Italy: Building waste awareness, bag by bag
April 20, 2023

In Italy, one municipality is trying behavioural science to help its citizens to reduce its waste. The idea is to educate and support the citizens to do the right thing. And, in the future, perhaps a Knowing before you throw-system will be good companion to the more established Pay as you throw-systems.

Using behavioural science is one method authorities have suggested to increase recycling in the EU. The main suggesting is about introducing fees (also knowns as PAYT, paying before you throw). The Bergamo municipality wanted to improve the awareness of its residents before introducing economic instruments to nudge behaviour. They considered the PAYT system, but with a twist. “Wouldn’t it be better to educate and thus build awareness?”, they asked themselves. And came up with the idea of how to inform, while distributing the designated waste bags. The bags would still come with a cost, but now also with information about waste. They called this the Know as you throw-system, or KAYT.

How it would work
The citizens of Bergamo, Italy are used to dispose their residual waste in transparent standard bags. A new system makes it an obligation for the citizens of Bergamo to purchase the waste bags at designated vending machines. The machines, which users could access with their health insurance card, display information about their performance in terms of waste generation before the roll of bags is dispensed. Each user would receive personalised messages based on the behaviour of their neighbours from the same district. To ensure that each user will access information regularly at the vending machines, the bag rolls would be designed to contain only 10 bags of 40L each. In this manner, it is estimated that residents will use the vending machine two or three times a year.

The municipality of Bergamo decided to follow the example of other cities that have implemented the KAYT concept (and improved their recycling rates by 2-3 percentage points). For example, Municipality of Cremona saw its separate collection rate increase from 72% to 88% in only three months – after implementing a basic KAYT control system.


  • The kind of machines didn’t exist on the market when the project was planned, so they needed to be designed and built.
  • The citizens could see the obligation to purchase standard bags (40L) as a barrier. In the case of Bergamo, residents are used to receiving individual rolls of bags for free every November, so the new system require a change in behaviour.


  • Building individual awareness on waste management
  • Real time data access
  • A KAYT system can give individual, detailed, and frequent feedback
  • Ability to conduct specific, individually targeted influencing campaigns
  • Citizens feel monitored and improve their habits accordingly
  • The system can offer individual, positive feedback on waste management.


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