ricci arteko iswa
Marco Ricci of Italy-based consultancy Altereko says technology can help, but people will always be involved in waste and recycling decisions.
Recycling Today staff

ISWA 2022: Applying technology to natural discards

Italy’s Altereko says technology—combined with understanding human nature—can lead to greater discarded organics diversion.

September 22, 2022

“Don’t forget, you have to interact with people,” advised Marco Ricci of Verona, Italy-based consultancy Altereko, in a presentation to attendees of the 2022 International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) convention in Singapore.

Ricci and his company have been heavily involved in setting up and upgrading programs in that nation to collect food scraps and other organic materials so they can be diverted from landfills and incinerators.

In the course of that work, Ricci says Altereko has found that using the kind of technology offered by his company can help boost organics diversion, but watching how people react to technology is of great importance.

Ricci provided examples in Italy of jurisdictions that greatly improved their landfill diversion rates when they added separate organics collection to their waste and recycling programs.

Technology can play a role, he added, pointing to a European city that boosted its separate (non-MSW) collection rate from 77 percent to 84 percent after installing radio frequency identification (RFID) chips into food its food scrap collection carts.

Whether introducing new programs, new containers or changes in collection frequency, Ricci said, “It means asking customers to change their habits.”

Ricci said he and Altereko have learned that governments and service providers need to bear in mind that communication “is not a one-shot initiative; it must be ongoing.”

While technology often is presented as a solution, Ricci also offered a cautionary tale of technology deployment that proved less than idea. In one Italian city, he said, organics and recyclable drop-off that required device-specific (smartphone) identification resulted in some frustrated citizens and visitors merely dropping off materials on the ground outside of the intended collection bins.

Such cases caused Ricci to advise ISWA attendees to be open-minded about technology, but also to remember that when seeking diversion improvements, “You have to involve people.”

The 2022 ISWA convention took place at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre in Singapore Sept. 21-23.