Great news! The best-performing districts in Italy and probably Europe just joined the Zero Waste Europe network!
The districts of “Priula” and “Treviso Tre” (TV Tre) -grouped into a larger company called Contarina– bring together 49 municipalities, or 849,000 habitants, in what is known as ‘the European San Francisco’ for its high recycling rates. These numbers add to the 209 existing Zero Waste municipalities around Europe, together representing over 4 million citizens.
In total 83% of the waste is collected separately and average waste generation is only between 336 and 350kg/person/year; countries such as Denmark generate more than twice as much, 718kg.
They are not only pioneers in source separation, they have developed impressive waste prevention policies, meaning that the total amount of waste to be disposed of is of only 56 to 58kg/year/person -7 times less than what is disposed of in Denmark.
Beyond that, they are also adopting strategies for further material recovery from residual waste in order to minimise waste disposal. They use a system of mechanical biological treatment to recover metals and stabilise dirty organics prior to landfilling.
It also recovers papers and plastics for downcycling via densification/extrusion, instead of sending it in the form of Refuse-Derived Fuel for the worst environmental and economic use, incineration.
And this fantastic outcome doesn’t cost more, in fact it is well below the Italian average.
Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste Italy welcome the districts of Priula and Treviso to the network and thank them for their contributions, in best practice and inspiration, to the path that began in Capannori in 2007, with the first Zero Waste declaration in Europe.
One model of Zero Waste business is really cleaning up in Italy – refill detergent stores.
The idea is simple, and given its rapid expansion, seemingly recession-proof: customers bring their own empty cleaning product containers to stores and refill them from bulk dispensers. Bottles are also available to buy. It fits with the Zero Waste principle of avoiding the production of waste at source, before considerations of disposal and recycling.
According to Antonio Fico, marketing and communications manager of one such chain, Detersfuso, not only is this an environmentally sound approach to consumption, it also has a positive impact on household budgets at a time when many families are reducing outgoings.
In a 2011 study by the Italian National Consumer Observatory, it was found that a family of 4 could save €205 a year by buying the same cleaning products loose rather than packaged. These savings are attracting custom and boosting expansion, with the franchise-based chain already at 140 stores across central and southern Italy.
Its founder, Carmine Manna, was inspired to take his industrial detergent company in this new direction in 2009, after witnessing the dramatic breakdown in his home city of Naples’ waste collection system. He has taken a firmly Zero Waste approach to his venture:
“It’s essential to reduce waste at the production stage. Today, recycling rates are still very low. If we want to convert our economy, create new areas of employment and contribute to protecting the environment, we have to reduce waste and industrial discards to a minimum and encourage people to choose refill products”.
The bulk chain is proud of its contribution to reducing waste. Since 2011, according to Fico, Detersfuso has diverted 5 million plastic bottles, or 300 tons of plastic from landfill. Given that Naples has signed up to become a ‘Zero Waste City’ by 2020, initiatives such as this play a vital role in helping cities achieve their goal of diverting 100% of waste from landfill and incinerators.
Another Italian chain, Goccia Verde, goes a step further and provides only ecological cleaning and personal care products on tap. They have a total of 17 stores and have even expanded internationally, now with 6 outlets in Spain including 2 in Barcelona.
Some of their stores feature coin-operated automatic dispensers, helping to reduce retail prices even further. They estimate that customers can make savings of between 20 and 60% on the price of cleaning products compared with buying a new bottle every time.
At a time when many small businesses in Europe are struggling to maintain profits, turning to a Zero Waste distribution model could help them wipe the floor with the competition and contribute to a cleaner environment.
Waste is one of the main world ecociders. Indeed, waste fulfills all the criteria of an ecocide; it causes environmental destruction, it damages ecosystems, it threatens any sort of life and it ignores the rights of future generations. Waste is the living proof of the degree of selfishness and stupidity of the most intelligent generation of human beings this planet has seen.
Nature creates no waste; it is a genuine human invention. In nature nothing and nobody goes to waste because the definition of an ecosystem is a system of cooperative and symbiotic relationships; the discards of a process are the input for another one. Everything is upcycled into the system so that the system is sustainable and resilient. In an ecosystem all energy used is renewable and non-polluting and all resources are obtained in the vicinity using non-extractive, low-energy-intensive techniques. Processes take place at normal local temperatures and pressures and combustion is not an option. The current linear throwaway society is the opposite of sustainability; resources are extracted, transported, manufactured, sold, used and discarded, committing ecocide at almost each and every step of the process.
Following the example of nature, Zero Waste is a philosophy, a strategy and a goal aiming at emulating sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water, or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
But beyond definitions, Zero Waste is a movement of people around the world, working every day not to better manage waste, but to rather phase it out of the system. Zero Waste people and communities work at different levels of the production and consumption chain in order to minimise environmental impact and close the cycles.
For instance the network of Zero Waste municipalities –more than 200 in Europe alone- commit to sending zero waste to landfills or incinerators as soon as possible. Many of these municipalities are already separately collecting more than 80% of their waste, which means that they provide good feedstock for composters and biogas plants, producing renewable energy and organic matter to improve soil and avoid desertification. They allow for high-quality recycling of paper, plastic, glass and metals, which saves cutting new forests or opening new mines to extract new resources. And they allow for the closing of incinerators and landfills which destroy the environment and cause the whole process of extraction to start again.
But Zero Waste is not only about recycling more and better; it is also about reducing waste generation in the first place. In Zero Waste communities plastic packaging generation has been radically decreased thanks to the opening of public fountains, bulk liquid dispensers for milk, honey or detergents, bans on bottled water or single-use plastic bags, the implementation of green procurement, policies to stop spillage of food waste and many others. For instance, whereas in Denmark, the top waste producer per capita in Europe, almost 400kg of waste per person and year were sent to polluting incinerators, in Zero Waste communities the annual waste sent for disposal per person is below 100kg and some of them are even close to 50kg. This means not only that the environmental impact of Zero Waste citizens is less than 4 times less than that of the average Dane it also means that the need to extract new resources is much lower.
Because Zero Waste is based on the proximity principle, most discards are treated as close as possible to where they are generated. This means that sustainable and good jobs are created to collect and recycle the waste, that innovation thrives in order to create products that are not toxic and easy to recycle and that the total costs for the community but also for the new generations are also reduced. Moreover, there are many other positive externalities associated with a Zero Waste strategy. For instance, Capannori, the first European town to declare itself Zero Waste, despite recycling almost 90% of waste and generating new jobs in waste collection, has also generated new jobs in associated sectors. Thanks to the zero waste policy new shops such as Effecorta have opened to sell local, packaging-free products, while a reuse centre was created for residents to donate used stuff. There, it is given a second life, reducing waste and benefitting the local economy. A company supplying reusable nappies –Ecobimbi- is also thriving thanks to the opportunity provided by the Zero Waste strategy. One of the consequences of such an array of virtuous initiatives is that nobody now remembers that one day a company wanted to build an incinerator in the town, which would have polluted the air and destroyed this source of a renewable and resilient economy, now a reality. As we can see, the more Zero Waste is implemented the less ecocide there will be.
But zero waste is also much more. It is about environmental justice, so that pollution and waste treatment facilities are not concentrated in poor and disenfranchised communities. It is about inclusion, so that the millions of people worldwide who make a living by collecting and selling discarded materials (aka waste pickers, catadores, grassroots recyclers) are able to live with dignity. It’s about putting money into real solutions, and combatting corruption. It’s about community organising, education, and democracy, so that all citizens can participate in local resource management plans, funding is fairly distributed, and all businesses and manufacturers understand and fulfill their roles in minimising waste and designing products for the future.
In places where incinerators or landfills are built there is a clear democratic problem, triggered by corruption or incompetency –or both. These are places in which the citizens suffer ecocide for the sake of economic profit or in order to allow some other richer communities elsewhere to continue to live in their illusion of a planet without limits. We can’t continue to run a throwaway economy in a finite planet; waste is today a global issue. There is no place called “away”. Millions and millions of tons of plastic waste now lie on the seabed or float in our oceans, breaking into small pieces that are entering the food chain, exterminating fauna and affecting us all –rich and poor. Throwaway society is consuming more energy than ever to extract resources that are becoming more difficult to reach – all of this, to produce a short-lived designed-for-the-dump product that we will use for a few minutes before we send it to the landfill, the incinerator or nature.
Waste has no future; waste is, in itself, ecocide. Zero Waste is a very simple way to fight ecocide starting from our everyday life; it allows us to build up actions with friends, neighbours and communities to change the world, one community at a time.
Clearly there are many existing ways for us to manage our society without committing ecocide. You can also do your bit by giving it legal power at www.endecocide.eu
Plastic bags have been in the spotlight a lot this year. From bans in Los Angeles and Manila to tax levies in Scotland, it seems that the tide is turning on disposable, single-use plastic bags. On the 4th International Plastic Bag Free Day, observed in different locations between the 3rd and the 10th of July 2013, individuals and groups from around the world held events and made statements in support of a move away from disposable plastic.
The purpose of the day, which was organised jointly by GAIA, Zero Waste Europe, and Fundació Prevenció Residus i Consum, was to emphasise the alternatives to single-use plastic bags and the dangers they present to marine and land ecosystems. The campaign received expressions of support from many prominent figures from around the world, including Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program; Nohra Padilla (winner of the Goldman Prize for Latin America 2013); Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff; and Jeremy Irons, actor and star of the 2012 film ‘Trashed’.
The campaign used social media to connect individuals and organisations from around the world, reaching more than 20,000 individuals via Facebook and Twitter. The resulting network of supporters will be able to communicate with one another and continue to work on plastic pollution and waste issues throughout the year.
Over the last four years the event has grown in size and in quality, as the effects of single-use plastic on the environment have become increasingly visible to everyone.
With this year’s slogan, ‘Zero Bags – Zero Waste’, people from around the world shout that there is no place for single-use plastic bags on our finite planet!
Time to say enough is enough. As we speak, thousands of single-use plastic carrier bags are entering the environment and there is little prospect that the amount of marine litter will start decreasing anytime soon.
The International Plastic Bag Free Day is a worldwide action that starts on July 3rd and will go on until July 10th. Groups from all continents will be organising actions to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags. This is the 4th year of actions for alternatives to plastic bags.
Although Europeans have overwhelmingly supported a ban on single-use plastic bags for quite some time, the European Commission still hasn’t issued any guidance or rules on how to address this problem. The upcoming review of recycling targets for packaging waste is an opportunity that should not be missed in order to stop this source of pollution and incentive to bad consumption.
The concrete shape of your action is for you to decide, you can organise clean-ups, send letters to decisions makers, record videos… it’s up to you! If you need some inspiration here are some hints:
Take a photo of:
– Plastic bags in nature;
– Handing reusable bags to politicians – mayor, ministers etc;
– Famous local people posing with you and a reusable cloth bag;
– Yourself with a petition or a statement about plastic bags.
– Return plastic bags found in nature to industry (manufacturers, distributors ..);
– Collect plastic bags found in nature and create art pieces exhibited in visible areas of the city- such as car parks or even in a museum – invite politicians, media or any famous people to the opening;
– Return single-use plastic bags found in nature to emblematic buildings (environment ministry etc).
– Workshop of reusable bags;
– Give prizes to people who are not asking for a plastic bag in the shops;
– Customise your reusable bag (painting, sewing, patchworking…);
– Creating the “no plastic bag” logo with plastic bags;
– Giving consumers in shopping centres a reusable bag in exchange for their single-use one;
– Single-use bags can be shown in a big net so that people can see that plastic bags are still very much consumed;
– Smart mob with participants and volunteers in a mall or any commercial area with bags on their heads entering shops normally;