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25 Nov 2019

How do you get (even more) people to recycle their waste?

Cecilie Hagelund

Recycling waste is an important way to reduce the waste of resources, pollution and CO2-emissions. It’s therefore really positive to see the people in Denmark are good at separating their waste into the right containers. However, there is room for improvement, which can be ensured with digital solutions and economic incentives.

For our waste to be recycled properly and efficiently, sorting it is a requirement. In 2018 73% of the Danish population sorted their waste (according to the thinktank CONCITOS’ climate barometer). The percentage was the same in 2016, which indicates that waste sorting for recycling has become a good habit, thereby leading the way for new initiatives.

More waste in the cities
It will not be less important to sort and recycle waste correctly in the future – on the contrary. Especially in city areas it can be a big challenge for municipalities and waste management companies.

First of all, the general prosperity worldwide is rising, meaning that individuals produce more waste – although ideally (or should we say hopefully!) with less plastic involved.

Second, more and more people are moving to the cities. It means that the amount of waste in these cities is increasing, and we can definitely count on this trend continuing well into the future.

Third, the methods for repurposing and recycling what we throw away are under rapid development, and the possibilities are expanding all the time. That’s why less and less materials need to be wasted. It’s helping the centralisation of sorting and recycling of waste, both for citizens and municipalities, as well as the companies that collect and dispose of the waste we discard.

The economy is the motivator
As a municipality or waste management company, it’s typically a burning wish that the citizens begin to – an even higher degree – sort their waste for recycling.

The first and most obvious way to encourage more sorting of waste for recycling purposes is of course to offer more bin options for the various fractions of waste out there (glass, plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, bio-waste, electronics etc.). Basically, a practical and physical solution. But it’s one thing to put up and distribute the bins, which many municipalities in Denmark have already done – it’s something else entirely to get people to actually start using the bins.

For example, at the communal recycling spaces in Denmark they’ve accomplished this by nudging people in different ways: They introduced more staff onsite to help, they decreased the size of the openings in the containers, and sometimes they placed the container used for flammable waste (to produce energy) the furthest away – or, they’ve even renamed the container to something else to encourage people to throw their waste in the appropriate containers for recycling rather than incineration. The result speaks for itself: less than 15% of the waste disposed at the communal recycling spaces are used to make energy through incineration. From a recycling perspective that’s incredibly positive, as it indicates that Denmark has become better at reusing and recycling items again and again, thereby making a product’s lifecycle longer.

Another way to achieve this is to use the economy as an incentive. From other countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, you can find business models where citizens don’t pay for their waste collection through the taxes (such is the case in Denmark), but rather pay per kilogram collected in the residual waste bin, or per number of lifts (pay-as-you-throw). If less waste ends up in the large ‘regular one-bin-for-all-your-waste’, the bin won’t need to be collected as often. This way, people pay less to have their waste collected, if they’re good at sorting the waste that can be used for recycling instead.

Digital optimisation
At AMCS we can provide digital solution models to help create a more sustainable, future-proof and resource-saving way of management waste. With our cloud-based AMCS Platform you can choose the modules that best fit your needs and the needs of your waste collection for recycling.

The Intelligent Optimisation module plans and optimises your routes used for collecting the waste. With our Mobile Workforce and Vehicle Technology modules you can get RFID, GPS and weighing for your PAYT (pay-as-you-throw) system. The possibilities are endless, whatever waste or recycling challenge you may have, we can help you with our AMCS Platform, built by industry leaders with decades of experience.

You can read more about how to optimise your waste collections here: AMCS Platform