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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Effecorta – Sustainable, Zero Waste shopping is possible!

Do you think that eating sustainable food has become a fulltime expensive job? This might be true in many places in Europe but there are more and more shops that show the way towards sustainability. Effecorta, in the ZeroWaste-pioneer town of Capannori in Italy, is a very good example of how sustainable, zero waste shopping is not only necessary but is also possible!

In the shop Effecorta 80% of the products come from 70km around the Capannori municipality (aiming to get to 95%) and many of them are organic.

But this is just the top of the iceberg; the shop adheres to the principle of Zero Waste and it doesn’t use any plastic bag or any non-reusable package. This is not only true for the tomatoes but also for soap, milk products, cosmetic creams, beer, wines, beans, rice, spices, salt, sugar… you name it! Everything they sell is in refillable, re-usable or/and biodegradable packaging.

This system:

– allows every buyer to buy according to its needs which minimises the waste eventually produced by normal packaged stuff and responsible for lots of food to be wasted (8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year),

– saves us from having to check the source and composition of the products because you know they are all local and in most of the cases organic (time saving),

– reduces the carbon food-print of the products because they don’t have to be transported long distances (less CO2 emissions),

– contributes to minimise the waste generation at home (no waste packaging and a lot less food wasted= less cost for the citizen and the municipality),

– because you buy the amount you need and not what is in predefined packaging in the end you end up spending (and buying) less than in a normal supermarket, even if you buy bio! An italian study shows how buying bulk can reduce the food bill in 64€ per month/family that is 775eur per year,

– well, leaving aside everything above: food tastes better and is more nutritive which at the end is what we all want!

This initiative was started by 6 idealists from Tuscany in August 2009 and it has already achieved economic stability and from all the products, the sales of the organic products are increasing by a 20%.

A lot of people questioned in the beginning the quality of natural biological refillable soaps and others. For this reason in the beginning the entrepreneurs gave to normal people (not the already convinced greeny) different soaps to try and in the end the customers decided to stay with the locally produced biological soap with the refillable packaging for pure practical and quality reasons.

It is important to mention that the customers of this shop are all kinds of normal people from Capannori and surroundings, a good example of how Zero Waste fits and improves everyday life. This has been recognised with the award of Tuscany Eco-efficiency.

Effecorta proves how zero waste and sustainability can get into people’s lifes whilst feeding them better, creating local jobs, reducing carbon food-print of products and phasing-out waste!

Nissan Leaf & Zero Waste

The new Nissan Leaf is an electric car that once it is produced it doesn’t generate new CO2 emissions –other than those associated to generating the electricity-.

The Nissan Green Program focuses on reducing waste at every stage of a car’s life, from development to disposal. Hence, the car is partly made from materials recycled from old interior parts, bumpers and plastic bottles. Nissan is using materials taken from vehicles that have reached the end of their life and reducing the use of non-renewable resources and substances that will end up as waste.

Insulation layers in the floor and skin fabric of headlining are made with fibres from recycled plastic, the fabric for the seats and armrests used in the Leaf is made from recycled plastic bottles, bumpers are made from used or damaged recycled bumpers, etc… At the end of life of the Nissan Leaf a new life starts with recycling: 99% of the car and 100% of the lithium car can be recovered. Since the battery maintains 80% of its capacity after 5 years of use it can be given a second life, otherwise it can be dismantled and its materials recovered.

Nissan Leaf is a good example of how to design waste out of the system: the environmentally damaging substances are reduced, a new chemical-free system to remove paint from the bumpers is used, the lithium-ion battery can get a second life as energy storage solutions thanks to a “Reuse, resell, refabricate and recycle” venture from the Sumitomo group, the aluminium wheels from end-of-life vehicles are recycled to create high grade suspension parts, etc…

In those situations where walking, cycling or public transport are not an option Nissan Leaf offers a Zero Waste solution to get from A to B.

The need for Zero Electric and Electronic Waste in Europe

Can you believe that from all electric and electronic waste generated in Europe only 19% is recycled? Yes, in times where materials are more and more scarce and the prices continue to rise and when the EU is almost completely dependent on foreign supply for metals and rare earths we still afford to let 81% of these resources escape from being reintroduced in the production process in Europe.

Today more than 50% of the WEEE generated in Europe follows unofficial collection routes, sometimes leading to illegal export and improper treatments. E-waste contains hazardous substances such as heavy metals and chemicals which can damage human health and the environment especially when treated incorrectly. Unfortunately there are plenty of well-documented examples of the environmental and health damage that this exported e-waste causes in Africa and Asia.

But also, if we let 81% of WEEE escape Europe this means that with it we let a big amount of manufacturing industry and jobs escape. This is like having a gold mine and letting others come and take the gold away –albeit paying a high price in health and environmental damage- whilst at the same time complain that the economic crisis is taking the jobs away. Action is needed to reverse these figures.

Action has to go inte direction of setting standards for WEEE recycling but also incentives to redesign them. An important reason why e-waste is not recycled is precisely because electric and electronic items are not well-designed. If designed differently it would be a lot easier and cheaper to manipulate WEEE to extract the raw materials.

This is why the EU is working on an update of the WEEE directive. On the 3rd of February the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of an ambitious collection target based on WEEE generated, setting standards on e-waste management and enabling financial incentives for optimized design. The European Parliament requires member states to address financial resources to increase collection and also asks for a better consideration for nanomaterials in treatment processes.

The problem is that in the current economic crisis most EU member states only think on cutting expenditure and sometimes fail to see the hidden benefits of economy booster that can represent investing in capturing more WEEE. The economic booster works in several ways: it creates local jobs in collection and reprocessing, it saves costs in buying new raw materials and saves extraction, processing and transport emissions related to new production.

Sending Zero Electric and Electronic Waste to landfill and incineration just makes sense but turning this waste into resource is an indispensable part of the new industrial revolution. Maximising material productivity is the way forward and Zero Waste is a vital part of it.