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“For plastic free Croatian Islands” Study Trip

As part of the project For plastic free Croatian Islands, the Sunce Association organized a study trip to Italy from October 25th till October 28th.

Participants were representatives of Komunalno Stari Grad d.o.o. (company for communal activities director Petar Tresić and head of operational and technical affairs Mihael Gamulin), Sali Municipality from Dugi otok (head Vladimir Radulić), project partners Zelena akcija (Marko Košak), associates of the complementary project Plastic Smart Cities Croatia (Marin Spetič and Maja Golem), and the guides on this trip were the project manager Tea Kuzmičić Rosandić from Sunce Association and Marijan Galović, a waste management expert and consultant in creating action plans and decisions for the cities of Dubrovnik, Trogir and Stari Grad as well as Municipality of Sali.

The aim of the study trip was to visit examples of good practice in responsible waste management based on the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle.  We visited the region of Emilia-Romagna, which is the leader in responsible waste management in Italy and the city of Reggio Emilia which, with its waste management system, achieves a result of almost 85% of separately collected waste.

Marijan Galović arranged a visit to the public service group IREN, which handles waste and energy management services in the provinces of Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, La Spezia, Vercelli and in the city of Turin. IREN is responsible for cleaning of the streets, pavements, and urban green areas, as well as clearing snow in winter. It manages an area of ​​3 million people with 30 factories and 3,000 vehicles in six different locations and employs 4,000 people.

In the city of Reggio Emilia, with a population of 170,000, the Tricolore Project was launched in 2016 with the aim of establishing  door-to-door system, which has been established throughout the city by 2018. In the suburbs, home to 75,000 people, they’ve set up a door-to-door system for all waste fractions in the same year. The urban center has 85,000 inhabitants, and the system was established for biodegradable green and municipal waste in 2017. For 10,000 inhabitants in the historic city center, the system was established in 2018 for biodegradable and municipal waste, while other factions are collected on green islands, in recycling yards and EcoStations (places where all waste fractions can be left at any time of the day, in case you haven’t left it in time in front of the door, which can be opened with an identification document).

When they were settting up a door-to-door system, the number of illegally dumped waste on the former green island sites increased. They solved the problem with more frequent removals and strict video surveillance, as well as with the introduction of a new employee function – “detective”, who was given the authority by the municipality to open bags and collect fines.

The price of their service for a family of four is approximately EUR 400 per year, or 250 HRK per month. It is important to keep in mind that their service, in addition to waste collection and proper disposal, includes cleaning of the streets, pavements and urban green areas, and also household bins, bags and other materials needed for waste separation are free. The price varies depending on the number of people in the household and the amount of waste generated, and if you compost yourself the price is reduced by approximately 20%. In Split, for example, you pay approximately 90 HRK, but it is possible that because of the low price of the service, we have a problem with waste and the deterioration of valuable raw materials in municipal waste.

Two IREN menagers showed us how the service is conducted in the field.

The Iren Group forwards part of the work to subcontractors, so the services of night shift, separate paper collection, bulky waste collection and management of two recycling yards are provided by the Cigno Verde Social Cooperative, which we also visited and which employs hard-to-employ social groups (former prisoners, immigrants and people with disabilities).

The cooperative consists of 80 members and 130 employees, while 50 of them are currently working on waste management.

Also 40% of the cooperatives are representatives of socially vulnerable groups who through employment relieve the City of social welfare beneficiaries, therefore the City can spend the money on development. At the same time the Cooperative, it creates a pleasant work environment for the employees, in which they feel good and useful.

They are especially proud of their new Compost-sharing service, which supplies every interested building or larger household with their own composter, educates them about composting and together they take care of the composter.

In Rimini we visited the EcoMondo fair, the fair with the most efficient technological solutions for appropriate / sustainable waste management and valorisation in all its forms, water management, efficient use of resources, raw materials, and secondary materials, as well as energy management and efficiency in general, which delighted our participants.

Given that we have new, young forces working in the waste management sector in Stari Grad and Sali, EcoMondo was an excellent source of information for them on the new technologies and methods and gave them the opportunity to discuss with national and international experts on major technical issues and environmental protection.

Participants had the opportunity to see trucks for collecting three different fractions of waste, the Compost city composter with solar cells that do not need a generator, the containers that open with an application, as well as the modern methods of waste meters and also equipment for implementing the system “door to door” or, as the Italians say, porta a porta system.

We also visited Cattolica, one of the first Italian cities which made an internal decision to reduce the use of plastic. Cattolica is a tourist center with 1.800,000 overnight stays, which is the equivalent to 16,800 inhabitants (for example, the island of Krk has 13,667.25 equivalents, the Municipality of Sali 496, and Stari Grad 1,329), and has a waste management system with over 80% of separate waste collection.

During our stay in Bologna, Marijan Galović introduced the participants to the “Last minute market“, a system that connects shops and producers, who own certain quantities of unsold food that would otherwise go to waste and be thrown away, with people and organizations that need such food. The system, in addition to food, also distributes unused but unexpired medications that can often save lives.

According to their work report, in 2019, the company Aspiag service srl., the “Last minute market” redirected 790 tons of food to nearly 200 organizations that help people in need. In cooperation with the HERA – FarmacoAmico (a large waste management company), 55,000 pieces of various medications worth EUR 668,000 were taken over.

Professor Andrea Segre started this project in 1998 at the University of Bologna, and today this system has been established in more than 40 Italian cities and several other cities in the world. The whole idea of ​​this system is to eliminate waste by helping companies to manage their surpluses so that they are passed on to those who need them instead of ending up in landfills or incinerators.

It can be said that this system has multiple economic benefits for society, and it is financed by private companies whose surpluses this organization disposes of, in the most socially and environmentally profitable way.

After trips like this we can only wonder why the Italians can do it and we cannot?

Why are valuable raw materials found in overcrowded landfills throughout Croatia?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that in Italy the Communal Company collects the waste, and the Country disposes of the waste in accordance with their National Collection and Disposal System.

Certainly, thanks to the ideas and knowledge gained from the study trip, we will be able to write new projects in a more complex way and even more concretely advocate for the changes in the Law.