“For plastic free Croatian Islands” Study Trip – Zlarin and Krk

From May 9 to 11, The Association Sunce organized one more study trip as part of the “For Plastic-Free Croatia Islands” project. This time the employees of The Association Sunce together with project partners visited the island with the minimum plastic waste, Zlarin, and the island with the highest percentage of separate waste in Croatia, Krk.

The trip goal was to get to know the examples of good practices that these two islands apply to reduce plastic waste on the island.

The representative of the Municipality of Sali, head Vladimir Radulić and Josipa Grbin, the representative of the Sali communal company Mulić d.o.o., as well as project partners from Friends of the Earth Croatia (ZA), Marko Košak and Ana Marija Mileusnić, were on the trip because with the project For Plastic-Free Croatia Islands we aim to reduce the use of single-use plastics in two island communities, the Municipality of Sali on Dugi Otok and the Town Stari Grad on the island of Hvar, as well as to reduce plastic pollution in the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas.

On the first day of the trip, we visited Zlarin, which started the initiative to reduce plastic waste on the island four years ago.

“Through the initiative For Zlarin without plastic, a significant shift in the reduction of single-use plastic pollution was achieved. The project was initially supported by the Tourist Board and the local mayor, and then slowly local merchants, fishermen and the local population began to get involved”, Katarina Gregov, representative of the Zlarin Tourist Board, pointed out to us.

The very fact that there are no cars on this island is enough of a motivator for the local community to continue striving towards the development of the concept of sustainable tourism, which allows visitors to experience the original, indigenous island.

“Our goal is to make people aware that they should be responsible consumers and not replace one type of waste with another. In the beginning, of course, it was not easy, it is difficult to change people’s established habits. However, when you educate them, and with that give them an acceptable and affordable alternative to single-use plastic, most of them eventually agree to it”, Katarina told us.

“We also noticed a reduction in the amount of waste on the island by introducing reusable products. Unfortunately, there is no waste management center on the island because such a center, due to the functioning of the utility company Zeleni otok, can only be at the county level,” continues Katarina Gregov from the Zlarin Tourist Board.

Last year, Krapanj also joined the initiative to reduce plastic, and this year the island of Prvić will join as well.

Krk – the island with the highest percentage of separated waste in Croatia

On the second and third day of the trip, we visited the island of Krk, our the most populated and economically developed island, and at the same time one of the Croatian leaders in the share of separating useful raw materials from waste.

For many years, a system of circular economy has been implemented on Krk, which does not discard raw materials, but uses them for reproduction. This reduces the consumption of limited natural resources (oil, wood, iron) and, accordingly, waste. Dejan Kosić, technical director of Ponikve Krk d.o.o., presented how waste separation works on Krk.

“Today, whole 60% of waste is separated on Krk. According to the waste directive of the European Union, Croatia should have met the municipal waste recycling goal of 50% by 2020, and 60% by 2030, which shows that Krk is far ahead of Croatian standards,” Dejan told us.

The reason why Krk started a system of the separate waste collection back in 2005 lies in the fact that the space for long-term disposal of mixed municipal waste on Krk would run out after some time.

“The island of Krk has about 30,000 buildings, of which 10,000 are inhabited. In the summer season, the facilities are at their maximum occupancy, and with the growing number of tourists, the amount of waste that we have to dispose of also increases!”

Waste is collected from door to door, and citizens have bins in front of their houses for separating plastic, glass, paper, bio-waste, and mixed municipal waste. However, the door-to-door waste collection system is not allowed in the old city center due to the mayor’s decision that there would be no bins in the old city at all, as well as air conditioners, lines for hanging clothes, etc. So waste from the old city center is collected outside the walls of the old town in special locations.

A large amount of separately collected waste that can be recycled comes mixed, so this waste is first taken to a sorting plant where it is additionally sorted, baled, and handed over for further recovery. Additional waste sorting is important to separate waste that does not belong there. Waste sorting facilities are essential for the future self-financing of utility companies, as they further reduce the cost of waste disposal.

“All separated waste is in the plus, except for glass. The demand for glass and the purchase prices are currently very low, so we decided to wait and keep it in our warehouse until there are better conditions for the purchase of this material,” said Dejan Kosić. “Although there is still a place for improvement, we can be satisfied with the waste separation results achieved so far, as well as the distribution of the collected materials,” continued Kosić.

Other mixed municipal waste, as well as the rest of the waste that cannot be sorted, goes to the landfill on Treskavac, which is located on the island itself. The reason for this is that the Marišćina Waste Management Center does not have enough capacity to receive mixed municipal waste from Krk in the summer months.

“When the Marišćina Waste Management Center project was planned, increased tourist capacities in the summer season were not taken into account, so now we have an excess of mixed municipal waste that needs to be stored somewhere. In addition, the problem with incinerators is that fuel from waste does not have a satisfactory market value”, Dejan Kosić told us.

The Association Sunce wrote about the system of incinerators, which is against the principles of the circular economy and fundamentally stops sustainable development. Read more at the LINK.

Krk is also proud of its modernly equipped composting facility, in which about 6 million kunas were invested two years ago to modernize the facility. Before it was an open composting plant but after the investment, it has been covered and closed, and a device for mechanical processing of imported bio-waste has been installed in it. The produced compost is first-class compost that is used for agricultural purposes, and users of Ponikva Krk services receive a bag of that compost as a gift, while larger quantities are sold at a very affordable price and delivered to their doorstep. Ponikve Krk also plans to produce 3rd class compost from wastewater in the amount of 676 tons of compost per year.

Today, the cost of disposing of a ton of unsorted waste in Treskavac is about 75 HRK, while by taking it to Marišćina, the central county landfill, the cost of disposing of a ton of such waste will rise to around 500 HRK, and in the future probably to 800 HRK.  When all costs and fees that cannot be avoided start to be charged, waste separation on Krk will become very profitable, especially for users of the services of the communal company Ponikva Krk.

We concluded our trip to Krk with beach clean up action on the island. Students of the primary school on Krk, representatives of the Ponikva Krk company, partners in the project “For Plastic-Free Croatian Islands” (Friends of the Earth Croatia (ZA) and representatives of the Municipality of Sali) and Sunce employees, cleaned 30 kg of waste from the beach. This amount of waste on the beach proves that Krk is one of the cleanest island of Croatia. Just for comparison, we cleaned 180 kg of waste on the just as big beach on the island of Šolta.

Macroplastics are collected on Krk in groups, individually, and with a robot. The robot prototype was presented last year as part of the Horizon project.

“We are working on a robot that will be oriented towards the removal of microplastics from the sea. The robot works on the principle of object recognition that the software remembers using photos. The software was tested in laboratory conditions, and soon it should be tested in the field”, explained Dejan Kosić, technical director of Ponikava Krk.

The individual collection is done through the “Blue Bag” program. “Blue bag” is an ecological-tourism project of the Krk communal company Ponikva Krk, which has been implemented for the sixth year in a row, and its purpose is to encourage every sailor, yachtsman, owner of any vessel, swimmer, nature lover, or environmentally conscious citizen to collect at least one (blue) bag of waste and debris washed ashore by the sea and taken to the container intended for throwing blue bags. The ultimate goal of the project is to prevent, or at least reduce, pollution of the environment, especially the sea.

This trip opened up many questions for us, but the most important question is how to adapt this waste collection system to the needs of different local communities and increase the level of separately collected waste in other cities as well.

We hope that these positive examples will be the beginning of a change toward the kind of waste management that we strive for in Croatia.

The holder of the “For Plastic-Free Croatia Islands” project is The Association Sunce , the partners are the City of Stari Grad (Island of Hvar), the Municipality of Sali (Island of Dugi Otok), and Friends of the Earth Croatia (ZA), and the collaborators are SMILO, the Initiative for Plastic-Free Zlarin.

The project is supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature and financed by the Beyond Med Association (www.beyondplasticmed.org).

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