The government of Freiburg in Germany has designed a waste management program that is based on the principles of waste reduction, waste recovery and environmentally considered disposal.
Waste going to landfill is reduced by a thoughtful household sorting, with four bins in each dwelling for kitchen and garden waste, paper and plastic recycling and landfill. The kitchen and garden wastes are composted so they can be reintroduced into the farming and gardening systems preventing them from entering landfill unnecessarily. This waste sorting system has reduced landfill from 140,000 tonnes a year in 1988 to 50,000 tonnes in 2000. It sounds weird, but even the existing closed landfill contribute to waste reduction. The methane produced in the decomposition process of the landfills is captured to power a heating and power station that supplies Freiburg. This in turn reduces the need for fossil fuel produced power, thus reducing the subsequent air pollution waste that would occur through traditional power production. The need for heating and general energy consumption in the home is reduced by government supported home insulation schemes and energy efficiency retrofits, thus reducing energy production and waste.
Air pollution is reduced in other ways too. There are over 500km of bike paths in Freiburg and over 5000 bike parking spaces in the city, but the infrastructure doesn’t just get built then not used (like in Sydney), one third of all journeys made by locals are by bicycle. Car traffic is reduced in areas around the city by making the old town centre car free in 1973 and the public transport system has buses which reach 90% of residents. The introduction of an low cost, flat rate, monthly bus ticket has increased use of public transport by 100% from 1980 to 1991. All these measures to reduce private, fossil fuelled transport reduce the air pollution waste produced.
The waste management system in Freiburg, Germany is complex and intricate. It is established and run by the government and is dependent on government endorsement and support. This may not be possible for NGOs to carry out in individual countries but parts of it could be taken and applied to smaller communities to achieve similar results on a smaller scale.
ICLEI 2014, Member in the Spotlight Freiburg, Germany ICLEI, European Union, viewed 26/04/2015 2015, <http://www.iclei-europe.org/members/member-in-the spotlight/archive/freiburg/>.
Petith, T. 2014, Sustainable City – Freiburg, SolarRegion Freiburg, viewed 05/26 2015, <http://madisonfreiburg.org/green/sustainablecity.htm>.