Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Copenhagen goes all in on incineration, and it’s a costly mistake

The number one rule of investing is to buy low and sell high. Copenhagen, however, with the construction of the infamous Amager Bakke waste to energy plant, doesn’t see it that way.

Listed at an estimated 500 million euros, the experiential Amager Bakke incineration unit in Copenhagen is the most expensive of its kind in what’s widely considered to be one of Europe’s greenest countries. Although already astronomical, the 500 million euro figure is set to grow, as the plant has already experienced a technical failure since opening in May; a failure that has greatly impeded its ability to process the current stream of waste incoming. In response, the Danish government has granted the municipal waste disposal company, Amager Ressource Center (ARC), permission to store the tons of unprocessed waste until the problem has been resolved.

*Photo: © News Øresund – Johan Wessman (CC BY 3.0)

That’s not the only issue to have confronted Copenhagen’s prized possession. In October of 2016, during its construction, the technical installation of the large combustion furnaces that form the core of the Amager Bakke plant failed, costing an additional 13 million euros and ultimately tacking on a delay of 7 months to the project, which was set to open in January of 2017.

Apart from its already costly bill, most of which will fall on the shoulders of heating customers in Copenhagen, the plant’s processing capacity is far too high – 400 000 tons of waste annually. Because of this, if the plant operates under capacity and puts up losses, the taxpayer would be the one to bear the deficit. According to Danish newspaper The Murmur, to reach capacity an additional 90 000 – 115 000 tons of trash would be needed, of which the Danish government has already envisioned attaining through imports, clashing with not only their own resource strategy, but also the EU’s.

In a recent communication on the role of waste to energy in the circular economy, the European Commission upheld Zero Waste Europe’s stance on the future of waste management citing that ‘waste management is one of the main areas where further improvements are needed and within reach: increasing waste prevention, reuse and recycling are key objectives both of the action plan and of the legislative package on waste’. The communication adds that ‘mixed waste still accounts for a substantial share of the waste used in waste-to-energy processes, mainly incineration (52 %). Existing legal requirements and the circular economy waste proposals are bound to change this situation. Rules on separate collection and more ambitious recycling rates covering wood, paper, plastic and biodegradable waste are expected to reduce the amount of waste potentially available for waste-to-energy processes such as incineration and co-incineration’.

To us zero waste advocates, that’s like music to our ears. For incineration geared countries like Denmark, however, the Commission’s statements are a sign of nightmares to come. With less waste around to burn moving forward, Copenhagen’s new, shiny furnace will have much more down time, leading to profit losses and monetary burdens for citizens in years to come.

It’s clear that the future of the circular economy hinges on the success of sustainable waste management, in which incineration plays a minor, if not nonexistent, role. In Denmark’s case, although incineration significantly reduces the amount of waste in landfills, prioritizing its use over a modern approach to separate collection has stunted the growth of recycling rates.

*Municipal Solid Waste recycled in Denmark. Data from 2010 is not available. Source: Eurostat

The dangers of incineration centric waste management systems are apparent, making it all the more surprising that Copenhagen doesn’t see the writing on the wall. Or maybe those in charge are just too busy planning a trip to the slopes to care. Until now, the economic problems associated with overinvestment in incineration have been compensated with the importation of massive amounts of waste, mostly from the UK, which in 2015 alone brought 728.135 tonnes of foreign waste to Denmark, equalling 128,12 kg per Dane. This strategy is unstable, especially with the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, including whether Denmark would be able to keep importing British waste. To boot, the city of Copenhagen recently began separately collecting biowaste (rightly so), further reducing the potential waste the new plant could process. The future looks bleak, and with all of the problems the Amager Bakke incineration plant has faced thus far, the investment is already looking foolish for the former European green capital, just months after its launch.

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

Zero waste leaders share best practice in Lithuania

 

Žiedinė ekonomika (Circular Economy) was founded by Domantas Tracevičius to actively promote the separate collection of biowaste to show that it is both economically and environmentally sound and that it is very good practice to be able to separately collect many other recyclables.

Žiedinė ekonomika’s team is particularly active in promoting waste management best practices and they wish to show to Lithuanians that they do not need a third incinerator in Kaunas. This article is translated from the original in Lithuanian.

On September 22, 2017, Žiedinė ekonomika (Circular economy) together with Zero Waste Europe organised an event dedicated to the dissemination of experiences and best practices in the field of bio-waste separate collection to Lithuanian civil society. The focus was on the experience from Zero Waste Cities, like Parma and Ljubljana, and Milan. More than 50 people from different municipalities and regional waste management centres participated.

On the day of the event, Domantas Tracevičius, described the concept of a “Zero Waste Municipality” and how it is common in the European Union.

Enzo Favoino, agronomist, one of the most prominent bio-waste management experts in the EU, and chair of the Zero Waste Europe scientific committee explained how the future policy was shaping in that area and presented the experience of bio-waste separate collection from Milan. According to Favoino “the EU’s top officers have highlighted that dissemination of good practices helps to bring the future forward and build confidence across Europe. In fact, there is evidence of the practicability of ZW strategies in a wide range of situations, from smallest villages to densely populated areas”.

Later on in the day, Gabriele Folli, the former Vice-President of the municipality Parma, Italy, showed the high achievements that are possible to achieve. He introduced a separate collection system for bio-waste and other materials, which is now able to collect over 80% of all waste. In his own words “Sharing and disseminating good practices on circular economy is the best way to help local administration to go towards sustainability with their communities. I’ve learned a lot from my colleagues before starting the Zero Waste programme in the city of Parma and now it’s a great pleasure for me to show our results to other communities”. Zero Waste and separate collection schemes are also drivers of the creative application of new technologies and various other amenities for the population.

More experience in the separate collection of bio-waste came from the Baltic State Estonia. Kristjan Mark, Head of the Waste Management Division at the Environment Department of the Tallin City Council, spoke of how bio-waste is currently being collected in Tallinn.

Joze Gregorych, head of the waste management project at Snaga, a Slovenian public company, outlined why Ljubljana is the greenest and best-performing EU capital in terms of kilos of waste produced per person per year.

Finally, Tomasz Wojciechowski, Head of the Local Wastewater Treatment Plant and circular economist from GWDA, Poland, presented the results of a pilot project at the family level. The project involved 25 families (58 people) and in three months Total 527 kg of waste was collected. On average, 908 kilograms of biowaste was generated per resident during the three months of the programme. The minimum percent of impurities in the collection was 0.25%, the maximum 10%, and the mean value was 2.63%. Major impurities were: foil bags, multi-material packages and plastic packaging.

At the end of the Day, Domantas said “We hope that Lithuania will have the first Lithuanian Zero Waste Municipality soon”. We cannot help sharing his wish and keeping on supporting municipalities across Europe.

 

Original article (In Lithuanian)→ http://www.circulareconomy.lt/?page_id=403

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

Zero Waste Europe to the European Commission: let’s use plastics only when it makes sense

Today ZWE published its position on plastic reduction targets, demanding a two-fold policy action by targeting plastic packaging and single-use plastic items of high concern.

The launch coincided with the Commission-organised conference Reinventing Plastics, which was used by the civil society alliance Rethink Plastic to stage a small action by giving away sustainable-sourced reusable cups to the attendees, and bringing visibility to the online petition demanding policy action, already signed by over half a million citizens.

Although plastic is among the fastest growing pollutants in the world, at the moment there is no legislation that aims to control and reduce this source of pollution.

In the paper, ZWE highlights that alternatives to fast-moving and short-lived plastic applications already exist, and if the right legislation were to be in place, the EU would be a leader on a sustainable use of plastics.

In addition, Joan Marc Simon, Director of ZWE, gave a key note speech at the conference where he stated: “If you have a flood at home what is the first thing you do? Do you start focus in shovelling water out more efficiently? You discuss with your family how to redesign water so that it evaporates at 25 degrees Celsius? Or you just go in and close the tap? It’s to time for Europe to close the tap of plastic pollution.”

Zero Waste Europe empowers communities to rethink their relationship with resources in order to achieve a world without waste.

 

For more information

Ariadna, Product Policy Campaigner, ariadna@zerowasteeurope.eu

Roberta, Communications Officer, roberta@zerowasteeurope.eu

 

Additional information

 


4 reasons why recycling is better than incineration

The waste hierarchy is the main principle at the cornerstone of the European Union’s waste policy. It establishes the priority order Member States should apply when developing waste management legislation and policy. It envisions that waste should be in the first place prevented, then  reused, recycled, processed for energy recovery, and finally disposed of.

Unfortunately, although waste prevention represents the top priority of the waste hierarchy, effective waste measures of this kind have rarely been yet developed by Member States. This delay in the implementation of the waste hierarchy principles is in part due to the lack of consistency among national waste policies: on the one hand, there are principles and other non-binding tools to promote more sustainability-oriented practices; on the other hand, Member States are free to subsidise the activity of burning mixed municipal waste, known as incineration.

When waste is not subjected to separate collection, it is called mixed or residual waste. This means that many materials (plastics, paper, organics), which could be recycled if they were separated at the source, are inexorably lost, because they will be burnt into incineration facilities.

The European Parliament is currently amending the European Directive on Renewable Energy, which will be implemented in the following decade. The legislation that emerges from this process will influence the choices of local policy makers and financial investors. This represents a major opportunity to offset unproductive investments and concentrate the efforts on the options that are the most sustainable, the most profitable, and generate the most jobs. In all these aspects, recycling makes much more sense than incineration, and here is why.

1. Recycling saves energy

The practice of incineration is bad for several reasons. On the first hand, it disincentivises citizens to care about what they consume. This is very dangerous in a world where more than 7 billion people live out of finite resources.

Not very long ago, recycling was considered difficult, even impossible, according to the most skepticals. However, nowadays recyclers run a business of millions of euros, while preserving materials in the economic loop. A combination of recycling and composting can save three to four times more energy than an incinerator can produce. 1

Moreover, recycling saves massive amounts of CO2 emissions and, if optimised, it can play key role in meeting the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement to contrast climate change. 2

Finally, when “embedded energy” is taken into account as an indicator (which, unfortunately, is not the case in many Life Cycle Assessments), the amount of energy that a high-quality recycling can potentially saves is astonishing when compared to incineration, as pointed out in a recent study.

2. Recycling is more profitable

Incineration of mixed municipal waste is an expensive practice which requires significant financial investments from local authorities. Unfortunately, the costs to build the facilities and to run them are are covered mainly by public funds with very little private contribution.  Therefore, its costs are, in reality, to be paid by the citizens through higher taxes and bills for waste management.

On the contrary, the recycling sector has developed into a successful business. In Germany, its turnover increased by 520 per cent between 2005 and 2009.3 Agreeing to take the path to maximize recycling is particularly important for those countries that joined the EU recently and are currently building their waste management system. They have also the most to gain in terms of jobs and savings.

3. Recycling creates more job

Burning waste requires a lot of money but very little workforce. This means that incineration facilities create almost no jobs.

On the contrary, recycling benefits the whole economy by creatingat least ten times more jobs than landfilling or incineration. 4

Here are a few examples:

It is estimated that, in addition to the nearly 400 000 direct jobs brought by the implementation of the existing EU waste legislation, 170 000 more jobs could be created, most of them impossible to delocalise outside the EU, and 30 billion euro could be saved by 2035. 6

When comparing the costs, one can see how good management and recycling save money for the taxpayers and create real and tangible wealth.

4. Recycling is more flexible and dynamic

Finally, the technology involved in incineration is neither efficient nor exempt from problems: in Denmark, the kingdom of incinerators, the sudden breakdown of one of the two incinerators forced the operator to apply for an extraordinary permit to store huge quantities of waste. Needless to say, the breakdown costed approximately €15 million to the operator who will likely swap the bill to the taxpayers.

Incinerators are not flexible. This means that, in order to deliver a sound economic profit, they need from 40 to 50 years of activity, without taking into account the management costs. In 1998, when the UK’s Kent County entered into a twenty-five-year contract to burn waste, it thought it was making a wise economic move. But now, as the recycling economy has vastly improved, the County is losing an estimated €1.5 million a year.7 Rather than selling its recyclables for reuse, which would be both economically and environmentally efficient, it must send those valuable resources up in smoke. That is an unfortunate situation that will persist until the contract expires.

On the contrary, re-use and recycling activities are not only environmentally friendly, but they also deliver a far better result from the economic and social point of view.

Nevertheless, because of misconceptions and sometimes poorly transparent decision making process, incineration still represent a serious threat, while every year less than 40% of European waste is recycled or re-used. The best way to invert this trend is to implement effective source separation (of waste) and separate collection schemes. By doing that, it is possible to boost the percentage of recycling and the quality of recyclates, thus creating an added value for society and the environment, and finally moving beyond the practice of mixed waste incineration for good.


1 J. Morriss and D. Canzonieri, Recycling versus Incineration: An Energy Conservation Analysis, Seattle, Sound Resource Management Group, 1993.
2 E. Katrakis, Time to make a decisive difference for recycling in Europe, The European Files, N. 44, Page 15, December 2016.
3 K. Florenz, Time for Change, The European Files, N. 44, Pp 9-11, December 2016.
4 P. Connet, The Zero Waste Solution. Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time, Paul Connet, 2013.
5 J.M. Simon, Case Study #4.The Story of Contarina, 2015
6 D.C. Crespo, Ambition and realism – key ingredients for a future-oriented waste policy, The European Files, N. 44, P. 8, December 2016.

7 P. Connet, The Zero Waste Solution. Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time, Paul Connet, 2013.

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

 


3 ways the European Parliament can fix the Renewable Energy proposal

The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is currently under revision in the European Parliament. Soon the committees responsible for the file will vote on the amendments, many of which cover use of waste for energy generation.

Just like the previous version, the new proposal (RED II) continues to promote energy recovery processes from the biodegradable fraction of mixed waste, thus circumventing the waste hierarchy. These processes not only undermine the waste management options with a higher circular economy potential, such as waste prevention and recycling, but also significantly contribute to climate change.

There are 3 key adjustments the European Parliament can make to align the RED II proposal with the EU waste and circular economy policies:

  • Firstly, the proposal should ensure that the promotion of energy from waste is strictly guided by the principle of the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy ranks waste management options according to their sustainability, and it therefore prioritises waste prevention and recycling. In addition, the waste hierarchy also reflects the preferred environmental options from a climate perspective. To ensure that the Directive takes into account the principle of the waste hierarchy, new criteria for the use of waste for energy purposes should be introduced in the Directive.
  • Secondly, support schemes for energy from waste should be consistent with the goal of shifting upwards in the implementation of the EU waste hierarchy. Therefore, support measures for recovery of energy from the organics fraction of mixed waste processes (incineration and co-incineration), that undermine the waste hierarchy and discourage actions at the top of the waste hierarchy, should be phased out. This is critical to the achievement of higher separate collection and recycling rates of biowaste, in line with the requirements of the new waste legislation. Moreover, higher recycling of biowaste could produce the equivalent of over 12 large coal fire plants, or as much as the entire annual electric consumption of Austria for 2015 (60.813.000MWh).
  • Finally, the proposal should exclude any mention of the use of waste-based fossil fuels from the scope of the Directive. The renewable energy support schemes were developed to promote the use of energy from renewable sources in the EU. Therefore, the inclusion of waste-based fossil fuels (g. from plastics) within the scope of the proposal is a harmful distortion of renewable energy standards, and inconsistent with EU climate policies. Such a use of renewable energy funding is a massive step backward for the deployment of renewable energy sources in Europe and the achievement of a Circular Economy, and should therefore be explicitly excluded from the Directive.

Will the European Parliament fix the Renewable Energy proposal?

Find out more on why the current proposal is flawed in our previous blog.


EU trainees are hacking disposable plastic cups

Who said that Brussels and the European Institutions are places for cold bureaucracy and economic reasoning only? We met with Paolo, Ieva, Diego, Adrian, Karin and Nico, who prove that the seeds of ecology, sustainability and active citizenship can sprout everywhere – even in the not-so-sunny Brussels’environment.

During their traineeship within the European institutions, they launched the Plastic-Free Plux project to reduce the amount of single use plastic cups going to waste.

Every Thursday evening, some hundreds people, mainly young professionals from the EU bubble, gather in Luxemburg Square (the so-called Plux), right in front of the European Parliament. Some go there for a networking drink, some to celebrate a profitable week some others to forget a bad one. They all get their drinks in single-use plastic cups, and every Thursday a huge amount of plastic cups is thrown away. Paolo and his colleagues report: “after the first Thursday of ‘Plastic-free Plux’ we counted 50 trash bags full of plastic waste”. They know that single-use plastics is a major problem for the environment, since it is hard to recycle and it is used massively and in various forms in our everyday life.

The idea of the organizers of Plastic-Free Plux is to incentivise people coming to Plux to bring their own mug or reusable cup from home: if they do, they enjoy a discount of €0.50 in what they consume, thanks to an agreement with the bar owners.

At the beginning, their goal was to raise awareness about the single-use plastic and alternatives and, subsequently, for the fifth and last edition, of Plastic-Free Plux, they adopted an ambitious target: to attract 50 people with mugs on Plux, one for each of those 50 trash bags they found at the first edition. They reached the remarkable amount of 41 mugs that fifth night.

Besides the awareness-raising initiative, Plastic-Free Plux believes that the best long-term alternative is introducing a deposit scheme for solid, reusable cup system on Plux. Despite of the very short time-frame of the activity (from June to July 2017), they succeeded to communicate with the Mayor of Ixelles and gain the support of some environmental NGOs (Plastic Soup, Kot Planète Terre, Greenpeace Brussels, and of course Zero Waste Europe).

Despite the fact that many public events in Brussels are already eco-friendly, in the sense that they provide reusable cups on adeposit scheme, e.g. Bruxelles Les Bains and Brussels Summer Festival, on the average the city lacks a broader strategy for zero waste events. Thus, the majority of social gatherings, which take place at neighborhood level, characterized by the regularity in time and internalization into the everyday life, are still waste intensive.

The obstacles to change are numerous and fragmented, and therefore difficult to address. This is why the young change-makers’ action from Plastic-Free Plux is even more significant, and it is worth hoping that it will inspire many other people to do the same. The ingredients for a substantial impact are provided by Paolo and his colleagues:

“First, we suggest you start organising the event. One can adjust it and take care of the details in the aftermath. It is something that can be improved step by step, but the initial action is so simple that you do not need to think much about it. In our opinion, for these kinds of actions it is important to be brave and confident and start from somewhere; the rest will follow;

Second, communication is crucial! Spread the word, use all the tools available to you, and be regular and consistent in your communication strategy;

Third, you need to believe in the cause, that what you are doing is something good for the environment and for the people around you, and that it can be a success. If your attitude is positive and your actions show your confidence and your faith in the cause, people will notice it and join you as well. The support we received outweighed the inevitable negativity we sometimes observed”.

More information

Plastic-Free Plux official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/plasticfreeplux

ZWE’s guide on how to organise a zero waste event: www.zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/my-zero-waste-event-guide/

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

Sadiq Khan pledges to make London zero waste

Supporters excited by step in the right direction but the strategy should phase out the continuation of waste incineration in London, if a true zero waste city is to be achieved

Photo by Chris Beckett (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Cameron Broome

Unveiling his environmental strategy for London, Sadiq Khan has pledged to make London a zero waste city.

Specifically, the London Mayor has suggested that “by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030 65 per cent of London’s municipal waste will be recycled”.

Mr Khan stated that “our linear economy (take, make and dispose) is unsustainable”, adding that “too much waste” is produced.

Further, the Mayor has suggested that he will “take a circular approach to London’s use of resources that designs out waste, keeps materials in use at their highest value for as long as possible and minimises environmental impact”.

The announcement is arguably indicative of the growing popularity of the concept of “zero waste” and “the circular economy”.

In Ireland, for example, a recently proposed Waste Reduction Bill has received cross-party support. Alternatively, a GAIA report, ‘On the road to Zero Waste’ indicates that the zero waste movement is gaining more and more momentum worldwide.

 

Key findings

The policy document suggests that “around 7m tonnes of waste is produced each year from our homes, public buildings and businesses” in the capital.

Local Authority collected waste is suggested to be made up of 18% food waste, 44% main dry recyclables (e.g. glass, mixed plastics, paper, card, tins, cans), 10% other recyclables (e.g. electrical  waste, textiles  and wood) and 10% other (e.g. film, contaminated/broken waste, some drink cups, garden waste).

Alternatively, national food waste data published by in January 2017 WRAP estimating food waste arisings in the UK suggests that “London produces around 1.5 – 1.75m tonnes of food waste with a value of £2.55bn a year”.

In terms of recycling, the policy document suggests that in 2016, 52 per cent of London’s municipal waste was recycled or composted while around 37 per cent was sent to landfill or incineration.

The report also cites a 2016 WRAP plastic market situation report looking at the national picture, suggesting the “UK produces around 2.2m tonnes of plastic packaging with only around half (or 900,000 tonnes) recycled”.

 

Proposed Objectives And Strategy

 

Sadiq Khan has pledged to cut food waste by 20% per person by 2025, reduce plastic bottle and coffee cup waste, recycle 65% of London’s municipal waste by 2030 and send zero biodegradable or recyclable waste to landfill by 2026.

To achieve this, Mr Khan “wants to prevent materials from becoming waste in the first place by promoting more sustainable, circular business models that design out waste and ensures materials can be easily reused and recycled”.

Specifically, he has pledged to:

  • Work with Londoners, waste authorities, government and other stakeholders to significantly cut waste
  • Maximise recycling rates
  • Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities
  • Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produced

The London Mayor has pledged his support behind various waste-reduction campaigns including  Recycle for London, Love Food Hate Waste, TriFOCAL and the Greater London Authority’s Foodsave programme.

Specifically of interest toin #breakfreefromplastic campaigners, the environmental strategy document has suggested that Sadiq Khan will “support campaigns and initiatives to cut the use of single use packaging”. The document states: “The Mayor will also take the following actions to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and single use cups:

  • Investigating the feasibility of a deposit return scheme for water bottles through the government’s litter strategy working group.
  • Working with stakeholders including environmentalenvironment groups, Transport for London and LWARB to improve access to tap water through community water refill schemes building on existing schemes.
  • Working with the GLA group to reduce plastic bottle sales and improve access to tap water on all our premises.
  • Working with the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers and waste authorities to trial and roll out coffee cup recycling bins across London”.

A step in the right direction?

The proposal is reflective of the broader growing popularity of zero waste initiatives across the UK. In October 2015, a 5p charge for single use plastic bags was introduced across England; this has been suggested to have reduced plastic bag usage by 85%.

In addition, the Liberal Democrats’ 2017 manifesto contained a “Zero Waste Bill” while Labour’s MP for Keighley, John Grogan, donated half of his first month’s MP salary to a local anti-incineration campaign.

Alternatively, there has been a growing campaign in the UK against coffee capsules; a March 2017 Metro article suggested that compostable coffee capsules could be set to become mainstream in the UK. Political parties (and the UK more broadly) have becoming increasingly sensitive towards plastic waste, and thus refill bottle schemes have spread across the UK.

Overall, in a UK context, this is arguably indicative of an increasingly positive towards the implementation of zero waste measures to reduce production of waste at source.

But ambition needs to be raised?

Though the London Zero Waste Strategy is argued to be evidence of the growing strength of the zero waste movement in the UK, critics point out that Mr Khan has pledged to reduce zero waste to landfill – something which allows for waste to be still send to incineration plants.

The environmental strategy policy document acknowledges incineration. It states that London “has the second highest incineration rate across the UK behind the North East at 50 per cent”.

The report claims that London will have “sufficient incineration capacity to manage London’s non-recyclable municipal waste once the new Edmonton and Beddington Lane facilities are operational”.

However, activists across London would rather incinerators didn’t exist at all. Shasha Khan is a local community activist leading the “STOP the South London Incinerator” campaign. Their website outlines their aims, rejecting the NIMBY idea instead claiming: “This isn’t about not wanting it in our back yard.  We don’t want it anyone’s back yard.”

In 2015, UKWIN provided evidence as to why they believe incinerators should be opposed.

A recent Eunomia report suggested that incinerators could stop the UK from meeting its recycling targets. This is because incinerator capacity is increasing and incinerators need waste to function, and thus this may dilute incentives to recycle.

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

#Designed4Trash award: Styrofoam Containers

Styrofoam containers have been voted the 2nd most wasteful item at the Designed For Trash Awards, organised by the People’s Design Lab during last May 2017. Participants on this popular contest have also suggested sustainable alternatives to replace these problematic containers, which are responsible for an increasing amount of plastic pollution on the environment.

Styrofoam – what do we know about it?

Styrofoam comes in all shapes and sizes for purposes ranging from packing material to holding your soda pop, most of us have grown up with it yet what do we know about it?

Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic. Its history is surprisingly old, dating back to 1839, when German apothecary Eduard Simon, isolated polystyrene from natural resin. Over 100 years later, a process was invented to commercially manufacture polystyrene (including the foam version “styrofoam”) and the world of products, food and packaging was forever changed.  

Styrofoam has an increasingly bad rap as it has an impressive lifespan i.e. forever.  Because of this, it is now taking up vast amounts of space in landfills across the world, or is afloat at sea, where it is often accidentally eaten by a hungry turtle, sea bird, fish, whale, or whatever else mistakes it for food. In fact, Styrofoam has been labeled one of the top sources of marine litter. And all the while, this buoyant white substance is leaking harmful chemicals. It’s main component – styrene- is a carcinogenic substance.  Prolonged exposure can cause irritation the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and has also been linked to fatigue, depression, lymphoma, and leukemia.  Disturbingly, styrene residue has been found in 100% of human fat tissue (source).

Many restaurants, events, and companies still resort to styrofoam, often due to a lack of awareness about alternative disposable dishware.

Needless to say, we must make some adjustments for sake of our health and our environment. Fortunately, it’s 2017 and intelligent, inspired people have come up with a variety of plant based food containers to mitigate the styrofoam apocalypse.

 

Never too late to move on!

Reusable Alternatives to Styrofoam

The best alternative to styrofoam containers, and other “single-use” take-away containers, are the reusable options. Simply, you can start changing the styrofoam trend by bringing your own food containers when eating out. The options are many, from stainless steel tiffins, to the classic glass tupperware or the innovative Boc’n roll (a plastic sack that you can securely bundle your takeaway in).  For restaurants that use plastic tupperware, wash and return them next time for your next meal there. They will likely be happy to re-use it!


        Boc’n roll

More and more options seem to emerge. In Switzerland, the company reCIRCLE has invented the very first system which provides restaurants with reusable containers for take-away customers. When the customer buys food in their take-away container, they pay a “deposit” on it and once they have used it, they can bring it back to the restaurant next time, and get another reusable containers for no extra fees, or simply get their money back. This is system is spreading out quickly in Switzerland and hopefully it will land in more countries!

reCIRCLE

Not only are these options more sustainable, they just sound like more fun to eat and drink out of!

 

Single-use Alternatives to Styrofoam

However, when these reusable options are not available and there is no way to avoid the use of a single-use item then there are several biodegradables solutions that in terms of “end-of-life” of the product are less problematic than styrofoam or plastic.

Corn starch – Essentially, corn starch based food containers use corn-based polymers (PLA) instead of petroleum based.  Because of this, these food containers look and feel similar to traditional styrofoam but can be composted.

Plant leaves – These leaf based food containers are rapidly growing in popularity because of their durability, biodegradability, and also, they just look really cool.  The process uses the pulp of fallen palm leaves and represses them into dishware.

Edible – Various companies have been making headlines as of late for producing edible food containers.  The company Loliware uses a seaweed base to create flavored drinking cups and the company Munch bowls has designed a wheat based bowls.

From the most preferred reusable options to the biodegradable single-use containers, we could see that in this day and age the negative impact of styrofoam is simply unnecessary. Making changes in our own lives, while also demanding change in food industry standards, is the way forward to a foam free world.

If you want to check out all solutions suggested by the People’s Design Lab users click here!

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

Environmental NGOs join forces for a Mediterranean free from plastic pollution

Environmental organisations from all around the Mediterranean are launching the Break Free From Plastic Movement in the region, to save the cradle of human civilisation from a plastic pollution crisis. At their first meeting in Barcelona last June, they agreed on a manifesto calling for systemic change along the whole plastic value chain to prevent plastic pollution at source.

The Mediterranean sea is affected by one of the highest concentrations of plastics in the world. Plastic litter accumulates from the sea surface to the seafloor, on the shorelines of even the most remote islands, and in the deep sea. It conveys non-indigenous and potentially harmful organisms, transfer toxic chemicals and fragment into microplastics, that can subsequently be ingested and may end up poisoning the food chain. Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean must be stopped before it’s too late.

Most of the plastic pollution in the Mediterranean comes from land-based activities. Far from being a purely marine issue, it is rooted in our unsustainable production and consumption patterns, ranging from bad product design and consumption habits, to inappropriate solid waste management practices at all stages on land and at sea, to discharges of inappropriately treated or untreated municipal sewage and industrial waste. This is why end-of-pipe solutions such as marine litter cleanups are not enough: as pointed out by Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic Movement, “to prevent the Mediterranean sea from turning into a ‘plastic soup’, we need to adopt a holistic approach which focuses primarily on prevention rather than cure.”

In October 2017, the European Commission will host the Our Ocean conference in Malta, which will also touch upon the future of the Mediterranean. At the same time, the Commission is working on a Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy. This conference is a tremendous opportunity to take ambitious commitments to break free from plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, and the EU Strategy for Plastics must reflect these commitments: the time to act is now!

Download the Manifesto of the Break Free From Plastic Movement in the Mediterranean

The Break Free From Plastic Movement was created in September 2016 by 90 organisations from all over the world willing to tackle together the issue of plastic pollution. The movement has developed regional cooperation dynamics across Africa, America, Asia and Europe, and within just a few months it has been joined by  800 organisations. Find out more, and join the movement!

 


Sardinia demonstrates that islands can achieve zero waste

Over the years, the island of Sardinia has served as model for Zero Waste thanks to their incredible recycling efforts and local initiatives. By challenging our perception of what we can achieve by working together, Sardinia has shown us that Zero Waste is possible on islands too.

Comprised of nearly 2000 kilometers of white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise hued waters and vast mountains touting peaks as high as 1 800 meters, on the surface Sardinia has all the paradisiacal characteristics to make for a breathtaking getaway. From that perspective, it might seem like Sardinia is simply an island of superficial beauty, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What lies behind those spectacular sights is just as extraordinary.

Through active collaboration between the people and the government, Sardinia has taken major steps in tackling waste head on. It’s an impressive feat, especially when we consider the fact that the island faces some of the largest roadblocks in terms of setting up zero waste initiatives, those being their remote location away from the mainland and the large volumes of tourists passing through at any given time.

Their efforts make Sardinia one of the brightest examples of municipal Zero Waste management for high density touristic locales. Yes, it can be done.

Backed and pushed by Zero Waste Sardinia and Zero Waste Italy, Sardinia has implemented a door-to-door separate collection system where the municipalities themselves are held accountable and are either punished or rewarded for the amount of waste they bear. Through this initiative, Sardinia was able to achieve a regional recycling rate of 56% back in 2015. The 2015 report on Sardinian Urban Waste Management shows that, out of 377 municipalities, a staggering 206 have achieved a recycling rate above 65% while 47 hold a rate above 75%. It’s clear that because of these efforts, Sardinia’s overall amount of waste sent for disposal is decreasing. But by how much?

Track record of the production of municipal waste in Sardinia (figures expressed in tonnes/year)

Incredibly, Sardinia has reduced waste generation by 16% (143 724 tonnes) over a span of just 9 years. If that’s not worth shouting from the mountaintops, I don’t know what is!

When delving into the specifics of the 56% from the 717.242 tonnes that have been separately collected, we can see that Sardinia displays considerable growth in collection efforts on almost all fronts.

Comparison of the amount of material separately collected in 2015 and 2014 (tons / year)

Each year, through greater municipal effort and increased community involvement, more Zero Waste learning opportunities are available in schools, more locally organized meetings centered around waste are popping up, and more information about Zero Waste is being shared between Sardinians, ultimately leading to their success in continually reducing their overall MSW.

Sardinia has shown the world that no matter the insularity or the tourist pressure, achieving Zero Waste starts at the local level. They’ve shown us that by incentivizing local governments to tackle waste, a country’s Zero Waste goals become more ‘tangible’ for the people as they’re able to feel a direct connection with what’s happening in their very own community and in turn, are more motivated to make the extra effort.

This is a wakeup call for many countries in Europe that are spending large sums on waste management but still underachieving when it comes to recycling. It just goes to show that it’s not about the money you spend, rather, it’s about the message you spread and the people you empower. Sardinia proves that there’s truth in that.

Let’s join them!

On October 4-6 2017, Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste France invite you to join a study tour to explore Sardinia’s best practices in terms of waste management. The study tour will take place in French and Italian. Find out more and get inspired!

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

ZWE’s response to public consultation on Chemicals, Products and Waste

Recycling Toxic Solvents” by Public.Resources.Org is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the frame of the policy discussions to transition towards a circular economy, the European Commission intends to produce a Communication on the interface of Chemicals, Products and Waste legislation. This should analyse and prepare policy options on how to address the interface of chemicals, products and waste legislation, including how to reduce the presence and improve the tracking of chemicals of concern in products.

ZWE has responded to the public consultation as it reads:

 

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the stakeholder consultation of the European Commission’s work on the analysis of the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation and identification of policy options.

From ZWE’s point of view, in this interface between the chemicals, products and waste regimes, several elements are needed to be addressed:

  1. Firstly, a qualitative prevention of hazardous chemicals from entering the material cycle. The development of non-toxic material cycles was already included as an objective of the 7th EAP and this is clearly needed both to transition to a non-toxic environment and to secure a circular economy in which high quality and clean materials can keep circulating. For that matter, and following the position of the European Parliament on the Waste Directive, the European Commission is urged to present a legislative proposal on waste prevention that also drives qualitative prevention of waste.
  2. The lack of sufficient information available for recyclers and waste operators on the toxicity of wastes, which brings in potential risks all along the value chain: including the employees of the recycling industries and the consumers of products with secondary raw materials who may be exposed to substances of concern or of very high concern without knowing it. The problems associated with the lack of traceability are further increased in the case of those materials being recycled outside of the EU, often in sub-standard conditions. An example of this was highlighted by IPEN who alerted that toxic flame retardant coming from recycled plastics was found in toys in the EU, giving an evidence of the total lack of traceability of materials.
  3. The need for Member States to have an easy way to meet European targets on recycling comes at the cost of less transparent calculation methods which bring in a lack of traceability of waste. This insufficient traceability is often translated into the recycling of European wastes containing toxic substances and the re-introduction of these secondary raw materials back in Europe’s economy without due information of the presence of these substances. A divergence between European standards and international ones does not only prevent a level-playing field between European and foreign operators but it is a real threat to Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. Two main solutions appear to this: on the one hand, the calculation method on recycling needs to get as close as possible to the actual recycling (thus closer to the balance of mass), so as to improve the traceability of the management of waste. On the other hand, the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions should level up the criteria, so as to avoid the re-introduction of toxic substances into the economy through sub-standard recycling in countries of the South, in line with the point expressed above.

In order to improve the rules included on these conventions, the EU’s role needs to be significantly improved, so as to avoid the double standard role the EU has played in the past, by which the EU was promoting the recycling of toxic substances in countries in the South. In case a level-playing field is not finally reached through these conventions (next one in 2019), the European Union should set clear rules guaranteeing that the import of secondary raw materials or products with secondary raw materials does not contain toxic substances.

  1. Additionally, this communication should acknowledge the need to ensure that the legal framework is not less protective of human health and the environment when products are made of recovered materials. This means notably requiring appropriate decontamination of waste before it can be recovered and avoiding restrictions of hazardous chemicals that are less protective when applied to recovered materials.
  2. Lastly, the lack of clearer rules for circular design of products and packaging hampers Europe’s transition to both a circular economy and a non-toxic environment. In this regard, the European Commission should complement the legislative proposal on Waste with guidance on how to modulate EPR fees to disincentive the use of toxic and potentially toxic substances. Additionally, in line with the European Parliament’s position on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the European Commission should update the essential requirements for packaging, so as to make sure that packaging put in the European market is free from toxic substances. Similarly, the European Commission is urged to accomplish the Communication ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ and “promote the (…) recyclability of products by developing product requirements relevant to the circular economy in its future work under the Ecodesign Directive”. These product requirements should contain clear rules against toxic substances hampering the circularity of materials.

Rethink Plastic launches a summer challenge for the European Commission

Rethink Plastic has sent an open letter to the European Commission calling on them to propose strong and harmonised EU legislation within the EU Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy – due to be published at the end of 2017.

We call for concrete policy action on reducing, redesigning and better managing plastics, and challenge the Commission to think broader and bolder, including trying to live plastic free for a day. #RethinkPlastic!

Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. We represent hundreds of thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. We bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields and are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, consisting of over 800 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.

Read the letter

 


Sweden’s Recycling (D)evolution

By Christopher Nicastro

Sweden is not known for its lack of innovation. In fact, in the 2016 Global Innovation Index conducted by Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO, Sweden sits only behind Switzerland as the second most innovative country in the world. And while Sweden is credited with innovations like the Solar safe water system and Spotify, much of their innovative brain power has been channelled into tackling one of the world’s biggest problems – waste.

As the world ponders on and builds sustainable solutions to deal with waste, Sweden has taken immediate action, applying a drastic approach to waste management in large scale incineration. Home to a total of 32 incineration plants, Sweden has incinerated an average of nearly 50% of all its Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) between 2000 and 2015.

Thanks to their increased efforts in incineration, the amount of trash sitting in Sweden’s landfills measures only 1% of their total MSW, eliminating harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) like methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. Additionally, Sweden has found success in decreasing its dependency on fossil fuels by harnessing energy from the waste itself through incineration. Roughly three tons of waste equals one ton of fuel oil, which is quite a good ratio considering waste is more abundant than fossil fuel in this day in age. In fact, it’s for this very reason that Sweden has turned waste into a lucrative commodity. By selling their incineration services and importing trash from countries that are willing to pay the price for greener pastures, Sweden has deepened their pockets and captured nn more energy for its plants and municipal utility services.

In relation to waste management, it would seem like Sweden has reached the Promised Land. Even if that were true in the short term, on a large scale, and in the long term, this strategy has negative effects on the very foundations of zero waste and the circular economy.

Recycling (D)evolution

Sweden claims to be undergoing a recycling revolution, boasting that they recycle nearly 100% of household waste. But how could that be true when nearly 50% of their waste is incinerated. Incineration and recycling are two completely different things. Between 2000 and 2015, Sweden recycled an average of 33% of its total MSW (excluding compost).  In 2015 alone, Sweden recycled only 32% of its total MSW (48% with compost included), which is still a ways away from the European Commission’s common EU MSW recycling target of 65% by 2030. When it’s all said and done, however, Sweden ranked sixth among European countries in recycling in 2015. That might seem like cause for celebration, but their increased focus on incineration over the years has brought about stagnation in recycling rates since 2006.

An incinerator facility in Sweden / photo by Johan Gunséus/Synk (CC-BY-ND 3.0)

Dependency on Waste

Sweden’s stagnating recycling rate is concerning because as waste incineration becomes an increasingly reliable source of energy for them and their dependency on it grows, there is less motivation to better recycling efforts countrywide. In some cases, sorted trash actually gets incinerated, further demotivating municipalities and individuals to invest time and money into waste separation. For this reason, many recyclables are lost through incineration, leading to the destruction of valuable goods that would normally contribute to a higher, more efficient recycling rate and production cycle.

A Costly A(ir)ffair

Sweden’s increased dependency on incineration for their energy and economic needs has prompted them to continue building plants, which are very costly to both build and run, not to mention the pollutants that they produce. According to the EPA, quoted in Treehugger and Slate, incineration plants release about 1.3 times the amount of CO2 per megawatt generated than burning coal does, and they have been shown to release many other toxic chemicals such as dioxins. And while much of the CO2 would have been emitted from the waste over time anyway if left untouched, the fact that it’s being released all at once is cause for concern. From a cost perspective, a cost-benefit analysis on waste incineration conducted by Columbia University shows that plants can cost upwards of 100 million euros to construct and anywhere from 3 – 7 million euros yearly to maintain. And in order to make a return on investment, incineration plants have to process steady amounts of waste. This puts Sweden between a rock and a hard place as their reliance on generating waste to keep up with their energy and economical demands goes against their zero waste claims and the very basis of the circular economy.

Importing garbage for energy is good business for Sweden from Sweden on Vimeo.

Creating Long Term Solutions

Weine Wiqvist, Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association CEO, cited “’Zero waste’ – that is our slogan. We would prefer less waste being generated, and that all the waste that is generated is recycled in some way. Perfection may never happen, but it certainly is a fascinating idea.”

Hopefully Sweden will strive towards increasing their recycling targets moving forward and lessening their overall MSW, however, as it currently stands, their actions do not correlate with the principles of zero waste, unlike their official claims. Under zero waste, the goal is not to use waste as a commodity, but to eliminate it altogether. A system based on reducing, reusing, and recycling can take us there, but only if large scale incineration is restrained. The European Parliament’s ENVI committee has recently proposed to exclude financial support for the incineration of mixed MSW, effectively restraining large scale incineration and prioritising waste reduction if approved at the parliament level.

So what’s your move, Sweden?

Christopher Nicastro

Christopher Nicastro

As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Christopher Nicastro

Can Rome go zero waste?

About Rome and Zero Waste – Rossano Ercolini and Zero Waste Italy meet the government of the municipality of Rome.

On the 6th of June, a delegation from Zero Waste Italy and Zero Waste Europe president, and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini held a positive meeting with Pinuccia Montanari, the councillor for the environment of the municipality of Rome, her staff and the president of AMA (the municipal waste management company for Rome), Lorenzo Bagnacani.

President of the Board, Rossano Ercolini
Rossano Ercolini, receiving the Goldman Prize

The group focused on the fundamental steps Rome should take in order to begin the zero waste path, taking into consideration the important role of civil society, industries and political leadership.

“The plan is to transform the MBT [mechanical biological treatment] plants in “material factories”, removing all interests related to incineration as way to treat waste, and moving towards door-to-door separate collection of waste with the consequent reduction of residual waste. Home-composting, the selling of light-packaging products and reuse/repair practices should be encouraged also in terms of job opportunity.” Montanari and Ercolini explained.

Rome, a world leader? 

Rome could become an example for the world, showing how even a complex and highly populated city could work towards the zero waste solution, when strongly supported by the political leadership. For this reason, the local town hall has started the process to make Rome a zero waste community, formalising the zero waste observatory (called Osservatorio Capitolino), composed of the most important national environmentalist associations.

Dr. Paul Connett speaking at Network of Zero Waste Towns. Photo: Maša Kores

In order to facilitate this process from an international perspective, it has been decided that an international task force will be created, as proposed by Zero Waste Italy. This team of experts should be composed of representatives from Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe, individual experts such as Prof. Paul Connett, Jack Macy from the municipality of San Francisco and Jeffrey Morris, an expert in circular economy.

The task force would also have the task of stressing the importance of “Rome towards zero waste” as an international example, leading the Italian capital city to the “zero waste by 2021” goal.

This is a challenge that will need the cooperation of all civil civil society, the environmentalist associations and the political leadership.


Enough talk, time to act! Zero waste leaders take their message to G7

In a joint statement zero waste trailblazers from over 100 countries stood up to world leaders to say ‘don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability do it!’  at the G7 meeting in Taormina, Sicily on Thursday May 25th.

The message called on world leaders to put their words into action and detailed 5 steps towards the implementation of circular economy and zero waste strategies globally.

  1.  Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities)
  2. Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress
  3. Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
  4. Building separation facilities for the current fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilised either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
  5. Announcing a date whereby only 5%  (or less) of the waste stream is allowed into landfills.
  6. Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies

The message comes as global leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan the United Kingdom, and the United States and the European Union met in Sicily between the 26 – 27th of May for the 42nd meeting of the group.

Signatories to the message include international NGOs, such as Zero Waste Europe, GAIA (Global Alliance for Zero Waste Alternatives), ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance) and The Indigenous Environmental Network, national organisations from around the world, and towns & cities such as Capannori, Italy, and San Francisco U.S.A. Prominent individuals such as Zero Waste hero Paul Connett and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini from the world of zero waste have also signed the statement which continues to gain signatories.

FULL MESSAGE WITH SIGNATORIES

 A message to the G7 Heads of State meeting in Taormina, Sicily, May 26-27, 2017

This message is from citizens’ groups from at least 100 countries who are battling existing and proposed incinerators and are supporting positive steps towards Zero Waste.

 Dear G7 Heads of State,

don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability, do it! Take active steps to support communities in your countries who are pioneering Zero Waste strategies.

Such active steps should include:

  1. Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities).
  2. Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress.
  3. Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design. Products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
  4. Building separation facilities in front of all existing landfills for the current residual fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilized either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
  5. Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies.
  6. Providing funding to help set up Reuse and Repair centers in communities. Once funded these operations are usually self-sustainable.
  7. Dramatically reduce the production and use of disposable plastic items which are unexpectedly ending up in the oceans and impacting seabirds and the aquatic food chains.

The Circular Economy is the only way to secure a future for our productive system. For example, Europe is importing 60% of primary raw materials and that simply cannot be sustained

Zero Waste practices are the perfect toolkit to turn the “dream” of a Circular Economy into reality, supplementing the traditional reduce/reuse/recycle strategy with the important additional tool of redesigning for improved durability, repairability, recyclability.

In the words of the EU commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella, our “ZW communities are the living examples of Circular Economy and its viability and environmental, economic, occupational benefits

Zero Waste not only provides sustainable waste management solutions but also offers deep, cross sectoral benefits to address some of the most pressing global problems related to social and environmental justice and human rights.

As wars in the future, might well be caused by fights over limited resources, as they have been in the past, support for zero waste now may avoid incurring further international tensions over resources amongst Nations and can be seen as part of a global peace movement.

We know how busy you are, but may we request that you get your appropriate advisers to acquaint themselves with the details of the zero waste strategy from this book, “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time” (Chelsea Green, 2013) and also from this movie “Trashed” hosted and co-produced by Jeremy Irons.

Signers include:

International groups

Biodigestion Latin american Network

Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc, Boulder, Colorado, USA

GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)

IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)

ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste Mediterranean

National, Regional and local Groups

Agro-ecology Centre , Wayanad, Kerala, India

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) Indonesia

WALHI/FoE, Indonesia

BaliFokus Foundation, Indonesia

Plastic Bag Diet Movement, Indonesia

Nol Sampah, Indonesia,

PPLH Bali, Indonesia

American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc., USA

APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil

Basura Zero, Chile

Coalición Ciudadana Antiincineración, Argentina

Conservation Action Trust, India

Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia

Društvo Ekologi brez meja / Ecologists without Borders Association, Slovenia

Ecological Recycling Society, Greece

Ecowaste Coalition, Philippines

Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Green Delaware, USA

Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth) Czech Republic

Instituto Lexo Zero, Brazil

It’s Not Garbage Coalition, Nova Scotia, Canada

IRTECO, Tanzania

ISLR (Institute of Local Self Reliance), USA

Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines

National Toxics Network Australia, Australia

Pesticide Action Network India, Thrissur, Kerala, India

Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland

Rezero-Catalan Waste Prevention, Spain

Residuo Zero, Brazil

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia

Sound Resource Management, Seattle, USA

Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan

Texas Campaign for the Environment, USA

THANAL, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil

UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network), UK

Work on Waste, USA

Zero Waste OZ, Australia

Zero Waste USA

Zero Waste BC, Canada

Zero Waste Canada

Zero Waste Catalan Strategy, Spain

Zero Waste Cyprus

Zero Waste Italy

Zero Waste Sicily

Zero Waste Slovenia

Zero Waste Spain

Zero Waste Tanzania

Zero Waste Tunisia

Zero Zbel, Morocco

Za Zemiata (Zero Waste Bulgaria)

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), India

YPBB (indonesia)

Zero Waste Institute Africa

Zero Zabor ibe (Basque Country)

ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável (Portugal)

State and local groups

Neighbors Against the Burner and Airheads, Minnesota, USA

CHASE (Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment), Ireland

Cobh Zero Waste, Ireland

Green Delaware, Delaware, USA

NO Macrovertedero, SÍ Residuo 0, Madrid, Spain

San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Zero Waste Beijing, China

Zero Waste Capannori (the first town in Italy to adopt zero waste), Italy

Zero Waste San Francisco (the first major city in USA to adopt zero waste), USA

Zerowaste Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

 

Individuals

Paul Connett, PhD (Work on Waste USA; director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc, AEHSP)

Rossano Ercolini (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Enzo Favoino (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)

Paolo Guarnaccia (Zero Waste Italy)

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Environmental Indigenous Network, USA

Asrul Hoesein, Green Indonesia Foundation Jakarta, Indonesia

Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Ph.D. (Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),

Islamabad, Pakistan)

Gary Liss, Gary Liss & Associates, San Jose, California, USA

Patrizia Lo Sciuto, Zero Waste Italy

Eric Lombardi, (Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc.), Boulder, Colorado, USA

Jack Macy, Commercial Zero Waste Senior Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA

Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Sound Resource Management Group, Seattle, USA

Erika Oblak, Coordinator Zero Waste Slovenia

Stacy Savage, President, Zero Waste Strategies, LLC, Austin, Texas, USA

Helen Spiegelman, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Neil Seldman, President, ILSR, Washington, DC, USA

Antoinette “Toni” Stein, PhD, Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA

Brenda Platt, Director, Composting for Community Project
Co-Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Ana Carvalho


Les Champs-Élysées go circular. The city of Paris starts separately collecting organic waste

Finally! Paris is moving in the right direction by giving inhabitants of the city the means to take a new step in sorting and recycling. Since May 4, 2017, the French capital has started implementing an ambitious project to boost circular economy involving the source separation by households of organic waste in the Second and Twelfth Arrondisments. This action is part of the overall project for waste reduction and recycling, to which the city committed in 2014. The targets to achieve are the following: reducing by 10% by weight the quantity of generated waste between 2010 and 2020 and increasing recycling from 15% to more than 50%.

As part of its Recovery Plan for sorting, the City has been conducting a massive policy for two years to strengthen the means to facilitate the sorting of Parisians by giving them more solutions (Installation of several thousand additional sorting bins in garbage rooms) and increasing awareness of them (updating of instructions, dissemination of a new sorting guide, awareness-raising campaigns).

Who are the actors implementing food waste separate collection?

  • Council of Paris: Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris; Mao Peninou, assistant in charge of cleanliness, sanitation, organisation and operation of the Paris Council
  • Mayors of the Second and Twelfth Arrondissements, Catherine Jacques Boutault and Baratti-Elbaz
  • Syctom, the largest European waste treatment and recycling organisation, who have previously been involved in expensive and unnecessary infrastructure spending such as the renovation of the Ivry incinerator in Paris.
  • ADEME, the French agency for the environmental protection
  • Réseau Compostplus, the French network of bio-waste treatment facilities
  • Novamont, a leading company in the field of bioplastics.

How does it work?

The food discards of Parisians (from meal preparation to leftovers, and unused food still in packaging) is about 160,000 tons a year, or nearly ¼ of the content of the residual waste bin. This waste was until recently only collected mixed in with the general waste and was subsequently disposed of by incineration. The objective is now to collect this portion separately to be used in biogas and/or compost.

3,205 trays with brown lids (741 in the 2nd and 2,464 in the 12th) have been distributed in all the buildings which have been identified as suitable. Other buildings will be dealt with at a later date. Basically, the project involves 74,161 flats located in 4,361 buildings covering around 120,000 people. the participating households have also been provided with new bags for the collection of food waste. These new bags are biodegradable according to the European standard EN 13432 and are made in Mater-Bi, a bio-plastic developed by Novamont.

For years, Paris has been lagging behind in terms of waste management best practice, and Zero Waste France, a member of Zero Waste Europe has been at the forefront of the campaign to change their course towards Zero Waste. This has included an incredibly visual campaign against the renovation of the Ivry incinerator in the city, where they proposed an alternative ‘Plan B’om’ for the city. It is clear that Paris still has a long way to go to develop effective and circular waste management practices but this is a step in the right direction. 

Food waste, and other biowaste is one of the most problematic waste streams, and even more so when it is not separated at source. Biowaste, if not effectively separated can contaminate other recyclable materials and if landfilled it can produce greenhouse gases and toxic leachate. Our reports have demonstrated that the incineration of biomass in so-called waste-to-energy plants cannot be considered ‘carbon neutral’ as it is in many accounting systems and is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. . Indeed, if food waste was a country, it has been calculated that it would be the third largest “emitter” of CO2 worldwide, just behind the USA and China. Furthermore, around 88 million tons of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. Hence, keeping separately the collection of food waste allows to achieve several benefits both in term of money savings, energy efficiency and the circular economy.

We can minimise the environmental impact of the food we eat by ensuring separate collection. On the contrary it represents a reliable source of nutrients for our land and for the soil. After collected, bio-waste can be sent to composting. Natural compost is a soil improver that is preferable than synthetic because is toxic free and possess all the necessary nutrients. Furthermore, bio-waste from the city of Paris will be used for the production of bio-gas reducing dependency on fossil fuels. Anaerobic digestion is used to generate biogas which is used as a source of energy to produce heat and electricity resold on the grid or, after purification, to become biomethane, a fuel used to drive vehicles.

This project in Paris follows the example of the city of Milan, the 1st big city worldwide to organise kerbside collection of biowaste and could become another example of the feasibility of organising separate collection in a densely populated city and implementing sustainable collection of biowaste.

In this, Paris might still have a long way to go but they are going in the right direction.

 


Revealed: who’s leading & who’s blocking EU waste policy

15 May 2017

EU countries obstructing key measures that would bring the EU closer to a circular economy are revealed – and they are not your usual suspects.

The European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe asked member states whether they will support key proposals to boost EU waste policy in the negotiations taking place in Brussels in the coming weeks.

Click on the map to explore different countries’ positions

Map: leaders & laggards of EU waste policy

The proposals, already approved by the European Parliament in March, include higher recycling targets for municipal solid waste; targets for preparation for reuse of municipal solid waste and reuse of packaging; better separate collection of all waste streams, including biowaste; EU-wide rules for producer responsibility; and objectives to reduce waste generation by 2030.

The investigation shows that ambitious reform of EU waste laws is under attack by a number of countries. If a regressive position is to prevail in the negotiations, plans to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the coming years will most likely stall.

Recent leaks (paywall link) of the Council’s current common position show that the laggards are winning out, despite higher individual ambition by some member states in areas including recycling targets, extended producer responsibility and biowaste separate collection.

At stake is the creation of over 800,000 jobs, one in ten coming from reuse, and €72 billion a year in savings across Europe. EU countries would also miss the opportunity to avoid over 420 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which equates to taking 4 in 10 cars off European roads.

Ferran Rosa, waste policy officer at Zero Waste Europe said: “Member States all agree to go towards a circular economy, but when it comes to making it happen, many are reluctant. It is time for Member States to stop being short-sighted and push for a real transition”

Laggards

Countries opposing most of the proposals include Denmark and Finland – often regarded as leaders in waste policy despite their enormous amount of waste generated. Other countries set to categorically reject higher ambition are Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.

While eventually supporting a 65% recycling target, countries such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg and Slovakia are expected to oppose plans to make preparation for reuse mandatory, set a 10% target for packaging reuse and set waste prevention targets–all top priorities in a circular economy.

The UK, Germany, Poland, Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia have so far been unwilling to share their position, although some of them -like Germany- have in the past attempted to block high recycling targets and corporate responsibility. This unwillingness to share their position highlights a long-standing transparency problem during negotiations between member states, as well as member states and EU institutions. This creates barriers between EU citizens and their national governments, and is at odds with the progressive and transparent stance adopted by the European Parliament.

Leaders

On the other hand, southern countries that generally struggle with waste management such as Greece and Romania as well as Spain are calling for stronger support for recycling, waste prevention, preparation for reuse and better separate collection.

Other progressive countries supporting the reforms are France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

What happens next?

• High representatives from member states will meet before the end of the month to define the position of the Council of the European Union.

• By the end of May, all three EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – will enter the final inter-institutional negotiations before agreeing on the final text of the new waste laws.


3 Positions the EU Must Take To Stay Clean on the Circular Economy

Live from the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) to the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam conventions – Geneva

There is a group of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that it is critical to address to ensure we are moving towards a clean circular economy. Although the EU is continuously setting the tone towards more circularity internally, it has clearly lacked ambition and clarity on the issues at stakes in Geneva this week. This post goes through the details of the negotiations around the global regulation framework of the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and outlines the positions the EU must take to safeguard a clean future for the circular economy.

A ban on decaBDE without exemptions

On Tuesday, the listing of decaBDE in Annex A of the Stockholm Convention for an immediate ban was discussed. DecaBDE is a toxic flame retardant which is primarily found in the plastics of electronic devices and in some textiles and upholstery. Most countries supported this ban, but several delegations are asking for exemptions to allow for the continued production and use of this toxic POP in certain sectors. The EU in particular is asking for exemptions in the automotive and aviation sectors, despite leading companies in these sectors having already stated that a complete ban would be feasible in a very short time frame (see our latest policy briefing).

End the recycling exemptions for pentaBDE and octaBDE

On Wednesday, the debate turned to the recycling exemptions for pentaBDE and octaBDE which were adopted at a previous COP until 2030. Pakistan, Gabon and Norway in particular held very strong position to end the recycling exemption immediately, to protect the life and health of millions of kids in the global south contaminated by toys and other products made of recycled plastics containing these substances. Canada strongly opposed the immediate termination of the recycling exemptions. EU did not take a clear stand to support Pakistan, Gabon and Norway’s proposal, which is an endorsement by abstention of Canada’s proposal and an incompatible positioning in the context of the clean circular economy that EU is advocating for within its frontiers.

GAIA & Zero Waste Europe delegation meeting with EU delegation leader, Bjorn Hansen Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth

Impose strong limits on the levels of POPs in waste

Last but not least, an intense debate is currently taking place about the Low POP Content level (The concentration threshold above which wastes are considered POPs waste) of waste containing PBDEs allowed to be exported under the Basel Convention. In the debate, EU’s is defending a weak limit for POPs in waste which can result in toxic waste being exported outside its borders without effective controls, this represents a clear double standard and an irresponsible position.

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste Europe policy officer made an intervention from the conference floor calling on the European delegates to support the immediate end of the recycling exemptions for octaBDE and pentaBDE, and the inclusion of decaBDE in Annex A of the Stockholm conventions which prohibits production, use and recycling of the chemicals, calling for no exemptions to be made

Delphine Lévi Alvarès making her intervention to the conference floor

The intervention argued that such a ban was essential to prevent the recycling of waste which contains toxic chemicals at the ‘expense of the health of children or recycling workers in the informal sector or other end users of such products globally’. Recently released reports such as IPEN’s Toxic Toys have shown that the recycling of products containing toxic chemicals such as octaBDE and decaBDE has resulted in toys made from recycled plastics which contain extremely high levels of these toxic POPs.

Delphine went on to say “To achieve a circular economy, we need to close the loop of materials by building trust in a toxic-free secondary material market so that both producers and consumers are willing to use them.” Increasing recycling in Europe is critical to reduce the use of virgin resources, but this aim cannot supercede the rights of children, recycling workers and other end users to a safe and healthy environment. In addition, authorising the inclusion of these banned toxic substances in recycled products seriously threatens the credibility and economic model of the entire recycling industry.

Zero Waste Europe calls on the EU to support international policies which are consistent with a clean and safe circular economy today, and take a clear stand on banning POPs at the source and against recycling exemptions of POPs containing materials.

 


In defense of clean air: Slovenian community defeats multinational cement company

This article was written and produced for the GAIA website, and covers the victory of European GAIA member on the cement kiln issue. 
Thanks to Uroš S. Macerl and Eko krog, the Zasavje region of Slovenia has a reason to celebrate. These grassroots leaders stopped the world’s largest cement company.

Zasavje has the nation’s highest cancer rates, and the multinational cement company Lafarge had long polluted the area. When Lefarge began burning toxic waste in the Trbovlje cement kiln — a disastrous move for human health and the climate — Uroš and the others at Eko krog decided that enough was enough. They organized, and after 10 years of tireless battle, they won.

Today, Uroš is awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for his commitment to grassroots organizing in defense of the human right to breathe clean air.

The Story of a Grassroots Victory

Uroš Macerl built and operated one of the largest organic farms in Slovenia on the hill above the Lefarge cement plant. Using his rights as a local land owner, Macerl worked with the community organization Eko krog to legally challenge Lafarge’s permit.

After Lafarge purchased the cement plant, the company began using toxic petrol coke (petcoke) as fuel, causing emissions of carcinogenic chemicals to skyrocket, and posing a serious threat to the climate (petcoke has even higher carbon emissions than coal). Then, the plant obtained a permit to co-incinerate waste in the form of car tires, waste oils, and plastic in 2009 — leading to even more emissions of cancerous chemicals. Burning plastic is known to release dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known to man.

Lafarge tried to get away with this pollution through greenwashing and deception. After looking at the results of the emissions monitoring that Lafarge submitted to the Ministry for Environment, Eko krog found that Lafarge had been self-monitoring, without any outside oversight. Throughout the decade long battle, Lafarge would continually doctor its emissions numbers, even going as far as deleting data, or claiming a typing mistake when the emissions were much higher than allowed.

But the truth prevailed. Over time, Uroš was able to grow the campaign to become a large, people-powered movement. In 2010, members of his organization Eko krog blocked the road the Slovenian Prime Minister was travelling on to visit Trbovlje, and would not let him pass until he had heard their concerns about the plant. The Prime Minister would not hear them at the time, but promised to meet them later. He never did. So a few months later over 3,000 protesters demonstrated in front of the government, demanding that the Prime Minister not privilege corporations over people. In 2011 a group of mothers from Zasavje delivered a powerful message to Lafarge management to make their emissions data public. Meanwhile, Eko krog kept up legal pressure, holding government institutions accountable for continuing to allow Lafarge to endanger the lives of Slovenian citizens.

When the ever-deceitful Lafarge was caught using petcoke without permission, the campaign was able to close the plant for good, and instigated legal procedures against the Republic of Slovenia for allowing Lafarge Trbovlje to continually operate without a permit.

A global movement against waste burning in cement kilns

Waste burning in cement kilns has been wrongly heralded by industry as an “alternative fuel” and climate-friendly alternative to coal, and the industry has even claimed climate subsidies meant for clean energy like wind and solar power. These ‘alternative facts’ hide the true cost of these supposed energy-efficient solutions: that waste burning emits high levels of dioxin (a powerful carcinogen) , carbon dioxide, and other pollutants, and has been linked to cancer, respiratory illness, crop loss, and other such devastating effects. It is a step backward for climate progress and prevents us from pursuing much-needed zero waste solutions.

“Burning waste is madness because it destroys natural resources. And burning waste in cement plants is even worse: it is a crime because it poisons people and environment – the crime is supported by lobbied legislation. Zero Waste is an already implemented alternative in many communities around the world,” says Uroš.

Throughout the grueling decade-long fight, Uroš’s persistence and the community’s collective power created a blueprint for countless other regions around the world who are suffering from the injustices of co-incineration in cement kilns. In speaking about the countless setbacks and ultimate victory, Uroš stated, “We do have an advantage. The truth is on our side. We’ll never allow this story to repeat itself again in Zasavje region.”

All over the world, communities are fighting back against the cement industry and their dirty practices and calling for zero waste solutions. Zero waste means setting a new goal for how we live in the world—one that aims to reduce what we trash in landfills and incinerators to zero and to rebuild our local economies in support of community health, sustainability, and justice. It means valuing life over profit, and fighting tirelessly for the right to breathe clean air. Today, we honor Uroš, Eko Krog, and all of the grassroots heroes in similar rights around the world.

The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prestigious award reserved for grassroots environmental activists and is considered a “green nobel prize.” For more information on the prize visit goldmanprize.org/uroš. For more information on waste burning in cement kilns and organizing around the world, see no-burn.org/cement


Simona Bonafè drives Europe to a circular economy

For immediate release: Brussels, March 14, 2017

A future without waste in Europe is now closer to reality, after today, the European Parliament approved the Bonafè report. In a clear signal to both the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament has confirmed the increased ambition of the Environment Committee on four legislative proposals on waste. Now a common text needs to be agreed with the Council before it becomes law.

The Italian MEP Simona Bonafè has managed to raise the level of ambition of the Commission proposal by setting a 70% recycling target for all waste (5% to be prepared for reuse), 80% for packaging waste and by making separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, the text generalises the use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.

Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Zero Waste cities across Europe have already been successfully implementing the measures that were approved today. If the European Parliament decision becomes law they will become the mainstream”

The text adopted at the European Parliament today includes proposals to close the loop the call to review the Eco-design Directive with a broader scope and the emphasis on eco-design-guided Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to bring sustainable products.

Additionally, the report calls on the Commission to bring in new legislative proposals, such as a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste. The role of prevention has also been improved with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth) but remains far from being top priority.

Zero Waste Europe’s Rosa added: “The Parliament has raised the stakes for the circular economy. It’s time for the Member States to make it happen.” In this sense, Vice-President Timmermans when addressing the Parliament this morning acknowledged the emphasis on prevention and said he would do his best to make the final text be the closest to the one of the Parliament.

Zero Waste Europe congratulates the European Parliament and the team of rapporteurs and calls on the Council to accept these proposals.
ENDS

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer
ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu
+32 470 838 105


More Tourists Equals More Waste

By Erika Oblak, Ekologi brez meja / Zero Waste Slovenia

The municipality of Bled (with a population of 8,171 people) is one of the most famous and popular Slovenian tourist destinations, both nationally and internationally. The town is located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, on the picturesque shores of Lake Bled. At the beginning of 2015 Bled became the 7th Slovenian municipality on the road to Zero Waste. As a part of the recognition process we analysed their waste management data, and noticed a steep increase in municipal waste and residual waste generation during the summer months, starting at the beginning of June and lasting until the end of September when the data plummeted again. When we linked the data to tourist arrivals and overnight stays, and it matched perfectly.

Photo: Bled municipality

When I started researching tourism it became obvious that waste is one of its major environmental impacts. Hotels, restaurants and other facilities use a huge amounts of products, very often delivered and packed in personal single use plastic packaging. For example, small plastic shampoo and soap bottles in hotel rooms. Or personal packaging for marmalade, honey and butter served at breakfast. Multiplied by the number of hotel beds and the number of overnight stays, it gives a rough picture of the magnitude of the problem. Data I came across claimed that as tourists we use more water, electricity and create more waste than when we live our ordinary everyday lives.

Looking for a solution, I was surprised how little literature is available on waste management in the tourism industry. The majority of those I could find mainly discussed strategies and recommendations, but in most cases lacked the data showing the effects of carrying them out. Zero Waste tourism soon became a focus of the Zero Waste Slovenia team. We set up a project aimed at finding waste minimisation and recycling solutions for events, hotels and restaurants.

The events turned out to be the easier part. There is a fair amount of literature with solutions and examples from different countries, including detailed guidelines. We integrated those which correspond best to our solid municipal waste management systems and legislation, and included the Zero Waste International Alliance recognition requirements for businesses. Again, Zero Waste Europe member organisations and staff turn out to be a priceless source of information: with their help we came across some inspirational stories like Boom festival in Portugal or Ecofesta Puglia in Italy. Armed with Zero Waste Events Guidelines, tailor-made for Slovenian circumstances, we organised several workshops around the country, which were eagerly accepted by event organisers.

Workshop for event organizers in Maribor (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)

Hotels were a harder nut to crack. First we checked the requirements of various green certificates, which mainly require waste separation and some basic prevention measures. The WRAP program is a good source for the ideas on how to minimise food waste in restaurants and hotel kitchens. The share of biodegradable waste in all waste generated in an average hotel is between 40% and 60%. After a while we started believing hotels might be too big a challenge for a small team as ours.

That was until Zero Waste Europe’s Enzo Favoino came to our rescue (again). He connected us with Antonino Esposito, who started introducing Zero Waste principles to hotels in famous Italian tourist destination, Sorrento. Antonino kindly accepted our invitation to join the project and we slowly began to understand why we couldn’t find much literature. Every hotel is its own story. They are diverse in size, services they offer, stars categories they need to comply with, some have already adopted green policies, others have not, etc. Reaching Zero Waste goals requires a complete change of the hotel’s culture, including employees, guests and suppliers. Such changes are only successful if they are developed slowly.

While Antonino trained and equipped our team with his Zero Waste tips and tricks, we were eager to find a pilot hotel ready to embark on a Zero Waste adventure. It turned out the concept fit perfectly into the vision of Hotel Ribno in Bled. At the moment our team – with Antonino’s support – is drafting proposed actions towards Zero Waste goals.

The co-funding by the Ministry of Environment ended at the end of February with the closing event at Astoria Hotel in Bled, a learning centre for catering and tourism. Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini (Ecofesta Puglia) presented their work to a number of hotels, event organisers, municipalities, NGOs, waste management companies and representatives of the Slovenian Tourist Organization. Since several hotels and event organisers expressed their interest in Zero Waste, we are convinced Zero Waste tourism will become one of our success stories.

Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini presenting their work in Bled (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)

Globally, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, with Europe contributing half of international arrivals and about the same in income. More tourists equals more waste, and more waste inevitably translates into a larger environmental footprint. It is not just a problem in the areas where establishing an efficient waste management system is challenging, like small islands or remote, sparsely populated areas. Bananas or pineapples travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers to end up at the breakfast buffet of a Northwest town in Slovenian Alps, using energy and adding GHG emissions. Waste, especially plastic, became a huge problem also in terms of the decreased value of tourist destinations. Solid waste minimisation should therefore become an important task for tourism sector. Not only to manage its own waste, but also to support and participate in setting up efficient waste management of tourist destinations. After all: who’d want to lie on a beach covered by plastic trash or stay in a mountain camp with waste rotting nearby?


Tell Supermarkets to Stop Using Non-Recyclable Plastic

A new petition asks large supermarket chains in France to stop using non-recyclable plastic in their own-branded milk bottles. The bottles are causing mayhem in recycling plants and stalling the country’s circular economy goals.

What’s in a circle? Well at first glance we might think nothing of it. Its simplicity evokes plainness, but as we look deeper we discover harmony at its core. Harmony in the form of completeness and sustainability. Harmony in the form of collaboration and sharing. Harmony in the form of life as we know it. There’s much more to a circle than meets the eye. Just like with a circular economy.  Although the concept seems simple, creating a truly sustainable economy means careful planning, attention to detail, and that every section of the economy works together in harmony.

While across Europe, the circular economy concept has taken root, the unfortunate truth is that not everyone is entirely on board with circular design.

Recently, Zero Waste France discovered that many of France’s large supermarket chains who stock their own branded milk on the shelves use bottles made from the non-recyclable polymer commonly known as opaque PET. That equates to millions of non-recyclable bottles in the French marketplace alone. And with the implementation of proper recycling methods far from being ready, the presence of opaque PET in recycling centers disrupts the entire process because it can’t properly be identified by current machinery. This has led to the unnecessary allocation of manpower and resources to handle this difficult material, the costs of which fall on the shoulders of the taxpayer.

We can all help solve this problem while also checking one for mother earth by signing Zero Waste France’s petition which aims to stop the usage of opaque PET among supermarket chains in France.

Although a small effort, the signing of the petition not only pinpoints a major sustainable ‘no-no’ in the bottling industry, but also contributes towards the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system. As a tool that can be used to provide economic incentives for producers to better design their products, EPR schemes are designed to penalize non-circular products, ensuring that the polluter pays, not the people.

The idea behind it is to create a closed-loop economy and incentivize producers to either create products that are durable, reusable, repairable, and recycle or pay the price.

EPR schemes can be one of the essential cornerstones for transitioning to a circular economy, however, it’s clear that there’s much room for improvement regarding their performance and implementation here in Europe.

With your help and support, we’re one step closer to closing the loop on that circle and building a future fit for both the environment and the people living in it.

 

 

 

 

Graph showing results of recent research showing the gap between amount of EU municipal waste eligible under an EPR scheme (70%), and how much is actually covered (45%). Source: Zero Waste Europe, Extended Producer Responsibility: Creating the Frame for Circular Products, January 2017.

 

 

This blog was written by Christopher Nicastro for Zero Waste Europe


Zero Waste progress in Romania

The tireless work of Zero Waste Romania, recently won many victories, here they share some of their achievements. To find our more get in contact via their Facebook page or email them directly. In the coming weeks we will be looking at other stories of zero waste practices in Central & Eastern Europe.

Iasi, the first big municipality in Romania to adopt the zero waste strategy

The city of Iasi has joined the “Zero Waste Municipality” international network and become the biggest city in Romania, with a population of over 350 000 inhabitants, that engaged to adopt the zero waste methodology with proven impact in other over 350 cities across Europe, in facilitating the transition towards circular economy.

The affiliation process started in September 2016, when Mihai Chirica, the mayor of Iasi, signed a formal engagement letter and organized a task force group with all the main actors involved in the waste management at local level from the waste operator, local Police and NGOs to the Ministry of Environment.

Mihai Chirica, Mayor of Iasi

The first solutions which are to be adopted in local legislation are the following:

  • separate collection at source of three types of waste: recyclables, compostable/biowaste and residual waste. The source collection will be programmed on different days for each type of waste category and the biowaste will be composted or converted in biogas;
  • introduction of the  “Pay as you Throw” system;

Funding is also being sought for the extension of the existing Municipal Waste Collection Center with a repair and resale center for furniture, textiles, electronics and construction waste, a pioneering initiative in Romania.

The “zero waste” methodology has been adopted by 40 other small communities and cities including Targu Lapus, the first Romanian city to adopt the strategy in 2014.

PAYT legislation in Romania

In October 2016, Romania included in the waste framework legislation the “Pay as you Throw” instrument to be implemented at national level, whenever it is technically and economically viable following the 2008/98/EC recommended language. Even if not mandatory, this event marks a historical milestone in the battle for an improved waste management system still based mostly on landfilling and opened the door to municipalities to adopt the instrument in local legislation and modify their commercial contract with the waste operator.  The first city in progress to adopt PAYT is Iasi (+350 000 inhabitants), followed by Oradea (+250 000 inhabitants) which will be announced in April 2017.


From waste to taste: Funghi Espresso brings new life to used coffee grounds

By guest blogger Tiffany Fourment

It is estimated that Italians drink 14 billion espressos every year. While many enjoy their daily espresso, they may never consider the waste – an estimated 380,000 tons of coffee grounds – left behind by such a large amount of coffee production. The Italian startup Funghi Espresso has developed an innovative system that closes the loop of coffee production – recycling the waste to create a new product.

The founders of Funghi Espresso

Funghi Espresso was born in 2013 out of an environmental education pilot project that taught children to cultivate mushrooms using coffee grounds as a substrate (the substance that the mushrooms gain nutrients from). The success of this project led to the development of an innovative and sustainable model of resource reuse and production inspired by the principles of Blue Economy. Funghi Espresso collects discarded coffee grounds from bars and restaurants in the territory, and uses them as a substrate for cultivating mushrooms, which are then sold to local restaurants and consumers. Since its inception in 2014, the company has recovered over twelve tons of coffee grounds, and used them to produce over one ton of fresh mushrooms. The process does not stop there – after

use in mushroom cultivation, the now twice-used grounds are repurposed yet again as compost to enrich agricultural soils. The company also produces “Do it Yourself” kits for growing mushrooms at home using the same coffee ground substrate.

Funghi Espresso has been recognized and rewarded for its creative approach in numerous ways, including being selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIPAAF) as one of the 25 most innovative agricultural startups in Italy.

It is a simple, yet brilliant idea; an example of “thinking outside the box” to solve a problem that many people never even realized exists, and create a system of sustainable, local and circular production from which everyone benefits.


Vote at ENVI Committee paves the way for zero waste

On 24th January the Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted the legislative report for the four waste directives under discussion. With this, the legislative process goes a step further in the path to full adoption and will be voted at the Plenary in March. In the meantime, the Council is still negotiating its own position, so the final text will probably have to wait until Autumn.

Although the text approved on the 24th isn’t a final document, it certainly gives a clear direction on how to move towards a circular economy and zero waste. The MEPs and the rapporteur Simona Bonafè delivered the ambition the European Commission had forgotten and included brave measures to drive Europe towards a sustainable use of natural resources.

Among the amendments approved to the Commission’s proposal, the MEPs included an increase of the recycling targets for 2030 for municipal waste and for packaging to 70% and 80% respectively. Within the recycling target, it is particularly interesting to see that, at least, 5% of it should be prepared for reuse. For packaging, a target of 10% of reusable packaging by 2030 was inserted. Besides, the maximum target is reduced to 5% of all municipal waste. Zero Waste Europe welcomes the increased ambition, but regrets the lack of specific accompanying measures to the landfilling target. In this sense, Zero Waste Europe warns that the reduction of landfilling and progressive phase out shouldn’t mean an increase of incineration capacities, but rather a shift towards prevention, reuse and recycling.

In order to meet these objectives, MEPs took note of the success stories across Europe and proposed making separate collection truly compulsory for paper, glass, metals, plastic and extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste oils. MEPs approved getting rid of current loopholes that allow Member States not to roll out separate collection. In addition to separate collection, MEPs proposed making extensive use of economic incentives, such as landfill and incineration taxes or pay-as-you-throw schemes.

ENVI Committee Meeting

The Environment Committee of the Parliament also approved bolder minimum requirements for Producer Responsibility Schemes that will have to cover now the whole cost of waste management of the products they put in the market and will have to modulate their fees to drive eco-design. Another important amendments approved is the push on Member States to support the uptake of secondary raw materials.

Despite these strong messages, the most significant problem with the report adopted at ENVI Committee is the role of prevention. Although it sets three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and decoupling of waste generation from GDP growth), these remain non-binding and prevention is still far from being the cornerstone of waste policies. However, MEPs called on the Commission to set up a EU-wide waste prevention target, which is very much welcomed by Zero Waste Europe. ZWE also call on Member States to truly aim at achieving these targets.

Although this is only the first step in the legislative process, Zero Waste Europe overall welcomes the report adopted at ENVI Committee and urges on national governments to step up their level of ambition and make sure waste directives are properly implemented.


Towards a new European mindset on waste-to-energy?

The European Commission released on 26 January the Communication on the Role of Waste-to-Energy in a Circular Economy. Although non-binding, the communication analyses the current role of waste-to-energy and gives guidance on Member States on how to cope with the problems this generates.

From Zero Waste Europe’s point of view, the Commission has positively changed its position from promoting incineration to acknowledging the problems related to overcapacities, distortive economic incentives and the risk that a very quick phasing out of landfills shifts waste from these to incinerators and not to prevention, reuse and recycling.

In this regard, the Commission advises those Member States heavily relying on landfills to focus on separate collection, on increasing recycling capacity and on diverting bio-waste from landfills. It insists that in case these Member States want to obtain energy from waste, they are recommended to recycle bio-waste through anaerobic digestion. In addition, they are called on taking into account the commitments and objectives for next 20-30 years (separate collection and recycling targets) and carefully assess the evolution expected for mixed waste when planning infrastructures, so as to avoid regrettable investments (i.e. redundant incinerators).

When it comes to those Member States heavily relying on incineration, the Commission calls on them to raise taxes on waste-to-energy, phase out public support schemes, decommission old facilities and establish a moratorium on new ones.  The case on defunding waste-to-energy has been extended to all Member States, so as not to distort the waste hierarchy. In this sense, the Commission acknowledges that the waste operations delivering the highest reduction of GHG emissions are prevention, reuse and recycling and are the ones to be promoted, something Eunomia’s report for Zero Waste Europe of 2015 already showed.

Zero Waste Europe welcomes this call, but would have expected the Commission to show this ambition when last November proposed a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive that is the one opening the door for renewable energy subsidies for incineration. ZWE expects MEPs and national governments to take note of this communication when reviewing the Directive and bring coherence between EU legislation.

ZWE notes, however, that the text still considers that waste incineration has a role within a circular economy, which is a conceptual contradiction because if material loops are effectively closed there is nothing left to burn. A more accurate approach would be to say that the capacity of waste to energy incineration is to be used in the transition period to a circular economy but once proper material and value preservation policies are successfully implemented burning waste will be redundant.

Finally ZWE’s warns about the Commission current double standards with its approach to waste to energy (WtE) in Europe and its support to WtE in the rest of the world, particularly in the Global South where we have seen successful recycling programs having been dismantled to feed the European funded incineration plants.

Nevertheless, this communication seems a change in the mindset of the European Commission and a positive step to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies and move towards zero waste.


Commission calls for defunding of waste-to-energy

For immediate release: Brussels, January 26, 2017

The European Commission published today the Communication on the role of waste-to-energy in a circular economy. The text, although non-binding, provides clarity for the implementation of the waste hierarchy and gives guidance for Member States to avoid problems such as incineration overcapacity.

For the countries with low incineration capacities and highly dependent on landfilling, the Commission advises to focus on improving separate collection and increasing the recycling capacity. Priority should be given to collection and recycling of bio-waste and to take into account a long-term perspective when assessing the need of so-called waste-to-energy facilities, as mixed waste is expected to be significantly reduced in the coming years as recycling rises.

Those countries with high incineration capacity (typically Northern European countries) are, however, recommended to raise incineration taxes, to phase out primes and subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration and to introduce a moratorium on new facilities, as well as decommissioning old ones.

Member States are recommended to phase out public subsidy for the recovery of energy from waste, and so is the support from the Commission for this infrastructure through EU funds.

Zero Waste Europe urges Member States to implement these recommendations so they move up in the waste hierarchy.

Despite these positive recommendations, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) regrets that the European Commission did not include the call to phase out subsidies for waste-to-energy in the recent Renewable Energy Directive proposal. ZWE would remind the commission that energy savings via prevention and recycling are currently undermined by subsidies going to lower levels of the waste hierarchy such as waste incineration. ZWE calls on MEPs and the national governments to fix this during the legislative process.

Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said “We cannot keep wasting our money and resources in subsidising waste-to-energy. Divestment from waste-to-energy is needed if we want to create the right incentives for a circular economy”.

 
ENDS

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer
ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu

+32 470 838 105


Study tour to the Basque Country November 2016

The study tour started with an event organised by Zero Waste Europe and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 28 November. It consisted of an international conference focused on the reduction of costs in waste management for municipalities through the optimisation of separate collection, the reduction of residual waste and the transformation of these fraction into market products. Javier Garaizar, Vice-rector of the Campus of Álava of UPV/EHU opened the conference, followed by Ainhoa Etxeandia, Director of Environment of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council. Their interventions were followed by Joan Marc Simon, Ferran Rosa, Enzo Favoino, Marco Mattiello, Kevin Curran, Nekane Artola and Ainhoa Arrozpide.
48 participants attended the conference, among which we found civil servants, representatives from companies and environmental consultancies, policy-makers, professors and students of the university, etc. The presentations can be found here.

The afternoon was used to get to know the situation regarding waste management in Vitoria-Gasteiz, thanks to the Zero Waste group Gasteiz Zero Zabor.

The 29 and 30 November were devoted to the tour of good practices of waste management and circular economy. The tour allowed visiting municipalities and counties that have experienced a significant improvement in their separate collection systems. Among these experiences, the tour visited small villages like Leintz Gatzaga or Elburgo that collect and treat bio-waste in the same municipality. The participants also visited the counties of Debagoiena and Sasieta to better know about their waste collection systems (door-to-door, roadside containers with chip or mixed systems) that have made the municipalities in these counties reach 70% and 80% separate collection or more.

On top of the good practices of waste management, the tour visited good practices on circular economy. In this sense, several companies were visited in sectors like gastronomy, fashion or remanufacturing.

At the Restaurant Azurmendi of Eneko Atxa, with a three-Michelin-stars Basque chef, the participants learned about the philosophy of the project and visited the facilities. After this visit, an excellent meal was provided and the participants could learn about the way they manage the bio-waste at the restaurants. Gurpide Elkartea, an association working for the municipality of Larrabetzuko, manages the bio-waste of Azurmendi and of the neighbours of the municipality. In Larrabetzuko they follow the ‘Austrian system’ of composting that involves local farmers in the treatment of bio-waste in decentralised composting sites. This reduces the cost for the municipality, while allow the local farmer to obtain an extra income and have access to good quality compost.

Not far from there, in Zamundio, Cristina Cendoya and Mikel Feijoo of Skunkfunk presented the philosophy of the company and the design of the collection Capsule Zero Waste. After that, the tour went to a facility of the social economy company Koopera where they sort 18,000 tn a year of clothes.

In a totally different sector, the tour also visited Rebattery, a company located in Bergara that remanufactures and recovers batteries. Rebattery manages to give a new life to 60-75% of the batteries they receive and place them again in the market.

The three-day study tour was not only interesting, but the living proof of the current initiatives of circular economy in the Basque Country and the potential for these activities to keep growing. The tour managed to successfully illustrate best practices through all the economic cycle.


MEPs bring back Potocnik 2014’s spirit in a push towards zero waste

For immediate release, 24 January 2017

ENVI MEPs want to be bold on Circular Economy. In a clear signal to the Commission and the Council, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament significantly increased the ambition of the Commission’s proposal on waste by including most of former Commissioner Potocnik’s proposals of first Circular Economy Package of 2014.

For Zero Waste Europe, the text adopted at the Environment Committee includes most of the elements of success for zero waste cities across Europe. The text raises, the level of ambition by setting a 70% recycling target (5% of which should be prepared for reuse) and makes separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, Member States are called to make extensive use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.

Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said: “Achieving high recycling and low waste generation is not rocket science, but a matter of setting objectives, ensuring proper separate collection, getting citizens involved and making use of economic incentives and the vote of today allows for all of this to happen”.

The text adopted at the ENVI Committee today -if finally approved- also gives work to the Commission who will have to propose a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste.

The text also emphasises the importance of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to implement eco-design and to reduce waste generation.

Although the role of waste prevention has been also notably improved compared to Commission’s proposal with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth), Zero Waste Europe believes that truly binding measures and targets are needed to achieve the desired effect of significant waste reduction..

Zero Waste Europe congratulates the ENVI Committee and the team of rapporteurs and calls on MEPs to support the adoption of the text in the plenary vote in March.

 

ENDS

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer
ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu

+32 470 838 105


Press Release: New zero waste Roubaix case study shows ‘where there is a will there is a way’

For immediate release: Brussels, December 5, 2016

Today Zero Waste Europe[1] has released their latest case study[2]. Demonstrating how the town of Roubaix in Northern France has been able to make significant steps towards a circular economy. The case study highlights the community projects and schemes which have tackled waste at the source, even where the town lacks competences on waste management.

This case study shows that it is vital to involve all stakeholders to change consumption patterns as well as waste generation habits for a successful implementation of a circular economy. The project was so successful that 25% of participating households were able to reduce their waste generation by over 80% and 70% reduced their waste by 50%.

In previous case studies[3] Zero Waste Europe has demonstrated that high recycling rates combined with low generation of waste and low waste management costs are entirely feasible. Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study, highlights how a comprehensive approach has paved the way for zero waste in Roubaix. By integrating families, institutions, businesses, schools and associations Roubaix is creating a new circular system which aims to cut down waste at source and create a new culture of waste.

The case of Roubaix also showcases also the limitations faced by some municipalities in Europe. Roubaix, like other municipalities in France, lacks direct control of waste collection and management policies, meaning that all changes need to be approved by a consortium of municipalities that, in this case, has been reluctant to approve progressive policies. As a result of this the town decided to take an alternative approach reaching out to various stakeholders in Roubaix to minimise waste at its source.

Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Where there is a will there is a way. By challenging households to directly cut down their waste, Roubaix has proven that we can all adjust our lifestyles to more sustainable patterns and make economic savings at the same time”.

Roubaix, which is considered to be the poorest town in France, illustrates that political will and citizen involvement can drive significant change in any situation, even when the competences and resources are lacking.

With the aim of successfully shifting towards a zero waste society and a circular economy, Zero Waste Europe illustrates best practices and supports local transition. Zero Waste Europe’s new campaign ‘Make your city zero waste!’[4] calls for public support in reaching more municipalities in 2017, and sharing zero waste best practices.

ENDS

NOTES

  1. Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
  2. Download The Story of Roubaix: Case Study 8- https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/case-study-8-the-story-of-roubaix/
  3. Download previous case studies from Zero Waste Europe – https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/zw-library/case-studies/
  4. ‘Make Your City Zero Waste’ campaign.

The Italian recipe against food waste

diem

It’s well known that Italian people consider food as one of the “pleasures of life” but maybe what is less known is that Italian consumers waste per year on average over 100 kg, more than their own weight!

To tackle this situation the Italian Parliament, has recently approved a law against food waste (19 August 2016, n.166), following the example of France. The main aims of the law are:

  • Promoting the recovery and donation of food surpluses for charitable purposes, using firstly for human consumption, secondly for animal consumption and finally for composting (or composting with aerobic digestion). It, thus, introduces an implicit food waste hierarchy.

  • Minimising the negative impacts on the environment and on natural resources, reducing waste generation, encouraging reuse and recycle, extending products life.

The operators of the food sector – both public and private, profit orientated or non-profit– now are able to give away for free their food surplus to the donors, which can then be directed first to people in need, reducing bureaucracy. This is a major step from former legislation that basically “forced” them to throw their surpluses in the garbage.

In addition to food surplus, it is possible to give up also medicine and unused pharmaceutical products, foodstuffs and bakery products (which otherwise, if remain unsold have to be thrown away after 24 h from the production).

Unlike France, Italy aims in toto for incentives, no penalties are provided for those who does not conform to it. Tax benefits are also provided. In fact, to encourage this practice the municipalities may apply a reduction on the TARI, the Italian waste charge, proportional with the quantity, duly certified, of goods and products withdrawn from sale and donated.

Beyond the noble charitable aims of this law, fight against food waste is also really important from the environmental point of view. It is an issue of high importance because of its high environmental impacts, above all related with energy and water consumption, climate change, availability of natural resources, land use and, eventually, waste management. Indeed, if food waste was a country, it has been calculated that it would be the third largest “emitter” of CO2 worldwide, just behind the USA and China! Moreover, 1/4 of Italian forests serve just to absorb carbon dioxide produced as a result of food waste, in Italy alone.

Reducing food waste around the world would mitigate climate change effects, according to a recent study made by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impart Research (PIK), up to 14% of GHG emissions from the agricultural sector could be avoided by managing better food use.

Local composting
Local composting

Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros.

In this, Italy is going in the right direction… encouraging best practices, highlighting again the difference between “best before” and “use by” and reaffirming that all food discarded by the food supply chain for commercial or aesthetic reasons (like few packaging flaws), or proximity to the expiry date, are not waste but good food that can be safely consumed!

The winning “recipe”, that would be worthy of a 3 stars Michelin restaurant, consists of improving the food chain efficiency, promoting different models of production and, above all, sustainable consumption. This would allow not only a reduction in the cost of food, increasing the possibility of access for lower-income people, but also a significantly lower environmental and economic impact of this wastage!


Press Release: MEPs support the end to harmful subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration

For immediate release: Brussels, October 19, 2016

Today, on the International Day of Action on Bioenergy, several MEPs have expressed their support to phase out harmful subsidies that drive waste-to-energy incineration.

Across the EU, waste-to-energy incinerator plants receive financial support in various forms (i.e. feed-in tariff, tax exemption, premium taxes, etc) to produce so-called “renewable energy” from burning the organic portion of residual mixed waste – food waste from restaurants, households, farmers markets, gardens, textiles, clothing, paper and other materials of organic origin.

According to the Bioenergy Policy Paper released today by Zero Waste Europe, these subsidies are one of the major obstacles to achieving a Circular Economy, as most of these materials could be recycled or composted. This incineration process has severe consequences for climate change and air quality due to the huge amounts of greenhouse gases and toxic emissions released.

Ultimately, organic waste should be treated according to the Organic Waste Hierarchy, ensuring proper source-separation and giving priority to composting and biogas generation, after human and animal feed.

Piernicola PEDICINI MEP, EFDD:

I have been fighting against environmentally harmful subsidies in this parliament since a long time. These are one of the main obstacles to the uptake of the circular economy. Waste to-energy incineration is not a sustainable waste management treatment and the emissions from incineration damage the environment and human health. It is now the time for the EU to stand strongly against this harmful practice and redirect investments towards prevention and composting of organic waste.

Bas EICKHOUT MEP, GREENS/EFA:

“In a circular economy there is no waste. Discarded products and materials are reused or re-manufactured. As a final option they are recycled or used biologically. ‘Waste’ consists of finite resources and therefore shouldn’t be incinerated. Counting incineration as renewable energy is an absolute no-go.”

Josu JUARISTI ABAUNZ, GUE/NGL MEP, Basque Country:

“We should definitely aim for greater renewable energy shares, but we need to respect the waste hierarchy over incineration. Incineration goes against the concept of Circular Economy and the waste hierarchy, which favours the reduction of the amount of wasted resources, the increase of their lifecycle and encourages recycling, and so does the EU renewable energy policies which are encouraging the burning of biomass resources, including waste and by-products, as renewable energy. Moreover EU Funds shall not be used to finance waste-energy infrastructure, as incineration practices are not only environmentally harmful (as they are greenhouse emissions contributor); but also, dioxins, produced by waste incineration have shown to be lingering in the bodies of people and identified as the cause of many cancers”.

Dario TAMBURRANO MEP, EFDD:

“The energy produced by incinerating waste can be called “renewable” only if G. Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” philosophy is applied, namely “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery”.

Organic material is recyclable into useful compost, but when burned it becomes instead useless and harmful ash. By providing public support to waste-to-energy, they are simply reducing into ashes the citizens’ money.”

Jean LAMBERT, GREENS/EFA MEP:

“We need to redirect spending to reducing waste and climate emissions and weed out perverse subsidies which encourage us to carry on producing waste for energy purposes – a double blow for the planet.”

Molly SCOTT CATO, GREENS/EFA MEP, South West, UK

“We must stop investing in damaging incineration that runs counter to the idea of a circular economy and undermines a waste hierarchy which prioritises waste prevention, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion.”

ENDS

NOTES

  1. Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
  2. Harmful subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration: a pending issue for the Renewable Energy Directive and Bioenergy Sustainability Policy – https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/REcasestudy_final8.pdf

New zero waste comic released

Middle Pages of Fran's Comic

A new comic has been released by the United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN). The comic, titled ‘Everything Goes Somewhere’ features intricate illustration and lettering from Frances Howe, and can be purchased at UKWIN website.

The illustrated comic is a work of art in itself and can be used to communicate the message that incineration has no places in a circular economy where we need to look towards zero waste solutions.

Within the first week of publication, the pamphlet has already sold more than 1,000 copies and is currently being translated into Bahasa Indonesia, making it more accessible across South-East Asia.

For Frances the project took 9 months of work from the conception of the idea to the release, and made up a part of their Masters Degree in Graphic Arts. The project received research and administrative assistance from Zero Waste Europe and UKWIN leading the the publication of this amazing document.

ukwin-comic-cover-1
The front cover of the comic

The illustrator Frances Howe elaborated on their work, saying “My work attempts to generate debate and provoke more questions than it answers. I like working with visual narratives because they provide different ways for people to experience a piece of work. For example, do they focus on the pictures or the text? Do they read it in a linear way or take it in all at once? This makes comics an inherently democratic medium because the viewer has so much choice about how to interact with it.

“I wanted to make comics about extreme energy in general, and waste incineration in particular, because it brings up a lot of topics and questions that are not always easy to discuss; questions about energy, climate change, pollution, social and environmental justice, as well as consumption, capitalism, local democracy and community agency for change.

“My hope is that using a medium such as comics, which encourages freer thought and associations between things, can help people to engage with these topics in a way that gives them more agency to get involved in making change.”

The comics are printed in full colour on two sides of durable A1 card which has been folded down to A4, and can fold out to be used as a poster highlighting the necessity for a move to a zero waste world.

The comics can be purchased from the UKWIN website with discounts available for buying larger quantities.


Press Release: Circular Economy can be a game-changer to reach ESR targets

For immediate release: Brussels, September 27 2016

Contact: Mariel Vilella , Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director-  mariel@zerowasteeurope.eu

Zero Waste Europe[1] has responded to the consultation on the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) by highlighting the contribution that the waste sector can bring to a low-carbon economy, and calling the European Commission to have higher ambition.

In the response submitted today[2], Zero Waste Europe pointed out that the implementation of the Circular Economy Package could deliver far more GHG emission reductions than the total amount targeted by the implementation of the ESR, if GHG emissions savings from recycling and reduction of waste were accounted for, which shows that there is very significant room for improvement.

Recent research calculated[3] the climate benefit from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tonnes CO2-eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.

In comparison, the overall ESR proposal expects to reduce is 1,000 million/tonnes for the period 2021-2030, an average of 111 million/tonnes per year[4]. This lower figure partly responds to the fact that the ESR is not taking into consideration the recycling and waste reduction related targets from the Circular Economy Package.

In this sense, with the proper accounting methodologies in place, the ESR ambition could be much higher and more coherent with the sectoral policies.

“The Effort Sharing Regulation should set mitigation targets that are consistent with the targets of the Circular Economy Package, making sure that the two sets of policies are coherent. These policies are called to drive the transition across sectors to a low-carbon economy, ensuring actual emission reductions and creative solutions for a long-lasting, inclusive change,“ said Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director.

Furthermore, the response highlights that zero waste solutions, alongside climate action in other sectors, will contribute to achieving the global target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees global warming, embracing the principles of conservation of materials, the reduction of toxics, equitable distribution, and access to resources.

The response submitted by Zero Waste Europe is available to download on our website.

Contact: Mariel Vilella , Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director-  mariel@zerowasteeurope.eu

NOTES

  1. Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
  2. Zero Waste Europe’s official response to the ESR consultation: https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ESRSubmission.pdf_V4.pdf
  3. The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy, Eunomia/ZWE, 2015. https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/the-potential-contribution-of-waste-management-to-a-low-carbon-economy/
  4. The EU 2016 Reference Scenario, see here: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/20160712_Summary_Ref_scenario_MAIN_RESULTS%20(2)-web.pdf

Press Release: Germany should work for and not against a Circular Economy in Europe

For immediate release: Brussels, September 16 2016

Zero Waste Europe[1] strongly objects to the Germany’s proposal to postpone recycling targets which are included in the waste package and are one of the flagships of the Circular Economy strategy.

After reporting 65.12% recycling rate on latest Eurostat statistics for 2014, Germany now asks for a target-free Circular Economy Package, arguing that a 65% recycling rate target by 2030 may not be feasible. According to Germany, a new methodology based on national standard loss rates should be tested for 3 years, after which the Commission could come up with “feasible” targets, opening the door for lower targets or no targets at all. This proposal would contradict current legislation which mandates the Commission to propose higher targets after 2014.

The European Commission has acknowledged[2] that recycling targets and separate collection schemes have been the major driver of high recycling rates in many countries, including Germany. Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s waste policy officer wondered: “Germany has their own national targets. If it’s positive and achievable for Germany, why wouldn’t they be possible for the rest of Europe? Either their statistics aren’t accurate or they have an interest in low-recycling rates”.

In this regard, Mr Rosa added that “Europe’s recycling leader is also the leading country in Europe for waste imports for incineration. The removal of recycling targets combined with close-to-zero landfill disposal will only serve to feed German incineration overcapacity and push for adding even more incinerators to the already saturated incineration market”.

Zero Waste Europe’s examples of best practices[3] from across the continent have repeatedly proved the feasibility of achieving high recycling rates within a short period of time, supporting local jobs and increased environmental protection.

Germany’s position also rejects the Commission’s proposal of EU-wide minimum requirements for EPR schemes that are meant to drive recyclability and repairability of the products covered by existing or new Extended Producer Responsibility schemes.

“We cannot afford to have the European engine putting the breaks on the Circular Economy. A target-free Circular Economy package with almost no binding measures will not bring the systemic change needed” concluded Rosa.

NOTES

  1.  Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.euZero Waste Europe
  2. Zero Waste Europe Case Studies: https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/zw-library/case-studies/
  3. European Commission Impact Assessment accompanying Directive Proposal: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:0c4bbc1d-02ba-11e4-831f-01aa75ed71a1.0001.02/DOC_4&format=PDF 

ENDS


What is the “State of the Art” after Malagrotta judgement?

discariche

This blog was written by Miriam Scolaro, Miriam is currently interning at Zero Waste Europe in the Brussels office.

For over 30 years Malagrotta landfill was the largest in Europe, collecting municipal waste from Rome and several surrounding municipalities of the Lazio region. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has recently ruled that the Malagrotta landfill is in violation of EU landfill and waste management legislation.

During the infringement procedure it was proven that municipal solid waste (MSW) was disposed in Rome landfills (until at least the 1st of August 2012) without being subject to the proper treatments, or the stabilisation of the organic fraction. By acting this way Italy had violated EU legislation on landfill and waste management, in particular because of conferring landfilling MSW in Malagrotta and in other 5 landfill sites without previous pretreatment, they were not in compliance with the Landfill Directive. Moreover, according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Italy is also responsible for failing to establish an integrated and adequate network of waste disposal and installations for the recovery of mixed municipal waste, incorporating the best available techniques.

According to the “Malagrotta Judgement” Italy, had not only violated article 4 of the Waste Framework Directive – related to waste hierarchy – but also article 13 , which establishes that Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that waste management is carried out without endangering human health and without harming the environment. As required by the waste hierarchy, landfilling is the least preferable option for dealing with MSW and should be limited to the necessary minimum. However, where waste needs to be landfilled, it must be send to landfills which follow specific requirements fixed by the Landfill Directive, with one of them being the proper treatment of waste.

This point is a key issue which was addressed in the ECJ judgement, because, to avoid any risks, only waste that has been subject to treatment can be landfilled. But what does that “treatment” mean and what happened in those Italian landfills? According to the Landfill directive treatment means “the physical, thermal, chemical or biological processes, including sorting, that change the characteristics of waste in order to reduce its volume or hazardous nature, facilitate its handling or enhance recovery”. The Court of Justice concludes that Italy was sending waste to the Malagrotta landfill without sufficient treatment and therefore condemns Italy, as the Court understands that this should include the proper sorting of waste and the stabilisation of the organic fraction, so simply storing waste as in the Malagrotta case is simply not enough.

93547246-586x389

So, what is the “state of the art”, after the Malagrotta judgement? The European Commission is currently verifying compliance with this sentence across all of Europe, while the conclusions of the Commission’s study regarding the implementation are awaited, the situation continues unfortunately remains to be almost the same in many landfills.

Although  the decisions around municipal waste are primarily local, the European Union sets out, in the Waste Framework Directive, the basic concept and principles related to waste management for Europe. The overall goal of legislation so far has been to have waste managed in a way that doesn’t jeopardise human health or damage the environment, with special attention to minimising risks to water, air, soil, plants or animals, nuisances through noise or odours, and the potential adverse effects on the countryside or places of special interest.

Drstuey (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Drstuey (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In order to prevent and reduce the adverse impacts of waste, it’s necessary to address the overall impact of resource use and to have an efficient and sustainable use of them. To do this, the directive introduced the well-known five-step Waste Hierarchy by which there is a preferred option of preventing the creation of waste, that is followed by preparation for re-use and recycling. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the Directive placed non-material recovery operations (e.g. so called ‘Waste-to-Energy’) and, lastly, disposal.

The top priority of waste management is the reduction of demand for virgin materials and the avoidance of waste creation, which is to be achieved by prevention – measures taken before a substance, material or product become waste – and by minimising the use of materials in products.

One tier lower there is ‘preparation for re-use’, meaning that once waste has been generated, the priority should be to make entire products or components able to be used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived, therefore, giving the product a new life mostly through repair activities.

If the product can’t be given a new life, the priority is given to recycling, including any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes. The Member State (MS) shall take all measures to promote high quality of recycling and shall set up separate collection of waste for that extent.

After avoiding, reusing and recycling, the Waste Framework Directive places other recovery operations, such as ‘energy recovery’ by which waste is burned producing heat and electricity or, if no recovery operation is undertaken -that fulfils a concrete energy efficiency formula-, we find disposal of waste as least desirable option, including any operation intending to eliminate waste in a form that no recovery happens, be it material or energy.

Zero Waste Europe, as part of the Zero Waste International Alliance, focus on a more detailed and effective ‘Zero Waste Hierarchy’, focused on designing waste out the system instead of pursuing false solutions such as attempting to perfect incinerators and landfills. However, the Waste Hierarchy  remains one of the most effective tools enshrined in EU legislation.

The Zero Waste International Alliance's 'Zero Waste Hierarchy'
The Zero Waste International Alliance’s ‘Zero Waste Hierarchy’

Although, the Waste Framework Directive offers reasonable guidance to manage waste in a sustainable way and makes waste management plans and separate collection of some fractions to a certain extent compulsory, it has been insufficient not only to make Europe resource-efficient but even to ensure sound and proper waste management. Proof of this is that the recommendation of separately collected bio-waste, aiming at re-introducing the carbon in the soils while diverting it from landfills is far from being generalised or that the recycling targets of 50% are far from being met in many Member States, even if only looking at paper, metal, glass and plastic.

Aside from the obligations set out in the Waste Framework Directive, EU law set out obligations through other relevant waste-related legislation, such as the ‘Landfill Directive’ or the ‘Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive’, and the jurisprudence of the ECJ. The Malagrotta Judgement is one of the most significant recent cases pursued by the ECJ this case provides effective guidance on the implementation of ‘Waste Framework Directive’ and the ‘Landfill Directive’ and is poised to have a big impact on the disposal of waste.

 

Has the Italian capital learnt anything about this history?

In Rome the main question always seems to remain where to place another landfill, and even, during the last days, the President of Ama (the public company that provides waste management in Rome) Daniele Fortini has alluded to the possibility of reopening Malagrotta. Once again, the attention isn’t on how to make Italy or Rome resource-efficient but mostly about how to get rid of waste to avoid an emergency. A short-term solution instead of a long term one. (At this point, the approach from a linear to a real circular economy don’t seem to be among the priorities and this contradicts above all the EU vision and goals).

 

Has EU Law learned anything about this?

For long the EU has focused waste legislation on ensuring the proper disposal of waste, on getting rid of it with the minimum nuisances to the environment, human health or society. *The idea of a circular economy changes the paradigm by emphasising the importance of extending the life and use of products and material.

Indeed, the Circular Economy Package could be the best opportunity for implementing the Malagrotta Judgement by ensuring that we don’t need to dispose of waste anymore. However, although it introduces for the first time the obligation of separate collection for bio-waste, the obligation only takes place if technically, environmentally and economically practicable. From this point of view, Zero Waste Europe defends the elimination of the proposed and existing loopholes on EU legislation by making, for instance, separate collection of waste truly mandatory and ensuring that bio-waste is composted or anaerobically digested. ZWE encourages the EU Legislator to enforce this judgement and truly implement waste hierarchy by effectively making waste prevention the centre of all waste policies.

On the other hand, the current EU legislation does not seem to be working to advance the waste hierarchy, for this reason many directives should be revised – this is would bring policy into line with the EU’s intention – including the WFD. One source of “inspiration” for EU Commission in order to make such a proposal should be the Zero Waste Hierarchy, which proposes a more ambitious waste hierarchy, including a real waste prevention plans. If we look for instance at the economic incentives at the EU level, they continue to reward disposal instead of recycling. So, in order to increase recycling the first thing that should be done is withdraw harmful subsidies. Then in our vision it is also necessary to regulate incineration overcapacity in order to make recycling more attractive and, the EU should start promoting legal and economic incentives, such as bans on the incineration and landfilling of recyclable waste.


The Zero Waste Festival, the place to be for zero waste advocates

Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Ferran Rosa covers his experience of the Zero Waste Festival in Paris.

From 30th June to 2nd July the first Zero Waste Festival took place in Paris. Organised by Zero Waste France, the festival brought 5,000 participants together in a unique event where policy-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, waste managers, individuals living a zero waste lifestyle and civil society organisations shared a forum.

The Festival successfully managed to provide a holistic vision around waste, from management and institutional solutions, to consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles. More than a congress on zero waste, it was truly a Festival, with workshops, conferences, debates, seminars and lots of space to discuss and learn from different experiences, all accompanied with an excellent atmosphere of good music and veggie food.

Zero Waste France was made the case for the need to transition towards Zero Waste from many different angles including: individual consumption and waste generation patterns, municipal waste management, requirements for design, industrial responsibility, and more. In this regards, a wide range of solutions enabling a phase out of the take-make-dispose model were presented, from collective action (Capannori, Parma or San Francisco) to individual engagement to transition (Roubaix, Bea Johnson or Famille Zero Déchet).

Among these solutions, Zero Waste Europe launched its latest campaign, the People’s Design Lab, a collaborative tool allowing citizens to nominate wasteful products that will eventually be, redesigned in design workshops partnering with consumers, producers and designers. On top of that, Zero Waste Europe presented the network of Zero Waste municipalities and the importance of building a network of change-makers at the European level so that municipalities can learn from each other.

The attendance of 5,000 people at the Festival is testament to the success of Zero Waste France’s initiative and that there are plenty of people willing to make the transition happen in France and abroad, and that this number is indeed growing. The Festival didn’t only inspire individuals to finally live a zero waste lifestyle, but also local councillors to re-think their waste management systems and individuals to create a local Zero Waste groups.


Resourcing the future 2016, London

The following presentation was given in the form of a speech by Zero Waste Europe Director, Joan Marc Simon at the ‘Resourcing the Future 2016’ conference organised by CIWM in London.

Is the Circular Economy strategy on the right track? Yes but it is still too slow, in need of some fine-tuning and to escape bad habits from the past.

The exercise we are undertaking is an ambitious one, close the material loop and turn waste into resources; creating a zero waste society from which the EU’s economy and environment should benefit.

How do we know if the Circular Economy strategy is on the right track? In my opinion there are three guiding principles to follow which shed light on the path to follow.

Is doing the right thing easier and cheaper than doing the wrong thing?

Today in many places in the EU mixing all the garbage together and have it processed in expensive ineffective facilities before burning it or dumping it in landfills is still the easiest and cheapest thing to do. Unless you plan to turn 500 million Europeans into environmentalists we need to change the way we do things and make it easier for the citizens to do the right thing whilst making visible the reward for this effort.

In this sense the proposals from the text of the European Commission and the European Parliament to make separate collection compulsory for most waste fractions, especially of biowaste, is a good one, as it will set high targets for recycling because it provides legal certainty for investment.

It is also good to make recovery and disposal activities more and more expensive so that recycling and composting become comparatively cheaper.

For this purpose fiscal incentives are very important; from landfill and incineration taxes to widespread use of pay as you throw systems.

The examples from the ZWE case studies from the network of Zero Waste municipalities illustrate very clearly how it is possible to implement aggressive source separation schemes in less than 10 years (in the case of Parma less than 5 years) doubling recycling rates and radically reducing the waste that is to be sent to landfills and incinerators; what is known as residual waste.

Capa

 

conta
lub
Parm

These examples prove that working on the upper levels of the waste hierarchy are more effective and cheaper than any other option and hence that the recycling targets set by the European Commission and increased by Bonafè’s report are perfectly realistic. However we warn about the danger of lock-in situations which can jeopardise the implementation of a zero waste strategy and also substantially delay the achievement of the EU waste recycling targets.

This applies notably to the cap on waste sent to landfilling which the EC wants to set at 10% of all MSW generated and the Bonafè’s report proposes to reduce to 5%. Whilst it is important to progressively reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, if we are serious about moving towards a Circular Economy we need to focus on reducing “leakage” from the system and that means landfill and incineration.

Failing to do so will mean repeating the same mistake that some countries committed when implementing landfill bans and which caused that the waste diverted from landfills to end up in incinerators proportionally more than to recycling. In the cases of Austria and Norway they saw waste sent for recycling decrease in favour of incineration. The graph below shows how landfill bans tend to drive more incineration than recycling or waste reduction.

graph1

We need to gradually phase out incineration and landfilling and the most effective way to do that is by using a residual waste reduction target. We advocate for the inclusion of a residual waste target of 100kg per person per year for 2030. Slovenia is very close to achieving this and Holland has set it as a target. Why not having it at the EU level to complement the recycling targets?

resid

The EU needs to change the lenses with which it looks at waste management and complement the recycling targets with residual waste target to tackle the amount of waste leaking the system.

In a Circular Economy consumers and providers interests should be aligned when it comes to what they expect from the product

When I rent a car my interests and those of the rental company regarding the car are the same, we all want a car that works well, that lasts and which is easily and quickly repairable when I buy a phone they are not. I want a phone that works and lasts and the company wants to my phone to break soon so that I get a new one.

It will be impossible to have a circular economy for as long as the business model of producers is based on selling as much stuff as possible in as little time as possible. This results in wasteful products, designed for the dump, which break to soon and are neither repairable nor recyclable.

In a CE both producers and consumers should benefit from products that are toxic-free and designed to preserve the energy and the value of its components. If these interests are aligned we will see the amounts of waste decrease sharply.

For this to happen we need to design the right incentives for providers and cosumers. This goes beyond waste legislation and entails working on extended warranties, products passports, facilitating information about life-expectancy of the product, reduced VAT for second hand and repaired products, changing depreciation rules to adapt them to the new extended lifes of products and progressive green procurement rules.

A basic point that is relevant for the discussion on waste is the creation of a feed-back mechanism between waste and design in order to avoid the product becoming waste in the future.

In the following graph about EPR we can see how in Europe the implementation of EPR is still not covering most of the products – 55% not covered and is performing poorly for those that are covered by EPR with only 18% of a product’s waste is collected through EPR.

epr

With these results it is clear that the EPR schemes should improve their performance but we should also consider expanding the scope of EPR to cover more product categories than the current ones packaging, ELV, batteries, tyres, WEEE-. Expired medication, phytopharmaceutical products, textiles, domestic linen and shoes, domestic chemical products, graphic paper, lubricants, frying oils, construction & demolition materials (C&D), printer cartridges, fluorinated refrigerants or nappies are all potential targets. In fact we should reverse the question and ask, of the 70% of the waste products, which product categories should be exempted from producer responsibility?

In France they have alreadymodulated producer responsibility fees according to the circularity of the product, we should explore a similar approach for Europe.

Finally, there are some items that should have no place in a Circular Economy and would need to be banned outright, microplastics in cosmetic products are just one example.

The prospects for the Circular Economy package look bright and after a soft start from the side of the European Commission it looks like the European Parliament with the Bonafè report is committed to raising the stakes. A fantastic opportunity to create jobs and economic activity in Europe whilst reducing the burden on environment and moving towards Zero Waste Europe.


Youth group highlight waste at the climate talks: the YOUNGO Zero Waste Working Group

cop21-youth-celebrations

This blog is a guest post from the Zero Waste Working Group within the YOUNGO (the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC). They were present in Paris during the COP21 Climate Negotiations and have committed to advocating for zero waste as a climate change solution. You can get in touch with them by contacting Zero Waste Europe, or through their Facebook group.

It is argued that the “Waste” sector accounts only for a limited part of the GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions on a global level, yet it can be easily verified that the potential contribution of waste prevention and management to climate change mitigation could be much more remarkable than initially expected. In addition, considering the principles of circular economy, it is clear that resources should be continually cycling through the system, allowing us to build an exit strategy from landfills and incineration. In the light of these conclusions, a group of committed young people decided to be the voice of the Zero Waste movement at the UNFCCC climate talks by creating a Zero Waste Working Group within YOUNGO, the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC, which includes youth organisations acting on climate from all over the world.

YOUNGO logo
YOUNGO Logo

The YOUNGO Zero Waste working group was born at COP21 in Paris, and it is composed of young people living in three continents (Europe, America, Oceania) who share the same drive for spreading the good practices for a zero waste world. The purpose of our group is to create a global network of young people who believe that Zero Waste is not only possible, but necessary. Therefore, we are looking to spread this message and simultaneously working on projects, policy and research that lead us towards a Zero Waste planet. Furthermore, we want to act as a platform where young people can share knowledge and expertise on the connection between climate change and waste management and how it can be used as a mitigation tool in accordance with the outcome of the Paris Agreement.

Before the COP21, the vast majority of Parties had sent their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to the UNFCCC Secretariat. INDCs include the mitigation efforts which countries want to focus on in order to decrease their GHG emissions. As a first step, we drafted a policy statement to be handed over to Delegates. It summarises our policy recommendations:

  1. Include waste management as an integral part of climate mitigation policy
  2. Waste policies should manage waste in the higher tiers of the waste management hierarchy (i.e. recycling or above)
  3. Discontinue support for all forms of “renewable” energy generated from residual waste
  4. Implement circular economy and product stewardship incentives
  5. Recognize the numerous and significant co-benefits of a zero waste policy

In fact, our work is mainly focused on individual countries (possibly through INDCs, industry and government lobbying) and Delegates. We want to highlight the positive correlation between Zero Waste and the emissions reduction through waste minimisation, making it really tangible. Currently, we are working on diverse strategies, and the support of Zero Waste Europe, as well as of GAIA, would be an asset for us. We have the potential to build up a wide youth network in all of these regards, working on actionable and unifying initiatives.

The opening plenary of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement
The opening plenary of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement

Our first next steps will be to search through INDCs for specific mentions of waste/Zero Waste as climate change mitigation tool to create a list of countries who are moving forward on this issue. Moreover, a table divided into different categories will be created (Zero Waste as most preferred – waste-to-energy/landfill as least preferred) with a sort of rank for countries. The final idea would be to approach these countries at COP22 in Marrakech (Morocco) or at intercessionals accordingly to their “performance”. Another point is the running of campaigns that may include some focus on incineration and cradle-to-cradle ideas. We will also continue to use the YOUNGO Zero Waste Facebook group to keep ourselves posted as we nail down our plans and to share information. Lastly, it is utmost important proposing to the UN to make conferences like COP zero waste – perhaps through lobbying activities with either the Secretariat or the COP22 Moroccan Presidency; it is noteworthy, however, that efforts in this direction have already been made previously for the organisation of the COP21 in Paris and at the last intersessional in Bonn which both incorporated zero waste aspects into their events (APA1/SB44).

There will be space to get in direct contact with the COY12 (Conference of Youth, 12th edition) organisers to probe their willingness in this regard, as we will be likely to attend in mid-July the Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum in Tangier, Morocco. Making the COY12 a zero waste event will give continuity to what has been done in Paris for the COY11, which was the first COY to adopt a zero waste plan, with the collaboration of Zero Waste France.

In conclusion, the Zero Waste working group is eager to increase its network within the climate and waste community, trying to create new avenues that would not have otherwise accomplished. We welcome any contribution and would be keen to set up collaborations with other associations or simply individuals who share this common cause with the same drive and motivation.

You know where to find us and we are looking forward to hearing from all of you!