European and National Legislation aim to divert biodegradable municipal waste from landfills and require separate collection and treatment of biowaste. Despite the fact that this has been a common practice in some European countries – until recently, no Greek city had developed such a system. Biowaste separation at the source was applied for the first time in Greece in 2013, within the City of Athens.
The extension of similar systems will be an important focus of policy in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management in the coming years.
What is it?
The ultimate goal of the Athens Biowaste Programme is the composting or anaerobic digestion of biowaste for the production of high quality materials and the diversion of similar waste flows from landfills. This has multiple benefits: the reduction of operational costs, the avoidance of landfill costs, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the production of compost which can then be used in green areas, among others.
How does it work?
The initiative began in the framework of a co-funded European project under the LIFE+ Programme entitled ATHENS-BIOWASTE.
In 2011, the two pilot areas (Gazi and Kypriadou area) were selected based on various parameters such as infrastructure, population density and transportation costs. Public awareness campaigns were then launched so as to increase the active participation of residents.
The implementation of the project in the two pilot areas was initiated in October 2013 and included the distribution of 2,200 biowaste collection bins. Until the end of 2013, 46 tonnes of biowaste were collected, increasing to 260 tonnes by 2014. Due to the success of the project, biowaste collection continues with the City’s own funds. The City has decided to expand the project to cover all of Athens.
Biowaste bins distributed in Gazi area (left) and biowaste collected in Kypriadou area (right)
Compared to the existing Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management system, the initiation of a source separation program for biowaste leads to direct GHG savings, due to waste diversion from landfills and indirect savings by substituting materials (i.e. fertilizers) with the produced compost. If the system were to be applied to one whole district out of the seven that exist in the city, GHG savings could reach up to 9%, and the cost savings could be approximately 220,000 euros. If the system is expanded to the whole city the savings will be much higher.
More than 2,000 households and 67 businesses (cafes, restaurants, super markets, etc.) have actively participated in this initiative. As a result, the biowaste collected thus far has resulted in high quality compost.
The biowaste collection at the source has significantly reduced operational costs related to the avoidance of the 45euro/ton landfill fee for the biowaste collected, as well as the reduction in fuel consumption due to optimization of the waste collection system.
Another benefit is related to citizen engagement. During the ATHENS BIOWASTE project, the intensive awareness raising activities in the two pilot areas reduced impurities in the biowaste collected. As such, the success of the ATHENS BIOWASTE programme and the experience gained can be used to improve Solid Waste Management (SWM) in the City for other municipal waste streams as well.
The City of Athens has also reached out to other organizations for the collection of biowaste and has shared its project experience with other neighboring municipalities in the Attica Region.
The City of Athens has actively collaborated for the expansion of biowaste collection with:
1. The Ministry of National Defense:
i) The Officers’ Restaurant of armed forces of the Ministry of National Defense
ii) The kitchen facilities of two major military hospitals
iii) The kitchen facilities of the Air Force General Staff and the Hellenic Navy General Staff
2. The Agricultural University of Athens, which has been collecting the food waste from the students’ restaurant and small quantities of green waste since April 2013.
3. The Agricultural Cooperative of Attica SPE ‘Synidioktisia’ has been participating by providing flower residues.
Athens was awarded a prize for the biowaste separation and treatment project in the Waste and Recycling Awards that were organized in Greece in December 2015.