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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

The Zero Waste Tour kicks off!

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The Zero Waste activist Danilo Boni started cycling the tour which will bring him to visit many Zero Waste experiences in the country.

The tour starts today Tuesday, May 27, in Milan in an event which acknowledge the efforts of 19 companies and start-ups who have distinguished themselves for promoting clean production processes in which all the outputs of the production are turned into inputs  so that the materials remain in use.

With this initiative, Zero Waste Italy in collaboration with the Municipality of Capannori (LU ), the Zero Waste Research Centre, the Association AmbienteFuturo and many local groups and municipalities throughout Italy, aim to highlight and reward the commitment of businesses in achieving the goal of Zero Waste .

“More than 70 % of the waste problem can be solved by the citizens by separating waste for recycling. But the remaining 30% is waste which cannot be properly managed and needs to be redesigned upstream. This must be solved together with companies” said Rossano Ercolini, president of Zero Waste Europe.

In the morning of May 27, councillor Piefrancesco Maran welcomed the delegation of the Zero Waste movement , including Paul Connett , a global promoter of Zero Waste strategy, Rossano Ercolini , winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2013 and president of Zero Waste Europe and Enzo Favoino , a researcher at the Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza and coordinator of the Scientific Committee of Zero Waste Europe.

The meeting, sponsored by the City of Milan, highlights the success in the separate collection of organic waste in this municipality, which in June will cover 100% of the population and represents the most extensive and successful experience of separate collection of organic waste worldwide.

In the afternoon the cyclist Danilo Boni, accompanied by a delegation of Zero Waste Italy, will start pedalling the electric bicycle Frisbee, provided by TC Mobility official sponsor of the tour.

Later in the afternoon there was a meeting in Busto Arsizio, to be attended by Paul Connett and Enzo Favoino . After the meeting the tour continues along the way from the Villa Tovaglieri to the headquarters of the incinerator Accam. The event is organized by local committees Zero Waste under the patronage of the town of Busto Arsizio.

The stages of the tour will be the following :

Bolzano ( May 31)

Este -PD (2-3 June)

Marzabotto -BO (4-5 June)

Florence ( June 6 to 7 )

Greve in Chianti – FI (8 June )

Montefiscone –VT (June 10 )

Rome ( June 12 to 13 )

Naples (June 15 )

Sorrento -NA (16-17 June)

Capannori -LU ( 20-21-22 June )

In parallel to the tour, Professor Paul Connett will be the protagonist of another tour that will take him on May 30 in Naples, where he will attend a meeting with the schools on the theme of “Terra dei Fuochi” (Land of Fires), and Saturday, May 31 he will join Rossano Ercolini in Sorrento for a meeting in the Conca Park Hotel as part of the “Hotels and restaurants Zero Waste.”

Ercolini will also participate in a panel discussion open to citizens of the Versilia with mayors and councillors of Seravezza , Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi. The meeting, scheduled for May 29, is organized by GAS di Pietrasanta and Seravezza .

You can follow the tour in the ZWTour blog using the hashtag  #ZWtour and on the Facebook page of Zero Waste Italy.


The #ageofdecommissioning (incinerators)

The reality of incineration overcapacity in many countries in Europe has provided eye-opening facts about up to what point incinerators prevent real waste reduction, reuse, recycling and resource efficiency in general. This is clear in Northern Europe, where incinerators are fed waste that is imported from all over Europe, but it’s been reportedly noticed all over the world: incinerators are bad news for recycling.

At a time when the European Commission is becoming more and more vocal about the potential of zero waste strategies and the need to use resources wisely, incinerators are increasingly being put on the spot as an unfit and counterproductive element that prevents a sustainable resource-wise future.

This is an awakening moment for cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure in the last decades and that have not been able to consider a way out of a burning-focused system in all this time due to the strict 20-30 year contracts to provide stable amounts of waste to the incinerators (“put or pay” contracts). This has been the inheritance of the 80s and 90s, when well-resourced European governments relied on large industrial incinerator infrastructures to deal with their waste and decrease reliance on landfills as a first and only priority. Today, many of these old incinerators are arriving at the end of their life, opening up a door for municipalities to consider the opportunities in an incineration-free system. This is, a system aiming at zero waste that would minimise reliance on waste disposal by means of reduction, reuse, recycling and better design of products. Enough is enough!

The most remarkable examples of cities that are moving on from incineration and have committed to decommissioning the plants are in the North of Italy, that once more calls our attention for being at the frontline of zero waste development and innovation.

One of the most remarkable examples is the city of Reggio Emilia where the old incinerator that had been burning waste for the last 40 years was finally shut down in 2012. As is often the case, the incinerator had raised the alarms for its harmful emissions, the lack of pollution monitoring and the administration failure to provide adequate information to the population in the area. Such problematic performance had even been brought up to the European Commission.

incinerator in Reggio Emilia
After decades of harmful emissions, the incinerator in Reggio Emilia (Italy) has been finally shut down in 2012.

Right now Reggio Emilia has tabled its exit strategy from its old ties to the incinerator through maximising separate collection and reuse. In regards to the management of residual waste, the city has developed a plan was to build a MRBT (Materials Recovery Biological Treatment) site, aiming at recovering further materials from residual waste, instead of burning or producing Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) for co-incineration.

This approach, in combination with progressive policies to increase separate collection and recycling rates, keeps the system adaptable to ever-increasing recycling rates, hence it’s been regarded as an option  towards embracing a zero waste vision and system. Indeed, one of the most important advantages of the MRBT site in comparison to the incinerator is that the former is a flexible system, meaning that it does not require a stable amount of waste to function as incinerators do, and it may deal with increasing amounts of materials coming from separate collection, so in this sense it does not contradict policies encouraging waste prevention, reuse and recycling.

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Remarkably, the need to dismiss excess capacity for incineration and adopt options for the management of residual waste that are flexible and efficient, has been formally stated in a Resolution adopted by the Council of Region Lombardy, the most populated Region in Italy, with 10 million inhabitants.

The Resolution, which was approved unanimously, states that there is a need to table a regional strategy for “decommissioning” of existing incinerators so that “(incinerator) sites shall be progressively shut down, consistently with the ongoing increase of separate collection, waste reduction, and the resulting minimisation of residual waste. Moreover, “options for the management of residual waste that minimise landfilling by means of further recovery of materials (and not incineration) shall be promoted”. The local Zero Waste networks and NGOs are now engaged to make sure that the Resolution will be complied with in every specific case.

One of the first cases where the Resolution has prompted plans to shut down the incinerator is Busto Arsizio, where the Council is considering the decommissioning of the plant. If the incinerator was to be kept running, it would need a technological revamping to renovate the installation, which in a context of general overcapacity, increased recycling rates and less waste to burn, would be a high financial risk for the Local Authorities. Moreover, an incinerator technology upgrading could be far more expensive than dismantling the plant and investing in designing a new incinerator-free waste management system, which could then be more suitable to support a zero waste policy.

Similarly, the debate to dismantle existing incinerators or dismissing plans for building new ones has been tabled in the Region of Veneto, with a population of 6 million and the best separate collection rates – regional average already beyond 60%, with peaks around 90% in single Municipalities. The city of Verona, for instance, recently shifted to the incinerator-decommissioning trend. As a matter of fact, the Regional Council of Veneto has recently acknowledged that if good recycling policies are implemented and taken to their full potential (which may require far less time than building and running a new incinerator), there will not be enough waste to feed new incinerators. Following up this eye-opening vision, the City recently declared they might as well get rid of plans for the new incinerator and invest in a more resource-efficient path, maximizing recycling and putting emphasis on reduction and reuse.

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Italy is today at the frontline of zero waste innovation, and yet many other countries may be following suite. We’ve recently heard important messages from Denmark, the European country with highest incineration rates: its latest report about Danish waste policy acknowledged that it needed an exit strategy from its old-fashioned waste management model if it was really going to care about being more resource efficient, never mind increasing its recycling rates that are currently far lower than elsewhere in Central Europe (and kept low in order to feed their ever-hungry incinerators).

Other ambitious incinerator projects are being abandoned due to the financial uncertainty of their investments, notably in Norfolk (United Kingdom), where a 500 million pounds contract has been cancelled, or in Guipuzcoa (Basque Country), where the long dispute over the incinerator plant was finally over with the dismissal of the proposal.

In brief, we may be staring at the beginning of the end of an era; a time of less waste travelling around Europe to feed the always insatiable beasts and more resource-efficient strategies to boost local economy, through separate collection, reuse and recycling.

Welcome to the age of decommissioning! Incinerators, it’s time to rest.

Note: do use the hashtag #ageofdecommissioning to keep list of ongoing stories on incinerators decommissioning. 


A Massive Let’s Do It! Cleaning up the Mediterranean Coast

On the 10th and 11th of May, tens of thousands of volunteers from communities all around the Mediterranean Sea and from three continents gathered to participate in simultaneous Clean-Up Events that took place in 15 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, becoming the most widespread civic-led event ever organised in this area.

With this project, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean aimed to draw attention to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea and motivate communities to work together to change the situation. Studies show that the contamination of the Mediterranean Sea is very high and the level of plastic waste is beyond critical. In certain places the volume of micro plastic in the water exceeds that of plankton.

Faisal Sadegh, the project coordinator of Let’s Do It! Mediterranean emphasized that the impact of marine litter and waste in general goes beyond national boundaries. “Pollution does not stop at a country’s border, and the problems are spreading to affect the Mediterranean region in more direct ways than ever before,” Sadegh said.

Eva Truuverk, Head of Partners and Finance with Let’s Do It! World explained further; “for example, huge landfills can be found on Lebanese beaches, and trash is carried into the sea by winds and due to the currents reach the shores of other countries”, she said.

Precisely, Sadegh pointed out that this is exactly the reason why Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited the whole region to participate and clean up together.

Lets do it in Malta
Divers and beach cleaners on Malt

 

“There have been separate cleanup actions, but the scale and scope of this project is unprecedented. We need to work together for the environment we all share.” Indeed, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited everyone to participate with their families, neighbors, colleagues, and make this event a truly community empowering experience. “It simply works better and is much more fun together,” encouraged Sadegh.

 

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Children were also involved in the clean-up actions in Greece

Moreover, actions were supported by fishermen, schools, local people, tourist groups, and most importantly by diving organisations. One of the coordinating organisation for underwater actions, the Greek diving club Samos Divers, has the experience of removing trash from even 40 meters deep.

“Living on an island, the sea has been my ‘playground’ for four decades. I have been scuba diving for 20 years. The comparison of my childhood memories of the sea and its current state often saddens me. The truth about marine debris is that just because we often cannot see it, does not mean it’s not there,” said the leader of Samos Divers, Alexandros Malagaris.

“My deepest motive for getting seriously involved with underwater cleanups is so that my son Philippos, age 6, and my daughter Olympia, age 3, will be able to enjoy the wonders of the sea the way I did as a little boy. Abundant sea life in crystal clear waters, with the absence of tires, boat batteries, bottles, cans and plastics,” expressed Malagaris.

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Montenegro had more than 3000 volunteers and gathered a great amount of waste.

In Croatia, more than 5000 people took part in 30 Clean-Up Actions on the Mediterranean coast. During the Clean-Up action in Split, on the Croatian coast, more than 40 Estonian volunteers joined 300 local people, including 100 divers and marines, and together cleaned up the sea bottom from waste. As a result of this cooperation, four tones of waste were collected from the sea and beach in Split. Other actions took place in Egypt, Montenegro, Estonia, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia and many other countries, as reported by Let’s Do It! Mediterranean.

let's do it in egypt
Clean-up actions in Egypt collected all this waste and more

The Let’s Do It! Mediterranean campaign is run and organised by volunteers, and the team plans to organise massive actions in concentrated periods until 2018. The “Let’s Do It!” movement started in Estonia in 2008, when a country with a population slightly over 1 million brought together 50,000 people to clean up the entire country in just five hours. By today, almost 10 million people and over 100 countries have joined the Let’s Do It! network. Find out more about Let’s Do It World and join in!

Lets do it Med
After cleaning-up our beloved Mediterranean sea, time to celebrate community action with a delicious cake!

Steps to implement the circular economy concept

In view of the coming Clean-up actions planned for May 10, we issues a joint statement together with other European NGOs, calling for the European Union to implement 10 steps necessary to lead to a resource efficient Europe.

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full waste circle2

The 10 steps in full are:

  1. Set a binding EU material reduction target based on the Total Material Consumption indicator
  2. Set a zero residual waste target (the waste that is not reused or recycled) by 2025
  3. Introduce binding waste prevention targets for municipal, commercial and industrial waste at the European and national levels
  4. Set preparation for reuse targets for municipal solid waste and packaging, with targets for – at a minimum – textiles and furniture, based on the weight of material per capita put back on the market by approved reuse centres. The targets must not be combined with recycling
  5. Increase recycling targets to at least 70 per cent of municipal solid waste, using only one harmonised methodology for all Member States to report on, based on the recycling output. Set an overall packaging recycling target at 80 per cent and boost plastic packaging recycling to at least 75 per cent
  6. Set a binding quantitative marine litter reduction target of 50 per cent with an explicit definition of litter included in waste legislation, in recognition of the serious negative impacts on the marine environment
  7. Introduce obligatory separate collection of waste by 2020, in particular for biowaste from homes and the hospitality sector as well as separate collection for materials including paper, cardboard, metals and textiles
  8. Promote economic instruments that support the full implementation of the waste hierarchy, such as extended producer responsibility, pay-as-you-throw schemes and the taxation of resources where appropriate
  9. Design out single-use, non-recyclable products and toxic materials such as microplastics and oxo-fragementable plastics
  10. Ban landfill and incineration by 2020 for all recyclable and compostable waste. Ban the financing of incinerators and landfills via structural and cohesion funds.
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to download the statement in PDF click here.


We love compost! International compost awareness week

compost week

This week we celebrate the International Compost Awareness Week, an initiative of the US Compost Council that invites everyone to organize activities to promote compost around the world as the sustainable solution to soil and water.

Yes indeed, we love compost! Closing the loop through composting our organic waste and returning the nutrients to soil has extremely important benefits for the sustainability of our environment, our food supply, and our zero waste strategies. Interestingly, the latest report from the World Bank on waste issues at the global level, provides its own version of the Waste Hierarchy, with composting and anaerobic digestion being the only two organic treatment techniques included in the Recovery category. As shown in the figure below, incineration is then placed further down with the rest of waste disposal options.

Waste Hierarchy World Bank

Successful composting experiences are nowadays widespread be found at the domestic and community level like in Hernani, one the Best Practices in Zero Waste Europe. But it can also be organized at a large-scale like in San Francisco, an exemplary Zero Waste committed city that in March 2012 marked its millionth ton of organic waste turned into compost.

compost week US

Indeed, composting is demonstrating to be a very popular initiative that is gaining more and more supporters everywhere. To name a couple of examples, we’ve recently learned that in the Basque Country, 700 more families will start a new scheme to do composting at home or collectively. At the national level, Spain counts with Composta en Red, a network of municipalities committed to promote and implement composting practices, exchange resources and provide training to those municipalities interested. Similar experiences can be found in the UK with the Community Composting Network.

There are so many reasons to do composting, but here’s a selection of some good ones:

1. Composting turns waste into a resource. It was organic waste in your kitchen but once in the compost bin, it turns into a treasure! This is not to say that wasting food is OK as long as we compost it. Absolutely not. Reducing food waste is still our very first priority in a Zero Waste strategy – check out these inspiring initiatives to reduce our food waste.

2.  Composting diverts waste from landfills and incinerators. Sadly, most of food waste in the EU still ends up in landfills or incinerators. Organic waste in landfills contaminates our soil, our groundwater water and creates methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times more heat trapping potential than CO2, hence a major contributor to climate change. In its turn, incinerating food waste it’s just a waste of resources. The key to end these contradictions is as easy as doing source separation of organic waste and do not ever mix it with any other waste stream. Once you have clean food waste, composting can be just the right next step.

3. Composting saves GHG emissions. Composting does not only save GHG emissions by diverting waste from landfills and incinerators. Putting compost in arable soils acts as a temporary carbon sink in itself, as the soil sequestrates the carbon that if burned would otherwise be immediately emitted to the atmosphere. Members of the Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee wrote this paper about the great potential role of compost in reducing green house gas emissions.

4. Composting replaces chemical fertilizers. Compost provides key nutrients to the soil in a way that makes chemical fertilizers unnecessary. In this way, composting saves the GHG emissions associated with the production of chemical fertilizers and avoids their toxic contribution to our soils and food chain. Moreover, farmers can save the money!

5. Composting reduces the use of pesticides. Compost makes plants healthier and stronger to face biodiversity imbalances and combat pests, hence reducing the need to apply chemical pesticides. Once again, this saves the GHG emissions associated to the production of pesticides and avoids their toxicity in our food supply. It’s important to note that pesticides have been linked to severe health problems in children, and may act as carcinogens or damage the endocrine system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

6.   Composting builds topsoil and tilth. Compost makes good soil in itself and contributes to stopping soil erosion and degradation. Using compost improves the soil structure, moisture content, degree of aeration, rate of water infiltration, and drainage, making land better prepared to grow healthy food in a sustainable way.

7.   Composting helps retaining water in the soil. Water is a precious resource and using compost helps soil keeping it underground. Healthy plants and their roots retain water close to them, preventing water from running off.

8.   Composting is cheap, easy and time-effective. Once the essential structure is in place, composting is inexpensive, only requiring your eyes and hands to separate waste at source and place it in the correct bin. Once the organic waste is in the compost bin, you can forget about it for a few weeks, so the process itself requires very low-maintenance dedication, and the returns are extremely valuable. In brief, little effort for a major gain.

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See how the Zero Waste movement has been lobbying for take the carbon back to the soils as a strategy to fight climate change.