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Waste and the circular economy

As a public waste-disposal authority, the City of Freiburg is responsible for public waste disposal within the administrative area of Freiburg. The company Abfallwirtschaft und Stadtreinigung Freiburg GmbH (ASF) collects and disposes of general waste, organic waste, and waste paper on behalf of the city; it also operates the three municipal recycling centers, as well as the handling and recycling center at the Eichelbuck landfill. The possibility of controlling waste policy is ensured by the municipal operation of waste management and a municipal majority shareholding (53%) in ASF GmbH. Going hand in hand with the legal framework (including the German Waste Management Act (Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz – KrWG), the City of Freiburg pursues a waste hierarchy that prioritizes waste avoidance above waste recycling and disposal.

The city’s general and bulky waste is thermally recycled in a nearby waste-incineration plant. Through a combined heat-and-power system, it is possible to generate electricity and heat from the disposal process and to supply approximately 25,000 households with electricity. The heat generated is fed into a district-heating network. Owing to the fact that Freiburg’s inhabitants are conscientious when it comes to sorting their trash, the city ranked first among Germany’s independent cities, coming in at 108 kg/inhabitant of general and bulky waste per year (2019 State Waste Report); the national average was 151 kg/inhabitant per year. The same is true of the total amount of waste generated (372 kg/inhabitant), which includes organic waste, waste paper, waste glass, lightweight packaging, waste wood, electrical appliances, old clothes, and metal.

Freiburg’s waste-disposal system offers residents incentives to avoid waste and gives them some leeway to determine what they pay in the way of fees, such as through the choice of container sizes and pickup intervals, or by forming waste-disposal associations, composting organic waste themselves, or subsidizing cloth diapers. The City of Freiburg also plays an active role in educating people about waste issues and provides information at schools, among other places, about the Freiburg waste-management system.

The City of Freiburg regards the circular economy as a more sustainable and resource-efficient way of doing business and promotes this in a variety of ways. The city sets a good example when it comes to waste avoidance through measures such as the reusable coffee cup known as the “Freiburg Cup”, reusable shopping bags made from recycled materials known as the "Marktsäckle", subsidies for cloth diapers, and the used-goods exchange.