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Castelbuono – the town where even donkeys’ walk the Zero Waste path

Castelbuono-a town where even donkeys take a zero waste path


Creativity is at the core of the zero waste strategy. Sometimes this means creating new processes and using innovative technologies, but sometimes it just needs to combine existing tools to create a low-tech win-win situation to reduce waste, create jobs, save money and improve sustainability. The example of Castelbuono proves this point well.

Castelbuono is a 10,000-hectare zero-waste town in Sicily, Italy. It has successfully developed an innovative system that combines sustainability, social work and economy. Mayor Mario Cicero decided to link the restoration of the traditional Sicilian donkey breed (known as Ragusa) with the challenges of garbage collection in the narrow streets and the social work of reintegrating people into society... ...A large number of tourists visit the fantastic medieval castle or buy local products from this small Sicilian town.

This is how Mr. Cicero decided to use donkeys for door-to-door separation and collection. On the one hand, it makes the donkey useful, so restoring the breed is no longer a cost of an asset. On the other hand, due to the use of contact with animals as a treatment method, it becomes a kind of reintroduction of socially excluded people-there are The way for people with mental or addiction problems-onotherapy-finally it turns garbage collection into a tourist attraction and an educational tool. A win-win situation!

The economics of donkeys

Mr. Cicero explained how to buy a small truck to collect waste costs more than 15,000 Euros and can be used for 5 to 10 years, while a donkey costs less than one-tenth and can be used for a longer time. In addition, donkeys have much lower maintenance costs, and they do not require oil or electricity to operate, which makes them more cost-effective in a world where oil prices are rising.

In addition, donkeys are also useful when they are not collecting garbage; on the one hand, their milk is considered to be the closest to human milk, so it is highly valued. On the other hand, onotherapy-donkey therapy-proved to be a miraculous effect for people with intellectual disabilities. Finally, from a cultural perspective, it makes the restoration of this important element of Sicilian and Mediterranean culture cost-neutral, and now participates in ceremonies and other local celebrations again.

It is difficult to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this approach because it involves different fields, but the fact is;

In terms of money, the municipality has struck a balance in garbage collection and disposal. The municipality subsidizes socially excluded persons less and has a high integration rate. The municipality is restoring an important part of its culture and even creating a The attractiveness of tourist resorts at zero cost.

As a comparison; since the introduction of the system in Castelbuono in 2008, the neighboring city of Cefalú is using a “modern” garbage collection system of road containers and trucks, which has incurred millions of euros in debt to public garbage companies in the area, and Castelbuono is One of the few cities in the region with a balanced account.

In addition, the Sicily region has spent 1.5 million euros to reintroduce Ragusa donkeys, but no measures have been taken against them-this is a net cost -; on the contrary, Castelbuono started with 4 and now has 45 of these donkeys that are self-sufficient. Self-sufficient.

But even if they are collecting waste donkeys, they can do miracles; the visitors of Castelbuono admire this silent and gentle creature and stop to play with them.

Personal story-donkey helps the community

What is impressive is how the neighbors of Castelbuono knew the donkeys by name, and many people stopped to feed them when passing by. When we visited them, we accompanied a worker who was on a tour with the donkey "Valentina". He had depression and addiction problems in the past. Before the donkey was introduced, he would not go to work for 5 consecutive days. Since he started working with Valentina in 2008, he has never missed a day of work and has managed to rearrange his life. His connection with animals and daily contact with neighbors and tourists brought him back to society.

This personal story is just the tip of the iceberg of Castel Bono's success story of integration, education, creativity and sustainable development. The city’s separate waste collection rate is higher than that of any neighboring town, they have compost plants that process the organic matter collected separately in the province, and they are proud members of the Italian Zero Waste City Network. Many other ZW cities with similar characteristics inside and outside Sicily are studying the successful introduction of ZW.

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