Ljubljana, the Green Capital of Europe, is recognized for its optimal waste management practice, which has produced excellent results: 63% utilization of waste materials in 2014.
This impressive percentage of separately-collected waste in households means that Ljubljana ranks first in this category, among the capital cities of all EU member states. The amount of separately-collected waste has increased nearly tenfold in the last ten years, while fulfilling the pan-European effort at waste prevention, reuse and maximizing material utilization by exercising the Zero Waste strategy.
A 2010 study on recycling, at the Ljubljana Recycling Center, indicated that every citizen has, at their fingertips, at least five kilograms of still-useful products per year, which are nevertheless discarded as waste and dumped into landfills. Given that consumption will rise and prices will drop, it is estimated that this figure could increase to ten kilos per person per year in the near future.
The Recycling Center opened its door in November 2013. Anything that might be of re-use can be found there: furniture, computer equipment, home and leisure goods, sports equipment, clothing and toys. The Center was developed with the goal of reducing the quantity of disposed-of waste. Since the EU prioritizes waste prevention and recycling, centers like this are popping up throughout Europe, protecting nature and opening up new jobs in the field of waste management. This is both a problem and a challenge to tackle.
In a european network of 19 countries
Recycling is an important aspect of the circular economy concept, which was created in response to the pressure from the growing economy, and to the consumption of our limited resources and the production capacity of the environment. The transition to a circular economy, or RE-USE, is therefore focused on recycling, repairing and re-using existing materials and goods, thereby saving resources, reducing emissions and the circulation of raw materials, together constituting a new economic paradigm. Slovenia is also part of the RREUS network, a European framework of social enterprises that focus on the now-familiar refrain: repair, re-use, recycle. Headquartered in Belgium, the network now includes some 42,000 full-time employees and more than 120,000 volunteers across ten member states and 19 countries. "RREUSE promotes the sustainable development model, taking into account environmental protection, social equity and economic viability," said director, Marinka Vovk.
In proud anticipation of the title of European Green Capital 2016, in November 2015, Ljubljana opened its doors to the Ljubljana Regional Center for Waste Management (RCWM), the largest environmental project in the country, dealing with about a third of the waste produced in Slovenia. The regional center is built around three buildings which operate as a mechanical-biological waste treatment complex, handling two types of waste: separately-collected organic matter (from which compost is derived) and mixed municipal waste. RCWM Ljubljana, 65% of which was funded by the European Cohesion Fund, is exemplary in the field of the integration and cooperation of municipalities, centralizing the waste management of various regions in Slovenia.