How can waste segregation be made more efficient?

Posted by Stuti Parekh on 29 May, 2018

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Collecting city-wide food waste in Milan

Posted by Prachi Kishore on 29 May, 2018

In 2011, the Italian City of Milan’s overall recycling rate was low and consisted mainly of dry recyclables, like paper and plastic, collected separately at the curbside. Food waste was only collected from commercial sources. The city decided to improve planning and subsequent collection in 2012 and, already by 2014, the entire city was included in the process, with over 90 kg of waste collected per resident each year, reducing CO2 by 8,800 tons.

Citizens collect their food waste in compostable bags picked up twice weekly at the curbside. That same day, the food waste is transferred to an anaerobic digestion and composting facility. The logistics of the collection and transfer are carefully organized to limit fuel consumption and minimize traffic. To ensure citizen engagement, the city made sure to inform and involve citizens by designing a dedicated app. Furthermore, free vented kitchen bins were delivered to all households.

The City has controls in place to manage the quality of the material collected via the food recycling stream to ensure it is not contaminated with unsuitable items. Households and businesses may be issued to a 50 Euro fine for non-conformity to these controls or if they present their bin for collection at the wrong time. This is enforced by 20 agents that are tasked with inspecting the quality of the material in the bins and bags prior to collection. About 50,000 fines are issued each year.

In the case of multi-unit dwellings, where 80% of Milan’s residents live, citizens share bins with their neighbours. If contamination is found in these shared bins then a fine will be issued to the building and is payable by all the residents, regardless of the perpetrator. This measure provides a social pressure on residents to correctly use the system.

Another key factor behind the successful introduction of the program was an extensive communications campaign by the waste collection and disposal company, AMSA, and the Municipality of Milan. Letters were sent to all the citizens about the program, food waste containers were delivered with leaflets and posters, and information was distributed via an app for smartphones, the AMSA website, community meetings and a toll-free number 24/7. These materials were translated into multiple languages so that immigrants and non-Italian speakers could understand. Furthermore, specific information about the food waste program was incorporated in dedicated school programs for students of all ages from kindergarten to University.

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