Collect and sort waste to facilitate recovery - Knowledge Hub | Circle Economy Foundation
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Collect and sort waste to facilitate recovery

Ensure that household and business waste is collected and appropriately sorted (by type, label, etc.) to allow for maximum recovery of value.

Consists of:

🍏 Separate organic waste collection infrastructure

The circular potential of organic wastes is dependent on the quality and low contamination rate of the residual stream that is collected. Food and organic wastes are difficult to sort and separate post-collection, and as such, collecting organic wastes through a mixed collection are often limited to incineration or landfill. Therefore, collecting organic wastes through a separate collection system is key to unlock potential high-value management practices, for example, composting and anaerobic digestion. Due to the strong influence over the operation of local waste management systems, local governments have a key role in the provision of separate organic waste collection systems throughout the city. Collections systems can vary to suit the specific characteristics of particular neighbourhoods and areas of a city. For example, areas with detached homes have more space for bins, while for apartments with less space, a communal receptacle may be more appropriate. Communication campaigns can help to raise awareness and encourage participation of residents to separate their organic wastes.

🍏 Community composting

Managing municipal food wastes at scale may require complex and costly infrastructures to collect, transport and process these residual materials. Large-scale composting facilities are challenging to place and zone appropriately in space-scarce cities. Community-based initiatives, for example, community composting, can provide a localised solution to managing urban food wastes. Community composting initiatives are small(er)-scale solutions that are distributed throughout the city, located close to the sources of food waste, reducing the need for complex logistics and collection systems. Community composting schemes can take a variety of forms, for example, in-vessel composting (IVC), as well as vermicomposting (which utilises insects to break down organic materials). Community composting initiatives can generate valuable by-products for use in (urban) agriculture, in gardens and in parks, as well as support community building. Local governments can support the development and implementation of community composting schemes through the provision of equipment and infrastructure, for example, composting boxes. The formation of public-civic partnerships can help formulate the relationships and validate the valuable role such activities can play in the management of organic waste streams. Awareness raising can be facilitated through collaboration with schools.

👕📱 Source separation and collection systems for consumer goods

Mixed household waste - consisting of textiles, electronics, organic and other consumer goods - can be contaminated and difficult to separate, and hence limit the recovery of materials and value. Source separation reduces the upstream sorting cost and ensures that downstream recyclers receive clean feedstock, thus improving their ability to capture the value from post-consumer material streams. Source separation systems can take a variety of forms, such as providing a distributed network of collection points throughout a city for residents to drop off various types of waste materials. The most successful examples of this include: collection of electronics, plastics, waste oil, fabrics, metals, bulky goods, paper, cardboard, batteries, amongst others. Local governments can support the implementation of the solution by developing and providing the necessary infrastructure throughout the city or engage in public-private partnerships to provide source separation systems. What is more, information campaigns can help to inform residents on which types of consumer goods can be recovered, and the most effective means of disposal.

💧 Improving wastewater treatment infrastructure

An estimated 80% of wastewater is discharged into the environment without treatment (UN), threatening aquatic wildlife, quality of groundwater and surface water resources, and human health. To avoid these negative effects, it is important to improve wastewater collection and treatment from both households and industries. Cities can help achieve this goal by improving wastewater transport and treatment infrastructure, adopting laws and regulations for wastewater treatment discharge, and offer financial incentives for businesses and industries to improve pollution controls over their effluents and advance treatment technologies.

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