Milan is a Leading Example in Organic Waste Collection

By Heidi Koolmeister (Project Leader of the Newsletter of Let’s Do It! World)

Milan is excelling as an international leader in organic waste collection and recycling. The Italian city is an example for other major cities especially in door-to-door separate organic waste collection.

We talked to Giulia Cusumano, the press officer of the Mobility, Transport and Environment Department of the Municipality of Milan, to get an insight into how these great results were obtained.

Milan started the collection of organic waste in November 2012 in some areas of Milan and in only 1,5 years the system has been extended to all of the households of the city.

Cusumano explains: “This collection was introduced by a regional operator of organic waste, called AMSA, who distributed containers in all apartment buildings and households, and one starter kit that was composed of a bin that is air ventilated, a supply of compostable bioplastic bags and a brochure with instructions for proper waste collection. The waste collection itself takes place twice a week at households and daily at schools and large entities such as canteens, shops, etc.”

To these excellent results a campaign of simultaneous communication and information work has contributed as well. For example, letters were sent to all families and condominium administrators monthly, and several discussion events with the citizens were also organised.

Recycling has risen

The introduction of the separate collection of organic waste was welcomed enthusiastically by the citizens of Milano, as according to Cusumano the quickly arisen waste collection numbers show: “In just two years we have gone from 35% to 52% overall recycling and now Milan has the most advanced system of organic waste collection among the cities of the world. In 2014 almost 120,000 tons of wet waste was gathered in Milan, whereas in 2012 only 40,000 tons were collected and the remaining organic fraction, ended up in mixed waste as non-recyclable.”

“This separated waste collection allows to recover about 1.8 kg of organic waste per inhabitant weekly, which can be transformed either into fertiliser for growing plants or for producing energy with the generation of biogas,” she adds.

The introduction of separate organic waste collection in Milan reduced the amount of non-recyclable waste, therefore there is less need to send wet waste into landfills or incinerators.

No longer disposed in landfills

According to Cusumano, the non-recyclable waste in Milan is no longer disposed of in landfills for quite some time. Instead, it is burned in incinerators that is used to recover energy and produce heat for thousands of homes. However the introduction of waste collection directly from households has made it possible to increase significantly the proportion of recyclable waste.

The organic waste operator AMSA carry the wet waste to a treatment plant. Today AMSA sends organic waste collected in Milan into an “anaerobic digestion” plant which is located in Montello, in the province of Bergamo. The plant turns wet waste into fertiliser and produces energy using the biogas generated by the same waste treatment process.

Even though the collection of wet waste is in general quite expensive, Cusumano explains the benefits of doing it: “The unit price for the treatment and recovery of wet waste of Milan is calculated taking into consideration the revenues from the production of energy from biogas.”

However, above all, the benefits of wet waste collection are environmental: nearly no wet waste ends up in landfills or incinerators; instead it is processed to create something as valuable as compost and energy. And from this also the citizens themselves benefit greatly, for example during the year at a number of occasions (street and neighbourhood parties, initiatives at the city level, etc.) the City of Milan and AMSA distribute the compost made from wet waste produced by the people of Milan to interested citizens free of charge.

Read more about Milano’s organic waste collection on the Web site of AMSA.