Nestled in the Alban hills – a dormant volcanic range 20km southeast of Rome – you find the town of Albano Laziale. While it may not have the grandeur of the ‘eternal city’, Albano Laziale is streets ahead in another way: waste management.
Albano has the intention to be a national reference for waste management, especially when it comes to biowaste.
“When the current administration was established in 2010, only 2% of waste was collected separately in Albano, with a poor rate on quality. The mission was to start a door-to-door waste collection system combined with an intensive sensitisation campaign for citizens and business activities. The city administration has assigned the highest priority to waste management investing important resources to change the citizens’ behaviour” explains Andrea Vignoli from ANCI Lazio, the regional association of Municipalities.
The transformation has been remarkable. Albano is now the number one plastic recycling municipality in Italy, and is collecting food waste with 99% purity – comparable with the top performing cities in Europe.
So how did they do it?
Albano collects and processes seven different waste fractions: wet fraction, plastic, paper and cardboard, metal and glass packaging, paper and cardboard, road cleaning residues and undifferentiated waste (dry, non-recyclable).
Biowaste is sorted and pre-treated, using magnets and screens to remove impurities. The wet fraction is used to produce compost and for aerobic digestion.
Pay as you throw
In a bold move, city officials recently introduced a ‘pay as you throw’ PAYT system.
This means households pay less council tax if they can reduce the amount of non-recycable waste they produce.
It creates an incentive for people to better sort their waste and make sure that all food and recyclable waste goes into the correct bin. The purity of food waste has also increased as a result.
Another incentive for residents to get busy with recycling comes in the form of the ‘plastic eating machines’ dotted around the city. Here citizens get points for depositing recyclable plastic in the machine. These points can be used to reduce their council tax, or converted to coupons for local shops.
The next frontier for Albano is to increase collaboration with local businesses, and particularly restaurants. Wide-scale collection of food waste from restaurants would bring economies of scale in the treatment of biowaste, helping to further reduce costs in the long run.
By establishing a local aerobic biowaste treatment plant, the city hopes to produce higher value end products and create better returns for the city.
Change requires consensus and cooperation, and with this in mind the ‘Albano Biowaste Club’ was established, a forum bringing together stakeholders in the local biowaste management system.
At the latest meeting local stakeholders discussed current challenges and possible solutions for Albano Laziale looking into three main operational areas, namely collection, transport, sorting and valorisation. The key outcomes – which will also be further discussed and implemented in Albano Laziale – focus on three main courses of action: 1) PAYT for all non-domestic households including HORECA waste and beyond; 2) optimisation of the collection system for non-domestic households; 3) improvements for the valorisation of biowaste through the local aerobic treatment plant.
The Biowaste Club initiative is part of a larger project called SCALIBUR, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme.
Under the guidance of the Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production (CSCP), ‘Biowaste Clubs’ are also being established in Kozani (Greece) and Madrid (Spain).
SCALIBUR aims to inspire a revolution in biowaste recycling by developing and demonstrating new models for cities across the EU to replicate.
An e-learning module, training programmes, national action manuals and a stakeholder platform will be created to share this knowledge with interested Municipalities.