Leaf by Leaf
Shi Jiaqi   Apr 29.2016


Year: 2004

City / Town / Village: Varna

Region: Europe & Former Soviet Union States



We realized that a balance had to be created between the increase in material goods being produced and the diminishing resources and substantial pressure on the local ecosystem. We, PECSD, launched a number of actions that began to alter common attitudes towards waste and recycling, creating positive habits for separate waste collection. This has optimized recycling processes here in Varna, Bulgaria and is mitigating valuable resource destruction and pollution. The specific purpose of the 'Leaf by Leaf' campaign was to organize a waste paper separation and collection system while increasing public awareness for the need to recycle and reuse. In the process we slowly increased the number of participants each year by providing incentives and motivating them to educate others.

Reason to Be Selected

Key Dates:April 22, 1999 (Earth Day): The first 'Leaf by Leaf' wastepaper collection Dec. 28, 2000: The day the 'Leaf by Leaf' citywide pilot project proposal was granted funding by the Civil Society Development Foundation. July 12, 2001: TIME Foundation granted funding for continuation of the “Leaf by Leaf” Campaign Jan. 30, 2002: TIME Foundation granted funding for expansion of “Leaf by Leaf” campaign into other Bulgarian cities.


The rapid growth of Varna due to increased tourism and westernization was beginning to spoil its environmental preservation. There were and still are recycling centers. However, due to political and economical changes the previous organized collection and separation system failed. The landfills were beyond their maximum capacity but waste was still being heaped into them.


Before 1999 our Board of Members had discussed the increasing problems and what options were available to reduce the amount of recyclable waste. Previously waste paper collection was done in separate schools for special events such as Earth Day, but no citywide collection had been established. At the end of 1999, the idea for a wastepaper separation and collection system for all schools and offices in Varna was discussed again. With the assistance of Doichin Karshavcki from the Mayday Foundation and the financial support from the Civil Society Development Foundation a more concrete plan of action was developed. On Dec. 28, 2000, “Leaf by Leaf” was created and implementation began. The Mayday Foundation assisted in the first recruitment of participants, from local schools and offices, and in the development of educational and promotional materials.
Two main objectives were established. First we needed to demonstrate good practices on how to separate and collect wastepaper. Second, we needed to educate residents about the environmental need to recycle. In order to accomplish these two objectives we decided our first strategy was to decide were the easiest places to find interested active participants and who would accept such practices. We concluded that the local kindergartens and schools were the best places to start. We believed that the kids would help to promote such environmental initiatives by educating their parents and eventually more offices would incorporate this project. We immediately began organizing paper pickup days for each week and asked participants to abide by the designated days so as to create a reliable schedule for everyone.

Next, we began an advertising campaign using one of the local radio stations. We decided that the best way to acquire more participants was to publicly announce participants' names, how much they recycled, and express our appreciation, thereby increasing listeners' desires to participate in order to be publicly recognized. We provided a monthly bulletin for participants, to inform them of how much they had saved and to provide advise and recognize special achievements. Lastly, we organized a fund to support participants' needs for educational materials that they used to promote the “Leaf by Leaf” campaign during their own special events


For the first pilot project of 'Leaf by Leaf,' technical resources came from only three sources. Team members provided paper collection vehicles from PECSD (Marianna Yakimova, Doichin Karshovski, Iliyan Iliev). Paper collection bins were provided free of charge by Varna Shele Ecoservice and for a short time they provided a vehicle when one was not available for us. For advertising we contacted the Atlantic Radio Hit Mix station. After which, they began to provide us with ten minutes of free advertising per month. In order to mobilize participants we contacted the Municipality of Varna and the Chamber of Commerce. Both organized presentations, with our assistance, for their business members and school directors in order to promote and encourage a citywide campaign. For the first pilot project we submitted the 'Leaf by leaf' project proposal to the Civil Society for Development Foundation who accepted and granted us financial support. The following year we were provided financial support from the TIME Foundation to promote further development and expansion of the 'Leaf by Leaf' campaign.


To begin with, there was the main problem of correcting residents' attitudes towards recycling as not just a means for poorer residents to acquire a little money, but as a necessity for a better life for themselves and the ecosystem of Varna. Second, there were problems with new offices not having any established recycling habits. One daunting problem was the lack of interest by the municipality in promoting recycling citywide. Their initial opinion was that it was easier to find land available and develop another landfill (since the current one was at maximum capacity) than to promote recycling and develop a citywide paper collection system. We began at the root of the problem by contacting the municipality and expressing the urgency of this situation in Varna. We had several meetings with municipal officials to discuss how to promote recycling citywide. Officials allowed our presentations for the school directors and we arranged presentations to be made with the Chamber of Commerce to promote this with business members of the community. Through observations of several businesses we noted that many had non-existent recycling habits. We then began educating the business members of the environmental benefits and necessities of recycling their office wastepaper.Slowly other offices began to notice this and began participating in the collection project as well. With the assistance of the schools and kindergartens we were able to slowly change the problem of residents' attitudes through the children of Varna. This helped to mitigate the problem of acquiring participants. We also had a few problems with transportation. Initially we used our own personal vehicles for collecting and transporting the wastepaper to the recycling center. However, after a few automotive problems we were left without a vehicle. We notified Varna Shele Ecoservice Ltd. about our dilemma and they generously offered the use of their own vehicle for paper transport as well as free wastepaper bins to give to our participants. Once the schools were involved for awhile they began to take the initiative and develop creative ways of collecting and educating students and teachers as well parents and residents. They began collection events, trash parties and various competitions to help promote and encourage recycling.Our tools were very simple. We used motivational materials, educational presentations, volunteers, recycling containers, and of course, a vehicle for paper transport. We began by preparing educational information materials. Then, establishing meetings to present the campaign to encourage people to participate. We developed an advertising campaign using Atlantic Radio and spot clips to promote the initiative. Next, we consulted every office to see what was suitable for each. A system for collection was then organized and participants were informed of the assigned days for pickup. After that we began collecting and recycling. The money received was used to establish a fund to support different recycling projects by the schools and kindergartens and a portion was used to compensate for costs lost in transportation.


Our first indicator for success was the number of participants recruited. Second was how many kilos of paper recycled, thereby equaling how many trees saved. For 2003, we recycled 33,132 kilos of paper alone. 87,777 kilos of paper have been collected since the project began which equates to 1,492 trees saved from this citywide initiative. 26 homes, 12 NGO's, 27 schools, 60 offices, 59 firms, 19 governmental and local governmental institutions, 9 media, and 29 kindergartens have begun recycling and actively promoting 'Leaf by Leaf'. 182 participants have been recruited since the beginning of this initiative and the numbers are still rising every year. Even the municipality was successfully recruited. Now every office in the entire municipality building recycles and is a part of this initiative. We are reducing the amount of trash incinerated every year thereby decreasing the health risks presented from air pollution and water pollution. Additionally, through this initiative we are successfully helping to decrease the need to create more wastelands for landfill usage, conserving those ecosystems in the process.


Environmental sustainability was achieved by reducing residents' needs for non-renewable resources such as land and trees. This was completed through our citywide wastepaper separation and collection system and our recycling awareness campaigning. In educating the residents and business members of Varna as to the need to recycle and reuse we were able to collect enough kilos of paper to save 1, 492 trees as mentioned before. In so doing, we were able to save the land that was going to be used as a wasteland for a new landfill. We have also decreased the need to incinerate more trash. This particular reduction decreases the ever-present environmental health risks around Varna. To be specific, by recycling we reduce the amount of incinerated particulates contaminating our air and water. By using the new recycled paper produced from this initiative, residents reduce air pollution by 50% and water pollution by 30 %.Financial sustainability was achieved by money received from recycling the kilos of paper collected. This in turn compensated for expenses incurred from the campaign and transportation of the collected paper. In addition, the money has also allowed us to establish a fund to support recycling initiatives by schools and kindergartens thereby promoting a continuation in the need to recycle.


We learned that it is very easy for people to refuse a new idea when they do not see the benefits. Each person/ participant is unique and it is very important to evaluate each new situation. It is equally important to educate each new possible participant as to the health benefits as well as ecological benefits they are contributing to by participating.Participants are very important in sustaining any project. One must always remember to care and provide as much information as possible to participants in order to establish a good environmental relationship. They are the 'heart and soul' of any initiative. Therefore, they need to feel as if they have a sense of ownership towards the initiative. We discovered that once community acceptance and ownership of the project was established, there was more permanence.In our case, advertising campaigns from Radios were not nearly as successful as participants' own promotion of this initiative to friends, families and coworkers. Additionally, when we paid for radio clips we did not have nearly as many interested participants as when we were allowed to speak for free on a small radio talk show where people could hear more about the project and ask questions. Also, when we talked with schools and business members through small presentations we recruited more interested participants. Therefore, we learned that the most expensive route for advertising is not always the best!     


For participants we organized annual meetings for 'idea exchanges' and an opportunity for participants to give suggestions to be used in future initiatives. In order to establish better communication between participants and encourage exchanging and transferring of knowledge, we created a list server so all members could email each other. Now, over 182 schools, offices, kindergartens, homes, governmental offices, the municipality and regional offices have adopted this project.For other cities there were two means for transferences of experience. First, we usually were the coordinators of such experience exchange events. We organized a workshop and invited leaders and representatives of different NGO's. We discussed the 'Leaf by Leaf' system and instructed them on how to establish this project in their own cities. However, the second process of experience exchange was sometimes initiated by other cities that contacted us. In these cases residents or representatives of various organizations from these other towns requested that we present 'Leaf by Leaf' in a seminar setting and educate them as to how to develop such an initiative. These seminars were successfully conducted and now due to the success of this campaign 5 other cities have adopted our system as well.


Lat: 43.2048
Lng: 27.9429
Region: Europe
Scale: City
Field: Environment
City: Varna