Biowaste audits in Skopje
By 2050, the UN foresees that 66% of the world’s population will live in urban cities or megacities, which will only occupy around 2% of Earth’s land. With this pace of urbanization, there is a global shift to cities as primary agents of innovation and intervention and a consensus that to accommodate these new patterns, they need to be resilient, economically vibrant, more livable, sustainable, accessible, well-governed, and well-planned. Furthermore, there is a change of perceptions and an unprecedented pace of digitalization as the CEO of Microsoft put it in the beginning of the pandemic, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months”.
To this end, UNDP Europe and Central Asia under the framework of The City Experiment Fund (CEF), supported by the Slovak Ministry of Finance, seeks to embed innovative methods in the design and delivery of city-level programs and shift to deploying systems thinking when approaching city-level problems. The project was used by UNDP North Macedonia to create a dynamic learning portfolio focusing on exploring system transformation approaches around the circularity of biowaste in Skopje. As part of the portfolio of interventions created around biowaste transformation the team conducted the first biowaste audit on a city level not only to better understand the current state of play of the bio-waste system but also to understand key system dynamics and interactions between the players within the system.
Follow the learning journey through the series of blogposts unpacking how to work with complex systems, rethink biowaste, and make the business case for biowaste transformation.
Understanding the data
By implementing the first biowaste audit at a city level in the country, we managed to highlight the marketing potential of the biowaste created on the city level. This potential we are hoping will be later leveraged by entrepreneurs and innovators by forming new businesses, employment and economic development opportunities out of transformed biowaste.
The biowaste audit is a snapshot of the system as observed at the time of the intervention – summer of 2021 (July and August), using a mix of activities such as desk research, one on one interviews, and survey questionnaires conducted online and in-person. These activities generated the following findings: (1) map of centrally located business that produces biowaste; (2) amount of the biowaste produced during the period, (3) type of biowaste produced and list of business activities that generated biowaste. The list of legal entities in the city of Skopje that are creating biowaste was done by cross-referencing publicly available data from the Central Registry of Republic of North Macedonia, the register of issued environmental permits, registry of approved protection elaborates and similar registries. This list proved that the dominant commercial activities that generated biodegradable waste in Skopje were restaurants, covering about half of the total number of entities that produce biowaste with their production activities. If we clustered the data, we arrived at the following findings: the total number of restaurants, catering and hotels (HORECA) sector in the city of Skopje is 1588 entities, there are 417 entities working as coffee bars and 702 entities are creating biowaste as a result of their production or processing activities in the Skopje region.
Four data collection tools (questionnaires) were prepared in a way that would enable the collection of the necessary primary data, through a group of clear and unambiguous questions, which could be answered by the respondents in a short time. The questionnaires were disseminated to all identified entities in the city, whereas 190 in person interviews were done on the premises of the identified entities.
One of the limitations for collecting primary data was the time and the data available among the respondents. Thus, the threshold of 10% was introduced in order to help us understand the market size in a representative manner
How to explore the data and use the data
The map and the dashboard can help understanding the amounts and types of biowaste produced, as well as their location. If real data is feed-in, as well as data sharing enabled by all in-line institutions, it will be possible to track the biowaste journey. In addition, it would be possible to understand how biowaste is generated, how it is collected, and how is it disposed (burned, composted or transformed) as well as possibility to understand the cost related to its disposal.
On the other hand, when it comes to the biowaste itself we can explore the amounts of biowaste produced in different intervals- daily, monthly, yearly, estimated min, max, and average amounts, the frequency of generation of the waste (to understand patterns of supply) and the peaks in waste production. Why is this important? Well, if you look at waste as a resource that can support business processes, then the supply chain is the cornerstone of it.
Creating similar dashboards can serve as a building foundation and showcase the power of data visualized in the right format can help entrepreneurs and innovators, and policy/decision – makers better understand the size of the problem. This in the long term can result in the creation of viable business models with a goal to see biowaste as a resource rather than a waste that should be disposed at land fields; The first one creates additional value in the system, the second pure cost. In our research for the CEF project we found out that if we transform all the biowaste coming from citrus leftover, that have been created in the HORECA sector in Skopje in a month’s time we can create 22$ of value, if we continue disposing it for the same amount of waste, the business is losing 7$.
Why to replicate this in other cities
According to the Macedonian National Waste Management Plan (2020-2030), biowaste represents 45.3% of the total municipal waste. In the National Strategy for Waste Management the targets for the diversion of biowaste from landfills, in the phase of selection and treatment, are set with high targets. By 2026 25% of biodegradable waste is expected to be diverted from landfills, while by 2036 the expected percentage of diversion is 50%. For these targets to be met, communities and cities need to be innovative in their approaches to tackle this challenge. In an earlier study conducted with Price Waterhouse Coopers we asked the businesses whether they are measuring and reporting on SDGs, and 61% of the business sector answered that was not a requirement.
Collecting real-time data, as well as introducing these to the transformation processes would be a feasible way to produce and measure the contributions of the business to the SDGs. This subsequently will open opportunities for sustainable business models, transformation of biowaste, innovation, and more importantly increase lifespan of the landfills and reducing pollution at all levels.
In conclusion, simple visualization of biowaste data can open so many opportunities.
For more information, please contact Igor Izotov.