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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign
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Creating Local Jobs
& Recovering Resources

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Optimising Waste Collection for Quality Recycling
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Returning Organic Material to Our Soils

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Advocating for a Zero Waste Future

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Supporting Local Groups to Drive Change

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Closing the Loop of Materials,
Phasing Out Toxics & Emissions

Building a culture of zero waste in Brussels

Towards Zero Waste Cities

On the 22nd June, 2016, Zero Waste Europe held the closing conference of the project “Town to town, people to people – Building a European Culture of Zero Waste” in Brussels. The project aimed at bringing together European municipalities and environmental organisations in the construction of a new zero waste culture.

After the Budapest, Ljubljana and Capannori conferences in November April and May, the final one took place in Brussels on 22nd June. Besides identifying good practices at the local level and helping diffuse them across Europe, this last conference also intended to bring the conclusions of the project to European policy makers.

The conference served to present Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study on the city of Parma. Gabriele Folli, Environment Councillor from the city of Parma, presented their transition towards Zero Waste, explaining how they have managed to move from 45% recycling to 73% in only 4 years and notably reduced their residual waste by 59%. The city is the vivid example that ambitious targets for the circular economy aren’t only feasible but bring environmental, social and economic benefits.

In addition to the presentation from Parma, the closing conference of the project counted on the presence of Annemie Andries, Senior Policy Advisor of OVAM, the Flemish Agency of Waste, who presented the new targets on residual waste that are being envisaged in Flanders. These accompany recycling targets and other measures and aim at pushing for a reduction of the non-reusable and non-recyclable waste.

image: Zorro2212 (CC BY-SA 4.0)
image: Zorro2212 (CC BY-SA 4.0)

After her, Alexandre Garcin, Deputy Mayor of Roubaix, presented the transition towards Zero Waste of this city in the North of France. In their case, the city doesn’t have the power to implement separate collection, but is directly working with households, companies, schools and civil society to minimise waste generation and to ensure separate collection of the waste that is produced. Roubaix showed that political will can overcome legal constraints.

Finally, Caroline van der Steen, Director of Stadsecoloog of Bruges, presented their Food Smart City project and the work they are doing to prevent food waste and to find alternative and innovative ways of making the most of food surpluses.

The project and the conference has allowed cities and civil society to exchange good practices on waste prevention, separate collection and other sectorial specific measures. Besides, it has boosted the exchanges and the relations among cities across the EU, truly permitting to build a culture of zero waste that has lead even to the twinning of two cities thanks to their efforts to go zero waste.


On World Environment Day, Majorca presents its plans to start moving away from incineration

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Waste management in Majorca has been for long associated with the incineration of waste. With the biggest waste-to-energy incineration plant in Southern Europe, the system has been shaped and impacted by this mega-infrastructure: with average separate collection at 15% and having reached the point of importing waste from Ireland and Italy to feed the facility.

However, after a change of government on the island, the region and most of the cities, a new and more environmentally friendly model of waste management is starting to take shape. Fortunately waste is no longer imported to be burned and cities, towns and villages of the island are starting to wake up and transition towards a new model.

Among the discussions for this new model, the city of Palma (the capital of the island with 400,000 inhabitants) chose the World Environment Day to organise a conference on waste management to learn about good practices that will help them designing a new model for the city. The conference presented good examples of waste management on the island, with the prominent cases of Porreres or Artà, that have recently joined the limited but growing group of towns above 70% separate collection on the island and are introducing an ambitious pay-as-you-throw scheme.

image: Andrés Nieto Porras (CC BY-SA 2.0)
image: Andrés Nieto Porras (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In addition to this, the conference focused on the role of economic incentives to help improve waste management, with examples like the bonus/malus tax on waste disposal existing in Catalonia, or the inclusion of pay-as-you-throw schemes in the tourist sector.

The conference was closed by Zero Waste Europe who presented their holistic vision of waste management and to provide good examples from the Network of Zero Waste Cities and from zero waste entrepreneurs. These examples were complemented with specific advice on how to bring Palma closer to Zero Waste.

The city representatives took note of these proposals, and advanced the introduction of compulsory bio-waste collection and door-to-door collection for some neighbourhoods, along with work on waste prevention.

All in all, the conference showed that there are alternatives to traditional waste management and that even for an island with the largest incineration plant, it is possible to start shifting.


Urban biowaste, a sustainable source of bioenergy?

This article was originally written by Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Associate Director & Climate, Energy & Air Pollution Campaigner for the EU BIoenergy Blog

Although most bioenergy is produced by burning agricultural and forestry biomass, it is also generated by burning the organic parts of municipal solid waste, biowaste or urban biomass. This includes food waste from restaurants, households, farmers markets, gardens, textiles, clothing, paper and other materials of organic origin. But have you ever tried to fuel a bonfire with a salad? Probably not, so this may not be the most efficient use of urban biowaste.

At the EU level, urban biowaste, far from being managed by one set of straightforward policies, is instead held at the intersection of several competing mandates: the circular economy, climate, bioenergy and air pollution. Policies which have an impact, yet fail to drive the most sustainable use of this resource.

Most waste and circular economy policies aim at increasing recycling and resource efficiency of urban biowaste resources by promoting composting and biogas production, while climate and energy policies incentivize burning biowaste to generate energy under the assumption that the energy produced is ‘renewable’, ‘carbon neutral’ or ‘sustainable’. This presents a significant contradiction at the heart of EU environmental policy, one that gets particularly hot within the current sustainable bioenergy debate.

Far from being ‘sustainable’, energy from urban biowaste is often produced under very inappropriate circumstances, particularly when organic waste is mixed with the rest of residual waste (anything that cannot be recycled or reused) and sent to an incineration plant or so-called waste-to-energy plant. These plants then claim that the burning of this organic fraction is ‘bioenergy’ or ‘renewable energy’. In the UK, for example, incinerator companies can claim that an average of 50% of the energy produced is ‘renewable’ under these assumptions.[1]

Under the Waste Hierarchy, incineration of municipal solid waste is not only one of the worst options for waste treatment, it’s actually a real waste of energy and resources when one considers the low calorific value of organic waste. Incineration is a terribly unfit technology to burn organic waste which then requires a significant amount of high caloric materials to be added, e.g., plastics or other potentially recyclable or ‘redesignable’ materials so that it functions properly. Under these circumstances, efficiency and sustainability do not score highly. But even more troubling, the financial and political support that should be committed to clean, sustainable and reliable sources of energy is being misused in the most inefficient way by supporting the burning of resources which could be composted, recycled, reused or simply never wasted to begin with.

Today in the EU, harmful subsidies from renewable energy policies are one of the major obstacles to fully implementing a Circular Economy, because they continue to finance and green-wash the construction of waste-burning facilities across Europe. What should be done with urban biowaste instead? The Waste Hierarchy as seen below provides a clear detailed guideline which should be at the foundation of any policy looking at Municipal Solid Waste.

ILSR food waste recovery hierarchy

 

 

 

First, organic waste can be reduced through various measures, e.g.,  improved labeling, better portioning, awareness raising and educational campaigns around food waste and home composting. Secondly, priority should be given to the recovery of edible food so that it is targeted at human consumption first, and alternatively used as animal feed. Next, non-edible organic waste should be composted and used as fertiliser for agriculture, soil restoration and carbon sequestration. Additionally, garden trimmings, discarded food and food-soiled paper should be composted in low-tech small-scale process sites whenever possible. In larger areas, composting could be done in a centralised way with more technologically advanced systems.

As an alternative to composting, depending on local circumstances and the levels of nitrogen in the soils, non-edible organic waste should be used  to produce biogas through Anaerobic Digestion technology, a truly renewable source of energy as well as  soil enhancer. If there was any organic waste within the residual waste stream, a Material Recovery – Biological Treatment (MRBT) could be considered because it allows for the recovery of dry materials for further recycling and stabilizes the organic fraction prior to landfilling, with a composting-like process. In the lower tier, landfill and incineration are the least preferable and last resort options.

Ultimately, energy policies for a low-carbon economy should progressively move away from extracting as much energy as possible from waste and instead increase measures to preserve the embedded energy in products, a far more efficient and sustainable approach to resource use.

Zero Waste Europe network and many other organisations around the world have called on the European Commission to use the Waste Hierarchy to guide the EU’s post-2020 sustainable bioenergy policy and phase out harmful subsidies that support energy from waste incineration. The revision of the Renewable Energy Directive and the development of a Sustainable Policy on Bioenergy is an opportunity for Europe to become a leader in sustainable and renewable energy, but it’s critical to ensure that these sources are clean, efficient and their use evidence-based.

[1]    http://www.isonomia.co.uk/?p=3501

Banner photo: Composting (c) Zero Waste Europe

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this guest blog post are those of the author and not necessarily supported by BirdLife Europe/EEB/T&E.


New case study: Parma proves 70% recycling and 100kg residual waste can be achieved in only 4 years

For immediate release: Brussels, June 20 2016

 

This case study confirms that ZWE’s proposals for the Circular Economy package can be achieved in very little time

Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has published today a new case study on the city of Parma, Italy, which highlights how with political will and citizen involvement it is possible to radically reduce residual waste, create jobs and save the taxpayers money.

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Parma, with 190,284 inhabitants, had separate collection stagnated around 45% for some years. However a citizens-led initiative to move away from waste disposal managed in 2012 to transform waste policies and brought a zero waste plan for Parma.

The new plan copied and improved what is already working well in other towns of the zero waste network; intensive kerbside collection and pay-as-you-throw systems together with lots of education and keeping the system flexible to accomodate further improvements.

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The indicator that the town used to measure success was the reduction of residual waste (what is sent for landfilling and/or WtE incineration) per capita which was reduced by a staggering 59%, from 283kg to 117kg, in only 4 years. By 2015 the separate collection was raised to 72% and the quality of the materials separated for recycling had also increased.

The new system of collection is more labour intensive which has meant that the number of waste collectors has increased from 77 to 121 with a number of other indirect jobs being created whilst the city has saved €453,736 in comparison with the former system.

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But the transition is far from over. By end of 2016 Parma will be generating less than 100kg of residual waste per person and have achieved 80% separate collection and plans are to continue on the path to zero waste.

Joan Marc Simon, Director of ZWE said “Some spend their time finding excuses not to deliver in 2030, others like the city of Parma prove that a target of 70% recycling and 100kg residual waste per capita is achievable in less than 5 years”.

This case study and the case for a target on residual waste per capita will be presented in Brussels next Wednesday 22nd June by the Councilor for Environment of the city of Parma, Gabriele Folli, in the conference Towards Zero Waste Cities: How local authorities can apply waste prevention policies taking place at the Committee of the Regions.To attend please register HERE.
Other Zero Waste Europe case studies can be found on our website.

ENDS

CONTACT

Ferran Rosa
NOTES:

Download Case Study 7 – The Story of Parma

Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.

Visit the European network of zero waste towns : www.zerowastecities.eu

This is the most recent of 7 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia), Contarina (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Gipuzkoa (Spanish Basque Country) and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.


Press Release: Bonafè shows more ambition than the Commission, yet is still far from zero waste

S&D MEP Simona Bonafè  presented today the draft reports on the waste directives under review. Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) sees them as a positive step forward from European Commission’s text, but is disappointed by the absence of some specific targets and the lack of concrete binding measures necessary on the path to Zero Waste.

ZWE notes positively the emphasis given to waste prevention with the inclusion of new obligations for Member States on marine litter, food waste prevention and the reduction of single-use products. However, ZWE regrets that the targets proposed by the rapporteur on food waste and marine litter are only aspirational and not country specific targets, instead being EU-wide without clear local goals.

Despite raising the recycling target for 2030 to 70%, the report does not propose to cap the tonnage of waste that is sent to disposal, be it incineration or landfill. According to Joan Marc Simon, ZWE’s Executive Director, “EU policy makers still focus too much on the percentage of waste landfilled and too little on the kilos of waste disposed”. In this context, countries producing high amounts of waste and landfilling little have no incentive to improve. Mr Simon added that “a cap on residual waste sent to landfills and incinerators is the only way of pushing for high recycling and waste prevention at the same time”.

Matt Martin CC-BY-NC 2.0
Matt Martin CC-BY-NC 2.0

Despite the push for EPR (extended producer responsibility) as a tool for eco-design, ZWE believes these changes are still too weak to address problematic streams such as textiles, hygiene products, hazardous waste from households, and furniture. However ZWE welcomes  the efforts to phase out toxicity as a precondition for circular economy.

ZWE also welcomes the clarity given by the new definitions and elimination of loopholes, chiefly by making waste separate collection truly compulsory and by eliminating a ‘double-calculation’ method. Nevertheless ZWE warns about the confusing definition of residual waste included in the package.

The changes proposed for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive  are a positive step towards increased resource efficiency. The inclusion of packaging re-use targets and the call for a EU-wide deposit-scheme for re-usable packaging are also to be welcomed. However ZWE believes that the proposed re-use targets are too low to stop the downward trend in the use refillable packaging.

Despite a modest increase of recycling targets for all materials by 2025, ZWE is disappointed by the lack of a recycling target for plastic packaging for 2030, and for multimaterial multi-layered packaging despite them being two of the fastest growing types of packaging. More concretely the EU should require a prevention target for plastic packaging.

Overall Bonafè’s report has managed to bring back the ambition that the European Commission missed in the December’s proposal but despite being a step in the right direction it is still insufficient to create a Circular Economy in Europe.

 

ENDS

PRESS CONTACT:

Ferran ROSA, Policy Officer +32 470 838 105 / +34 667 88 91 83

 

NOTES:

Text of the reports

Waste Directive

Landfill Directive

Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive