling. Other locations to drop off recycling within St. Petersburg can be found on their website.