Slide background
Empowering Our Communities To Redesign
Slide background

Creating Local Jobs
& Recovering Resources

Slide background
Optimising Waste Collection for Quality Recycling
Slide background

Returning Organic Material to Our Soils

Slide background

Advocating for a Zero Waste Future

Slide background

Supporting Local Groups to Drive Change

Slide background

Closing the Loop of Materials,
Phasing Out Toxics & Emissions

LAST MINUTE MARKET – a great tool of waste prevention

In the last post we dealt with the worrying amounts of food waste in Europe. In this post we want to present an european fantastic and succesful initiative to reduce the food waste; the Last Minute Market.

Last Minute Market (LMM) links shops and producers (processing industries, food shops, retail stores and the like) who have unsold food which would otherwise be discarded with people and charities who need food.
Prof. Andrea Segrè started with this project in 1998. The University of Bologna developped SMM as a spin-off and it is now active in more than 40 Italian towns and has new projects starting in other places in the world.

LMM operates in the areas of unsold but edible food, unharvested vegetables, non-conform seeds, un-used catering products, unsold books and now also unused pharmaceuticals.

LMM eliminates waste by helping companies manage surplus (food and other items) and taking them out of the disposal route. Public institutions and communities also benefit from the reduction in the flow of waste to landfill and incineration which saves them money in taxes, health and environmental damage and less dependency on further foreign food imports. Finally it also improves food availability for the sectors of society that need it, and third sector (charity) destinataries who reduce operating costs and release resources for other projects.

LMM brings about environmental, economic and social benefits. According to founder Prof. Segrè if LMM Food were to be adopted nationwide in Italy by supermarkets, small shops and cash and carry shops, €928,157,600 would be recuperated in products. Furthermore, these products could provide 3 meals a day to 636,000 people – in total 580,402,025 meals a year. Also by not sending these products to the landfill, 291,393 tonnes of CO2 emissions could be spared.

In April 2010 LMM launched “ancora utili”, a program to recuperate unexpired prescription drugs donated by single users, doctors or hospitals. The pilot project in Ferrara has involved 11 pharmacies is projected to collect drugs for a market value of 15,000 euros per year.

In October 2010 LMM was presen

ted in the European Parliament and the Agriculture Committee approved this resolution to reduce 50% of the amount of food waste throughout the food chain.

LMM is a win-win project and another piece of a Zero Waste strategy. The prevention of waste helps optimise resource use with benefits for the different stakeholders as well as for the environment.

For further information (in italian) see www.lastminutemarket.org


Towards Zero Food Waste in the EU

In Europe an estimated amount of 50% of the food produced is wasted. This changes from country to country and from sector to sector but in the best case not less than 20% of our food ends up as waste. At the same time more than 50 million of Europeans are at the risk of poverty. This is simply unacceptable from a social, economic and environmental point of view.

Unhealthy, uneconomic and unsustainable

In Sweden, an average household is estimated to throw away 25% of food purchased. An average Danish family with 2 adults and 2 children wastes food for 1.341 € a year (2.15 billion € for the whole country). In Italy, about 20.290.767 tonnes of food waste are formed every year along the whole supply chain. Each French citizen throws away every year 7 kilos of food still in the original package when in the same country, 8 million people are at risk of poverty.

Simultaneously, studies show that western countries are consuming every day a surplus of 1400 calories per person for a total of 150 trillion calories a year. So, apart from the waste in the food supply chain, overeating is gradually becoming a serious public health issue in a growing number of countries.

From the environmental perspective food waste accounts for more than one quarter of the total consumptive use of finite and vulnerable freshwater and more than 300 million barrels of oil per year. Moreover each tonne of food waste generates 4.2 tonnes of CO2.

How is food waste generated?

Among the many several reasons we find that packages are too large for small households, that the portions prepared for each meal tend to be too big, failed preparation of the recipe, incorrect transport, fear of deterioration caused by the proximity to the expire date, not wanting to eat leftovers from the previous day, bad refrigerator… Nothing that can’t be fixed.

Taking action for Zero Food Waste

Like with any other process human beings have to learn to manage this resource named food. In the past a lot less food was wasted; the wastage started 50 years ago with the over-abundance of products and very low cost of disposal; this caused that Europeans paid less attention to the food waste they generated.

Times have changed; overabundance times are over and the costs of this irresponsible and inefficient behaviour are increasing. The world population has grown tenfold and hunger is still persistent and growing –also in Europe-, the EU has constant and unsustainable yearly deficit of 75 million tons of biomass with the rest of the world, the costs of disposal for waste continue to increase and EU legislation pushes in prevention.
Much of the food wastage can be reduced with the right prevention policies and campaigns to make sure that what would otherwise be waste can be still eaten or reintroduced in the system. Measures as simple as changing the size of the portions, supplying food in smaller packages (beware of the packaging waste), training young people in how to preserve food, etc… are part of the tool-box we need to address the problem.

In this direction, it is to be welcomed that on the 28th October 2010 the agriculture committee of the European Parliament approved a joint declaration against food waste in which they were asking for a reduction of 50% of the amount of food waste throughout the food chain.

Unfortunately the Environment Directorate of the European Commission still hasn’t considered appropiate to include neither waste prevention targets nor recycling targets for biowaste in EU legislation which is stopping the EU from making major shift forward in the reduction of food waste. In the future it will be necessary to work at European, national and local level in order to reduce this big sign of unsustainability and inefficiency that is food waste.

Below we can find some encouraging initiatives and campaigns in some EU member states:

United Kingdom Loves Food and Hates Waste

In Britain every year 18 million tonnes of food still perfectly edible are thrown away (WRAP) by households alone for an annual retail value cost of 14 billion pounds: at the same time 4 million people in the UK do not have access to a healthy diet. The environmental implications of stopping to produce food waste would have a CO2 equivalent of taking 1 in 4 cars off the road.

For this reason WRAP launched the campaign “Love Food – Hate Waste” in 2007 which by January 2009 was already a success in making 2 million UK households take steps to reduce food waste: this has stopped 137,000 tons of food from being thrown away which prevented 600,000 tonnes being emitted and resulted in a saving of nearly 300 million £ .

Visit their website for great tips about how to reduce your food waste: http://www.LoveFoodHateWaste.com

Holland tastes the food waste

The Netherlands is throwing away 2.4 billion € per year on food waste, that is more than 400€ per household representing more than 20% of the total food in the market.

For this reason the Dutch government has committed to reduce by at least 20% the food waste by 2015. To achieve this goal and following the example of the successful initiative in the UK the campaign “taste the waste” has been launched in which they teach how to save money without too much extra effort.
The Dutch campaign has also sparked the creation of a campaign in Germany to fight food waste, that is www.tastethewaste.com

Sources:
French Environment and Energy Management Agency

Danish Agriculture & Food Council -2010
Lundqvist, J. 2010 ’Producing more or Wasting Less. Bracing the food security challenge of unpredictable rainfall’.
The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact by Kevin D. Hall, Juen Guo, Michael Dore, Carson C. Chow


Zero Waste to reduce EU dependency on materials

The clever thing about minimising waste and recycling stuff is that we recover the materials and we can use them again instead of having to import them from far at increasing prices.

The resources in the world are not only limited; they are also becoming more and more scarce and hence more difficult, polluting and expensive to extract. In absolute terms, Europe is using more and more resources. For example, resource use increased by 34 % between 2000 and 2007 in the EU-12. This continues to have considerable environmental and economic consequences. Of 8.2 billion tonnes of materials used in the E-27 in 2007, minerals and including metals accounted for more than half, and fossil fuels and biomass for about a quarter each.
In the following graph we can see how heavily dependent is the EU from imports of metals (source EEA).

For the majority of metals the EU depends 100% on its imports. At the same time what we see is that in the EU 50% of the recyclable municipal waste is landfilled or incinerated and the exports –legal and ilegal- of metals and electronics to be recycled –mostly downcycled- have increased. From the strategic point of view –let alone environmental and economical considerations- this is nothing less than stupid.

The recycling sector in Europe has an estimated turnover of EUR 24 billion and employs about half a million persons. Thus, the EU has 50 % of the recycling industries in the world. Yet, the EU lets most of its electronic waste to be shipped abroad for low quality recycling when nobody in the earth needs more the resources than the EU.

The EU has been producing legislation to try to shift this exodus of materials into european recycling plants. So far the directive on waste from electric and electronic equipment has required that every member state collects 4kg per capita per year but right now there are countries like Belgium or Germany that are well above this target whilst others are far below. The revision of the WEEE aims to collect 65% of generated WEEE by 2016 which is a very necessary improvement to create jobs and a solid recycling industry in Europe that reduces necessity to extract, process, and transport the materials that we need.

Some companies are proving that, if they are given the chance, they can recover most of the materials and generate jobs and economic activity whilst avoiding the extra emissions of exporting waste for disposal and having to extract and manufacture new materials. Umicore, for instance, is one of the leading companies in Europe in recycling of WEEE and shows the changing trends; from being a belgian mining company with poor environmental record they understood that the future was to focus not on extracting materials from the earth but rather to extract them from the already produced equipments that had become waste. Thanks to this Umicore has not only managed to be a world leading recycler but it has also managed to pay its environmental liabilities.

Umicore treats 300.000 tones of electric and electronic waste from which only 15.000 tones become waste; that is 95% of the waste is recycled. Whilst there are some rare earths present in small devices such as mobile phones and which so far can’t be recovered the truth is that most metals are recovered at a higher rate than what can be achieved in backyard recycling –what would happen if exported outside Europe-. For instance, in Umicore 95 to 99% of gold is recovered whilst in backyard recycling only 20 to 25% can be recovered –with a lot higher enviornmental and health impact-.

It is therefore possible to close the loop in some sectors of our economy but in order to do so it is necessary that the authorities collaborate with the right legislation and market drivers. Highly efficient recycling systems keep jobs in Europe, reduce dependency from imports, lower emissions, reduce environmental impact in third countries and help move in the direction of sustainability if they are combined with the right prevention tools.

Zero Waste is about reducing the use of materials, reusing them as much as possible and recycling them as last option. Europe can’t afford to continue trashing resources; eliminating waste with incineration and landfill don’t make sense but this is even more true in the case of electric and electronic waste.

The clever thing about minimising waste and recycling stuff is that we recover the materials and we can use them again instead of having to import them from far at increasing prices.
The resources in the world are not only limited; they are also becoming more and more scarce and hence more difficult, polluting and expensive to extract. In absolute terms, Europe is using more and more resources. For example, resource use increased by 34 % between 2000 and 2007 in the EU-12. This continues to have considerable environmental and economic consequences. Of 8.2 billion tonnes of materials used in the E-27 in 2007, minerals and including metals accounted for more than half, and fossil fuels and biomass for about a quarter each.
In the following graph we can see how heavily dependent is the EU from imports of metals (source EEA).