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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

1st Zero Waste Fair in the Philippines

zero waste fair
Visit the Zero Waste Fair website:


The first Philippine Zero Waste Fair took off on January 22, in Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City. Organized by EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Mother Earth Foundation, and Health Care Without Harm, the Zero Waste Fair was an excellent opportunity to learn more about zero waste initiatives, lifestyle, municipalities and organizations.


The Zero Waste (ZW) fair, celebrated in the context of the Zero Waste Month proclaimed by President Benigno Aquino III, was the first ever exhibition on waste, workshops on and trading of discards, and exchange of ideas and practices on waste in ways and forms that were accessible to everyone. Its aim was to multiply the pursuers of zero waste, and grow the benefits exponentially!



The workshops on recycling, composting, repurposing, and the proper handling of electronic waste were one key activity in the Fair. Most importantly, it was a gathering of people who wanted to learn from each other.

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Booth by Junk Not, objects made with recycled plastic.


The diverse booths showcasing products made from recycled materials were particularly inspiring. Junk Not shared her stories of how most of plastic reused for her creations was found in a scrapyard and was going to be burnt. All her products were effectively (and beautifully) diverted from landfills and incinerators.


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Recycled glass bottles turned into beautiful decoration.





People could walk around exhibits; listen, discuss with others; participate in checking out propositions; even repair or repurpose their discards right on the fair site; and engage and trade online and carry it forward during the fair.



Interestingly, the ZW Fair counted with the participation of an international delegation of ‘zero-wasters’ that presented a perspective of Zero Waste experiences around the world. Nalini Shenkar from Hasiru Dala in Bangalore introduced the audience to the experience of organizing a cooperative of grassroots recyclers, which has involved the creation of 500 jobs in 2 years. Shibu K Nair from the Kerala-based organization Thanal talked about Zero Waste Himalayas, a network of more than 30 groups created in 2010 that promotes better resource use and recovery practices in the region of the Himalayas, particularly strategic since it holds the source of water for half of humanity in the planet. From the Global North, Monica Wilson, Recycler of the Year 2012 and GAIA‘s US and Canada Coordinator, explained the specific steps in the implementation of the Zero Waste program in San Francisco, a city that has been continually reducing its waste generation and it’s committed to a zero waste goal by 2020. Similarly, Mariel Vilella Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, introduced some of the European zero waste best practices.


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These experiences reinforced a zero waste vision for Philippines, where the debate around waste management is currently hot and contentious. The National Solid Waste Management Commission is a designated group by the government to assess new waste management technologies and revise the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Act, which could potentially lower the current targets for air pollution and allow incinerators back in the country. The incinerator moratoria in Philippines has been a world-wide example to ensure a toxic-free environment, and its eventual cancellation is seen as a global threat.



Later in the week, Zero Waste Europe’s Mariel Vilella and Dr.Jorge Emmanuel called for the protection of this legislation and the pursuing of ZW goals in the Philippines.

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Booth of Nueva Vizcaya Province at the Zero Waste Fair

Precisely, the Zero Waste Fair showed several municipalities that are already taking steps towards implementing zero waste programs. Nueva Vizcaya was one of the highlighted places that is actively working towards zero waste goals, with several initiatives on education, training, livelihoods, and planning.


Moreover, Mother Earth Foundation organized a visit to the local Barangay of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig (the native Filipino term to refer to the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, ie. a village, district or ward) that has transformed a former illegal landfill into a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), along with a source separation system that has currently reached 95% compliance. The separate collection scheme and management of materials in the MRF has formalized the work of 12 waste pickers and 5 MRF staff members, with a considerable raise in their monthly earnings and livelihood stability. 


As a closing event, the Zero Waste Fair gave the Zero Waste Awards, as a salute to ZW heroes and pioneers, and a celebration of how far we’ve come on the road to Zero Waste.


EU Circular Economy Package: Questioning the reasons for withdrawal

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EU Circular Economy Package: Questioning the reasons for withdrawal

The proposal by the European Commission to withdraw the Circular Economy Package from its 2015 Work Programme has produced a worrying climate of uncertainty. The arguments given for proposing the withdrawal call into question the legality, substance and democracy of the decision.
In short, we call on the European Commission to:
1) allow the current version of the circular economy package to follow the democratic co-decision process and address any improvements needed. Considering the loud condemnation of the withdrawal by both the Parliament and the Council, a withdrawal of this proposal by the Commission would be undemocratic.

2) Increase the level of ambition in a potential new proposal, should it unilaterally decide to withdraw the current one: increase number of jobs created, the environmental benefits to be gained, the cost savings to the public purse and the revenue to the repair and recycling sector. Any new proposal must provide nothing less than the benefits of the current proposal.

Furthermore, in the absence of any final formal decision by the Commission on its work programme, or any clear announcement on when it will do so, we present below the reasons given by the Commission for its withdrawal along with our counter-arguments.

1. The Circular Economy Package does not fit with the new jobs and growth agenda.

The current waste proposal has clear economic, social and environmental benefits at its core. The impact assessment estimates the creation of 580,000 jobs, the increase in annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion, savings of €72 billion a year in waste management costs and a 27.5% reduction in marine litter by 2030. This would improve competitiveness of EU waste management and recycling sectors, and provide greater resource security with secondary raw materials being re-injected into the economy2. In addition, between 146 and 244 million tons of GHG emissions could be avoided by 2020 through reinforced application of the waste hierarchy, representing between 19-31% of the 2020 EU target.
These changes lead on from the Commission’s 2011 Raw Materials Communication and Resource Efficiency Roadmap, which highlight that, as worldwide demand for raw materials increases, greater efforts are necessary to boost recycling, reuse and repair in order to reduce the pressure on demand for primary raw materials, and reduce energy consumption and GHGs from extraction and processing.
Finally, the streamlining of present legislation would allow for increased legal certainty and make recycling legislation more easily enforceable, lifting regulatory and administrative burdens for SMEs as stated in a previous analysis by the Commission.

2. There would be ‘no foreseeable agreement’ between the European Parliament and the European Council

The Circular Economy Package fulfils obligations already agreed upon in the 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP), adopted by the Council, the Parliament and the Commission in 2013. Within the 7th EAP the three institutions call for full implementation of existing waste legislation, the need for additional efforts to reduce waste generation and limiting landfilling and energy recovery to residual waste, while moving towards a lifecycle-driven ‘circular’ economy, with residual waste close to zero.
The reactions from MEPs and member states opposing the withdrawal, suggests that an agreement would have been reached, and that both institutions were eager to work further on the proposal. The threat of withdrawal has led a group of leading EU lawyers to state that “from a democratic point of view, it would be odd that an executive agency is able to depart so easily and so significantly from the Union lawmaker’s 2013 policy goals” and that “a definitive withdrawal from existing proposals would run counter to the general legal principle of loyal cooperation.”

3. EU law needs to be simplified

One of the stated objectives of the proposal is to simplify waste legislation. The proposal as it stands simplifies definitions, identifies one methodology instead of four and combines several directives into one in order to avoid confusion and administrative burdens. Therefore, any new circular economy proposal must not halt the already-started streamlining exercise of the current package.

4. European citizens want change as demonstrated by the election results. Therefore, the EU needs to focus on the big things that matter: jobs, growth and fairness in our societies.

It is true that the European election results signalled a desire for things to be different. However there is no evidence that citizens want a cut back on environmental laws. The Eurobarometer poll 4165 conducted over the period Europe was going to the elections (mid 2014) showed that 74% of Europeans believe that environmental protection can boost economic growth, and 56% believe that the EU is not doing enough to protect the environment. The more recent Flash Eurobarometer 3886 from June 2014 also highlighted that 86% of people think that the impact of more efficient resource use would be positive on the quality of life, bring economic growth (80%), as well as on employment opportunities in their country (78%). Most of them consider that reducing waste and sorting recyclable waste at home (51%) and in industry and construction (50%) would make the biggest difference.

Withdrawal of the Circular Economy Package from the current co-decision process makes no sense and constitutes a huge waste of the Commission’s, Council’s and Parliament’s resources.


Statement in support of maintaining the current circular package_22 Jan 2015_FINAL


Recycle the grey bin!

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“Recycle the grey bin” is the name of the campaign that has been conducted Zabor Zero – Zero Waste Basque Country in recent months to denounce the containers for mixed waste as one of the main reasons for low recycling rates and high levels of waste generation. This campaign has consisted in sealing the containers for residual waste in various towns with two main aims. Firstly, to highlight the inconsistency between what some politicians say and what they do and secondly, to underline how a well-implemented separate collection at source makes this container redundant.

They tell you to recycle and then they give you containers where all waste gets mixed

Many politicians say one thing and then do the opposite. Even those who know little about waste management understand that the materials

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separated have a value and it’s only when they are mixed up that waste is generated, with its impact on the economy and on the environment. The containers for mixed waste are the instrument to justify not separating waste and mixing up resources. One should just observe how they are designed to accept anything of any size and texture. It’s because they have been placed “there” that we got used to having them “there” but this is not the result of a divine action but of a political decision; A political decision taken by someone elected by us and which is responsible for promoting waste generation and costs money to all of us. What is the point of using our taxes to finance the generation of waste? What sense does it make to invest public money to generate a problem? When are we going to break this vicious circle?

If you remove the grey bin the separate collection will increase

The second goal was to highlight the impact of removing the container for mixed waste on separate collection. Indeed, the systems that have marginalised the collection of residual waste are the ones with best separate collections.

Despite 90 to 95% of the waste generated is recyclable, in most cases only 20 to 25% is separately collected. The remaining materials are mixed and become garbage. Whilst in the practices without container for mixed waste separate collection ranges between 70% -95%. Experience proves that very little residual waste is generated when the trash container is removed.

The old dichotomy of collection Door to Door vs 5th container

In the recent years, some towns in the Basque Country, especially in Gipuzkoa, have made great changes in waste management. This has allowed the discussion to evolve from “What to do with the waste generated?” to the new zero waste paradigm “What to do in order not to generate waste?” In this transition towards zero waste model there have been profound changes in the system of waste collection with the door-to-door system becoming the target for political fights. Some have opposed the door-to-door separate collection system to a system with 5th container to collect organic waste. The results have differed and new systems have been tried in the search of high separate collection rates; mixed systems with two streams collected door-to-door (organic and non-recyclable) or one stream ( for non-recyclables) with other fractions in containers, whilst small villages compost all organic waste in situ, and lately collection systems with containers with controlled access (by chip). All these systems are different but they all have in common that they have removed the container for mixed waste or grey bin from the streets and this has allowed separate collection rates to increase.

New experiences have confirmed the message of the campaign

Since the campaign was designed and launched back in June 2014, the message has been reaffirmed and even enriched with new experiences. For instance in Azkoitia, 11,000 inhabitants, the container for mixed waste was removed and replaced with tailored poles to collect non-recyclable fractions whilst keeping the other containers for recyclables where they were. As a result separate collection rates increased from 40% to 80%. Another example is Tolosa, with 20,000 inhabitants, where the mixed waste containers were replaced with two kind containers with limited and controlled access for residual waste and organic waste and as a result separate collection has gone from 26% separate collection over 70%.

The more systems are available the less excuses are left not to act

In Gipuzkoa we have experimented different sorts of systems and hence enlarged the set of tools available to organize a good separate collection of waste. As a consequence the authorities and politicians are increasingly less capable of finding excuses not to act. Zero Zabor will not tell to politicians what system to use because the best option might change from town to town, however we will continue to demand them to fulfill their duty of protecting the health of their citizens, the environment and the future generations according to the best practices in Europe.

The time to look for bad excuses is over!

Recycle the grey bin!

Gipuzkoa to save €250 million after scrapping the construction of the incineration plant

15/01/2015 Translated from article published by GHK – click here for original text in Spanish and Basque



Although Gipuzkoa will have to pay the so-called SWAP, speculative products contracted by the former managers of the GHK (the Gipuzkoa Consortium for Waste Management), it will still have significant savings after stopping the construction of the incineration plant to have more recycling-oriented facilities.


After one year waiting, the Court has finally issued a judgement in the case against the SWAP. This case took to Court La Caixa and Santander (formerly Banesto) for an abusive use of the SWAP contracts. The Court decision has eventually been favourable to the banks.


This means that the province of Gipuzkoa will have to continue paying its SWAP fees, just as if it had used the loans that were requested to build the incineration plant, while it is not the case. In case the incineration had been built, these fees would have been paid too, which means that the judgement does not entail unforeseen costs.


The incineration plant had a total budget of €500 million (financial costs included). If it had been built, on top of these costs public authorities would have had to face the amortisation of the loans, a complete disaster to public finances. Such a big cost would have brought necessarily much higher costs for municipalities to treat their waste, which is hardly viable to most of them.


On the other hand, the new infrastructures projected by the Provincial Council and the Gipuzkoa Consortium for Waste Management are a comprehensive answer to waste management, as they close the loop in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective way. In this sense, the total cost of the new facilities –even when including the speculative SWAP products subscribed during the former term- will be €250 million, half the price of the incineration plant alone, proposed during the last political term. Gipuzkoa will therefore save €250 million by scrapping the construction of the incineration plant and building facilities to recycle and compost municipal waste.


Carlos Ormazabal (Basque Nationalist Party) and Denis Itxaso (Socialist Party), former President and Vice-President of GHK respectively, admitted on a public hearing in front of the Committee on technical solutions of GHK that the incineration plant that they projected was oversized. This means that, if it had been built, the plant would not have had enough waste to burn, and, so, any of the banks’ clauses would have applied: either (1) importing waste to incinerate, or (2) raising the waste taxes to ensure the viability of the plant. Either of these clauses should have been in force the first 20 years of the facility until the end of the depreciation of the capital.


A remodelling of the plant was impossible, as according to law, projects may only be modified up to 10%, while the adaptation to Gipuzkoa’s needs required a 35% reduction of the project. Consequently, stopping the incineration plant was the right choice both from economic and environmental perspectives.


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The judgement on SWAP, in contrast, makes clear the bad management of the former GHK’s board. The contract to build the incinerator was signed in 2011 when the former board was on its way out of office and when the new government was already elected. A huge financial burden was hence imposed on a community that had clearly expressed itself against this option in the streets and in the elections.


After the court ruling the Diputación de Gipuzkoa will have to pay the SWAPs that it never used but at least it managed to save 250 million euros in an investment which will have hijacked the current moves of the province towards the highest recycling rates seen in Spain.




27 November 2008: Start of the procedures and the studies to obtain funding to build up the incineration plant. These studies suggest a budget of €385 million. Financial expenditures would rise up to €115 million.

18 January 2009: the European Investment Bank expresses its willingness to fund the project, yet it warns the Gipuzkoa Consortium for Waste Management about the “political” risk of the financial operation.

1 April 2009: Signature of a contract with Price-Waterhouse-Coopers (PwC) to have legal and economic advice on incineration.

3 August 2010: Carlos Ormazabal subscribes the mandate letter with La Caixa and Banesto in order to obtain the line of credit. These two entities would provide €68 million, to be added to the €195 million of the European Investment Bank and the €122 million of the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa

24 January 2011: La Caixa does a Test of Convenience to Carlos Ormazabal (former President of GHK), so as to evaluate whether the SWAP product fit the needs of the client. La Caixa states in its report “the product is not suitable to the you, provided the lack of knowledge and experience needed to understand and evaluate the risks and the consequences of this product”. La Caixa places Ormazabal under the “retailer” category. Referring to this precise product, the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive states that in case the results of the Test of Convenience were negative, the product could not be recommended to the client.

3 February 2011: Approval of all the funding contracts of the incineration plant, except for those for the SWAP that did not go to the GHK’s board.

9 February 2011: La Caixa re-evaluates Carlos Ormazabal from “retailer” to “professional” through the signature of the “Request of change of MiFID category” made by Ormazabal himself.

11 February 2011: Signature of the SWAP transaction with Banesto and La Caixa by the President of GHK Carlos Ormazabal.

22 May 2011: Elections to the General Council of the Basque Country leading to a change of government at the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa.

30 June 2011: Beginning of the liquidation of the SWAP fees by Banesto and La Caixa to GHK. From that day onwards, the fees had risen €14 million.

13 October 2011: At his last board meeting, Carlos Ormazabal the Final Project to build the incineration plant is approved, 7 days before changing the board of GHK. If this has not taken place, the contract could have been terminated without any compensation. Besides, the termination of the SWAP contracts would have been far easier and cheaper. This decision was taken against the clear order of the already in power provincial Councillor for the Environment Juan Carlos Alduntzin.

September 2012: Request of the current managers of GHK to the banks to adjust the liquidations of the SWAP fees to the part of the line of credit provided but unamortised (€9.7 million).

29 November 2012: GHK notifies to Banesto and La Caixa that they are not allowed to keep cashing the SWAP fees on a loan that is not being used. However, both entities ignore the request and keep cashing the entire fees on the bank accounts.

31 May 2013: Assertion of a claim of GHK against Banesto and La Caixa for unjust interpretation of the SWAP and against Price-Waterhouse-Cooper for negligent advice to GHK.

10 June 2013: Admission to procedure of the claim of the current managers of GHK.

26 February 2014: Beginning of the oral procedure against Banesto, La Caixa Price-Waterhouse-Coopers, for unjust interpretation of the SWAP and negligent advice.

14 January 2015: The judge of chamber nr.4 of the Lower Court of Donostia rules in favour of the interests of the banks.


To learn more about the story in Gipuzkoa see this video.


The third phase of the Zero Waste Italy movement launched in Capannori

Capannori meeting ZW

The Zero Waste Italy national meeting took place in Capannori, in the Lucca province, on 3 and 4 January. Meetings and workshops focused on three main themes (empowerment, ZW start-ups and local enterprises, and composting) and attracted over 150 participants, including mayors, experts, artists and activists from over 12 Italian regions. Numerous innovation initiatives have been presented over two days, from Funghi Espresso of Antonio Di Giovanni and Kompresso of Giampaolo Belloli, proposing alternatives to non-recyclable coffee capsules, to the Ecopulp plast project presented by Enrico Fontana, to the Effecorta network of Pietro Angelini, the Zero Waste Hotel and Restaurant Project of Antonio Esposito, and many others.

The conference highlighted the key role of local communities in reaching the Zero Waste goal and the need to empower them, promoting democracy, awakening good citizenship and sharing knowledge and best-practices. As the province of Lucca has shown, the Zero Waste strategy has proven capable of polarising positive energies and generating enthusiasm among all stakeholders.

In this framework, the National Assembly of Zero Waste Italy elected Patrizia Sciuto as ZWI vice-president, while reconfirming ZWI president Rossano Ercolini and ZWI secretary Letizia Pappalardo. It also launched the Technical and Scientific support group, led by Enzo Favoino. The National Assembly thus strengthened the organization of the Association, which is now formally recognized, well-rooted in all Italian regions, and benefitting from a wide network of technical and operational experts, capable of addressing the increasing demand for cooperation from local stakeholders.

The books “The Zero Waste solution”, “Don’t burn the future” and “Ten Actions for Zero Waste” have also been presented by authors Paul Connett, Rossano Ercolini and Roberto Cavallo.

Professor Paul Connett, during its speech entitled “Ten Steps towards Zero Waste” said that ZWI is now ready for its third phase: investing on communities rather than on incinerators, promoting sustainability schools, and increasing producer responsibility through Zero Waste Research Centres, like the one in Vercelli presented by mayor Maura Forte and assessor Marta Ferri.

The closing concert of the “Gaudats junk band” of Capannori and surroundings, playing with instruments made out of reused materials, expressed all the energy and the creativity of this two days gathering.
Rossano Ercolini, ZWI president, concluded the event stating that, despite the anachronistic article 35 of the recent “Sblocca Italia” (“Unlock Italy”) decree, which aims at reviving incinerators, the contagious wind of Zero Waste keeps blowing, and it will soon bring “a Zero Waste Spring”.