Definition of Zero Waste as that adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance
Throughout the world urban and rural communities alike have adopted Zero Waste as a goal and are already working to achieve it. Zero Waste programs are the fastest and most cost effective ways with which local governments can contribute to avoiding toxics releases from waste disposal practices, fight climate change, create green jobs and promote local sustainability.
Culture Change – Current European linear production, consumption and disposal patterns reflect the myth that we live in a world with infinite resources.
During last decades Europeans have been living on an increasing ecological deficit with the rest of the world; importing almost 4 times more materials than we have exported. As the European Sustainable Development Strategy points out, a change in paradigm is necessary. But this change of paradigm has to go beyond the current goal of EU waste policy of becoming a Recycling Society; it needs to embrace the reduction of material and energy use in order to turn it into a Zero Waste Society.
Waste is the expression of a badly designed economy and a Zero Waste approach is the only one that can bring sustainability to European waste practices.
Engage the community – Community education and participation is indispensable for the success of any Zero Waste plan . Citizens should be invited to take active participation in the design of the waste management system and to monitor and provide feedback on its implementation. Public education campaigns to encourage public participation should be undertaken, and they need to be sustained over time.
Change infrastructure – The waste management infrastructure in Europe must be designed to phase out waste following the waste hierarchy:
1- Waste Prevention – should be implemented in local and sectoral plans. The Waste Framework Directive (WFD) gives the mandate to member states to define Waste Prevention Plans. Prevention targets prove to be necessary to trigger action at national level.
Industrial responsibility is key in creating green jobs and designing waste out of the system
- By designing longlasting, easily maintainable and repairable products,
- By reducing packaging and redesigning those products that cannot be safely composted, reused and recycled.
Education and training of professionals, policy makers and citizens is vital to advance in the paradigm shift and in progressively phasing out waste.
2- Separate Collection – source separation of at least organics, recyclables, reusable products and components and residual waste should be the minimum separation allowed. Currently examples in Europe show separate collection achieve recycling of 80 to 90% of the municipal waste .
Kerbside collection is the most powerful tool to prevent any increase in waste and obtain clean separation of materials at source.
Price incentives should be promoted as a key driver of behavior. Excessive generation of waste should be penalised .
Kerbside collection should be complemented with local reuse and recycling centres (“Civic Amenity Sites”, “Recyglinghoefe”, Décheteries”, “Piattaforme ecologiche”…) to let households and businesses deliver recyclables (and hazardous waste).
3- Reduce Residual waste – The 10-20% of waste not compostable, reusable or recyclable should be made very visible and work should be done at the front-end to design it out of the system with the help of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
Residual waste should be constantly studied in screening facilities so that non-recoverable products can be either redesigned or removed from the market.
Disposal infrastructure such as landfills or incinerators should be phased out as recycling rates increase. Flexibility is vital in Zero Waste, therefore contracts and waste plans should not inhibit increased recycling.
The interim solution for residual waste is to allow a minimum percentage of biologically stabilized fraction to be safely landfilled .
Strategy to Pursue Zero Waste in Europe :
-Promote the concept of Zero Waste at European, national and local level
-Ask communities and businesses to adopt Zero Waste as a goal and plan how to achieve it
-Engage the community and the informal sector to innovate and promote Zero Waste
-Closely work with the existing recycling industry and reuse business
-Support Zero Waste procurement policies and programs
-Involve businesses and institutions in EPR
-Promote the effects of Zero Waste in creation of employment and reducing emissions -fighting climate change-
-Promote Zero Waste as the way to conciliate human existence with the world’s finite resources.
EUROPE, FROM A RECYCLING SOCIETY TO A ZERO WASTE SOCIETY!