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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

We came. We stickered. We tutu-ed. ‘Je La Ramène’ 2013

Great action organised by the new Zero Waste group in Brussels in the frame of the Waste Reduction Week. You can follow them at: zerowastebrussels.blogspot.be/
and twitter @ZeroWasteBxl

(texte en français en bas)

Zero Waste Brussels’ inaugural campaign came to an end this weekend in a whirlwind of stickers, tutus and silly poses. Designed to coincide with the European Week of Waste Reduction 2013, our aim was to get the message across to shoppers at Brussels’ many markets that reusing plastic containers is one way to save thousands of kilos of plastic trash from the white bag.

During the week we visited six markets – St Gilles, Châtelain, Boondael, Chasseurs Ardennais, Flagey and Jourdan, talking to stallholders and customers and stickering over 500 lids of (non-recyclable) plastic tubs with the message ‘Je La Ramène!’. The stickers were to let customers know that they could wash the tubs, bring them back to the market stall and reuse them the following week to shop for olives, feta, lasagne or any other delicacies usually sold in plastic pots.

The Saturday morning market in Place Flagey saw us and volunteers unleash our plastic bag tutus on the world and pose ‘Je La Ramène’ style with shoppers and market stallholders. Let’s just say we turned a few heads. A representative of Bruxelles Environnement, who coordinated all EWWR actions in Brussels, turned up to take photos and find out more.

Everyone we spoke to agreed that plastic pollution is a real problem, especially as many forms of plastic can’t be recycled in Brussels. Reuse is a great solution – easy for shoppers and economical for vendors. Next time you go to a market, take a plastic pot or tupperware in your canvas tote, the stallholders are happy to fill it up for you. And you can show off that you saved valuable resources from being incinerated!
For the full photo album of the event click here.

En français:

La campagne inaugurale de Zero Waste Bruxelles, ‘Je La Ramène!’ a fini en beauté ce weekend dans un tourbillon d’autocollants, tutus et poses ridicules. La campagne était conçue pour coincider avec la Semaine Européenne de la Réduction des Déchets 2013, et pour passer le message aux clients des marchés de la ville que le réemploi des raviers en plastique est une façon d’éviter que des milliers de tonnes de déchets en plastique finissent dans le sac blanc.

Au courant de la semaine on s’est rendu à six marchés de Bruxelles – St Gilles, Châtelain, Boondael, Chasseurs Ardennais, Flagey et Jourdan, pour parler aux marchands et aux clients et pour apposer plus de 500 autocollants ‘Je La Ramène!’ sur les couvercles des raviers en plastique (qui, pour rappel, ne peuvent pas se recycler!). Ceux-ci rappelaient aux clients qu’ils peuvent laver, ramener et réutiliser ces raviers la semaine d’après, pour faire leurs emplettes d’olives, feta ou lasagnes.

Le samedi matin à la Place Flagey, c’était le moment du début des tutus en plastique! On se l’est ramenée avec les clients et les marchands qui soutenaient notre effort… et on n’est surtout pas passé inaperçu! Une représentante de Bruxelles Environnement (coordinateur régionale de la SERD) est également venue nous prendre en photo.

Tous étaient d’accord – le plastique jetable est un véritable problème pour Bruxelles, et que le réemploi y est une excellente solution pour consommateurs et marchands. À votre prochaine sortie à un marché, pourquoi ne pas y amener un récipient en plastique réutilisable pour que les marchands d’olives ou de fruits secs le remplissent? Ils s’y feront un plaisir et vous pourrez la ramener, puisque vous aurez évité un déchet en plastique!
Pour voir l’album complet de l’action, cliquez ici.

Initiatives to reduce food waste

Never before we have produced as much food as today and never before there has been as much hunger in the world. Our generation is determined to beat all the records… but it is up to us if they are going records of pride or records of shame.

Up to 145 million Europeans (one fourth of us) could be under poverty line by 2025 if the current economic trend is not reversed. At the same time one third of the food for human consumtion produced at global level is never eaten… where did it go wrong?

 

But it doesn’t need to be like this. Many actions are taking place around Europe to fight food waste.

The EU’s resource efficiency roadmap foresees a 50% reduction, which the European Parliament says should be achieved by 2025. At a state level few member states have set targets. So far, France is the only one to have pledged to halve food waste by 2025. Each year the average French person throws away 20kg of waste food, costing roughly €400 per household annually. This figure includes 7kg of food thrown away with the packaging unopened.

The Netherlands has set an interim target of 20% for 2015. In Sweden, a similar reduction has been suggested for 2020.

In 2014 the European Commission is expected to come up with waste reduction targets, also addressing food waste.

But the most innovative actions are taking place at local level, which is where the real change needs to happen.

Below you can find some examples of how in the UK “the Pig Idea” plans to follow the Zero Waste Hierarchy and gives priority to feeding animals before using it for compost , in Slovakia some activists practice dumspter-diving to salvage perfectly edible food, in Catalonia an initiative trains people into food waste reduction, in Italy the Last Minute Market saves plenty of food every year…

The PIG Idea

The RE(F)USE idea in Slovakia

Do you happen to know other initiatives of local change in the field of food waste? Please share!


Compostory.org – the Story of Organic Waste Recovery

Need a crash course on managing organic waste? Compostory offers you the possibility to learn the basics so that you can skip first steps and jump straight into the implementation of Zero Waste strategy.

Compostory.org is a non-profit platform featuring online video courses dedicated to source separation of organics, composting and anaerobic digestion, accessible at no cost and on-demand.

Camille Duran is the Executive Director of Compostory and we have interviewed him so that he can tell us more about the details of this fascinating training tool.

 

Camille Duran Compostory

Camille, what is the story of Compostory.org?

Earlier this year, I gained an interest in the circular economy and more particularly in the way communities adapt their waste management practices to move towards Zero Waste. At the time, I was setting up our social enterprise Green White Space  and was looking to contribute to the Zero Waste story that I find fascinating. I  teamed up with Linnea Hulten (who was also involved in investigative activities on the topic) and we started researching why so many communities on our planet are still landfilling (or burning) organic waste.  Two conclusions were particularly interesting:

  • As you know, more an more communities can show great results on source separation, and proper treatment of organic waste via composting or anaerobic digestion. There are success stories on six continents and a lot of research has already been done on the various aspects of source separation and the opportunities it represents for our communities and environment. But like in many other sectors, there is a strong disproportion between the efforts put into research and those put into making results actionable and widely available.
  • It actually costs time and money to build a vision! Many influencers of waste management systems on our planet such as a local governments, farm managers etc. are still at the early stage of their journey. They are facing a large amount of information which they need to aggregate, sort out and evaluate. It is very difficult for them to be proactive in this context and the ones who can afford expertise and guidance need to invest time and money before even having a clear roadmap and understanding of potential gains.

I guess we were looking for a platform which would give us a well-structured, easy-to-digest overview of all we need to know in order to build a vision on source-separation of organics. And at no cost. We didn’t find it and this is where everything started. We knew we could make a difference by democratizing beginner knowledge on a large scale. I have personally been involved for a while with online media and education and I am still fascinated by how the digital age is disrupting knowledge platforms and improving access to information, data and networks. We need to be better at leveraging  the tools available today – and not only in the field of organics recycling!

 

Who is Compostory.org targeting?

Basically any influencer of waste management systems.
Today we need to focus our distribution efforts so we are mostly targeting local governments. But we are starting to look at the agricultural sector and we will engage with any major producer of organic waste. The course we offer is designed for a beginner-level so it is also very well suited for students or any individual with an interest in the topic.

According to Eurostat, in Europe today only 15% of all municipal solid waste is composted and most of it is still being landfilled or incinerated. Why do you think the treatment of organics has not yet taken off in Europe?

I would defer to the experts on the regulatory context, the incentives in place, and some other forces preventing communities from moving faster. I will just add that change management is driven by the vision.

This is true for change in a multinational company, a football team, or a government. I think we need to be better at communicating a vision. Getting communities excited about source separation, composting or biogas generation is key and in my view, there are still massive efforts to be made on brand building in these areas. This role cannot be played by everyone and it is a complex issue of course. There is currently a lot of noise around waste management but things are definitely moving and we need to acknowledge the tremendous work that many organizations like yours are doing in the field. I am very optimistic on what will happen in the coming years.

 

How does Compostory.org help to build a Zero Waste Europe?

The recovery of organic material is a topic of high interest nowadays and many communities in Europe are still following “the old models of managing waste”. This year, we are focusing on delivering a turnkey learning program that communities can follow for free and on-demand. It’s been only four months since we have released the first lesson on compostory.org – and we still have a lot of work to achieve – but the platform is already generating strong interest in 26 countries.  It is encouraging to see that the course is followed by all kinds of communities in Europe; whether it is City of London or a small community in the South of France, everyone seems to care. We work very hard on access and distribution of the content we produce, on reaching new communities every day to create large scale communication channels. We will be releasing new languages shortly to be even more inclusive.

Compostory.org just launched a database of companies who can support communities with their resource recovery programs. What is the thinking behind this tool and how do you see the resource recovery sector evolving?

The tool was created to help our audience find support with their resource recovery projects. We are receiving a lot of questions and need to be able to help on a large scale. This industry directory will develop overtime into a more advanced platform but is already a very good way for consulting firms and equipment companies to showcase their products and expertise. Also, it allows us to stay independant from industry in the way we help our audience which is very important for our brand equity.

The so-called “resource recovery sector” will be interesting to watch in the coming years. Many are still talking about “waste management” services but as communities start to understand what true resource recovery is, the old fashioned waste management companies will adjust their offerings and message overtime. Like with any industry disruption, the transition will take some time and some companies will get stuck on the side of the road if they don’t start adapting soon.

 

What is success for Compostory.org?

Helping our societies design for the future is a beautiful mission. I think this is what keeps the team so committed. If we can truly influence what is happening on the field and keep pushing the boundaries, then I guess we would call it success. It‘s a marathon, not a sprint, but fortunately there are a lot of small victories along the way. I want to thank the team and all the people involved with the project in some way. We are having a lot of fun building this platform and have a lot of exciting news coming up. Stay tuned!

Thanks Camille and good luck with the initiative!

 

You can follow Camille Duran on twitter @cwduran

You can follow Compostory.org at:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/compostory.org

Twitter: @compostoryorg

Compostory

Weak EU proposal to tackle single-use plastic bags

Today the European Commission has released its long-awaited proposal to tackle the plastic-bag issue. After a long process of conferences, consultations, impact assessments and discussions the Commission will be asking the European countries to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags. How much should they reduce it and how it is something that is left to the member states to decide…
(for official wording read at the end of the post)

One should wonder why we had to wait so long and invest so many resources to get something that is so obvious; of course the EU should be reducing the use of single-use plastic bags!

Single-use plastic, and especially single-use plastic bags are one of the main obstacles on the way to get a Zero Waste Europe. Plastic is manufactured from oil or gas, both are materials that take milions of years to be produced and hence should not be used to get a service of some minutes, at best some days.

Single-use carrier bags don’t represent a big amount of our waste in tonnage, yet they are one of the best examples of bad design. They represent the throw-away society at its best. In this context, the decision of the European Commission to oblige member states to reduce its use is to be welcomed but remains far from the paradigm shift that the EU needs.

Where are the incentives for better design?

Besides the reduction in the use of single-use plastic bags the Commission’s proposal doesn’t even tackle the issue of toxics in plastic or badly designed plastics. For instance, there is wide consensus between NGOs and industry about the danger of oxodegradable plastics for they endanger both composting and recycling operations. A minimal step in the direction of good design would have been to ban these additives.

Whereas some countries in the world have banned plastic bags all together the EU lags behind with a weak voluntary scheme. A wanting record if the EU wants to be a world front-runner in environmental issues.

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The text of the Commission reads:
“Further consideration of the policy options available has led to the conclusion that it would be difficult to design and implement an EU -wide reduction target applying to all Member States. Instead of establishing a common EU target, it is therefore preferable to introduce in Directive 94/62/EC the obligation for all Member States to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, while allowing them to set their own national reduction targets and to choose the measures to reach those targets. At a later stage the establishment of an EU-wide reduction target could however be considered.”

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For more information:

Link to the draft proposal and to the study (with the figures for MS, as mentioned above):

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/legis.htm#plastic_bags

See also:

Q&A MEMO/13/945

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/plastic_waste.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/index.htm

Results of the public consultation:

http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/packaging/events.htm

Audio visual material (VNR) available at tvlink.org

The documents are available as follows:

Draft Impact Assessment of different options to reduce plastic bag consumption


Zero Waste to Landfill is a false concept

Statement from the Zero Waste International Alliance

Organisations that are hijacking the term ‘zero waste’ in order to promote incineration and other unsustainable practices ‘need to be flushed out’, the Zero Waste International Alliance has urged.

ZWIA says the bogus concept of ‘zero waste to landfill’ has been introduced to support waste incineration schemes, yet argues that communities from San Francisco to the state of South Australia have achieved a recycling rate of 80% with no reliance on incineration.

The alliance added: ‘recycling rates of 75%-plus are possible now and examples of municipalities large and small throughout the world prove it. All the previous talk of high recycling rates being difficult to achieve is proving to be bunkum; zero waste is gaining ground as being practicably achievable.’

It cited the new Gwyrdd project, a ‘Welsh Dragon with a huge appetite’ which it said would see the South Wales community paying more than £100 million (US$ 160 million) per year to incinerate their waste. The Cardiff-based plant, boasting a capacity of 350 000 tonnes per year, was another example of companies and their financiers seeking to ‘grab community waste cash under the guise of waste-to-energy’, ZWIA claimed.

 
‘There can be no form of deliberate resource destruction in a zero waste world,’ declared ZWIA chairman Ric Anthony. He stressed that the concept Zero Waste has been carefully defined to mean ‘no waste, period’ – while Zero Waste to Landfill was a ‘bogus claim’ that falsely implied an element of environmentalism.

For more information, visit: www.zwia.org