Organic recycling in Europe

I was out wandering in Bolzano, Italy the other day and saw this great example of organic waste collection. Very simple, it was just a brown bin outside the door of an apartment building in the old town.

It just made me happy to see it, that’s all. So many cities say it can’t be done, it’s all too hard, and the councillors just look the other way as truckloads of organic waste just end up in the normal bin. I’m not sure what the collection arrangements are for this, but I assume a truck comes round fairly regularly and collects it. After all this is Italy, even if Bolzano is up in the Alps (and a lovely city at that!), it’s been a hot summer, and food waste starts stinking pretty soon if you don’t do something.

Photo: Jenny Harlen

A few days later I’m in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia (actually the smallest capital in Europe, and definitely one of the cuter), and see this. Organic waste collection built into the streetscape. Very cool!

I’m not sure what the collection arrangements are here either, but I’m assuming the metal plates lift up somehow and the container or whatever can be emptied into a truck.

This is not a bokashi-based system, but I do know that in a town in Croatia, just down the road, the local council is experimenting with bokashi in combination with this sort of urban organic waste collection. Householders all get a free bokashi bin (a nice one with taps and all) and can either use the fermented bokashi in their own garden or allotment or can empty it into the council collection system (brown bins in their case).

The upside for the council is that they don’t have to collect the organic waste so often because it is more compact and doesn’t smell. The upside for the householders (those not using the bokashi in their own gardens) is that they don’t have to go out with their organic waste every day. They can just quietly fill the bin and empty it when it suits.

Also very cool!


These collection stations have solar cells and some kind of card reader on the side. I’m guessing that local residents all have the right kind of card and that stops the bins being used by non-residents. IMG_5153

This, by way of context, is Ljubljana on a sunny day in September. Damn fine city, great beer, worth a stop if you ever get the chance!IMG_5154

2 thoughts on “Organic recycling in Europe

  1. Jenny,
    Sadly, you might find that what councils do with the kerbside kitchen waste bin is not what you’d like. In the UK, one of two things will typically happen to it. Either it is added to the council green waste composting stream, or it is sent to an anaerobic digester to make methane gas as fuel.

    The first of these loses at least 55-60% of the carbon (and therefore food energy) in the kitchen waste, because that’s what aerobic decomposition does. It may also leach some nutrients and some material in transport, though I think more places are more careful than they used to be.

    The second will lose at least 70%, but probably more as they are learning how to optimise for gas. Added to which, it may be mixed with other streams that make the final digestate unfit for agricultural land, thus losing 100%.

    My council doesn’t collect food waste yet, but I expect they will, and I’m dreading it. Just try persuading the community to put 100% back into the soil when you are competing against a “fire and forget” infrastructure like that.

    This is one where I’m going to write to the council before they do it, not after.

  2. Dear Jenny,
    Is there an automated bokashi system in place to handle about 200kgs or more of kitchen waste. ? If so can I have the brochure eyes.

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