Are Georgian cities ready to introduce recycling?

UNDP Accelerator Lab unveils results of a social experiment supporting plastic waste collection

March 23, 2022

Photo: Irakli Dzneladze/UNDP

Residents of Georgia’s two biggest cities, Tbilisi and Batumi, would welcome recycling if there was better access to municipal infrastructure and services, a behavioural experiment proved. Initiated by the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Georgia, the experiment studied household waste behaviour to find out what measures would stimulate people to separate waste and how municipal authorities could support this process.

The experiment was carried out from September 2021 through January  2022, in partnership with the Tbilisi and Batumi City Halls, municipal cleaning services and a consortium of civil society organizations - ‘Speqtri’, ‘Parki ar Minda’ and ‘Chaobi’.

On 23 March, UNDP invited representatives of several Georgian municipalities, the private sector, civil society and international organisations to discuss the experiment results and look into the ways to increase plastic waste separation among the households.

“We have grounds for cautious optimism if, with a small experiment, we could sort and recycle nearly 2 tons of plastic waste. The Tbilisi and Batumi City Halls have been great partners. I am looking forward to seeing ways to scale up this work, so together we can find practical and affordable solutions to plastic waste recycling in Tbilisi and other municipalities," said UNDP Head Nick Beresford.

The social experiment in Batumi and Tbilisi kicked off in September 2021 when 40 transparent collection bins were installed in the residential areas of the two cities. This was followed by a targeted educational campaign in several pilot districts that aimed to check whether awareness-raising helps increase plastic waste collection. The results obtained in the pilot districts were compared to the other sites where no additional information was provided to the residents.

The experiment revealed important behavioural patterns and provided ground for practical recommendations.

It showed that adequate infrastructure and public awareness could have a notable impact on waste management practices.

It also suggested that the use of transparent containers improves the quality of collected material as people can see the contents of the bins.

In addition, the experiment revealed that visibly branded collection trucks could help overcome the popular notion that collected plastic waste ends up in a landfill.

The probe on the awareness-raising aspect of the experiment proved that more educational activities are needed to reinforce the recycling habits among the citizens.

Around 900,000 tons of waste is generated annually in Georgia and more than 75 percent ends up in landfill sites, increasing pollution and posing long-lasting threats to the environment and human health. Georgia’s 2016-2030 National Strategy on Waste Management outlines concrete steps to lead the country to sustainable waste management policies and practices. Georgia is committing to recycling 50 percent of its plastic waste by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030.

UNDP will continue working with Tbilisi, Batumi and other municipalities to help introduce effective plastic waste separation practices and promote sustainable lifestyles.

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