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Last Saturday 17th of April 2011 took place in London the annual meeting of the Zero Waste Alliance UK with participants coming from Scotland, Wales and England.
Among the participants there were activists, academics, professional recyclers, social enterpreneurs, politicians and average citizens interested in the topic and it showed the growing interest for the Zero Waste philosophy in the country.
The meeting served to strategise about future plans of the Zero Waste Alliance UK and it also elected a new board and directors.
Excerpt from Chapter 14 of the book “Creating Wealth from Waste” from Robin Murray:
A programme for zero waste
1. The economic playing field must be rebalanced. The hierarchy of profitability must match the environmental hierarchy. This can be done by revising waste taxes and public benefits in three ways: o introducing a disposal tax that reflects the environmental hierarchy o cutting the subsidies presently given to incineration o introducing a price guarantee scheme for recycled materials to fund the build-up costs of four stream recycling.
2. The £550 million raised in waste taxes must be re-channelled to a Zero Waste Fund. This requires: o a change in the landfill tax regulations so that the 20 per cent offsets are paid into the publicly-run recycling fund o earmarking a further 20 per cent to support employment and environmental goals through recycling o amending the packaging recovery regulations so that payments by the ‘obligated parties’ are channelled to recycling collectors.
3. Establishing a Zero Waste Agency to administer the transitional funds and ‘animate’ the change.
4. Founding a new type of Green Academy, equivalent to the German technical schools of the mid-nineteenth century. It would be charged with developing organisational forms, knowledge and skills relevant to zero waste, and new ways of generating ‘distributed intelligence’. Its curricula and priorities would be set by the needs thrown up by the new environmental systems. Hence its research, teaching and skill formation would be linked closely to ground level projects – following the approach of the Ulm School of Design – and provide learning resources to those in or outside employment.
5. Appointing Zero Waste Advisers – some recruited from leading recycling and reduction projects overseas – to advise on recycling schemes and projects. The group would be part of an international network, promoting exchanges and part-time attachments, and linking into practitioners’ associations.
6. The launch of a ‘Closed Loop Industrialisation’ Initiative, promoting the development of secondary materials industries, ecodesign and hazard reduction technologies. In addition to material productivity, it would aim to promote ‘de-scaling’ technologies suitable for local and regional economies. It would be organised in conjunction with regional development agencies.
7. The extension of producer responsibility into new fields, not only electrical and electronics appliances, end-of-life vehicles and tyres, but other durable equipment, newspapers, and hazardous products and materials. The weight of responsibility should be placed at the point of product and process design, since they have the greatest capacity to develop alternatives. In each case, the finance contributed by producers should be re-channelled to develop the alternatives.
8. Devolving responsibility for waste disposal to districts, through direct payments for the costs of disposal (rather than property-based precepts) and giving districts responsibility for identifying and negotiating disposal options within their own boundaries or with neighbouring districts. This would represent the proximity principle with teeth.
9. Restoring public confidence in wade management and democratising risk through: planning reform to give financial support and access to information to civil groups and neighbourhoods affected by waste proposals; a new culture of openness in regulatory bodies; an independent waste hazards control advisory body; and an environmental freedom of information provision.
10. A govemment-led commitment to the zero waste target ‘within a generation’, reflected in the above measures and the adoption of tighter targets to ‘reduce with the aim of eliminating’ mixed waste disposal by 2010. This would include a phased ban on organic waste in landfills and on landfilling or incinerating hazard-producing materials, and a moratorium of new mixed waste incinerators for five years.
New Zero Waste groups are appearing in the Basque Country. Following the experience of Usurbil, a municipality that has achieved 88% separate collection after only two years of implementation of the door-to-door collection, and after the municipalities of Hernani and Oiartzun have joined this system of separate collection, 7 new groups of citizen-led Zero Zabor (Zero Waste) groups have appeared in the region of Guipuzkoa in the spanish Basque Country.
Usurbil was pioneer in challenging the separate collection by means of road container (which was achieving rates always below 40%) and decided to implement door-to-door system. Hernani (20.000hab) and Oiartzun followed this example a year later and currently the three of them are all above 75% of separate collection.
However the region of Guipuzkoa still insists in building an incinerator and, in view of the success of the Zero Zabor experiences, has speeded-up the works to stop other municipalities from joining the Zero Waste model. Moreover the Guipuzkoa region refuses to increase the current composting capacity of only 2.500tn and the 4.400tn of high quality organic waste that is separately collected can’t be composted –as the European waste hierarchy would request-.
But the Zero Waste philosophy counts with the support not only of some engaged municipalities but also of citizen groups that are tirelessly working to spread the word that reducing waste and increasing recycling is not only necessary but also possible. By replicating the experienced pioneered by Usurbil and followed by Hernani, Oiartzun and others, Guipuzkoa could create more jobs, less pollution and more local economy and save the 400 million euros that the new unnecessary incinerator will cost. In Guipuzkoa a struggle between the past and the future is taking place, between those who want to burn waste and those who want to reuse and recycle resources. The Zero Waste strategy is showing the alternative to end-of-pipe obsolete technologies and with the new groups in the Basque Country and the already existing Catalan Zero Waste network the change is advancing in Spain.