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

Waste – the controversial side of climate change mitigation in the latest IPCC report


Waste is contributing to climate change but it can also be part of the solution if true Zero Waste principles are implemented. Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on mitigation of climate change, an attempt to provide a state-of-the-art on strategies and technologies available to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. What did the IPCC say about waste?

As the Zero Waste Europe team has been able to confirm, the report has turned up with shocking controversies.

On the one hand, the report does confirm once more the 101 bases on waste and climate change – basically, that waste reduction, reuse and recycling are the most effective options for emission reduction in the waste sector.

It also acknowledges that zero waste strategies do exist and offer visionary development for waste reduction strategies. But apart from these, the report devotes little attention to elaborate on the current state of the best practices on upstream solutions and focuses mostly on downstream industrial options.

IPCC launch room
The IPCC Working Group III launched the report on mitigation of climate change in Berlin, after a week of negotiations.

Following this narrow-focused vision, the report includes the misleading consideration of burning waste as replacement of fossil fuels in combustion plants, i.e. cement plants, as a climate mitigation strategy for the waste sector –considering that burning waste is better than disposing it in landfills and that this is the best option we can aspire to. This perspective is out of touch with reality. Zero Waste towns prove on an everyday basis that prevention, reuse and recycling are better options and can be implemented rather quickly.

In the Summary for Policy Makers, the specific text argues that replacing fossil fuels with waste may be a significant mitigation option since ‘reuse and recycling levels are still very low’ at the global level. Again, this appreciation ignores the daily experience of Zero Waste municipalities and regions that are achieving recycling targets above 80% and that have substantially reduced their waste generation. Moreover, since waste management is a dimension of public policy generally dealt with at the local level, why should a global rate be taken as the key reference?  This seems to be just inappropriate reasoning. The point is further referenced in the full report (Ch. 10.14, Ch. 10.4).

ipcc report cover
IPCC Report on Mitigation of Climate Change

Interestingly enough, some of the claims are quoted to authors such as Holcim or CEMBUREAU (Ch.10, p. 26), which, as cement producing companies, should be considered very invested parties and thus biased. Other authors that have contributed directly to the report are publicly known for promoting waste as fuel and incineration technologies in general, which also raises questions about whether the IPCC has or should have a conflict of interest policy to its own authorship.

GAIA– Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has responded with this letter to such misleading claims and it has urged the IPCC to correct and amend this language.

“We feel compelled to urge the WGIII to amend its support for using waste as a fuel to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. This is not a sustainable climate mitigation strategy, but a highly controversial and ultimately misleading suggestion. If we are to change our energy system and decarbonise our electricity supply, waste cannot be taken as the new coal“, said Mariel Vilella, Climate Policy Campaigner with GAIA.

waste not in berlin
Climate activists in Berlin stressed the need to transform our energy systems and stop polluting sources of energy such as waste incineration

 

Precisely, the IPCC fails to report on the most innovative approaches to waste reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery through composting and anaerobic digestion within zero waste strategies that are taking place all over the world, which do not necessarily or exclusively come from the industrial sector but from the redesign of our resource management systems.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that in the US, for example, 42% of emissions come from resource management – that is, considering all the life-cycle of products in their extraction – production – distribution – consumption – and disposal stages of stuff. This reality requires social innovation to stop waste reaching the landfills and incinerators in the first place. Limiting our vision to industrial options on how to deal with landfill emissions it is not a useful approach; even worse, it will only accentuate the tendency to allocate the least resources and effort to waste prevention, which is found at the top of the Waste Hierarchy.

It is not too late for the IPCC to amend the report before the final publication in October 2014. If the IPCC is committed to fight climate change it is vital that it looks into solutions that really reduce emissions and starts working with unbiased experts.

At the end of the day, the relevance of the IPPC depends on its usefulness to fight climate change and currently, in the waste sector, it seems to be more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.


European Parliament votes in favour of reducing single-use plastic bags

One more step towards the reduction of single-use plastic bags in Europe! On April 16 the plenary of the European Parliament voted in favour of the draft European Directive on carrier bags presented by the Commission on November 4, 2013.

As a result of the vote, the European Parliament agreed to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags (50% reduction by 2017 and 80% by 2019, compared with 2010 figures).

Member States will be able to restrict the use of plastic bags by using a derogation from article 18 of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

The EP also proposed to phase-out bags that fragment and do not biodegrade and ban harmful substances in plastic bags. Therefore, the use of oxodegradable plastics is not considered a viable option.

The draft law allows countries that have implemented a ban, like Italy, to keep that legislation in place. Italy has already achieved a 50% reduction in single-use bags, and successfully linked an exemption for certified compostable bags to its organic waste diversion goals.

It also permits countries that have implemented a tax, like Ireland, to have reusable bags not sold for less than the tax.  Ireland has achieved an 80% reduction in the use of single-use bags with its 22-cent tax, and this ensures reusable bags cannot be sold for less (which would lead to an increase in the total number of bags used).

However, the struggle is not over yet. After this decision in the Parliament, the draft law now will seek approval by the Council (EU’s higher chamber). The EU Environmental Ministers will meet on 12 June to discuss this issue among others..

In the meantime we invite you to watch this very cool video about plastic pollution by Seas At Risk:


Packaging-free shopping on the rise in Europe

bulk goods in reusable bag

The number of shops in Europe that sell in bulk is growing constantly. Aside from the well-established Italian Effecorta and Catalan Granel, in Vienna Lunzers Mass-Greisslerei is offering products in bulk to the Austrians, whereas in Germany a new shop called Unverpackt opened its doors a month ago in Kiel.

In Berlin, Biosphäre is a social, non-profit organic shop, which started offering cleaning products without packaging in 2013 and bulk food products this month – both with excellent results. During the usual learning period, paper bags are used to fill dry food products from large dispensers (“bulk bins”), though more and more customers are starting to purchase reusable cotton pouches and to bring their own containers to the shop. Thus the amount of disposable packaging is steadily decreasing.

biosphere berlin

The shop is located in Berlin’s Neukölln district, and the goods have two prices: the cheaper one reserved for customers with low incomes. All products in the shop are high quality and organic, and priority is given to the small producers in the region.

Hence it is a shop that generates sustainable jobs inside and outside the business, it has a low ecological footprint because most of the products have not travelled long distances, doesn’t leave waste behind and it is also a good opportunity for the locals to eat local and healthy food without having to pay more than in other shops. The concept for Biosphäre’s packaging-free food section was developed by the new company, unverpackt-einkaufen, (“shop unpackaged”), which aims to integrate packaging-free alternatives within existing grocery businesses in Germany.

During 2014 new shops selling in bulk will be opening in Berlin and elsewhere, stay tuned for the good news!

biosphere berlin8
biosphere berlin2
biosphere berlin4
biosphere berlin6
bulk grains in reusable jar

Zero Waste: the answer to “Wasted potential!” in the EcoInnovation Forum

IMG_3624

The Annual Forum on EcoInnovation took place in Hannover during April 7 and 8. This year the topic of the forum was waste and resources and was entitled: “Wasted potential!: Towards circular economy in cities”

Many members of Zero Waste Europe were invited to present the good practices of the network. Among others; the experience of the best performing European district, Contarina, the fist town in Europe to declare the Zero Waste goal, Capannori, the impressive results of Gipuzkoa and Hernani, the fantastic Reuse & Repair Centre of Kretsloppsparken and the project the People’s Design Lab.

Other presentations in this forum included the visionary thinker (and doer!) Gunter Pauli, the EU Commisisoner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, the founder of the Repair Café, Martine Postma, the CEO of Circle Economy, Guido Braam and the vicepresident of ACR+, Jean-Pierre Hannequart. All of them can be found further down.

All in all, another little step to redesign consumption and production in Europe whilst phasing out landfilling and incineration.

 

Janez Potocnik – ENVI Commissioner

Guido Braam – CEO of Circle Economy

Pal Martenson – Kretsloppsparken Goteborg

Joan Marc Simon – Director of Zero Waste Europe

Jean-Pierre Hannequart – VP of ACR+

Martine Postma – Founder of Repair Café

Karolina D’Cuhna – DG Enviornment

Gunter Pauli – Founder of Blue Economy

 

 

Christian Hageluken – UMICORE

Martin Vogt – The role of business


 

To see all the videos and tweets just go here:

https://storify.com/EU_ecoinno/16th-eu-forum-on-eco-innovation


Better waste policy: Europe’s golden opportunity to create jobs and cut pollution

An ambitious waste policy in Europe would help create more jobs by 2025 than the European Commission claims would be generated from its trade agreement with the US, according to a new report from the EEB.

The report launched today ‘Advancing Resource Efficiency in Europe’ points to the potential of creating 750,000 new jobs by 2025, and 860,000 by 2030, if the EU adopts ambitious new policies and targets for the prevention and recycling of waste as part of its upcoming Waste Targets Review.

More jobs

Furthermore, the report finds that in an ambitious scenario for EU resource efficiency would also have important benefits for the climate.

Municipal waste recycling

A strong policy in food waste reduction could also help avoid cropland use of 57,000 km² by 2030 – an area larger than Croatia.

Land use Croatia

In brief, an ambitious scenario of 60% reduction in food waste by 2030 could reduce Europe’s burden of land-use, generate financial savings to European householders of over €73 billion and avoid over 80 million tonnes of GHG.

Ambitious scenario

This report underlines the massive potential for advancing resource efficiency in Europe. If the EU is ambitious, it could help create work for one in every six currently unemployed, young Europeans. It underlines that good environmental policies create jobs – and lots of them”, said Piotr Barczak, the EEB’s Waste Policy Officer.

The report comes out as the Commission is finalising a major Waste Targets Review that is expected to align key targets in upcoming legislation with goals outlined in its overarching strategy document – the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.

The Roadmap was approved in 2011 and it set the goal to creating a resource efficient EU in which landfilling without pre-treatment would be reduced to virtually zero and incineration would be limited to non-recyclable materials. Now it’s time to turn this declaration of intentions into effective policy.

It is time for the European Commission to limit overall disposal and energy recovery options – particularly incineration – of all reusable and recyclable waste and to set specific targets for preferable options within the waste hierarchy, such as waste prevention, re-use and recycling.

Member States have a number of levers at their disposal to meet the ambitious scenario outlined in this study. These include tax incentives for recycled or re-used goods, levies on disposed products, variable-charging schemes for households, such as Pay As You Throw, and reinforced Extended Producer Responsibility.

Moreover, successful zero waste strategies already implemented give clear practical guidance on how to incentivise the upstream options. In cities around the world, grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners are showing that zero waste is an achievable goal whose day has come.

 

 

 


And the best waste performing country in Europe is… Estonia!

normal_jatekartoitus_eng
seppo.net

According to Eurostat statistics published last week the best performing countries in Europe when it comes to waste avoidance and recycling are Estonia, Slovenia and Belgium.

Indeed, there are countries such as Germany who do very well in recycling (65%) but generate lots of waste (611kg). Then there are those who don’t generate much waste (324kg) but don’t recycle much such as Slovakia (13% recycling).

If one looks at how much waste is sent to landfill or incineration after recycling, it is possible to get an idea of the waste management performance of that country. (See the red column in the table at the bottom)

Estonia, Slovenia and Belgium combine a low level of municipal waste generation with an acceptable level of recycling and composting, which make them the countries that send less kg. per person to landfills and incinerators.

Estonia, the best EU performer, generates 279kg per person, and recycles 40% of it leaving 167kg to be disposed of.

That is less than 0,5kg per person per day. 2 times less than a Dane, 3 times less than a Greek and 4 times less than a Maltese…

For sake of reference, Zero Waste municipalities are a living proof that it is possible to reduce the best European benchmark more than three times the Estonian size. For instance, in Contarina district, the annual residual waste is of 57kg (that is 0,15kg per day!).

These statistics are published annually and reflect how many kg. of municipal solid waste Europeans produce and how it is treated. In average every European generated 492kg per person, recycled 42% and landfilled or incinerated 58%. A slight progress from 2011, when waste generation was 503kg (11kg more than 2012) and a 2% shift from disposal into recycling.

Eurostat 2012 + residual waste

“Lies, damned lies and statistics”, Mark Twain once said

All statistics need to be taken with a pinch of salt and particularly those that benchmark waste treatment in the EU.

Firstly because the information is provided by the environment ministries from the EU capitals without much capacity from the European Commission to double-check its consistency.

Secondly because there is not yet a single homogeneous method to calculate what is recycled, composted or landfilled or what waste is included as municipal solid waste. For instance, waste exports and backfilling are considered recycling in some countries but not in all of EU. Or some countries such as France allow the output from MBT plants to be called compost when this is forbidden in others.

Finally, caution is required because the differentiation between the treatment categories is not useful to understand where the waste actually ends up. For example, incineration is a pre-treatment operation because after the combustion it will still have a residue of 20 to 30% of toxic ashes that need to be landfilled, yet they don’t appear in the landfill column.

This explains that countries such as Germany show zero landfill rates when in reality it they are landfilling more than the French (30 million tones for the former vs 24 for the latter). What the “0” landfill means is that no waste is landfilled without pre-treatment…

All in all, although one must acknowledge that the Eurostat manages to present the most homogeneous supranational data on waste treatment in the world, the degree of heterogeneity should be taken into account for the comparisons.

In the meantime what data so far does show is that the borders between Western and Eastern Europe have fallen when it comes to waste management. As a whole, old EU member states such as Spain or France perform significantly worst in recycling than new member states such as Estonia or Slovenia.

At the same time whereas traditional “advanced” member states such as Sweden, Denmark or Germany are stuck in the incineration trap, we might be seeing new waste champions arising in those places where there is flexibility to continue reducing waste generation and increasing recycling.