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Waste production in Lisbon falls sharply during the 1st Covid lockdown due to the abrupt decrease in tourism

A team of researchers from NOVA IMS concluded, in a study carried out under the CMU Portugal Large Scale Project BEE2WasteCrypto, that during the 1st lockdown related to COVID-19, there was a severe drop in the production of waste in Lisbon, for both mixed and recycled waste, essentially due to the fall of tourism.

The restrictions on mobility and economic activities imposed by governments due to COVID-19 and the adoption of remote work affected waste production and recycling patterns and contributed significantly to a change of scenery. Miguel de Castro Neto, Associate Dean at NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS) and Principal investigator of the BEE2WasteCrypto project at NOVA Cidade – Urban Analytics Lab, is one of the co-authors of the Paper Impact of COVID-19 lockdown measures on waste production behavior in Lisbon. The recent study focused on waste production in the Lisbon area, considering the approximately 544 thousand inhabitants and 100 km2 of the urban area, between 2017 and the end of 2020.

According to the researcher and the conclusions of the NOVA Cidade – Urban Analytics Lab team, which he leads, “the study showed that COVID-19 led to a decline in the volume of waste collected and that the main cause was the decrease in tourism. On the other hand, we also noticed that in Lisbon the changes were directly related to the type of waste and the spatial distribution of its production within the city. Residential areas with the highest population density were those with a smaller decrease in waste production, while areas with high tourism rates had a greater decline.”

The first state of emergency and consequent lockdown in Portugal declared on March 19, 2020 lasted until May 2, 2020. During that period, the city of Lisbon suspended door-to-door recycling collection until June 1, 2020, and the mixed waste collection was reduced to a maximum of three times per week, which affected 37% of the waste collection circuits, which had a frequency of collection up to 7 times per week.

The restrictions imposed in the context of COVID-19 had an impact not only on the volume of waste produced, but also on its distribution, which brought new challenges for policy-makers and those responsible for urban planning on where to invest efforts while complying with the health recommendations of the Portuguese Directorate-General for Health (DGS). 

According to Miguel Neto “the insights obtained under this study on production and distribution waste can help city officials to develop more targeted and adequate policies for each area, depending on their contextual characteristics in pandemic scenarios or other scenarios that substantially change city dynamics. The goal is to develop tools to analyze data support urban management and planning and integrate into cities’ urban intelligence platforms.”

In the period studied after the end of the confinement, the conclusion is that the production levels of recycled waste increased, but did not return to pre-pandemic levels.

This study was carried out under the BEE2WasteCrypto project developed within the scope of the CMU Portugal Program, in a collaboration between the company Future Compta (project promoter), NOVA Information Management School (NOVA IMS), Instituto Superior Técnico, the company 3drivers and Carnegie Mellon University. The main goal of the project is to develop a differentiating and intuitive IT tool which, based on high resolution data on waste production, allows Regional Waste Management Utilities (RWMUs) to design and manage optimal decentralized solutions for each region, as well as promoting more sustainable waste production and separation behaviors. Using blockchain technology and a cryptocurrency wallet, it will be possible to implement PAYT-type incentive mechanisms to encourage good citizen practices, on which the success of any waste management strategy depends.

Link to the paper on ‘Waste Managent Journal’

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