Waste not, want not          

Waste not, want not

Most of the waste that ends up in municipal landfills comes from the housing and communal sectors. Municipal authorities are aware of the need for the separate collection of different waste streams for recycling and have installed coloured containers for different types of recyclable waste near to residential areas.

However, not all citizens are willing to separate their waste. While some people do dispose of their paper, glass, plastics and food waste in the appropriate containers, other people simply dump their waste in the bin without sorting it. When their dustbin is full, they even start putting mixed waste in the colour-coded containers.

Discuss the conflicts and the possible solutions, as well as the opinions of the various parties. Present your own point of view. How do you think the problem can be solved?


Conflicting interests
  • Although the municipal authorities have provided the means for separate waste collection, the system has never been properly explained. Many people are unaware of the need to avoid sending waste to the landfill and are unclear about which kinds of waste can be recycled.
  • Some residents are not prepared to devote time and effort to sorting, packing and disposing of their waste appropriately. They feel uncomfortable sorting their rubbish at the containers, but do not have the means to transport different kinds of waste separately. They prefer to use the containers to get rid of their mixed waste, without realising the environmental consequences.
  • Personnel in housing departments are neither teachers nor social workers: they do not have the time or the resources for awareness raising. From their point of view, once the containers have been installed, their job is done.

Possible solutions
  • Campaigns should be held to teach communities how important it is to separate their waste for recycling.
  • Clearer explanations should be given on how to use the containers.
  • Those who fail to comply with the rules for separate waste collection should be fined (requiring a change in the legislation).
  • The positive aspects of waste separation should be stressed, and waste collection for recycling should be encouraged by giving it a more attractive image.
  • Municipalities should appoint staff with specific responsibility for organising information campaigns about the environmental importance of separate waste collection.
  • The business sector and public organisations should be asked to help encourage waste separation.

Varying viewpoints

Local authorities
According to the municipal authorities, raising awareness about the separate collection of domestic waste streams is the task of housing companies.

Business sector
Housing companies do not have the necessary staff to run community information campaigns. They do not consider awareness raising to be among their tasks.

Many people are unaware of the importance of waste separation and do not think that they are obliged to participate. The sorting of waste has an unattractive image in society: it may be associated with the waste picking activities on which homeless people typically rely.

Environmentalists have the necessary knowledge and skills to organise information and awareness-raising campaigns, but may lack the financial resources.