Case Study: Recycle in Slippers - Innovative approach to recycling in high-rises

In general, people are lazy. If they have to make additional effort to separately collect waste (e.g. make a trip, assure additional bins, etc.) and are not either enticed or punished for not doing it they won’t. So, when City of Osijek was establishing its waste management system one aspect that was particularly taken in consideration was how to enable people living in high-rises to separately collect different fractions of waste in most efficient way. The solution – “Recycle in Slippers”, a pilot project that puts bins for separate collection of paper and cardboard and plastic at each floor and additional bins for separate collection of 7 other fractions in the building communal area. The pilot project is implemented in 8 highest buildings in the City, each with 100+ apartment units and elevator.

Unikom d.o.o

Project development and implementation: Unikom d.o.o., Osijek
Industry: Communal services
Location: Ružina 11 a, Osijek, Croatia
Size: Large (322 employees)

Company Bio
Public utility Company "Unikom” is in charge of collecting municipal waste from 45.000 households and 2.000 businesses. Collected waste is deposited on the municipal landfill (35.000 t annually) to be closed by the end of 2024. "Unikom” conducted a number of actions aiming to enable separation of waste by introduction of recycling yards, eco islands and points and introducing door to door separate waste collection.
In addition to the municipal waste collection and disposal services, Unikom also maintains public traffic areas in Osijek, public green areas and fountains, vertical traffic signalization and winter maintenance of unclassified roads and public walking areas, pedestrian zones, trails and squares. Also, Unicom has been entrusted with managing the Osijek ZOO for the last 40 years.

The Challenge
Sjenjak 101, Osijek – one of the buildings included in Pilot project
Four years ago, when City of Osijek was in the midst of setting up its separate waste collection
system a particular problem turned out to be high rising buildings with 100+ apartment units each. Especially, since most of these buildings had so called "tunnel” openings on each floor for tenants to throw away their trash that would all end up in large scale dumpster at the basement of the building. Putting large scale collecting bins in communal areas of the building did not yield desired results since tenants on the higher floors still find it easier to just throw all their garbage through "tunnels”. How to change behavior and increase amounts of separately collected waste was a challenge.

The Approach
Having limited financial resources, the solution on one hand had to be cheap and on other hand easy to implement in order to "push” tenants towards more responsible behavior without asking for too much effort from them but also without overstretching human resources of Unikom. One uniting characteristics of all buildings that ended up in pilot project was that they had elevators which would enable Unikom’s workers to access each floor.
Unikom’s workers using reusable large plastic bags to collect paper and plastic separated at each floor
The Solution
The solution was - introducing bins for separate collection of paper and cardboard and plastic at each floor. These fractions are light and relatively clean (odorless – if plastic is cleaned before disposal). This makes them ideal for Unikom’s employees, by using elevators, to reach each floor and empty bins in large plastic bags and take them to the collection truck. On the other hand, this way of collecting paper and plastic does not affect cleanliness of hallways on each floor diminishing´potential complaints by tenants. Additionally, bins for separate collection of 7 other fractions – glass, metal, batteries, textile, organic waste, medicine and mixed waste were placed in communal areas near building exits making them easily accessible. In order to reis awareness of tenants on benefits of separate waste collection printed materials and guidelines were printed and distributed, additionally pilot project was introduced and promoted through local media.
Bins for plastic and paper placed at each floor in high-rises
The Results
In the first month of implementation pilot project yielded 90% increase in separately collected plastic in included buildings, from 23.20 t to 44,22 t. Project continues to provide increase in collection of properly separated waste and has been recognized as an example of best practice on national level.
Project’s flyer (front page)

Unikom d.o.o. za komunalno gospodarstvo
Ruzina 11a
HRV - 31 000 Osijek

phone:+385 (0)31 374 234

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