In the run-up to the COP21 in Paris, Zero Waste Europe examines international climate finance flows from European sources to the waste sector in the Global South in the form of NAMAs. Despite the fact that climate finance is supposed to support the mitigation and adaptation of climate change of developing countries, it may end up supporting the waste incinerators or the incineration of waste in cement kilns, precisely the kinds of projects that contribute to climate change rather than stopping it, as zero waste strategies could do.
By Dharmesh Shah, Climate and Waste Policy Consultant with Zero Waste Europe
The 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) on climate change will take place in Paris later this year. It is one of the most closely watched events as it is expected to chalk the response of human civilization in the face of rapidly changing climate. Emerging economies like India and China are expected to play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the talks.
One of the key goals of the COP 21 is to break the prevailing deadlock in international climate politics and hopefully achieve a consensus on the way forward. Two new mechanisms – the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) and the Nationally Appropriate Mitigation and Action (NAMA) (among others) have been proposed with the aim to collate and streamline the collective efforts of nations. While the scope of such mechanisms is still evolving, a lot rides on the outcome of these strategies. In simple terms, the INDCs are a vehicle for countries to define their economy-wide goals for emission reduction in the post-2020 period while the NAMA is a sector specific implementation tool to help achieve the national targets outlined under the INDC. The vision of the INDC and the actions proposed under the NAMAs has to be complementary and not implemented in isolation.
For instance India recently released its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) proposal whereby it pledged to reduce its emissions intensity by 33-35% by 2030. One of the key areas of intervention is the renewable energy sector where it proposed a several fold increase in its renewable energy portfolio from 36GW to 175GW. This means that energy from non-fossil sources will account for 28-31% of grid capacity, and at least 13-14% of electricity generation1. Earlier this year India also released draft NAMA on the waste sector under which it announced technological interventions to mitigate the emissions from the sector. In fact, waste management sector appears prominently in several national mitigation strategies. It is the third largest sector, comprising 11% of the total NAMA projects in the pipeline. Among these, the NAMA database2 lists Peru, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Pakistan, and The Philippines with waste-to-energy incineration, landfill gas and cement co-incineration.
WASTE AND CLIMATE
It is interesting to see the prominence given to the waste sector, which also points to the increasing relevance of waste management as an issue in the climate discourse. At a global scale, the GHG emissions from the waste sector are approximately 3-5%3 of total anthropogenic emissions. Despite being a relatively minor emitter, the waste sector is uniquely positioned to help achieve mitigation targets across sectors. In other words, a holistic and strategic approach to waste management will positively impact emissions from the energy, forestry, agriculture, mining, transport, and manufacturing sectors.
In this framework, the prevalent linear approach to waste management that merely displaces discards from a source to a destination needs to be challenged. Waste must be seen as a symptom of larger systemic inefficiencies or leakages than a problem in isolation. Each item discarded in our bin has consumed fossil energy throughout its lifecycle. For instance, plastics account for approximately 5% of worldwide oil consumption4. The consumption of plastics in India is expected to increase from 11 million tons in 2013 to 16.5 million tons by 20165. India is also expected to be among top 10 global generators of packaging waste by 20166. In other words plastics equals oil. A major share of precious crude is being diverted to make single use forks, spoons and bags that end up in our landfills, incinerators and water bodies.
Hence, the debate on reducing our dependence on coal and oil should be intrinsically linked to our waste management efforts. In other words, how discards are treated at the end of their life will determine the success or failure of our sustainability efforts along the system.
INCINERATION INCOMPATIBLE WITH MITIGATION
Unfortunately, this is where most national and international waste policies contradict sustainability goals. That is because incinerators and landfills are central to these policies. While India has chosen waste as a sector for intervention in its INDC and NAMA, it has regrettably adopted “waste to energy” (WTE) incineration as central element in these proposals. WTE as a climate solution is also gaining momentum in several South Asian countries.
In reality, WTE incineration should have no place in the renewable energy portfolio for several reasons. First, it is known to emit more CO2 than coal power plants. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the foremost environmental agency in the U.S., recognizes that incinerators emit 2.5 times more carbon dioxide per MW than coal fired power plants. Secondly, it is the most expensive method to generate power. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2010, incinerators are twice as costly as coal-fired power and 60 per cent more than advanced nuclear energy. Finally, it is the most inefficient use of resources (read waste) that could otherwise be looped back into industrial or natural cycles.
Despite such evidence, incinerators have been widely historically financed under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as emission mitigation methodologies. As a result, sustainable practices of waste diversion employed for decades by the informal sector in the global south have suffered major setbacks. Soon after it was announced as an acceptable climate mitigation strategy, the waste workers (who eked a living through recycling) had to compete with the world largest waste management corporations like Suez Vivendi and Covanta whose incinerator proposals coupled with the lure of carbon finance caught the fancy of policy makers in the developing countries like China and India.
FOOD WASTE AS A RESOURCE
Another challenge in the developing nations is that of food waste management. Food waste is an important component of the municipal waste stream in Asia and comprises over 50% of the municipal waste in India alone. According to the United Nations Development Program, up to 40% of the food produced in India is wasted. Most of this food ends up in open dumps where it decomposes in the absence of oxygen and generates huge quantities of methane. Methane is a green house gas 25 times more potent than CO2. Under the mitigation plan India now proposes to incinerate a major portion of the food waste.
The embedded energy potential of food is immense. Methane can be harnessed more efficiently through technologies like Anaerobic Digestion generate clean energy. Many cities across India have successfully implemented pilot projects and are even linked them to the grid. Similarly, compost derived from food discards can be used to nourish lands made fallow by industrial farming. Over 10.5 millions hectares of land is fallow in India.
From this perspective, India’s INDC and the NAMA on waste fall short of its mitigation commitments. The over emphasis on destroying resource rich waste streams seems to be distractive and short-sighted to say the least. From the policy perspective, the waste sector is a low hanging fruit. A few systemic changes can compound into transformations along the materials economy. However, locking into inefficient waste management systems can hamper India’s mitigation goals.
Two decades have been lost in the pursuit of false solutions. It is high time the UNFCCC builds the courage to discard false solutions for the real ones.
“Addiction is finding a quick and dirty solution to the symptom of the problem, which prevents or distracts one from the harder and longer-term task of solving the real problem.”
Solid waste management is the third largest contributor to greenhouse gasses emissions in Costa Rica, and the figure keeps rising. The country, however, is not planning a sustainable policy for the sector, on the contrary, it chooses to disregard the recommendations and public consultations where the population has demanded more zero waste policies
In the run-up to the international climate negotiations in Paris from the beginning of December, Costa Rica has presented their strategic plan to reduce emissions. In the UN jargon, such plans are called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions‘ (INDCs)1. Every country in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has to present such a plan, and detail the emissions reductions they are willing to commit to in order to face the challenge of stopping climate change.
Costa Rica is proud of being one of the countries with the lowest emissions in the world, to the extent that they foresee be carbon neutral by 2021 and plan to cut 25% of their 2012 emissions figure. With that commitment, this Central American country with a population of 4.7 million people, could become an example for other countries that want to aim for meaningful reductions and achieve a “safe” and “fair” level of emissions. However, when it comes to its waste policies, Costa Rica has still some way to go to be a good example.
“Rehearsing” sustainable production practices
Costa Rica, like many other countries in the region, is proposing to “rehearse” new productive practices that would cut emissions with the support of the NAMAs. The NAMAs – Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions – have been promoted since COP 13 (2007) as the tool and mechanism to access climate finance for actions that would reduce carbon emissions.2
Costa Rica´s NAMA is still being drafted; it is in the early stages but it is making progress, according to a 2015 Report by the Ministry of Energy and Environment. The report also quotes the Executive Summary elaborated by the consulting firm Centre for Clean Air Policy (CCAP), with the collaboration of the German Cooperation agency (GIZ). The report talks about four lines of actions to deal with solid waste management emissions: methane capture in three major landfills, “Valorization” (recycling) of dry materials, and Composting and biodigestion of organic waste.
MBT and cement kilns enter the scene
Another proposed line of action is the “evaluation and implementation of advanced technologies for solid waste management and energy use” for “the organic fraction of waste with high calorific value”. The report links that to “promising technologies” like MBT (Mechanical biological treatment plants, which are designed to stabilize and reduce the volume of waste that goes to disposal).
GIZ Costa Rica has collaborated in writing this Executive summary3. They are vocal proponents of biological stabilisation of waste at MBT plants, followed by (eventual) use of the rejected fraction as fuel for cement kilns, a possibility that triggers alarm for the citizens of the region.
The idea of using waste as fuel for cement kilns is a growing problem in Central America. Local communities in the first lines of impact have denounced the adverse effects of this highly polluting practice. There are dozens of examples in Latin America: in Guatemala, an indigenous community has fought the plans of a cement company (Cementos Progreso), who wanted to build the largest cement kiln in Central America in their ancestral and protected lands with no previous consultation, while in México we can find a long list of acute intoxication cases linked to the operations of Ecoltec, a Holcim subsidiary established in the region of Apasco in 2003
Contradictory messages and lack of participation
We feel is important to point out how this NAMA falls short of real sustainable waste management.
MBT plants were popular in the 1990s, specially in Europe, but nowadays they are considered a suboptimal approach to maximizing reduction, re-utilization and recycling because although they increase the level of resource recovery, the final results are not as good as what we can achieve with a system with source separation and selective collection. The rate of resource recuperation in an MBT plant is way below 10 %, and the quality of the resources decreases with the process, so their market value diminishes. In the end, MBT plants themselves generate a big reject fraction, so landfills would still be needed.
It is worth noting that MBT plants by themselves have a limited capacity to remove the incentives for the use of disposable products and promote their redesign, and don’ t necessarily lead to improvements in the systems of source separation and selective collection of waste either.
And then, if we consider that the result of the whole treatment process is fuel for cement kilns, we would be drifting even further from the initial goal of reducing emissions; we would be supporting a highly energy-intensive industry, sadly known for causing environmental and social conflicts in the territories around their facilities.
The cement sector has, of course, shown lots of interest in using the reject fraction as a source of fuel, while several communities and civil society organisations have been denouncing such schemes. This practice is not only highly polluting and a serious threat for public health, but it also fails to achieve any reductions in emissions, despite the industry´s best efforts to advertise otherwise.
The response from Basura Cero Costa Rica
The organisation Hacia Basura Cero (Towards Zero Waste) Costa Rica is a key actor monitoring national waste policies. The organisation has shown its concern for the lack of participation of civil society and independent experts in the process of drafting the NAMA.
The CCAP’s NAMA proposal boasts having been developed in several workshops involving key actors from the sector, but citizen groups promoting sustainable waste management, like Hacia Basura Cero Costa Rica were not invited to those workshops.
Hacia Basura Cero has also pointed out that certain government officials known for their open support for incineration of urban waste as a solution for the waste problem in Costa Rica, have been involved in the design and planning around the NAMA.
In light of this threat, Hacia Basura Cero has tried to open a dialogue with the relevant government agencies, addressing them with questions about the NAMA process. At the moment of writing this article, we have not yet obtained an answer.
Dr Silvia Rodríguez Cervantes, representative of Basura Cero Costa Rica has declared that “this is wrong. The government doesn’t listen to us, and is ignoring the best options to achieve zero waste. That is worrying for many reasons, one of them being that incineration plans are totally incompatible with the ideas and visions that the citizens have put forward in several different consultation processes”4
Moreover, the public sector has identified “governance in municipalities” as one of the main obstacles to developing the solid waste NAMA. In the words of a report by the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) “governance in municipalities is complex, which is a handicap for obtaining finance”. Because of that obstacle, a new idea is being developed, namely to focus on using biomass (agricultural waste, basically cane sugar5) to produce energy. The cause and effect relationship between the obstacle and the new idea is not clarified in the document.
It is true that a NAMA that requires municipal participation faces difficulties because typically, in climate change related issues, governance in municipalities tends to be weak. But it does not follow that the idea of working with municipalities should be ruled out altogether. Would it not be better to regard the difficulty as a challenge that municipalities can prepare to face? Couldn’t they seize the opportunity of receiving and managing climate finance? It would be absolutely feasible to design a NAMA along those lines, if that is what the country sees is needed to achieve its emissions targets.
In Costa Rica there is clearly a process already underway, as the authorities are looking for the way to join this global call for reducing emissions. The citizens have spoken, and their ideas point to the strategy of reducing emissions in the sector of waste management; the population understands that solutions in this sector are part of a wider set of decisions that need everyone’s involvement and commitment. If Costa Rica takes this idea forward and takes advantage of the opportunity of obtaining climate finance through the NAMAs, we will have a huge opportunity to do things right.
Bibliography and references
Costa Rica – Ordinary Solid Waste NAMA. In Executive Summary. In NAMA Proposal Executive Summaries prepared for the Global NAMA Financing Summit. Center for Clean Air Policy CCAP. May 15-17, 2013. Copenhagen, Denmark.
Memoria del Taller de Dialogo Sectorial sobre Metas de Reducción de Emisiones para el Sector de Residuos. MINAE y PNUD. August 2015, Museo de los Niños, San José.
Memoria del Taller Nacional. Presentación de la Propuesta de Contribución Nacional INDC. MINAE y PNUD. September 2015, Fundación Omar Dengo, San José.
1The official Costa Rica INDC document was developed based on what seems to be a wide citizen consultation. Several workshops for sectoral dialogue about emission reductions goals were organised in 2015; information was gathered around possibilities in the agricultural, forestry and waste sectors , amongst others. Several documents detail their conclusions.
2 At the time of writing this article, many NAMAs are being designed or implemented, and there needs to be a critical analysis of what is being proposed because they are nationally owned concrete actions to reduce emissions, and they could receive significant resources
3 http://ccap.org/assets/NAMA-Proposal-Executive-Summaries_CCAP_May-8-2013.pdf. P. 28.
4 Amongst the proposals put forward by the workshops for sectoral dialogue about emission reductions goals in the waste sector, as documented in the repport, we find the promotion of integral waste management, with source separation and expanded recycling and composting programmes for organic waste. Although neither organisations working in waste management nor the waste pickers knew that those workshops were happening, it is important to note that significant effort went into oranising this dialogues, and it is very positive that some of the results are such appropriate measures.
The climate finance proposal for solid waste management in Colombia has been designed without citizen participation and is based on questionable environmental criteria.
Waste management produces 5% of the total Colombian greenhouse gases emissions, which under the “business-as-usual” scenario is expected to grow rapidly. The bulk of these emissions is methane from the landfills in which the country disposes of most of its solid waste. The consultancy firm CCAP (Centre for Clean Air Policy), together with the national authorities, has developed studies to determine possible solid waste management strategies that could be added to the NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions). The NAMAs have been promoted since COP 13 (2007) as the tool and mechanism to access climate finance for actions that would reduce carbon emissionsi.
The programme presented for Colombia wants, in a nutshell, to maximize the economic value generated by waste management, and to reduce emissions from landfills by redirecting some of the waste to resource recovery systems.
A CCAP reportii claims that this NAMA “would transform the waste sector resulting in carbon neutrality shortly after implementation”.
They propose three lines of action; using waste to produce fuel; methane capture in landfills; and separating organic waste and recyclables. When we look at where the emphasis is, however, we can see that the stress is mostly on using co-financing from the public sector and climate finance to promote the building of MBT plants (Mechanical biological treatment plants, which are designed to stabilise and reduce the volume of waste that goes to disposal) in several cities. In contrast, for separation of organic waste or recyclables, there is no mention of how such a program would be implemented, neither for organic waste nor for recyclables.
Furthermore, in the executive summary of their “Evaluation of NAMA Opportunities in Colombia’s Solid Waste Sector, the CCAP only mentions the MBT plants and how they “could generate refuse derived fuel, recyclables, and/or compost depending on the local market conditions for the recoverable elements”.
This is a problematic recommendation mainly for two reasons; firstly because using waste to generate refuse-derived fuel and burn it in cement kilns is actually incineration, an option with known adverse social and environmental effects. Incineration burns resources that could be recovered, contributes to climate change, is expensive, doesn’t create jobs and poses serious environmental and health concerns, and secondly, because this NAMA doesn’t create incentives for the source separation of organic waste and recyclables, as corroborated by the CCAP´s recommendations, where they foresee how those “can be an effective part of an integrated solid waste management program in the longer term” but don’t propose any immediate measures towards that end. Investing in an MBT plant could actually become an obstacle to develop source separation and selective collection routes schemes, which are more effective.
The CCAP’s analysis doesn’t take into consideration that source separation is a needed to obtain a quality final product, which is what a MBT plant is supposed to make. Once organic waste is mixed with other residues, no matter how advanced the technology for mechanical separation, the final product is going to be lacking in quality and contain polluting elements. Beside , if there is no source separation, the recuperation of recyclables in this type of facilities is very low (see box 1).
Furthermore, the promotion of source separation systems is intimately linked to the livelihood and jobs of waste pickers (see box 2), but they were not consulted by those elaborating the reports and documents linked to this waste management NAMA. They are only seen as future labour in a privatised waste management system.
Who will benefit from this NAMA?
According to the official documentation available, municipalities will be encouraged to set up MBT plants and finance them through private public partnerships in order to increase returns and diminish investment risks. In this type of partnerships, under Colombian law, an investor can receive a government subsidy of up to 20% of the total building and operational costs.
The documents state that “another crucial aspect of the solid waste NAMA is that policies and business models are being designed in order to include informal workers in the modernization of the sector, allowing them opportunities to work in the formal economy and increase the standard of their working and living conditions”
The problem is that the proposal doesn’t say that the waste pickers will get to keep doing their jobs, which is what their organisations and national coordinators have been fighting for these last 20 years (link in spanish). It just says that there will be “integrated solid waste management processes” – assuming what they are proposing is all that – create 6 to 10 times the number of jobs than those focused on disposal.
Regarding the waste pickers‘ work, the available documents fail to go beyond a few polite words on how “additional analysis should be conducted on the market for compost and recyclables, and should specifically address the informal sector recycling process”. The proposal actually claims that “additional jobs created through the Solid Waste NAMA could be used to employ a large number of existing informal workers, including many indirect jobs that will be created through increased recycling”iii, although none of the documents detail strategies to achieve that increase, beyond supporting the long term growth of the sector in general and the production and sale of compost and RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel).
Finally, the plans outlined in the NAMA proposal have never been consulted with their intended beneficiaries. It would appear those conducting the studies assumed that this was the best alternative for them, and ignore everything about their organisational context, and Zero Waste initiatives that are already underway in some major cities like Bogotá.
Disregarding the waste pickers’ achievements.
The waste pickers association of Bogotá – (ARB; Asociación de Recicladores de Bogotá) has been working systematically for sustainable and inclusive public waste management policies, and intends to include all the waste pickers of the city and provide an integral service.
The municipality of Bogotá created new regulations and established a direct payment to waste pickers, financed via end-user fees for waste collection. This was coupled with a reform of the whole waste management system and a process of nationalisation so that in the end the public company Aguas Bogotá would deal with waste collection. This process is the complete opposite of a private operation supported by public subsidies – which is what the CCAP waste management NAMA proposes.
ARB has also understood that a waste management model that prioritises collection and transport not only threatens the waste pickers’ livelihoods, but also the creation of value along the whole recycling chain. That is why, in 2010 ARB joined the Pacto Gremial de Recicladores (Recyclers Guild Pact), a national level strategic alliance of waste pickers, their organisations and organised intermediaries that work with recyclable residues who believe that the whole chain has to be defended and respect the right of the waste pickers to prosper in that chain.
Zero social benefits and doubtful environmental ones.
The waste management NAMA proposed for Colombia is full of imprecisions which would need to be clarified before the implementation phase. Under the section on social benefits the documents only say “no information available”, they should be precise in their affirmations, otherwise they are misleading: for example there is the claim that “recycling can create 6 to 8 times the jobs”, but if it is of MBT plants we are talking of, that is not true; MBT plants are highly mechanised and require little labour, besides the jobs in those plants have little to do with the waste pickers’ skills.
On environmental benefits, the proposal says it will reap “the environmental benefits of recycling (avoiding the production of virgin materials), composting (displacing chemical fertilizers) and use of RDF (displacing coal in cement kilns and other industrial boilers)” which is not the case; MBT plants typically can recuperate no more than 10% of the recyclables that they process, and since organic waste arrives mixed with all the other types of waste, the compost they can produce is not really compost (it cannot be used as an alternative to fertilizers or to improve soils). An MBT plant is a last stop before disposal, and in these proposals its main objective is to produce RDF (refuse derived fuel) for the highly polluting and contested cement sector.
How does an MBT plant work?
These technically sophisticated plants combine mechanical means to sort waste with biological treatments to process the wet part of the waste. Some part of those materials are recuperated to be recycled, and the organic waste is stabilized through processes of composting or anaerobic digestion, by which a big part of the organic waste evaporates.
This type of plant only recovers a small part of the recoverable resources (between 5 and 10%), and since the waste is not source separated the outputs are low quality ones, specially organic matter, which makes really difficult their subsequent recycling and means that most of the waste that enters an MBT ends up in disposal anywayiv.
Waste pickers have built a social movement of international scope, with an estimated 15 million people behind it. These men and women have made waste their business, their job and their livelihood. Their position at the base of the recycling industry is the link the system needs with citizens and communities.
However, they have been historically overlooked, and pushed into the informal sector and social exclusion.
Waste picking, besides being good for the environment, contributes to the local economy, creates jobs and makes sizeable saving possible in public budgets.
According to a report by the UN, recycling is one of the main strategies to fight unemployment and poverty.
Colombian waste pickers (p. 212) in particular, have attained a significant level of recognition of their work and contributions, although they still suffer pressures and threats from those who see them as a force that might jeopardize their waste-business-as-usual.
i At the time of writing this article, many NAMAs are being designed or implemented, and there needs to be a critical analysis of what is being proposed because they are nationally owned concrete actions to reduce emissions, and they could receive significant resources.
ii CCAP, 2013. Solid Waste NAMA in Colombia. Transforming the Solid Waste sector while reducing GHG emissions
iii NAMA Proposal Executive Summaries – Prepared for the Global NAMA Financing Summit
iv Las plantas MBT, una falsa solución para cumplir con la Ley de Basura Cero” – MBT plants, a false solution for complying with the Zero Waste Act, Report in spanish– .Position paper on MBT plants in Buenos Aires, elaborated by the ONGs in the technical advisory committee tot he Zero Waste Act: Greenpeace Argentina, Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN) y Fundación Avina, with the collaboration of Fundación ENT. June 2015.
On October 4, in Usurbil, Gipuzkoa, the annual celebration of Basque schools ‘Ikastolas’ took place, and this is the first year that the organisation have considered taking a zero waste approach.
This is already a traditional meeting point for over 10,000 people who come together to support the Basque language “Euskara”, and this year it was also used to showcase how it is possible to radically reduce waste and increase recycling rates. This event was particularly useful to highlight how wrong and unnecessary is to build the incinerator of Zubieta which the regional government wants to build next to the town of Usurbil in the Basque country.
The event implemented three steps to be a zero waste event:
- Prevention: the promotion of tap water to avoid the use of disposable plastic bottles.
- Reuse: drinks were mostly served in reusable cups,
- Separate collection; over 90% of the waste was separately collected.
Prevention: promote the drinking of tap water!
For the first time, and thanks to adopting the zero waste approach, it was possible to provide tap water to the participants. The organisation of the event partnered with the municipality to promote the tap water from the municipality as being healthy free.
The results were incredible! In past editions around 15,000 disposable plastic bottles were bought during this day and thanks to this measure the number went down to only 3,548 bottles. This will be the mark to beat for future years!
Reuse: Reusable cups
The celebration planned to move away from single use glasses and therefore heavily promoted the use of reusable glasses. 49,350 glasses were rented and 85.89% of them were recovered and washed for future use. Prior to adopting the zero waste approach the same festival was getting back 66% of the glasses.
Thanks to an innovative separate collection system and the involvement of more than 110 volunteers, 7,750 kg of segregated waste was collected during the day of the celebration.
More concretely the organisation and volunteers managed to separately collect:
1,160kg of packaging
1,180kg of paper
1,140kg of biowaste
106ltr of oil
380kg of special plastics
720kg residual waste
This totals a separate collection rate of 90.19% leaving only 9.81% (760kg) of residual waste.
In addition to the successes in waste management the zero waste strategy managed to produce many positive spin-offs such as promoting sustainable mobility with use of bicycles, chemical free cleaning products and toilets, etc.
As a result of this successful experience, the local Zero Waste Europe member, Zero Zabor, will be helping to produce guidelines to host similar events elsewhere. Watch this space for more!
All in all, it was an incredibly successful experience considering it was the first time it was organised and Zero Zabor is already looking forward improving the results in 2016!
Want to see what this event looked like? Watch this 5 minute video:
Press release: New report finds significant air pollution problems across waste incineration activities
For Immediate release: 27/11/15
A new report released today by Zero Waste Europe has found that waste incineration activities, both in incineration facilities and cement plantsacross Europe, have had serious breaches of emission limits and have experienced other significant technical and legal problems. Across 5 case studies a number of environmental, procedural and technical issues faced by waste incinerators are exposed.
The report, elaborated by consultancy group ENT, investigates 5 cases around air pollution limit breaches in incineration facilities; the Lafarge cement plant in Montcada I Reixac (Barcelona, Spain), Lafarge cement plant in Trbovlje (Slovenia), Ivry waste incinerator in Paris (France), Dargavel waste incinerator (Scotland, UK), and incinerators of Bavaria, Germany.
The report highlights that the emission limits of hazardous air pollutants as designated by the EU Air Quality Directives (AQDs) are significantly higher than recommended safety limits by the World Health Organization (WHO), creating a significant amount of uncertainty and potential safety risks for both the environment and public health. Moreover, the reliance on the principle for “best available techniques” (BAT) favours far higher emission limits than are deemed environmentally and epidemiologically safe by the WHO. Furthermore, the monitoring of air pollution in waste incineration activities are handled by the same facilities, and are therefore not subject to independent monitoring practices.
In the case of the Lafarge Montcada I Reixach cement plant, there is a long history of popular opposition to the plant, with protests taking place in 1975, however more recently in 2006 a petition gained 6,000 signatures opposing a plan to use sludge, bone and meat meal, and plastics as fuel. This opposition delayed the permit for the plant, but it was subsequently granted in 2008. However this began a long series of legal and procedural challenges to the permit, which continues to take place up until the current day.
Further cases such as Dargavel, and the incinerators in Bavaria highlight the instances where the legally defined limits are exceeded. Having potentially hazardous effects on human health and the environment. The case of the cement plant in Trbovlje, Slovenia, has been on the national and European spotlight in the last years, given the complaints from local communities for toxic emissions, odours, and lack of environmental permits.
Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Associate Director said: “How many air pollution incidents do people need to put up with before policy-makers realise that burning waste is not the way forward? Recycling and composting create livelihoods, save money, and protect the environment and public health, while the incineration of waste just keep us away from a truly sustainable Circular Economy.”
The report adds further support to the call for an end to the incineration of waste, as practice which continues to exacerbate climate change and creates damaging and hazardous environmental pollution. Instead Zero Waste Europe calls for the implementation of zero waste policies that prioritize the higher options of the Waste Hierarchy, such as waste prevention, reuse and recycling, including redesign and the implementation of improved Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, where producers are mandated to work to eliminate their product waste.
The report has been launched in Barcelona, as a start to the International Meeting of Key Struggles around Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns, This meeting is a follow up from the previous European Gathering that took place in 2014 in Barletta, Italy, and builds up the efforts of the Spanish Network against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns that has been active for the last 6 years.
9 November 2015
In a policy paper released today Zero Waste Europe warns against the use of landfill bans and advocates for the use of more effective instruments to reduce residual waste and advance towards a circular economy.
The paper argues that most of the districts with landfill bans have seen an overcapacity of waste to energy plants, discouraging them to take further efforts on waste prevention, reuse or recycling.
According to Joan-Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe’s Executive Director, “Unless all treatment options which “break the loop” are considered, the consequence of banning or phasing out one of them will result in a transfer of waste to another. This will create unnecessary tensions which in no way help to move towards a circular economy.”
The policy paper analyses how in all 7 European countries where a landfill ban has been implemented it resulted into more waste being diverted towards incineration than towards recycling. This is the case in the Netherlands and Germany, where waste to energy incineration tripled and almost doubled the increase of recycling, respectively, and the case of Austria and Norway, where recycling has even decreased. In Denmark, the ban on landfill has seen a boost in incineration accompanied by a rise of waste generation of 37.5%.
Zero Waste Europe also believes that landfill bans are a way to “bury” waste under other statistics without necessarily improving performance. In this regard, some European countries like Germany or Sweden claim to have a zero waste to landfill policy, but they actually landfill the rejects of mechanic-biological treatment plants and ashes from waste to energy plants. The paper also highlights that a zero waste to landfill policy is “blind” to waste reuse and reduction, for countries could continue to run a linear economy, increasing waste generation as long as waste is burned or recycled.
Comparing two different cases, that of Copenhagen, where a zero waste to landfill policy is in place, and that of Treviso province, with a real zero waste strategy. The residual waste in Copenhagen is almost 6 times that of Treviso, where they don’t have landfill ban but a true zero waste policy to all sorts of disposal.
In order to advance towards a Circular Economy Zero Waste Europe recommends to use equally high taxes on landfill and waste to energy incineration combined with a lower tax on landfilling of stabilised waste for they prove to be more effective in diverting waste towards prevention , preparation for re-use and recycling than a landfill ban.
To download the Policy Paper, click here.