Bio-waste recycling to be made easier

Photo: Vít Pohanka / Czech Radio

When it comes to plastics, paper and glass Czechs are conscientious recyclers with around 70 percent of the population sorting reusable waste. Now a new law is to encourage them to do better in the one last remaining area where they have been lagging behind – in sorting bio-degradable waste.

Photo: Vít Pohanka / Czech Radio
“Banana skins, tangerine and cucumber peelings, egg shells …. I use the container almost every day,” says 34-year-old Jan from Prague. The three colour-coded containers for glass, paper and plastics, located conveniently close to his home, were joined by a fourth in 2015; a brown container for bio-degradable waste. However this last one was only around for six months of the year –from April to September.

Under a new amendment to the law, which brings the country in line with EU norms, it will now remain in place all year round. Currently 700,000 tons a year of bio-degradable waste is collected and recycled, but Environment Minister Richard Brabec says the potential is much bigger.

“If containers for bio-degradable waste are placed conveniently close to where people live throughout the year we should be able to collect another 100,000 tons at least. Every ton of biodegradable waste that is sorted is good news.”

Municipal composting facilities would welcome more waste, at present most of them are only working at 50 percent capacity. And the public would benefit from using the containers all year round since people would be paying less for mixed-waste containers.

Municipalities have been given the freedom to decide how they want to provide the service – whether to provide containers, plastic bags or a “waste collection point” for bio-degradable materials in very small villages. They will also be able to decide how often containers should be emptied out in the winter months, depending on individual needs.

Pavel Drahovzal,  photo: Luboš Vedral / Czech Radio
Pavel Drahovzal from the Association of Czech Towns and Cities has high praise for the consensus reached on this point.

“We welcome the fact that the ministry has been accommodating in giving us a certain amount of freedom as regards how we are going to provide this service during the winter months. In this way each municipality can meet the needs of the locals –which have not been put to the test in the winter months - and make practical decisions based on those needs. It is good that there isn’t a hard and fast rule about containers having to be emptied out every week or every fortnight.”

Czechs are enthusiastic gardeners and containers fill fast in the spring, summer and early autumn with leaves, branches and grass, among others. Sorting waste in the winter months, when it will come largely from households, is expected to be slower as people get used to the fact that the bio-waste containers are there for them to use. But if plastics and paper are any indication, then it should not take long for Czechs to jump on the bandwagon.