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In 2017, 70 per cent of the global waste was generated in cities - and a rising trend is expected in the next years. One step to efficiently and economically process this waste is the waste separation at the source. It is fundamental for reusing and recycling resources because it prevents the contamination of the materials, thus increasing their quality. As this system relies on the active participation of citizens, it needs to be simple and easy to understand by the users. The main aspect is that users sort waste according to the materials it is made of, but also that citizens can be identified, thus allowing differentiated pricing when people recycle more or less. In addition, this system can also facilitate composting and the recycling of other stuff like electronics or clothes. 

Business Model

Implementation Facts

Average Implementation Time: less than 6 months 


Market Overview

Sorting waste at the source can be done in different ways: Single or multi-stream. In the single stream version, people dispose recyclable materials in one commingled container, while, in a multi-stream system they have to sort them into two or more bins. According to Lakhan (2015), the single stream system has lower costs of collection, however, the value of the material collected is higher and processing costs are lower in multi-stream systems. As the graphic below shows, the revenue is higher implementing a multi-stream system.

(Lakhan, 2015) Based on data from 223 municipalities from Ontario (Canada) on a period of ten years.

Pricing: Example Pay As You Throw

A common regulation to reduce waste generation and increase recyclables is the called Pay As You Throw system (PAYT). In this scheme, households pay a fee which varies according to the amount of waste they generate. PAYT systems consist of a fixed fee or a tax and a variable element that can depend on "container sizes, the number of sacks, frequency of collection, or the weight collected" (Seyring et al., 2015: 15).

Example of PAYT System in the Veneto Region, Italy:

(Simon, 2014)

Example: Parma (Italy)

The city of Parma implemented a new waste management system in 2014, which included a Zero Waste strategydoor-to-door collection, and the introduction of the bio-waste collection. The table shows how the changes made by the city reduced the costs of waste management, which included a decrease of treatment costs for residual waste (due to less generation) and an increase of the income from recycling (as there were more materials and less contaminated). In addition, more jobs were created with the introduction of this system (Rosa, 2016).

(Rosa, 2016)

Government Initiatives

What efforts and policies are local/national public administrations undertaking to help further and support this Solution?

Governments are setting recycling targets to increase the amount of waste recovered. In this context, the most progressive initiative is the Zero Waste strategy, whose aim is to recover and reuse all materials avoiding incineration or landfill burying. Cities in Italy (Capannori, Priula, Treviso, Parma), Spain (Argentona, Gipuzkoa), Slovenia (Ljubljana, Vrhnika) and France (Roubaix) have already started to implement Zero Waste policies (Zero Waste Europe, 2017).

Circular Economy - European Union

In 2015, the European Commission adopted the Circular Economy Package, which aims to reduce resource consumption through better design and to increase reuse and recycling. This package includes legislative proposals on waste with new targets, action on food waste, a finance support platform, and some other regulations (European Commission, 2017).

Legal Requirements

Relevant legal directives at the EU and national levels.


  • Directive 2008/98/EC: Waste Framework Directive
  • Directive 98/62/EC: Waste Legislation on Packaging and Packaging Waste
  • Directive 2012/19/EU: on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)
  • Directive 2006/66/EC: on waste batteries and accumulators

Use Cases

Explore real-life examples of implementations of this Solution.



“İzmit Çınar Waste” Mobile Application

"İzmit Çınar Waste" mobile application was designed for İzmit citizens in order to increase the amount and diversity of recyclable wastes which is collected within İzmit borders and to raise awareness about the importance of recycling in waste management as well.


KOSABS (Konya Zero Waste Information System)

By promoting the principles of zero waste and encouraging proper waste sorting and recording, the application will help foster a culture of environmental responsibility.



Digital Secondhand Shop

The city of The Hague helped promote second hand stores through the creation of apps, allowing for increased public access to second hand product information and a reward scheme for purchases.


Demand-oriented Collection of Used Goods

Conversations with circular entrepreneurs in The Hague showed that it is challenging to source suitable second-hand items e.g. bicycle tyres, leather, etc. The municipality however can provide a vital connection. Thus the idea for this small scale test action was born.


Three Pipes Circular Sewer System

In the neighbourhood of Oceanhamnen, the traditional sewage pipe was transformed into three sewage pipes in order to separate municipal waste water. One pipe collects food waste, the second black water and the third grey water. Grey water is recovered for cooling before being treated.


Optical sorting system for smart waste collection

Within the Grow Smarter project, optical sorting technologies have been combined with a smart waste collection system to increase waste recycling rates in multi-family residential areas.



Intelligent waste management system in Ludwigsburg

Owing to the Sustainability strategy of the city of Ludwigsburg, the municipality aims at optimizing the waste collection routes in the city. As a pilot project the city has installed cameras with inbuilt sensors in the 15 waste bins across the city.


Smart Conversion Card Project with Mobile Vehicles

Fatih Municipality aims to promote source separation of packaging waste, reducing landfill waste, and offering economic incentives. It uses mobile waste collection vehicles and Conversion Cards, targeting a 25% increase in recycling and 15% more recycling workshops, fostering zero waste.

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