If you’ve been living in Poland for a long period of time you probably remember our waste revolution from a few years ago. We still needed improvement, so the system of waste management in Poland has changed again in the beginning of July. No one really seemed to care to inform non-Polish speakers about the changes, and posters and leaflets will of course be published only in Polish, so it’s time for JAP to step in. This is also a good opportunity to discuss once again what to do with hazardous waste like old medications or electronics.
Why do waste management rules change?
Poland is required by the European Union’s regulations to achieve a 50% level of recycling of paper, metal, plastic and glass by 2020. Right now it’s at about 26% with very slow growth. After the first waste revolution in 2013 it’s time to change the rules once again. The new regulations will unify the system of waste management in Poland on the national level. Until this point every municipality could have their own set of rules. Some cities had four colors of trash bins, some only three, and the colors had different meanings in different places. That’s why you need to read the new rules carefully, to be able to dispose of your waste properly. Changes can be tricky; for example the color blue was used in Krakow for unsorted trash, but in the future it will be used only for paper.
When will the new system of waste management in Poland be implemented?
Although the new rules came into effect on the 1 July 2017, we still need to wait we still need to wait before they’re implemented. Cities have 6 months to introduce new descriptions on containers in order to make it easier for us to sort our trash, but they will have an additional 5 year transition period to exchange all old containers for new ones in the proper colors. The transitional period is needed because every municipality has signed contracts with waste companies and they need to wait until the contracts are completed. This is why you will see changes being implemented in various cities at different times*:
- Wrocław – 2017
- Zabrze – 2017
- Katowice – 2017
- Poznań – January 2018
- Gdańsk – April 2018
- Łódź – July 2018
- Warsaw is not sure, but they predict January 2019
- Sosnowiec – January 2019
- Krakow – April 2019
*According to Dziennik.pl.
Waste management in Poland: how will the new system work?
For some cities this is a huge change, but others have been using similar rules already. We will have four colors of containers:
- Blue for paper
- Green for glass
- it’s possible to have a white bin for colourless glass and green for coloured glass, or to mix both types in a green bin
- Yellow for metals and plastic materials
- Brown for biodegradable waste
Anything that you can’t put in a bin of these four color should go to the fifth one – for mixed waste, unless it’s hazardous or bulky waste (like furniture, electronics, medications, light-bulbs, batteries). Rules of hazardous and bulky waste disposal have been described in the next point.
Hazardous and bulky waste
You cannot put batteries, housewares, electronics, waste from corrosive chemicals or old medications in any of the four regular containers. There are two ways to get rid of them:
Every municipality should have a place called PSZOK – Punkt Selektywnej Zbiórki Odpadów Komunalnych (Selective Urban Waste Collection Point).
Contact me and I will let you know where to find these points in your city. You can bring almost all kinds of waste to them within a given limit, but first you should contact PSZOK’s staff and ask about their internal rules of procedure.
Local solutions – medications
If you don’t want to take your old medications to PSZOK there is only one alternative. You will need to bring them to one of a select number of pharmacies that have special containers for medical waste. Contact me and I will send you the list of pharmacies in your city. Once you get there, take the medications out of their paper packaging and throw them into the pharmacy’s container for free.
Local solutions – furniture and other bulky waste
In many cities if you don’t have your own car or time to take large appliances to PSZOK, you can simply ask a waste company to take them from you. They will provide you with a special container to fill it with waste and then they will take it from you. However, many cities have schedules and limits of bulky waste collections. Also, in many cases only a building manager can organize a collection action for residents. If you want me to check how it works in your city, contact me.
Local solutions – electronics
Instead of going to PSZOK, in many cities you may call the waste company and they will come to your flat to take your electronic devices such as:
- washing machine
- TV set
- ranges and ovens
- vacuum machine
- lawn mower
- sewing machine
They will even carry it down the stairs. Contact me and I will let you know if it’s available in your city and what number you need to call to arrange this service.
Local systems of waste management in Poland
As I mentioned before some cities will still use their old rules for another a year and a half or longer. So let’s review the current rules in Warsaw and Krakow as they still may be useful for some time.
Waste management in Krakow
- cardboard, cartons and paper boxes
- books, magazines, newspapers, notebooks
- metal containers, for example soda cans, tin cans, minor scrap metal
- plastic containers and wrappers, for example plastic bottles
- yogurt, kefir containers, plastic sheets or bags
- cosmetics or packaging from cleaning supplies
- composite containers, for example juice cartons or milk cartons
- glass bottles and jars
- ceramic, pottery, mirrors, window glass
- Mixed waste:
- organic waste and food scraps
- used tissues and diapers
- ceramic and pottery (for example broken plates)
- Everything that cannot be segregated in the waste categories above, except for hazardous waste
Krakow’s waste collectors and the Red Cross have a joint project in which they will take your old textiles and decide if they are good enough to be given to families in need. The rest will be properly processed. This way you can be sure that your things will get to the right place. You can give them footwear, clothing, bedding, curtains and other items.
Call 801-084-084 in order to set a date for pickup.
Waste management in Warsaw
Red – segregated dry
- beverage bottles
- food containers
- juice cartons, cardboard
- soda cans, tins
Do not put in:
- greasy paper, wallpaper
- hygienic waste
- cooking oil and automotive oil bottles
- rubber, paint cans
- aerosols packaging
Green – glass packaging
- colored and colorless glass packaging
- beverage, food and cosmetics glass bottles and jars
Do not put in:
- porcelain, pottery
- flower pots, light bulbs
- window panes, table and kitchen glass
Black – mixed waste
Do not put in:
- hazardous waste
- paint, oils and their packaging
- packaging of plant protection products
- and waste that can be collected separately
For information concerning other cities please contact me directly.
Find more useful articles
You can find more useful articles in the Living in Poland section.