Door-to-Door Waste Collection: Big City Time, by Isaac Peraire and Eloi Badia

Just 25 years ago in Catalonia we started, by legal mandate, the selective collection of organic waste. It should be noted that in this area, and together with a few European countries, Catalonia has been a pioneer. Despite the initial difficulties and disbelief, today we are where we are thanks to people and entities of civil society, the illustrious vision of the leaders of the moment and the political consensus woven by the governments that have followed one another over the years. . And precisely this first spark took place in the metropolitan area, in municipalities such as Torrelles de Llobregat, Molins de Rei or Sant Cugat del Vallès.

The collection of the organic was extended and the citizenship acquired the habit of depositing it in the container known as “the brown & rdquor ;. But the efforts soon leveled off. In fact, in AMB it is found a stagnation of selective collection around 37% Since 10 years ago.

It was necessary to give a new impulse with more efficient collection systems, in quantity and quality. And from the year 2000, with pioneering municipalities such as Tiana, it began to show the door-to-door system as the most efficient for organic and other selective fractions such as paper and cardboard, and packaging. The results were immediate, spectacular and continuous. Selective collection has always remained above 80%, achieving close to 87% in 2020, making Tiana a benchmark municipality in the metropolitan area of ​​Barcelona and throughout Catalonia.

Currently, 240 Catalan municipalities have implemented door-to-door collection, and more than 130 are planning to do so in the coming years. This is in itself a great challenge: knowing how to find the implantation modalities door-to-door collection that best suits each municipality. It is what the Barcelona’s town hall, defining a model for the city that adjusts to its singularities and the needs of its neighbors. And the data speaks for itself. In the Sant Andreu neighborhood, 80% selective collection has been achieved, While the selective collection values ​​in mid-2019 in the city of Barcelona were 38%, and in Catalonia 46%.

The merit of this shared success goes mainly to the residents of Sant Andreu who, despite the need to adopt new, more demanding habits, They have understood that it was worth making this effort with the aim of contributing to environmental improvement and for the good of society as a whole.

The ‘porta a porta’ is, right now, the most efficient way to achieve the objectives set by the European Union for 2035: 65% recycling of municipal waste and a maximum of 10% of municipal waste to landfill. In Catalonia, in 2020 we achieved a recycling rate of 39%. So we have a lot of work to do. It is a challenge that commits us all: Government, citizens, companies and local entities.

So now is the time for the big cities. Without the large cities of the country taking firm and adequate steps, we will not succeed. Some are making progress in this direction, as have large cities around the world (Milan, Brussels, Munich, Antwerp, San Francisco or Seoul). Thus, municipalities like Lleida or Barcelona have already begun to gradually implement door-to-door collection, While Vilanova i la Geltrú and Ripollet plan to do so soon.

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In the context of the climatic emergency, it is necessary to bear in mind that the organic harvest is efficiently collected. it also leads to savings in CO₂ emissions. In these last 25 years we have selectively collected 6.3 million tons of organic, with an emission savings of 1.5 million tons CO2eq (carbon dioxide equivalent) regarding whether they had ended up in the landfill. In other words, the CO₂ produced by 1.5 million cars has been saved.

All these elements make it clear that it is necessary to move forward in the implementation of the ‘porta to porta’ system as the most efficient system to promote a recovery of materials from waste, especially organic. Because we want to move towards a circular economy, Because we have the firm commitment to address the climate emergency, because we have to protect biodiversity and our soils, because we want to improve the health and quality of life of citizens. Because we play so much with waste that we don’t play with this.

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