One of the goals of our project is for the general public to develop an understanding of waste and its lifecycle and shift perspectives and attitudes so that waste is considered a valuable resource. A natural start for the project therefore has been to launch surveys to gain knowledge on current understanding.
As the objectives of the municipalities for the project vary, the surveys were designed in two parts:
- Part 1 included 4 general questions that were the same for all, focused on whether citizens understand the concept of recycling and use of waste as a valuable resource.
- Part 2 included questions more specific to the needs of each municipality.
The surveys were carried out both with adult participants and school children / youth.
Mažeikiai District Municipality together with UAB Telšiai Regional Waste Management Centre
The survey was conducted from 20.11.202 to 27.11.2020 with a total of 2335 respondents – 1721 were students/youth and 614 were adults. The survey was carried out in the Telšiai county which is composed of 4 districts, with the percentages of respondents as follows:
- Mažeikiai: 69.5% adults / 73.6% school children
- Plungė: 13.6% adults / 3.7% school children
- Telšiai: 10.6% / 15.3% school children
- Rietavas: 5.4% / 6.2% school children
- Other: 7.9% school children
To encourage participation by as many schools as possible, and for students to take an interest in waste management and recycling, 3 incentives were offered:
- The most active school participating in the survey
- The most active class involved in the survey
- An individual prize for a student – a tablet
Mažeikiai municipality nominated the winners for Mažeikiai district and UAB Telšiai Regional Waste Management Centre for the other 3 districts.
On 28th December 2020, after summarizing and analysing the results, the most active school and the most active class were announced on a live facebook session – (Available to view on https://www.facebook.com/Mazeikiaisavivaldybe/videos/1797304030435884/)
The survey was available on the websites of the municipalities and Facebook and it was also shared by direct mail. Some interest was shown by neighbouring districts – Skuodas, Šiauliai, Akmenė. In some cases where respondents did not name their district the answers have not been included.
Both adults and students have indicated they are well aware about recycling of plastic, paper, glass and metal waste. However, the survey showed that respondents have heard less about the possibility of recycling food and household waste (furniture, etc.).
83.3% of adults and 77.3% of students responding to the survey consider that waste can be a valuable resource. This is also confirmed by the fact that 99.8% of participants sort their waste. Participants also understand that waste items can be used to make new things, followed by creating energy and fertilisers.
Participants indicate that they find information on waste sorting on online, print and mass media. The vast majority of both adults and students (approximately 97%) agree that waste sorting is necessary, primarily with the goal to preserve nature. Less is known about the Telšiai regional landfill with 73% and 58% of students and adults respectively indicating they have no knowledge of it.
When it comes to items no longer used, 65% of students and 81% of adults tend to donate or sell these and the majority know where the special collections sites are for such items. When asked why items become unused, most respondents agree that this is typically because of wear due to long term usage.
67% of students ask themselves before throwing an item whether it is better to repair it. Similarly for adults, whether they throw an old item away, depends on how easy it is to repair. In fact, around 75% of students and adults have tried fixing something before throwing it away.
Recycled items are evidently valued by residents and students in Telšiai county as 72% and 65% stated they actively try to buy items from recycled materials. Similar numbers of respondents are not averse to buying things from charity or second-hand shops. This attitude seems to be related to a desire to not waste money. 87% of students and 81% of adults, indicate they like to reuse old items. Respondents that do not buy used or recycled items believe that these are unreliable and perishable.
Two final questions were posed to understand the issues residents face practically when it comes to sorting waste. 71% of participants suggest that the waste infrastructure is not convenient or sufficiently developed. Lack of knowledge is also cited as a reason for poor sorting with 54% of respondents stating there is not enough information available.
73% of students answered they have received some form of lesson on sorting, recycling and waste reuse, mostly as part of their Technology/Science or Biology classes and some from Art class.
Overall, the survey revealed a good level of understanding on the importance of waste management and recycling, with citizens actively trying to buy and donate/sell used items or recycle. However citizens feel improvements are necessary and that appropriate infrastructure and information is lacking.
Paide Town Government
The survey was conducted from 17.11.2020 to 04.12.2020 with 434 students responding (242 from grades 4-6 and 192 from grades 7-9) and between 01.12.2020 to 28.12.2020 where 126 adults responded – Altogether a total of 560 respondents.
The questionnaire was published on the website of the city of Paide, on the Facebook page of the city of Paide and in the city newspaper of Paide. The majority of the respondents live in either houses (43%) or apartments (46%) with fewer living in terraced houses (4%) or cottages (7%).
The majority of citizens of Paide understand that most types of waste can be recycled, specifically plastic, metal, glass and paper and to a slightly lesser extent, household items. Around less than half know that batteries can be recycled and around 60% know electronics items and food waste can be recycled. Around 40% know batteries can be recycled. Of the students, the results in slightly lesser percentages, especially for food, batteries and electronic waste.
Of the waste streams, plastic, paper, glass and batteries are the ones most sorted, followed by electronics appliances, household waste, food waste and metal. The student survey revealed however that 24% (an additional 5% do not know if they sort) of students from grades 4-6 and 32% from grades 7-9 (19% do not know if they do so) do not sort waste at home.
84% of the population (similar for both adults and students) thinks waste can be a valuable resource. Almost all adults believe new things and energy can be made from waste with around 28% giving also fertilizer as an answer. In the case of students, around half understand new things can be made form waste items and a third fertilizer with an average of 22% answering energy.
Reuse of waste is almost divided equally between glass and plastic and paper and carton while textiles and biowaste, seem to reused less when considering the answers by the students.
87% of Paide citizens and 60% of students know what type of waste is hazardous that should be taken to a waste station with 40% of citizens taking waste to a landfill twice a year and 32% just once. Around 10% take waste to a landfill four times a year, 3% twice a month and 6% once every week. Students did not seem to understand the difference between waste being taken by the waste management company or individuals to the hazardous waste station.
78% of the adults responded they feel they receive enough information on recycling and 83% use separate containers at home to sort waste. Those who do not, cite not liking having different bins in their home as the main reason, followed by a lack of trust that the waste will be recycled. Other reasons cited are difficulty to sort waste and a belief that this task is the responsibility of the waste management company. Around 60% of students are taught about recycling and reusing in their school with 70% responding they use separate containers in their home to separate waste.
Around 17% of adults feel they are prevented from recycling with the main reasons being the lack of appropriate infrastructure and information. Just 5% of students agree with this and cite the same reasons.
Respondents were offered to answer freely on how to improve collection and sorting. The majority of the answers by both adults and students relate to improving infrastructure, making it as easy as possible for residents, especially older people and making information more easily accessible both through online and offline mediums.
To conclude the results of the survey in Paide, respondents have a general understanding on the importance of waste management and recycling, reuse and the local infrastructure. Despite this, when asked to answer freely on suggested improvements, respondents call for better infrastructure and related information that makes recycling effortless for citizens.
Sumy City Council
The survey was conducted from 17.11.2020 to 15.12.2020 with a total of 1039 respondents – 625 were students/youth and 414 were adults.
The majority of respondents (94.61%) agreed that the city needs a waste sorting system and suitable infrastructure to be put in place. Citizens however, seem to be in a dilemma as despite their understanding of this necessity, seem to find themselves lacking trust in the current sorting system and uncertain as to how beneficial sorting waste truly is. Difficulty to sort at home, lack of financial incentives and lack of information are also cited as reasons for not sorting
Citizens also show a lack of knowledge on who is responsible for collection of their waste and only have a vague idea over how often this is collected. Around half the population does not know what happens to this waste after it has been collected.
In terms of access to separate bins for different waste types, of those who answered they do not have access, 60% were residents from apartment buildings and 40% in houses in residential areas. Although this was expected from the latter, the percentage from apartment building residents was much higher than anticipated, thus highlighting a need to review the infrastructure in these as well.
The majority of the population (83.83%) understand waste can be a valuable resource, respondents who did not think so, were children and youth aged 10-19. Plastic and paper are widely regarded as waste that can be recycled (89% and 87%), glass and metal less (69% and 64%) and even less for food products (37%), batteries (49%), textiles (30%) and electronics (27%).
The majority also understands that waste items can be used to make new things (84%) followed by making fertilizer (75%). Around 62% also understand that waste can be a source for producing energy.
When it comes to actual sorting of waste however, around 53% sort plastics and a third sort paper followed by metal (19%), batteries (39%), electronics (12%) and food products (28%). 35% do not sort at all.
The survey results conclude that there seems to be a general awareness related to waste management and recycling however there is a fundamental lack of relating this information to practice. It has highlighted therefore the need to raise awareness among the population on how to sort waste, what happens to it after collection and the consequences failing to do so has for the City and each citizen. While doing so it is also important to evaluate availability and organize the structure of sorting stations in cooperation with the waste management operators. The survey also revealed that targeting youth aged 10-19 years of age was a correct assumption. It also made clear the need to develop a concept for circular-based management of solid and hazardous waste.