Energy, backpacks and fuels – these things are made of garbage in Poland

  • In 2019, there was 332 kg of garbage per statistical Pole.
  • 3.19 million tonnes of garbage were destined for recycling in 2019.
  • 72 percent of respondents declare that they segregate all waste, and at the same time the vast majority assess that they do it correctly.
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The idea of a closed-loop economy has become more and more popular in recent times. Many companies not only reduce the production of waste but also give it a new life. It turns out that also in Poland there are many initiatives whose idea is to reuse what ends up in garbage dumps.

Poles and waste

Examples of various activities and businesses in Poland show that we are slowly beginning to treat "waste" as a resource - in accordance with the concept of a closed-loop economy, which assumes that raw materials, materials, and products should remain in the economic cycle as long as possible. In practice, it comes down to following the 3U pyramid, which means that first, we should make sure that there is as little waste as possible - by limiting the purchase of unnecessary products ("avoid") or by giving a second life to already purchased products ("reuse"). And if we are not able to reuse the item itself, we should try to recover materials from it ("recycle"), that is, recycle it. At the end of the "pyramid" there is still the question of managing the waste with which nothing can be done anymore - e.g. recovering energy from it.

See also: Conversely to the Swedes we are wasting a free energy resource. "This energy is cheaper than nuclear".

According to the Central Statistical Office, there was 332 kg of municipal waste per capita in Poland in 2019. 10.8 million tons of waste were collected from households, which accounted for 84.5 percent of all municipal waste generated. Of the collected waste, 7 million 70 thousand tons (55.6 percent) were recycled, including 3.19 million tons (25 percent).

According to an opinion poll carried out by SW Research, Poles are quite good at the very top of the pyramid, i.e. "Recycle" - as many as 72% of respondents declare that they segregate all waste, and at the same time a large majority assesses that they do it correctly. We also try to take care of the second "U", i.e. "reuse", and thus repair used or damaged items - such attitude is declared by almost two-thirds of Poles (65%). The most difficult is the first step of the 3U pyramid, or "Avoid". We are not quite able to control our consumerism - even in simple, everyday purchases. Only a fifth of Poles declare that they always go shopping with a list or a plan, and only a third check what's in the fridge before going to the store. This, unfortunately, ends up with almost 60% of us seeing food go to waste at home.

Karolina Buczkowska, manager of the campaign "Land of GOZ", which aims to promote the idea of a closed-loop economy, says that the level of compliance with the 3U pyramid by Poles shows that we are trying to change our habits, and in some cases even succeeding quite well.

- Now it's time for the next step - we need to build the awareness that taking care of the planet is not only about well-sorted garbage or reusable shopping bags. And it's not that we have to do something more - together with Prof. GOZ, we want to show that to save the environment, you don't have to do much more, but simply look wider. Small, everyday, conscious decisions are enough, but they have to concern all stages of the pyramid - so that we not only sort waste well but also reduce its creation. We can do this in different ways - the basis is to treat things with respect. - explains.

See also: Seven deadly sins of Poland's waste system. The habit of good segregation is not yet the norm

Business and use of waste

Around us we can find more and more companies that give a second life to things that would lie uselessly polluting our environment. Representatives of the Biedronka chain of stores came up with an idea to use fishing nets and ropes to make baskets on wheels and shopping carts, which are to consist of 25% recycled material. The eco-friendly carts will go into all of the chain's newly opened stores, and over time they will also replace used baskets in other stores. Each Oceanis basket or cart uses 1.5 meters of rope, which would otherwise remain in the sea for 600 years because that is how long it takes to decompose. Recycling of ropes and nets not only helps to prevent the poisoning and death of thousands of marine animals but also saves 20% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Interestingly, the waste is being used in the heating industry in Poland. Fortum in 2018 in Zabrze launched Poland's first greenfield CHP plant designed with the ability to co-fire alternative fuel in the form of RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel). The use of this fuel may reduce dust emissions by up to 11 times.

- According to the waste hierarchy, the first thing to consider is the possible reuse of the items themselves or the materials from which they were created. However, the seemingly useless waste does not have to end up in landfills - it can be recycled into fuel, which can then be used to produce heat and electricity. Our combined heat and power plant in Zabrze is an example of such action. - says Jacek Ławrecki, communication director at Fortum.

Handerek Technologies has developed a method to extract fuel from waste. Today, plastic particles are even in people's blood, and plastic waste is ubiquitous. It's garbage lying on land, but also huge islands of plastic in the oceans It took Adam Handerek almost 12 years to develop the technology. Today, his company obtains diesel and gasoline fractions from plastic waste. The processing itself uses parts that are not recycled. In 2020, there is a chance for wider use of this type of fuel. The RED II Directive equates plastic fuel with biofuels, and this gives the possibility to use it as a component of fuels bought directly at the station.

Bags from waste and coffee grounds

EcoBean is an ecological startup founded by industry professionals and scientists from the Warsaw University of Technology that produces briquettes from coffee waste, or simply coffee grounds. The coffee waste will not go to waste but will be transformed into clean green energy. The company has so far produced 0.5 million briquettes from coffee, that 180 tons of waste. Coffee grounds are brought to the factory at the Warsaw University of Technology, where they are properly dried, processed, mixed, and briquetted.

Startup Trashki makes bags and backpacks from advertising banners. The upcycling process - giving materials treated as waste a new, higher value - produces handmade bags, backpacks, sachets, kidneys, and accessories. The company emphasizes that it does not compete with mass products from chain stores. Trashki wants to combine the ideas of upcycling, zero waste and slow fashion. Each bag is different because the advertising banners are also different. In our projects, the company has used eye-catching banners of many cultural institutions it has been working with for many years - MOCAK, Jewish Culture Festival or Ostoya Auction House in Warsaw.

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