Many raw materials are becoming scarcer. Household waste contains large amounts of such materials that could be recovered and reused, but in Europe most of this waste is burned in incinerators or transported to landfills. There are both environmental and economic benefits to moving towards a circular economy, with the reuse or recycling of waste materials. In order to recover more materials (resources), the service level for households in low-rise buildings needs to be increased, so making it easier for residents to help selectively recycle resources such as paper, plastic, and organic kitchen and garden waste. On the other hand, making it more difficult to dispose of the residual waste, by requiring it to be taken to communal waste collection areas, can act as a complementary approach to encourage recycling.
The main objective of the LIFE ReWaCo project was to demonstrate a new, more efficient and cost-effective household waste collection system, called Reversed Waste Collection (ReWaCo), in three different neighbourhoods of Arnhem: a low-income neighbourhood, a mixed neighbourhood with both low-rise and high-rise buildings, and a neighbourhood with only low-rise buildings. The aim was to offer a series of incentives to the local population, to encourage people to separate valuable household waste (e.g. paper, plastics, and organic kitchen and garden waste), through improvements in waste collecting. At the same time, the aim was to discourage the disposal of large quantities of residual waste, by making it necessary for it to be taken to communal underground waste collection points. The project aimed to implement a monitoring system to assess the environmental, social and financial results of the pilot scheme, and to disseminate recommendations to help implement the concept in other European municipalities.
The ReWaCo project demonstrated, in three different trial neighbourhoods in the city of Arnhem in the Netherlands, that the “Reverse Waste Collection” system can be more efficient than traditional waste collection methods. The new method requires using mini-bins, underground bins, registration and verification systems and waste collection vehicles. The system adapted the collection methods to the features of the testing neighbourhoods (low-rise or high-rise buildings).
The project defined an implementation strategy for installing underground waste containers in collaboration with the local inhabitants. In total, 74 underground waste containers and over 20 000 mini-containers were installed or provided for the selective collection of glass, paper and cardboard, plastics, and organic material.
The project employed ‘waste coaches’ to inform and raise awareness among local citizens of the new waste collection procedures, while an intensive communication and dissemination campaign aimed at the general public was launched by the city of Arnhem. The evaluation of the monitoring results showed that the selective collection of different types of wastes significantly improved. At the end of the project, 60% of the different waste types were sorted for collection by the inhabitants of the three trial neighbourhoods, leaving a residual waste amount of 40%. The amount of residual waste decreased on average from 264 to 215 kg per year per inhabitant. The project noted a high level of ownership and acceptance of the scheme by local inhabitants, with over 83% of people surveyed having a positive or neutral opinion about the waste collection.
ReWaCo represented an economic success. The new waste collection system is predicted to start making a profit after five years of implementation, due to the increased income from the collection of larger amounts of waste types of economic value, such as glass, paper, cardboard, plastics, and organic material, and the collective location for waste disposal (underground containers). In 2015, well before the project end, the positive results from the LIFE project convinced the city of Arnhem to roll out the innovative waste collection scheme to the entire city. The new system should be implemented city-wide by late 2017. Waste coach jobs were created for previously long-term unemployment local people, working in pairs in the three neighbourhoods on 12-month contracts. This proved advantageous as they were well known to the inhabitants, regularly consulted and present for six days a week, which significantly deterred waste dumping. The work was designed to help them re-enter the job market. Once the trial period was over (2016), waste coaches were replaced by enforcement officers, who were able to fine citizens for abuses in waste disposal. The project’s positive socio-economic impact will be amplified as the system is rolled out to the entire city of Arnhem, as 35.8 full-time equivalent jobs will be created (2.3 for recycling selective wastes and 40 for waste coaches, though there will a reduction of 6.5 for collection of residual waste, due to the improved collection system).The project’s pilot demonstration in three neighbourhoods covered 10% of the city of Arnhem’s waste collection. The decision in 2015, well before the end of the project, to implement the Reversed Waste Collection (ReWaCo) system across the entire city, demonstrated the effectiveness and replicability potential of the system on a larger scale. The system had only previously been applied at a very small scale in the Netherlands. The project has demonstrated that this innovative concept, which focuses on negative incentives to reduce residual waste disposal and positive incentives to separate waste, could be replicated on a large scale throughout Europe.
A national regulation to be imposed on Dutch cities will require the sorting of 75% of their waste by 2020. The ReWaCo project showed a way towards achieving this goal, with 60% selective waste collection. The remaining 15% could come from improved organic kitchen waste separation and the application of a tax system per kilogram of residual waste - both methods being assessed in the city of Arnhem.
Environmental benefits derive from larger quantities of waste being recycled, in line with the EU Circular Economy Package, and less waste being incinerated or put in landfills, in line with EU policy and legislation on waste management, water, air quality and climate change. During the 12-month monitoring period, the decrease in residual waste (on average, 264 to 215 kg per year per inhabitant) corresponded to a greenhouse gas emission reduction of 80 kg CO2 per capita per year.
Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).