Reuse pulper, the waste of recycled paper industries, and transform it into second-life plastic: this is the aim of the Eco-Pulplast project.
The project was born in Lucca, the biggest paper industry district in Europe, with 120 firms, over 6,200 employees, with a yearly turnover of more than 3.8 billion EUR and spin-off activities in several other economic sectors.
Pulper is the waste of recycled paper (such as paper ribbons and cellophane film). Paper mills in the Lucca district produce almost 100 tonnes of pulp each year and spend nearly 10 million EUR treating it: an economic and environmental cost that can no longer be sustained.
The Eco-Pulplast project will recycle the plastic component of pulper, which is currently landfilled or incinerated, and transform it in a zero-mile secondary raw material to produce pallets and other plastic products for paper mills.
The Eco-Pulplast consortium, led by the research institute Lucense, includes Selene, a leading firm in the pliable plastic packaging sector; Serv.Eco, a group representing paper factories in the Lucca district; and Zero Waste Europe.
Waste reduction and reuse is also a priority for Innopaper, the centre for innovation in the paper sector in the Tuscany Region, led by Lucense.
The Eco-Pulplast project will run for 30 months and it will test innovative technology for pulper treatment developed by Selene. The pilot plant for the project will be based in a disused warehouse, to avoid the environmental impact of building a new production site.
The Eco-Pulplast project has applied for funding under the “Life Environment and Resource Efficiency” programme of the European Commission which could cover up to 60 % (1.2 million EUR) of the project costs.
As Rossano Ercolini, president of Zero Waste Europe said at the Eco-Pulplast launch ceremony last week: “this project is the story of a fruitful collaboration between different local actors, joining forces to achieve both innovative production and environmental sustainability”.
Eco-Pulplast represents a tangible and virtuous example of a circular economy and of industrial symbiosis. This is an exceptional opportunity to expand the production chain of the paper industry, while at the same time creating jobs in an innovative sector.
55 EUROPEAN AND INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS ASK COMMISSION TO REJECT AUTHORISATION OF HAZARDOUS DEHP IN PVC PLASTIC
By early 2015, the Commission must decide whether or not to grant authorisation for the continued use of the plasticizer DEHP in PVC plastic (for both raw and recycled) articles in Europe  many of which end up in consumer products. This follows the delivery of opinions on this substance by the European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) and Socio-Economic Committee (SEAC).
We, the undersigned human health and environment public interest groups, strongly oppose any authorisation for the use of DEHP in PVC articles for the following reasons:
By granting authorisation for the use of DEHP in a wide range of PVC products and in recycled PVC plastic, the Commission will fail the main objective of REACH
One of the main aims of the authorisation procedure is to ensure that substances of very high concern are “progressively replaced by suitable alternative substances or technologies where these are economically and technically viable.”
Furthermore, Article 1 of REACH establishes that the aim of the Regulation is to ensure a high level of protection of human health and the environment, and that substances that are placed on the market do not adversely affect human health and the environment.
The recommendation of ECHA to grant authorisation seriously undermines the REACH goals of protection and promotion of safer substitutes. Moreover, the principle of substitution did not have sufficient weight during the ECHA Committees’ deliberations. We therefore call into question the commitment of the EU public Agency, ECHA, to make this a priority focus over and above ‘toxic business as usual’. Without a strong substitution focus in the authorisation process, the European public and economy will not benefit from innovation in safer chemicals use.
Furthermore ECHA’s assessment is not consistent with other pieces of legislation in the EU, such as the Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment which has recently called for a ban on four phthalates (including DEHP). This decision is broadly supported by the Commission and Member States because industry has demonstrated the availability of technically and economically feasible alternatives. Their socio-economic impact analysis indicates that a restriction of DEHP would have benefits for human health, the environment and safer waste management.
DEHP is highly toxic and hormonally active
DEHP is a well known toxic substance. It has already been listed on the REACH candidate list due to it being toxic to reproduction. Denmark has also proposed its listing on the REACH list of substances of very high concern (SVHC) as an endocrine disruptor. DEHP is a phthalate, a member of this group of “gender-bending” chemicals which because of their anti-androgenic / estrogenic properties and can cause feminization in males of several species. There is a growing body of evidence that certain phthalates, including DEHP, are implicated in causing breast cancer, testicular cancer, birth malformations in baby boys and infertility. Given that DEHP can act as a hormone disruptor, it is likely that there is no safe level of exposure. Moreover, this chemical is a suspected carcinogen and neuro and immune toxicant, and is associated with neurodevelopmental disorders in children.
DEHP is widely used such that there is ongoing exposure
DEHP in PVC is widely used in everyday consumer products-usually together with other phthalates, (textiles, furniture, shoes, building materials, etc.), as well as in PVC products in the work place (plastisols, paints, work cloths, boots, etc.). Citizens and the environment are continuously exposed to DEHP from multiple sources on a daily basis. DEHP (and its chemical counterparts) is found in PVC articles in high concentrations (10-60% by weight) and because DEHP is not chemically tightly bonded to the plastic, it easily leaches out. Therefore, DEHP is a ubiquitous contaminant that can be found throughout the European environment (air, water -even rainwater – and soil) as well as in the blood and urine of sampled European populations. At
particular risk are pregnant women, newborns and children who are subjected to this chemical at key stages of development.
DEHP is so hazardous that it continues to be the chemical that is most commonly notified to the RAPEX system – the EU’s rapid alert system on measures taken to prevent or restrict the marketing or use of products posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers.
Alternatives to DEHP are widely available
Alternative plasticisers for PVC and alternatives to PVC itself are available on the European market, for the whole range of current DEHP use in substances, materials, processes and technologies. In fact during the ECHA’s public consultation for these applications, companies ranging from suppliers to downstream users provided more than ample information on availability, technical and economic suitability of safer non-DEHP alternatives.
The applicants did not fulfil the conditions necessary for granting an authorisation
The applicants did not scientifically and robustly demonstrate that all the risks from the uses of this chemical can be, or are adequately controlled. Furthermore they did not make a compelling argument that the socio-economic benefits of ongoing use of DEHP in PVC plastic outweigh the risks to European consumers, families and the environment from ongoing exposure to DEHP. Nor did they provide adequate justification that suitable alternatives were unavailable to them.
ECHA’s opinion to allow the ongoing use of DEHP in a wide range of PVC plastic products is the result of a secretive and procedurally flawed process
During the public consultation on these applications, the European Chemicals Agency deemed relevant information ‘confidential business information’, hindering stakeholders’ meaningful and effective participation in the authorisation process. The public had no access to the information which resulted in the Risk Assessment Committee’s (RAC) opinion that adequate control could be achieved for this chemical with respect to exposure of the general population. RAC did not take into account the actual exposure of the European population to DEHP and dismissed both its endocrine disrupting properties and its impacts on adults, newborns and children, as well as dismissing information on the proven mixture toxicity of exposure to DEHP and other related phthalates.
ECHA’s Socio Economic Assessment Committee (SEAC) rubber stamps ‘business as usual’ over innovation and safer products
The applicants’ socioeconomic analyses is deeply flawed. However, instead of rejecting the application for authorization or instructing the applicants to do a more robust study (including taking into account the economic impact on Europe’s entire population from ongoing exposure to DEHP), the socio economic analysis committee (SEAC) carried out its own flawed ‘worst case scenario’ calculations. This concluded, with little real evidence, that the benefits for these few applicants outweigh the risks to society as a whole. This is even more disturbing considering ECHA acknowledged that the risks are not adequately controlled and that significant uncertainties and information gaps were identified in their assessment.
Therefore, we the undersigned organisations ask the Commission not to grant authorisation for the continued use of DEHP in PVC plastic products. The Commission needs to support the goals of REACH; the Commission is accountable to the European public for protecting citizens and the environment from hazardous chemicals, whilst promoting innovation including safer chemicals and products to ensure a resilient economy.
Three companies Arkema (France), ZAK (Poland) and Deza (Czech Republic) have applied to continue using this substance of very high concern (DEHP) in plastic (PVC) consumer articles such as flooring, upholstery, footwear, car seats and children’s clothing – all products to which the population is routinely exposed to on a daily basis.
Three other companies: VINYLOOP FERRARA, Stena Recycling and Plastic Planet have applied for the use of DEHP in recycled soft PVC containing articles.
However the final agreement allows oxo-degradable bags to continue to be used in Europe despite the abundant evidence that oxo-degradable plastics do not biodegrade according to European biodegradability standards[i].
ZWE’s Executive Director, Joan Marc Simon, said: “The compromise to reduce single-use plastic bags is a step forward and should be welcomed. It is entirely coherent with the direction taken by the EU with the adoption of the Circular Economy package which we hope we will continue to see unfolding with the new European Commission.”
“However with the decision not to ban oxo-degradable plastic bags the EU has missed an opportunity to advance towards zero waste. Oxo-degradable plastics pollute both the technical and the biological cycles and as such have no place in a Circular Economy.”
Joan Marc Simon – Zero Waste Europe firstname.lastname@example.org
Waste incineration in cement kilns has been put on the spot once more as one of the biggest obstacles to zero waste solutions and a major source of pollution with severe impacts on the environment and public health, this time at the European Gathering Against Waste incineration in Cement Kilns (see programme) that took place the last 8-9 November in Barletta, Italy.
The event had an enormous success of participation, with more than 200 people attending the talks given by community leaders, NGOs, waste experts, and policy-makers on the various issues surrounding waste incineration in cement kilns and the main solutions around zero waste alternatives.
It received extensive press coverage in local newspapers and television (see below for press clipping) and all of the organizers, including Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero Puglia, Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, celebrated its outcomes.
Precisely, the gathering was a chance to strategize and plan further coordination at the European level amongst the various groups working on this front and resulted in the elaboration of a manifesto that will be made public in the coming days.
Waste incineration in cement kilns: an obstacle to zero waste and a source of pollution
‘Waste incineration in cement kilns is the biggest obstacle to zero waste’ said Paul Connett, professor emeritus at St. Lawrence University in New York in his keynote speech. Connett argued that waste incineration in cement kilns is not sustainable, neither saves as much energy as reuse and recycling do. In fact, this industrial practice releases toxic emissions into the air containing mercury, lead, cadmium and thallium, and other heavy metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants. Moreover, cement plants usually reintroduce the fly ash and the bottom ash resulting from the combustion process back into the cement, which basically makes buildings constructed with this cement highly toxic and threatening for people and the environment.
Regarding public protection from toxic emissions, Profesor Connett pointed that even if there were strong regulations, adequate monitoring and consistent enforcement, there would no way to control nanoparticles of dioxins, furans or toxic metals that result from waste incineration in cement kilns or any other combustion plant. Air pollution control devices do not efficiently capture nanoparticles, which can travel long distances, remain suspended for long periods of time and penetrate deep into the lungs, as referenced in scientific literature such as this and this.
“I am opposed to waste incineration in purpose-built facilities, but when you burn the waste in cement kilns you are taking it out of the hands of professionals and giving it to amateurs!, concluded Prof. Connett in reference to the increased interest of the cement industry to provide waste disposal services to municipalities and become actual incinerators.
When analyzing the emissions coming from a cement plant, di Ciaula concluded: “the pollutant emissions from cement-incinerators are much higher and would be illegal if they were coming from incinerator!”. Di Ciaula also reported a number of scientific studies about impacts on public health from toxic emissions, particularly regarding impacts of NOx emissions (here, here and here), PCBs compounds (various studies: here, here, here, here, here), and the increased effects on children (here), and reminded that PCBs are not systematically monitored neither regulated.
Impacted communities: testimonies that need to be heard
Undoubtedly, one of the high points of the event was the opportunity to hear the testimonies of several communities from Italy and around Europe that are facing waste incineration in cement kilns at their doorstep as well as engaging in transforming their local waste management systems to aim at zero waste.
In the first place, Sabrina Salerno from Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero Puglia talked about the situation in the city of Barletta, where a cement plant very close to the town threatens to start burning 65.000 tons/day of waste. This is a shocking contradiction in a town that has recently implemented door-to-door collection to increase recycling rates and reduce residual waste. Amongst other actions, the Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero and Zero Waste Italy are promoting a petition to the European Parliament against the use of Refuse-Derived-Fuel as a clean source of energy. Other representatives from around Italy presented similar battles in Monselice (Veneto) where the local cement plant has been called into question at the European Parliament for intolerable toxic emissions, Gubbio (Umbria) where local opposition has been successfully preventing waste incineration in the cement plant for many years. Other presentations refered to similar situations in Trapani (Sicily), Lazio (Rome) and Galatina (Puglia).
The collective Eko-Krog in Slovenia has also been protesting the potential incineration of waste in a Lafarge-owned plant in Trbovljefor the last ten years. Despite many victories along the way and wide popular support opposing this practice, the cement industry still intends to burn waste and the battle has started over many times over different permits and resolutions.
In the UK, Lillian Pallikaropoulos has been leading the campaign against the Cemex-owned cement plant in Rugby for the last ten years. The plant, placed just in town, burns waste and tires without appropriate regulatory and environmental permits. The case was brought up to the Court of Justice, which unfortunately failed in favour of the cement plant and charged Mrs Pallikaropoulos with the total cost of the legal proceedings. This was appealed at the European Court of Justice and is pending to be resettled.
Serbia was also present with the NGO Egrin, based in Kosjerić, where waste the cement plants of Holcim and Lafarge have been burning waste since 2006. Branislav Despotov argued that cement plants are increasingly making its main profits by burning hazardous waste rather than producing cement, as shown in this paper.
The way forward: connecting the local and the global level on a zero waste path.
Last but not least, one of the most exciting talks of the gathering was given by Erika Oblak, Zero Waste Slovenija coordinator with Ecologists Without Borders. The zero waste strategies in Slovenia have been moving forward with huge steps and culminating with the recent declaration of Ljubljana as the first Zero Waste EU capital, which was celebrated and inspired all the participants.
Precisely, host speakers such as Rossano Ercoloni, ZWE’s President and founder of Zero Waste Italy reminded that a zero waste path should not include waste incineration activities, even less in a cement kiln. “We have alternatives to incineration that are proven and already working” stated Enzo Favoino, the ZWE Scientific Chair, who addressed what would do a zero waste strategy in dealing with residual waste.
“In fact, we are at the #ageofdeccomissioning of incinerators, and we cannot allow waste to be promoted as ‘alternative fuel’ to fossil fuels”, concluded Mariel Vilella, ZWE Associate Director and also host to the meeting. “Now it’s time to coordinate our efforts at the local and global level, so that we make sure that our stories inspire and strength further all the other communities that are facing similar threats in Mexico, India, South Africa and all over the world”, she said.
Everyone showed enthusiasm to celebrate another international gathering in 2015, so more activities and further planning shall be announced soon.