People need simple ways to deal with difficult waste. Kraków Eco-Boxes show that citizens are willing to engage in an environmentally-friendly waste collection system if it’s easy to use.
The citizens of Kraków often asked the Municipal Cleaning Enterprise (MCE) to make it easier to dispose of small e-waste (batteries, light bulbs, small electronics, etc) and in-home medical waste, as there were limited options in the city.
In 2018 the MCE launched the “Simple ways to deal with difficult waste” action in order to meet Kraków citizens’ expectations.
Kraków Eco-Boxes are one of the elements of this action. Small hazardous e-waste can be collected safely in these containers, which were designed with Kraków’s surroundings in mind. A scheduled, specialised electric vehicle is also on duty at each Kraków Eco-Box, collecting medical waste.
Eco-Boxes are gradually being installed around the city, particularly in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls, large businesses, City Hall buildings, and at the Selective Collection of Municipal Waste Points. There are currently 13 Kraków Eco-Boxes across the city, with more containers being placed throughout the city as part of the action's extension.
A primary challenge was selecting the proper design of the Eco-Boxes. As already mentioned, the containers were designed to enable the safe collection of small hazardous waste but also to blend in with the city's aesthetic.
Deciding on a location and then working out the necessary agreements with the property owners also caused issues. Agreements were not always fulfilled so other locations needed to be found.
Organising the Eco-Boxes’ service system to ensure their systematic emptying was another challenge. A good schedule was established, and a group of employees was trained to service the boxes on a regular basis.
Hazardous waste can potentially pose a threat to human life and health, especially when handled inappropriately. Electronics contain harmful chemical substances which can adversely affect the environment and all living organisms if improperly handled. Disposed medications can have a similar effect. Used needles, syringes and prefilled syringes at home can be a potential source of disease.
Residents now have a safe and easy way to dispose of small hazardous waste thanks to the launch of "Simple ways to deal with problematic waste" and the Kraków Eco-Boxes. This helps shape the habits of proper waste handling.
From January to November 2021, a total of nearly 5 tons of hazardous waste was placed in Eco-Boxes, demonstrating the high demand for this type of service.
Residents are also increasingly expressing the need for more Eco-Boxes in more places. When expanding the action, all of these requests will be taken into account.
The use of Kraków Eco-Boxes also provides additional sources of information regarding selective waste collection, which improves Kraków's selective waste collection efficiency. This is confirmed by the fact that all standards required by the law related to waste management are achieved by the city each year.
Learning and recommendations
The implementation of “Simple ways to deal with difficult waste” has shown that city residents need new solutions to facilitate the proper disposal of waste.
Residents willingly use the services provided by the MCE in Kraków.
This action is recommended to other cities, assuming that there are organisational possibilities to implement it.
For more information, visit the MCE website.