Thanks to Snaga, Maribor is one of the first cities in the world to start implementing proper food waste collection on a larger scale. Of course, like with all major changes, things don’t just happen overnight. Hence, the waste collecting company Snaga took on a pilot project in 2022 - more than 400 households from Maribor were provided with Bokashi Organko composting bins. After all, these types of high-quality indoor composter are a proven food waste collection solution that reduces organic waste by 25 % and converts kitchen waste into new precious resources.
Moving forward, we’ll take a closer look at some of the details of this Snaga’s pilot project. However, we’ll first do a proper overview of the project’s core phases and the project's goals. Then, we’ll also focus on the results and the lessons learned. However, before we dive into the details of how Maribor is solving food waste collection, we need to make sure you all know the basics. As such, we’ll first do a quick overview of the bokashi composting method and why every household should strive to use this solution.
Food waste collection matters
Food waste is still a major representative of kitchen waste. Moreover, more than one-third of all municipal waste is organic waste that isn’t collected and disposed of properly. After all, the majority of organic waste still ends up in landfills where it rots and pollutes the environment - both air and soil. As you may know, rotting organic material emits methane, which is 25 times more potent at trapping heat than CO2. Hence, the latest researches estimate that food waste is responsible for 6-10 % of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
On the other hand, organic waste is also often burned by waste incinerators, which also contributes to increased GHG levels. Moreover, burning waste also results in other air pollutants, including extremely harmful dioxins. If we combine that with the fact that over 6,377,500 people died due to air pollution in 2022 alone, it’s quite obvious that we shouldn’t burn waste either.
So, if we shouldn’t dispose of kitchen waste in landfills or burn it, what should we do? Primarily, we should reduce waste, especially food waste as much as possible. However, we can’t completely eliminate organic waste, thus it's extremely important to implement proper food waste collection and repurpose these valuable resources.
Proper food waste collection at the source
As pointed out in the introduction, bokashi composting is the ultimate solution for proper food waste collection. This ancient method exploits the natural process of fermentation, which ensures that organic material decomposes in a life-inducing way. For this process to take place, some special conditions must be met. First of all, the organic material must be collected into airtight containers, And second of all, there should be a sufficient population of effective microorganisms present.
When it comes to ensuring airtight conditions, high-quality bokashi composting bins, such as Bokashi Organko composters, do the trick. And, as far as the effective microorganisms go, bokashi bran is all you need. Hence, these two components are the core of proper food waste collection. Moreover, they enable households to collect their kitchen waste and initiate its conversion into new resources right at the source. After all, households are the leading producers of food waste.
Snaga’s efforts to implement proper food waste collection in Maribor
As mentioned above, Snaga’s pilot project is the beginning phase of implementing proper and responsible food waste collection in Maribor. Their initiative had five main stages. In stage 0, they set in place the project’s core goals that included:
- Reduce the amount of organic waste per household
- Implement circular organic waste management
- Reduce the cost of collecting organic waste
- Produce communal compost of higher quality
In stage 1, Snaga determined the area of Maribor that they will focus on and announced the project. In stage 2, households were provided with Bokashi Organko bins and informed on how to properly use them. Stage 3, is where proper food waste collection started to take place. Moreover, Snaga used that phase to control the ongoing progress, perform waste sorting analyses, and survey the users. Finally, in phase 4, Snaga studied the results and provided an extensive report, which may serve as a valuable resource in further actions to effectively implement proper food waste collection systems.
Do we need laws to do the right thing?
The results of this pilot project provided Snaga with some valuable insight. For instance, they were able to see that there is still a lot of room to better inform the inhabitants of Maribor of the importance of properly collecting waste. Moreover, they noticed that people need to be incentivized to take the right actions. After all, there were still many plastic bags to be found among the organic waste. Plus, after using the initial bokashi bran, none of the households decided to buy an additional pack of this fermentation starter.
This matches the results of Scandinavian studies, which concluded that only 20 % of people change their waste-collecting habits only based on being informed. The remaining 80 % usually needs strict laws and financial penalties to start doing the right thing. As such, we can probably expect proper food waste collection only once stricter laws will be in place.
Last but not least, Snaga also found out that households living in houses are more likely to regularly use indoor composters than those living in apartments. This is probably due to them being motivated to utilize products of bokashi composting (bokashi cake and bokashi liquid) for their gardens.
Luckily, new laws regarding organic waste in the EU are already scheduled to start reinforcing proper food waste collection in 2023. Hence, the majority of people will be further incentivized to take the right action. However, if you are among the advancing 20 %, we invite you to help us close the #bokashiloop today.