The 7th Annual Plastic Bag Free Day 2016 took place on July 3rd, seeing hundreds of actions take place around the world. With scores of organisations and hundreds of citizens taking part in events and awareness raising activities highlighting the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags.
In Dhaka the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) launched electronic posters to raise awareness for the campaign.
These actions represent only a fraction of the total activities which took place around the world calling for a ban for the bag. Considerable progress has been made over the past year by many organisations and campaigners. However, with the recent revelations regarding the impact of ocean plastics on wildlife and human health the issue of plastic waste has rarely seemed more urgent. The success of Plastic Bag Free Day is central to raising awareness of this problem, and pushing for an effective ban on the non-compostable bag!
Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Ferran Rosa covers his experience of the Zero Waste Festival in Paris.
From 30th June to 2nd July the first Zero Waste Festival took place in Paris. Organised by Zero Waste France, the festival brought 5,000 participants together in a unique event where policy-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, waste managers, individuals living a zero waste lifestyle and civil society organisations shared a forum.
The Festival successfully managed to provide a holistic vision around waste, from management and institutional solutions, to consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles. More than a congress on zero waste, it was truly a Festival, with workshops, conferences, debates, seminars and lots of space to discuss and learn from different experiences, all accompanied with an excellent atmosphere of good music and veggie food.
Zero Waste France was made the case for the need to transition towards Zero Waste from many different angles including: individual consumption and waste generation patterns, municipal waste management, requirements for design, industrial responsibility, and more. In this regards, a wide range of solutions enabling a phase out of the take-make-dispose model were presented, from collective action (Capannori, Parma or San Francisco) to individual engagement to transition (Roubaix, Bea Johnson or Famille Zero Déchet).
Among these solutions, Zero Waste Europe launched its latest campaign, the People’s Design Lab, a collaborative tool allowing citizens to nominate wasteful products that will eventually be, redesigned in design workshops partnering with consumers, producers and designers. On top of that, Zero Waste Europe presented the network of Zero Waste municipalities and the importance of building a network of change-makers at the European level so that municipalities can learn from each other.
The attendance of 5,000 people at the Festival is testament to the success of Zero Waste France’s initiative and that there are plenty of people willing to make the transition happen in France and abroad, and that this number is indeed growing. The Festival didn’t only inspire individuals to finally live a zero waste lifestyle, but also local councillors to re-think their waste management systems and individuals to create a local Zero Waste groups.
On the July 14th, civil society organisations, schools, companies in the waste sector and public institutions met to initiate a ‘Strategy for Barcelona to go towards Zero Waste’. The main challenges of waste management in Barcelona were presented as starting point.
The Food Bridge project promoted by the Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus and the Fundació Banc de Recursos intends to make an impact on food waste reduction through a campaign based on solidarity and the re-use of natural resources. This project is addressed to catering companies, restaurants and food distribution companies willing to reduce food wastage at their shops or restaurant and donate the excess food to social entities.
In a year, the project has managed to re-use 1722 meals of cooked food and 656kg of fresh food that would have been otherwise wasted.
Written by Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Delphine Lévi Alvarès after experiencing the incredible amount of plastic waste on beaches in the Philippines.
On the morning of Saturday 16th of July some of Zero Waste Europe’s staff took part in their first Philippines beach cleanup. It was only 8am, and a swarm of volunteers were already in action on Freedom Island’s beach, armed with bags and gloves to clear the sand from layers and layers of garbage carried downstream into the Manila bay from all the small canals and rivers crossing the megalopolis.
Our first impression when we arrived at the beach was shocking. It was almost uniformly covered by little used sachets of shampoo, detergent, and instant coffee… an ocean of colours and brands among which many were recognised by the sharp eye of a western consumer. Nescafé, Maggi, Ariel, Palmolive, Colgate, Head & Shoulders, Mentos and many others, directly coming for the marketing brains of American and European multinationals such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
Why such a flow of single use sachets in this region of the world, to package the same products that we have in bigger containers in Europe and the US, and how do they end up in the rivers and the ocean? Speaking with our colleagues from South East Asia, we understood that behind the false affordability (the so-called ‘pro-poor’) argument made by the companies manufacturing these products (i.e. that for people with low income it is cheaper to buy these products on a daily basis than buying larger quantities despite the fact that the total cost they will end up paying is higher) there is a more significant marketing argument. Hence the appealing colours and glossy packaging. And even if it’s not part of their strategy, the absence of sound waste collection and management systems in most of the places where people use these sachets leads to massive littering both on land and in waterways increasing their brand’s visibility even more than the market stalls.
Yet the solutions to replace these sachets exist and many Zero Waste groups have been promoting them in front of these brand’s corporate leaders. In low-income areas they should be replaced by dispensers from which people could get one pump of their required product (oil, shampoo, detergent, etc.) in small returnable and reusable containers. It would be even cheaper to buy on a daily basis, because a large part of the product’s price is in the cost of the packaging itself. Improving the waste management systems in these areas is of course of high priority, but in regardless case it’s better to prevent than manage waste, and even more so because these sachets, made of multilayered material, are not recyclable.
The response of the brands to this proposal has been a resounding ”no”.
It is necessary for the producers to take responsibility for the products they put in the market and if they are sold in places where the means to manage this waste are not available they should -at the very least- shoulder the costs of collecting and treating this waste. If they do it in Europe, why can’t they do it in Asia?
Is the Circular Economy strategy on the right track? Yes but it is still too slow, in need of some fine-tuning and to escape bad habits from the past.
The exercise we are undertaking is an ambitious one, close the material loop and turn waste into resources; creating a zero waste society from which the EU’s economy and environment should benefit.
How do we know if the Circular Economy strategy is on the right track? In my opinion there are three guiding principles to follow which shed light on the path to follow.
Is doing the right thing easier and cheaper than doing the wrong thing?
Today in many places in the EU mixing all the garbage together and have it processed in expensive ineffective facilities before burning it or dumping it in landfills is still the easiest and cheapest thing to do. Unless you plan to turn 500 million Europeans into environmentalists we need to change the way we do things and make it easier for the citizens to do the right thing whilst making visible the reward for this effort.
In this sense the proposals from the text of the European Commission and the European Parliament to make separate collection compulsory for most waste fractions, especially of biowaste, is a good one, as it will set high targets for recycling because it provides legal certainty for investment.
It is also good to make recovery and disposal activities more and more expensive so that recycling and composting become comparatively cheaper.
For this purpose fiscal incentives are very important; from landfill and incineration taxes to widespread use of pay as you throw systems.
The examples from the ZWE case studies from the network of Zero Waste municipalities illustrate very clearly how it is possible to implement aggressive source separation schemes in less than 10 years (in the case of Parma less than 5 years) doubling recycling rates and radically reducing the waste that is to be sent to landfills and incinerators; what is known as residual waste.
These examples prove that working on the upper levels of the waste hierarchy are more effective and cheaper than any other option and hence that the recycling targets set by the European Commission and increased by Bonafè’s report are perfectly realistic. However we warn about the danger of lock-in situations which can jeopardise the implementation of a zero waste strategy and also substantially delay the achievement of the EU waste recycling targets.
This applies notably to the cap on waste sent to landfilling which the EC wants to set at 10% of all MSW generated and the Bonafè’s report proposes to reduce to 5%. Whilst it is important to progressively reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, if we are serious about moving towards a Circular Economy we need to focus on reducing “leakage” from the system and that means landfill and incineration.
Failing to do so will mean repeating the same mistake that some countries committed when implementing landfill bans and which caused that the waste diverted from landfills to end up in incinerators proportionally more than to recycling. In the cases of Austria and Norway they saw waste sent for recycling decrease in favour of incineration. The graph below shows how landfill bans tend to drive more incineration than recycling or waste reduction.
We need to gradually phase out incineration and landfilling and the most effective way to do that is by using a residual waste reduction target. We advocate for the inclusion of a residual waste target of 100kg per person per year for 2030. Slovenia is very close to achieving this and Holland has set it as a target. Why not having it at the EU level to complement the recycling targets?
The EU needs to change the lenses with which it looks at waste management and complement the recycling targets with residual waste target to tackle the amount of waste leaking the system.
In a Circular Economy consumers and providers interests should be aligned when it comes to what they expect from the product
When I rent a car my interests and those of the rental company regarding the car are the same, we all want a car that works well, that lasts and which is easily and quickly repairable when I buy a phone they are not. I want a phone that works and lasts and the company wants to my phone to break soon so that I get a new one.
It will be impossible to have a circular economy for as long as the business model of producers is based on selling as much stuff as possible in as little time as possible. This results in wasteful products, designed for the dump, which break to soon and are neither repairable nor recyclable.
In a CE both producers and consumers should benefit from products that are toxic-free and designed to preserve the energy and the value of its components. If these interests are aligned we will see the amounts of waste decrease sharply.
For this to happen we need to design the right incentives for providers and cosumers. This goes beyond waste legislation and entails working on extended warranties, products passports, facilitating information about life-expectancy of the product, reduced VAT for second hand and repaired products, changing depreciation rules to adapt them to the new extended lifes of products and progressive green procurement rules.
A basic point that is relevant for the discussion on waste is the creation of a feed-back mechanism between waste and design in order to avoid the product becoming waste in the future.
In the following graph about EPR we can see how in Europe the implementation of EPR is still not covering most of the products – 55% not covered and is performing poorly for those that are covered by EPR with only 18% of a product’s waste is collected through EPR.
With these results it is clear that the EPR schemes should improve their performance but we should also consider expanding the scope of EPR to cover more product categories than the current ones packaging, ELV, batteries, tyres, WEEE-. Expired medication, phytopharmaceutical products, textiles, domestic linen and shoes, domestic chemical products, graphic paper, lubricants, frying oils, construction & demolition materials (C&D), printer cartridges, fluorinated refrigerants or nappies are all potential targets. In fact we should reverse the question and ask, of the 70% of the waste products, which product categories should be exempted from producer responsibility?
In France they have alreadymodulated producer responsibility fees according to the circularity of the product, we should explore a similar approach for Europe.
Finally, there are some items that should have no place in a Circular Economy and would need to be banned outright, microplastics in cosmetic products are just one example.
The prospects for the Circular Economy package look bright and after a soft start from the side of the European Commission it looks like the European Parliament with the Bonafè report is committed to raising the stakes. A fantastic opportunity to create jobs and economic activity in Europe whilst reducing the burden on environment and moving towards Zero Waste Europe.
Zero Waste Europe welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in key economic sectors such as waste management by 30% by 2030, but warns that potential loopholes from the EU’s carbon market as well as credits from forestry to offset emissions in those sectors would seriously undermine the EU’s commitment to combating climate change.
Under the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR), EU Member States are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% in sectors outside the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) – including waste, transport, buildings and agriculture. These sectors represent almost 60% of the greenhouse gas emissions of the EU.
Zero Waste Europe believes that all sectors, including waste management, have to work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Janek Vahk, Zero Waste Europe´s Development and Policy Coordinator said. “Under the new ESR, Member States will be obliged to reduce their GHG emissions by 30%, but these higher targets will not necessarily deliver real mitigation action at the scale of transformation needed unless there is strong coordination and alignment with other sectoral policies such as Circular Economy.”
As acknowledged by the European Commission, the Circular Economy Package has the potential to further reduce emissions in the waste sector and beyond, and this is an opportunity that should not be missed.
Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Waste Policy Officer said: “the Circular Economy Package can contribute massively to climate mitigation. Although the biggest environmental and climate benefits are in prevention, the Circular Economy Package fails to propose any EU-wide objective of waste prevention”.
Zero Waste Europe calls on the European Parliament and Member States to strengthen the EU’s largest climate legislation by exploiting the synergies with the Circular Economy Package and other legislation, and including prevention policies specifically tackling those waste streams that could deliver significant climate benefits, such as food waste, textiles or plastics. Failing that, these sectors will likely remain largely unimproved, and a number of loopholes will threaten the implementation of the ESR.
This blog is a guest post from the Zero Waste Working Group within the YOUNGO (the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC). They were present in Paris during the COP21 Climate Negotiations and have committed to advocating for zero waste as a climate change solution. You can get in touch with them by contacting Zero Waste Europe, or through their Facebook group.
It is argued that the “Waste” sector accounts only for a limited part of the GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions on a global level, yet it can be easily verified that the potential contribution of waste prevention and management to climate change mitigation could be much more remarkable than initially expected. In addition, considering the principles of circular economy, it is clear that resources should be continually cycling through the system, allowing us to build an exit strategy from landfills and incineration. In the light of these conclusions, a group of committed young people decided to be the voice of the Zero Waste movement at the UNFCCC climate talks by creating a Zero Waste Working Group within YOUNGO, the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC, which includes youth organisations acting on climate from all over the world.
The YOUNGO Zero Waste working group was born at COP21 in Paris, and it is composed of young people living in three continents (Europe, America, Oceania) who share the same drive for spreading the good practices for a zero waste world. The purpose of our group is to create a global network of young people who believe that Zero Waste is not only possible, but necessary. Therefore, we are looking to spread this message and simultaneously working on projects, policy and research that lead us towards a Zero Waste planet. Furthermore, we want to act as a platform where young people can share knowledge and expertise on the connection between climate change and waste management and how it can be used as a mitigation tool in accordance with the outcome of the Paris Agreement.
Before the COP21, the vast majority of Parties had sent their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to the UNFCCC Secretariat. INDCs include the mitigation efforts which countries want to focus on in order to decrease their GHG emissions. As a first step, we drafted a policy statement to be handed over to Delegates. It summarises our policy recommendations:
Include waste management as an integral part of climate mitigation policy
Waste policies should manage waste in the higher tiers of the waste management hierarchy (i.e. recycling or above)
Discontinue support for all forms of “renewable” energy generated from residual waste
Implement circular economy and product stewardship incentives
Recognize the numerous and significant co-benefits of a zero waste policy
In fact, our work is mainly focused on individual countries (possibly through INDCs, industry and government lobbying) and Delegates. We want to highlight the positive correlation between Zero Waste and the emissions reduction through waste minimisation, making it really tangible. Currently, we are working on diverse strategies, and the support of Zero Waste Europe, as well as of GAIA, would be an asset for us. We have the potential to build up a wide youth network in all of these regards, working on actionable and unifying initiatives.
Our first next steps will be to search through INDCs for specific mentions of waste/Zero Waste as climate change mitigation tool to create a list of countries who are moving forward on this issue. Moreover, a table divided into different categories will be created (Zero Waste as most preferred – waste-to-energy/landfill as least preferred) with a sort of rank for countries. The final idea would be to approach these countries at COP22 in Marrakech (Morocco) or at intercessionals accordingly to their “performance”. Another point is the running of campaigns that may include some focus on incineration and cradle-to-cradle ideas. We will also continue to use the YOUNGO Zero Waste Facebook group to keep ourselves posted as we nail down our plans and to share information. Lastly, it is utmost important proposing to the UN to make conferences like COP zero waste – perhaps through lobbying activities with either the Secretariat or the COP22 Moroccan Presidency; it is noteworthy, however, that efforts in this direction have already been made previously for the organisation of the COP21 in Paris and at the last intersessional in Bonn which both incorporated zero waste aspects into their events (APA1/SB44).
In conclusion, the Zero Waste working group is eager to increase its network within the climate and waste community, trying to create new avenues that would not have otherwise accomplished. We welcome any contribution and would be keen to set up collaborations with other associations or simply individuals who share this common cause with the same drive and motivation.
You know where to find us and we are looking forward to hearing from all of you!
After 2 years of negotiations, the EU Directive regulating air pollution targets at the national level (National Ceiling Emission Directive)1 have concluded with strong disagreement and no apparent result.
A proposal put forward by the European Commission and the European Parliament with strong commitments in tackling air pollution was watered down by several Member States, and then rejected by the Parliament. Following that rejection, the Environmental Council (gathering the Environment Ministers from Members States) met in a final attempt to unblock the negotiations, but no result was achieved so far. Next steps are yet to be announced.
One of the most positive aspects of the proposal put forward by the European Commission was the inclusion of targets for Particulate Matter (PM 2.5), which are often the result of unsustainable waste disposal practices, particularly waste incineration or so-called waste-to-energy incineration.
Zero Waste Europe called on policymakers to maintain high ambition on the following letter, reminding them that a recent study that looked into a medium sized city in southwestern Sweden, clearly identified their new modern incinerator as the single most significant source of PM2.5’s.2
Moreover, the letter pointed out that further critical pollution is caused by ultra fine particles, calling for air pollution reduction at the source, strict monitoring and transparency mechanisms.
Evidence from the waste incineration industry shows that filter bag systems used to collect the PM and other toxic emissions have a much lower efficiency rate with fine PM<2.5: “…baghouse filter collection efficiency was 95-99% for PM10s, 65-70% for PM2.5s, and only 5-30% for particles smaller than 2.5 microns, even before the filters become coated with lime and activated carbon”.3
As shown by the report Air Polution from Waste Disposal: Not for Public Breath, waste incineration activities have had serious breaches of emission limits and have experienced other significant technical and legal problems, both in incineration facilities and cement plants across Europe. Case studies in the UK, France, Slovenia, Spain and Germany exposed a number of environmental, procedural and technical issues faced by waste incinerators, producing an excessive and unsustainable amount of air pollution, particularly PM.4
1 The NEC Directive sets caps on the amount of air pollution that EU countries can emit. It currently looks at caps for fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), ammonia (NH3), and methane (CH4), to be met by Member States by 2020, 2025 and 2030.
Howard C.V., The health impacts of incineration, with particular reference to the toxicological effects of ultrafine particulate aerosols, organo-chlorines and other emissions. Proof of Evidence submitted to East Sussex and Brighton and Hove Local Plan Public Inquiry, 2003.
On July 2nd at the Festival Zero Waste in Paris, Zero Waste Europe announced the launch of the People’s Design Lab, an international project aimed at identifying and redesigning poorly designed and wasteful products and pave the way for a Circular Economy.
People’s design lab online platform is targeting products that break too early, that are not repairable, that are toxic, that are not recyclable or for any other reason are unfit for a Circular Economy. The People’s Design Lab enables citizens to take action in highlighting the problems and identifying the zero waste solutions.
The nomination stage of the People’s Design Lab will run from July 2nd to September 2nd and will identify some of the worst designed and most wasteful products. Next, two rounds of voting will choose the products that will be receive close attention in the redesign stage, in which solutions to wasteful design will be proposed.
During the third stage of the project ‘Redesign Workshops’ will be held across Europe and have opportunities for online participation, allowing a wide range of stakeholders (citizens, designers, entrepreneurs, public authorities, etc.) to have their say in how the products are redesigned for a zero waste future. After that, efforts will be made to turn these ideas into reality. This process will aim to tackle to the problem on both the legislative level and by directly engaging companies guilty of producing wasteful products.
Zero Waste Europe, Policy Officer Delphine Lévi Alvarès said: “Waste is just a symptom, if we want to fix the problem we have to focus on the source, creating a world where everything is designed for repair, reuse and recycling. The People’s Design Lab will facilitate the involvement of citizens in highlighting problematic design and finding creative and innovative solutions.”
Examples of badly designed products which have already been submitted include boiled eggs removed from their shells and repackaged in individually wrapped plastic containers, and iMac chargers which are prone to breaking sooner than expected.
The People’s Design Lab takes inspiration from the Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design in Italy, and ‘The People’s Design Lab UK’ where examples of bad design were identified by groups of citizens and attempts were made to redesign the products with zero waste alternatives.
Only 4 months away from the transposition deadline of the EU Plastic bags directive, environmental NGOs celebrate today the 7th edition of the International Plastic Bag Free Day. 2016 is a pivotal year which will pave the way towards what NGOs hope, a European plastic bag free future.
EU governments have until the end of November to adopt national legislative measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. While many initiatives have popped up locally, some Member States are still lagging behind in engaging in the fight against plastic bag pollution. At the same time, some EU countries such as Italy and France already have, or are planning bans on plastic bags and are paving the way ahead.
More than 100 billion bags are used annually in Europe and most end up in landfills, incinerators or as litter in aquatic environments. In addition to harming the marine environment, producing these bags requires millions of barrels of oil per year. Moreover, plastic bags can take centuries to degrade and are responsible, together with other litter items, for the deaths of an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year.
The International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated over the World on July 3rd, is a unique occasion for Fundació Prevenció de Residus, together with NGOs Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe, and the undersigned organisations to spread the word that a plastic bag free world is possible and that sound environmental alternatives to single use plastic bags are available.
NGOs ask governments to show ambition and caution, recalling that paper bags and biodegradable bags remain single use options and should be avoided. They call on the European Commission to speed up the two reports promised in the Plastic Bags directive on very-lightweight and oxo-degradable plastic bags, as they are still far too common in the European market. Oxo-degradable bags, in particular, have proven to be extremely harmful for the marine environment, as they break into small pieces impossible to remove.
European citizens expect national governments to seize this opportunity for action. NGOs too call on governments to set an example, and take ambitious action: “We are glad that more and more regions, municipalities and Member States are taking on what Italy has started in 2011 with its ban on single use bags. It is now time for all EU Member States to take their responsibilities and stop the plastic bag flow – whether they are used as carrier bags or for the transport of fruits and vegetables- into the environment and eventually into the Ocean”.