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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

From waste to taste: Funghi Espresso brings new life to used coffee grounds

By guest blogger Tiffany Fourment

It is estimated that Italians drink 14 billion espressos every year. While many enjoy their daily espresso, they may never consider the waste – an estimated 380,000 tons of coffee grounds – left behind by such a large amount of coffee production. The Italian startup Funghi Espresso has developed an innovative system that closes the loop of coffee production – recycling the waste to create a new product.

The founders of Funghi Espresso

Funghi Espresso was born in 2013 out of an environmental education pilot project that taught children to cultivate mushrooms using coffee grounds as a substrate (the substance that the mushrooms gain nutrients from). The success of this project led to the development of an innovative and sustainable model of resource reuse and production inspired by the principles of Blue Economy. Funghi Espresso collects discarded coffee grounds from bars and restaurants in the territory, and uses them as a substrate for cultivating mushrooms, which are then sold to local restaurants and consumers. Since its inception in 2014, the company has recovered over twelve tons of coffee grounds, and used them to produce over one ton of fresh mushrooms. The process does not stop there – after

use in mushroom cultivation, the now twice-used grounds are repurposed yet again as compost to enrich agricultural soils. The company also produces “Do it Yourself” kits for growing mushrooms at home using the same coffee ground substrate.

Funghi Espresso has been recognized and rewarded for its creative approach in numerous ways, including being selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIPAAF) as one of the 25 most innovative agricultural startups in Italy.

It is a simple, yet brilliant idea; an example of “thinking outside the box” to solve a problem that many people never even realized exists, and create a system of sustainable, local and circular production from which everyone benefits.


Gipuzkoa continues to mobilise against incineration for health, environment and economy

A report of the anti-incineration protests in Gipuzkoa from Basque Zero Waste Europe member Zero Zabor.

In late December, a massive protest took place in city of Gipuzkoa in the Basque country opposing the new Zubieta incinerator project. This comes after the Zubieta incinerator project which stopped in 2013 was relaunched in mid 2015, after the latest municipal and provincial elections. Despite the massive opposition supporters of incineration continue to stubbornly push for the construction of the redundant facility.

The consortium selected to build the new incinerator is led by the company Urbaser and also includes a number of Gipuzkoan companies and the French company Meridiam Investments. The consortium is committed to finish the construction in 26 months, meeting the basic objective of the government of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Socialists (PSOE). This would mean having the facility fully in place before the end of the political term, making it de facto impossible to move away from incineration in the future.

Massive opposition from the people of Gipuzkoa

Since early 2016 various of protests have taken place, such as a march to the construction site in February, a human chain in May, a gathering in front of the banks and companies involved in the consortium.

The next date on the calendar was December 27, when the result of the allocation of the contract took place. The movement against incineration gathered to protest in front of the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa, where the assembly of the GHK (Gipuzkoa Consortium for Waste Management) formalised the allocation of the contract.

While the crowd in the streets complained about the project, the assembly of GHK allocated the construction, the management and exploitation of the incinerator to the consortium lead by Urbaser.

The protest was massive, particularly considering that it was on a Tuesday during the Christmas period. The images here below show the impressive response of civil society:

Once again, the opposition and worry this toxic and redundant infrastructure generates became clear. This time, concerns regarding the impact on the environment and health were joined by the economic concerns, given that the contract for the incinerator will burden the Province of Gipuzkoa for 35 years with unsustainable waste management and an high financial cost.

Find here below some of the press coverage of the demonstration of December 27 (in Spanish):

http://www.naiz.eus/eu/hemeroteca/gara/editions/2016-12-27/hemeroteca_articles/pnv-y-pse-adjudican-hoy-entre-protestas-el-millonario-contrato-de-la-incineradora

http://www.elmundo.es/pais-vasco/2016/12/27/5862a16e268e3e6a448b4668.html

http://www.diariovasco.com/gipuzkoa/201612/27/aprobada-adjudicacion-incineradora-liderada-20161227132804.html?ns_campaign=rrss&ns_mchannel=boton&ns_fee=0&ns_source=tw&ns_linkname=gipuzkoa

http://m.diariovasco.com/gipuzkoa/201612/27/aprobada-adjudicacion-incineradora-liderada-20161227132804.html

Podemos, Ezker Anitza, Equo and EH Bildu call to stop the incinerator

EH Bildu, Podemos, Ezker Anitza-IU and Equo made public on December 26 a common manifesto reaffirming their compromises of May on a circular economy and zero waste and insisted on their rejection to the incinerator of Zubieta.

http://www.eitb.eus/es/noticias/politica/detalle/4561960/piden-paralizar-adjudicacion-incineradora-zubieta/

http://m.europapress.es/euskadi/noticia-eh-bildu-podemos-ezker-anitza-equo-piden-paralizacion-adjudicacion-incineradora-llaman-dialogo-20161226124741.html?utm_source=rtn_euskadi&utm_medium=twitter

http://www.eldiario.es/norte/euskadi/EH-Bildu-Podemos-Ezker-Anitza_0_594940693.html

http://www.naiz.eus/eu/actualidad/noticia/20161226/eh-bildu-podemos-ezker-anitza-y-equo-piden-paralizar-la-adjudicacion-de-la-incineradora


Vote at ENVI Committee paves the way for zero waste

On 24th January the Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted the legislative report for the four waste directives under discussion. With this, the legislative process goes a step further in the path to full adoption and will be voted at the Plenary in March. In the meantime, the Council is still negotiating its own position, so the final text will probably have to wait until Autumn.

Although the text approved on the 24th isn’t a final document, it certainly gives a clear direction on how to move towards a circular economy and zero waste. The MEPs and the rapporteur Simona Bonafè delivered the ambition the European Commission had forgotten and included brave measures to drive Europe towards a sustainable use of natural resources.

Among the amendments approved to the Commission’s proposal, the MEPs included an increase of the recycling targets for 2030 for municipal waste and for packaging to 70% and 80% respectively. Within the recycling target, it is particularly interesting to see that, at least, 5% of it should be prepared for reuse. For packaging, a target of 10% of reusable packaging by 2030 was inserted. Besides, the maximum target is reduced to 5% of all municipal waste. Zero Waste Europe welcomes the increased ambition, but regrets the lack of specific accompanying measures to the landfilling target. In this sense, Zero Waste Europe warns that the reduction of landfilling and progressive phase out shouldn’t mean an increase of incineration capacities, but rather a shift towards prevention, reuse and recycling.

In order to meet these objectives, MEPs took note of the success stories across Europe and proposed making separate collection truly compulsory for paper, glass, metals, plastic and extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste oils. MEPs approved getting rid of current loopholes that allow Member States not to roll out separate collection. In addition to separate collection, MEPs proposed making extensive use of economic incentives, such as landfill and incineration taxes or pay-as-you-throw schemes.

ENVI Committee Meeting

The Environment Committee of the Parliament also approved bolder minimum requirements for Producer Responsibility Schemes that will have to cover now the whole cost of waste management of the products they put in the market and will have to modulate their fees to drive eco-design. Another important amendments approved is the push on Member States to support the uptake of secondary raw materials.

Despite these strong messages, the most significant problem with the report adopted at ENVI Committee is the role of prevention. Although it sets three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and decoupling of waste generation from GDP growth), these remain non-binding and prevention is still far from being the cornerstone of waste policies. However, MEPs called on the Commission to set up a EU-wide waste prevention target, which is very much welcomed by Zero Waste Europe. ZWE also call on Member States to truly aim at achieving these targets.

Although this is only the first step in the legislative process, Zero Waste Europe overall welcomes the report adopted at ENVI Committee and urges on national governments to step up their level of ambition and make sure waste directives are properly implemented.


Towards a new European mindset on waste-to-energy?

The European Commission released on 26 January the Communication on the Role of Waste-to-Energy in a Circular Economy. Although non-binding, the communication analyses the current role of waste-to-energy and gives guidance on Member States on how to cope with the problems this generates.

From Zero Waste Europe’s point of view, the Commission has positively changed its position from promoting incineration to acknowledging the problems related to overcapacities, distortive economic incentives and the risk that a very quick phasing out of landfills shifts waste from these to incinerators and not to prevention, reuse and recycling.

In this regard, the Commission advises those Member States heavily relying on landfills to focus on separate collection, on increasing recycling capacity and on diverting bio-waste from landfills. It insists that in case these Member States want to obtain energy from waste, they are recommended to recycle bio-waste through anaerobic digestion. In addition, they are called on taking into account the commitments and objectives for next 20-30 years (separate collection and recycling targets) and carefully assess the evolution expected for mixed waste when planning infrastructures, so as to avoid regrettable investments (i.e. redundant incinerators).

When it comes to those Member States heavily relying on incineration, the Commission calls on them to raise taxes on waste-to-energy, phase out public support schemes, decommission old facilities and establish a moratorium on new ones.  The case on defunding waste-to-energy has been extended to all Member States, so as not to distort the waste hierarchy. In this sense, the Commission acknowledges that the waste operations delivering the highest reduction of GHG emissions are prevention, reuse and recycling and are the ones to be promoted, something Eunomia’s report for Zero Waste Europe of 2015 already showed.

Zero Waste Europe welcomes this call, but would have expected the Commission to show this ambition when last November proposed a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive that is the one opening the door for renewable energy subsidies for incineration. ZWE expects MEPs and national governments to take note of this communication when reviewing the Directive and bring coherence between EU legislation.

ZWE notes, however, that the text still considers that waste incineration has a role within a circular economy, which is a conceptual contradiction because if material loops are effectively closed there is nothing left to burn. A more accurate approach would be to say that the capacity of waste to energy incineration is to be used in the transition period to a circular economy but once proper material and value preservation policies are successfully implemented burning waste will be redundant.

Finally ZWE’s warns about the Commission current double standards with its approach to waste to energy (WtE) in Europe and its support to WtE in the rest of the world, particularly in the Global South where we have seen successful recycling programs having been dismantled to feed the European funded incineration plants.

Nevertheless, this communication seems a change in the mindset of the European Commission and a positive step to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies and move towards zero waste.


PRESS RELEASE: European Commission Plastics Roadmap not leading anywhere

For immediate release: Brussels, January 26 2017

The European Commission’s newly released Roadmap for the EU Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy [1] fails to get to the root of the problem of plastics, according to the Break Free From Plastic Movement.

The Commission outlines the problems Europe is facing with plastics and gives an overview of the focus areas which the full Plastics Strategy will address later this year: (1) decoupling plastics production from virgin fossil feedstock and reducing its life-cycle greenhouse gas impacts, (2) improving the economics, quality and uptake of plastic recycling and reuse, and (3) reducing plastic leakage into the environment.

However, the NGO coalition argues that to make a significant contribution towards the circular economy, the Roadmap needs to focus on reducing and optimising the use of plastics. With a massive decrease in the use of single-use plastics and a sharp increase in reuse and recycling, as proposed by the Break Free From Plastic Movement, the attention on the source of the alternative materials would be secondary.

While the Commission highlights the many problems of plastic pollution for the marine environment, the coalition regrets that it does not propose adequate measures to tackle the issue. What’s more, for packaging and its role in littering, the Commission points at the lack of consumer awareness, rather than addressing the producer’s responsibility and the full range of confusion introduced by biodegradable plastics [2]. In addition, the Commission does not expand on the need to move away from the use of hazardous chemicals in plastics which can harm public health.

Instead of acting during the product design stage and instigating prevention of plastic waste, the Commission has chosen to emphasise better recycling technologies and substitution with ‘renewable’ feedstock. These responses will not lead to a meaningful adoption of Circular Economy principles, nor will it necessarily reduce health-harming plastic pollution.” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic movement.

It is crucial that we reframe the debate around real solutions, take action to dramatically reduce throwaway plastics and acknowledge producer responsibility for a product’s end of life in the design process, rather than focusing on (unsustainable) replacement and recycling”, she added.

All over the world, NGOs have come together to work together to stop plastic pollution. The Break Free From Plastic movement believes that the EU Strategy on Plastics – which is expected to be released by the end of 2017 – needs to face up to the scale of the plastics problem and set an ambitious cross-cutting action framework for Europe to fulfil global expectations and become the frontrunner of the battle against plastic pollution.

Notes
[1] European Commission – Roadmap for the Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy
http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation/roadmaps/docs/plan_2016_39_plastic_strategy_en.pdf
[2] ECOS, European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Zero Waste Europe – “Bioplastics in a Circular Economy”
https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Joint-position-paper_Bioplastics-in-a-Circular-Economy-the-need-to-focus-on-waste-reduction-and-prevention-to-avoid-false-solutions_Jan-2017.pdf

LIST OF SIGNATORIES

CHEM Trust (UK)
Ecologists without Borders (Slovenia)
Environmental Investigation Agency
European Environmental Bureau
Fauna & Flora International
Federation for a Better Environment (Flanders)
Friends of the Earth Europe
Greenpeace
Health Care Without Harm Europe
Let’s Do It World
Marine Conservation Society (UK)
Plastic Change (Denmark)
Plastic Soup Foundation (The Netherlands)
Seas At Risk
Surfers Against Sewage (UK)
Surfrider Foundation Europe
Trash Hero World
Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste France (France)


Commission calls for defunding of waste-to-energy

For immediate release: Brussels, January 26, 2017

The European Commission published today the Communication on the role of waste-to-energy in a circular economy. The text, although non-binding, provides clarity for the implementation of the waste hierarchy and gives guidance for Member States to avoid problems such as incineration overcapacity.

For the countries with low incineration capacities and highly dependent on landfilling, the Commission advises to focus on improving separate collection and increasing the recycling capacity. Priority should be given to collection and recycling of bio-waste and to take into account a long-term perspective when assessing the need of so-called waste-to-energy facilities, as mixed waste is expected to be significantly reduced in the coming years as recycling rises.

Those countries with high incineration capacity (typically Northern European countries) are, however, recommended to raise incineration taxes, to phase out primes and subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration and to introduce a moratorium on new facilities, as well as decommissioning old ones.

Member States are recommended to phase out public subsidy for the recovery of energy from waste, and so is the support from the Commission for this infrastructure through EU funds.

Zero Waste Europe urges Member States to implement these recommendations so they move up in the waste hierarchy.

Despite these positive recommendations, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) regrets that the European Commission did not include the call to phase out subsidies for waste-to-energy in the recent Renewable Energy Directive proposal. ZWE would remind the commission that energy savings via prevention and recycling are currently undermined by subsidies going to lower levels of the waste hierarchy such as waste incineration. ZWE calls on MEPs and the national governments to fix this during the legislative process.

Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said “We cannot keep wasting our money and resources in subsidising waste-to-energy. Divestment from waste-to-energy is needed if we want to create the right incentives for a circular economy”.

 
ENDS

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer
ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu

+32 470 838 105


Study tour to the Basque Country November 2016

The study tour started with an event organised by Zero Waste Europe and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 28 November. It consisted of an international conference focused on the reduction of costs in waste management for municipalities through the optimisation of separate collection, the reduction of residual waste and the transformation of these fraction into market products. Javier Garaizar, Vice-rector of the Campus of Álava of UPV/EHU opened the conference, followed by Ainhoa Etxeandia, Director of Environment of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council. Their interventions were followed by Joan Marc Simon, Ferran Rosa, Enzo Favoino, Marco Mattiello, Kevin Curran, Nekane Artola and Ainhoa Arrozpide.
48 participants attended the conference, among which we found civil servants, representatives from companies and environmental consultancies, policy-makers, professors and students of the university, etc. The presentations can be found here.

The afternoon was used to get to know the situation regarding waste management in Vitoria-Gasteiz, thanks to the Zero Waste group Gasteiz Zero Zabor.

The 29 and 30 November were devoted to the tour of good practices of waste management and circular economy. The tour allowed visiting municipalities and counties that have experienced a significant improvement in their separate collection systems. Among these experiences, the tour visited small villages like Leintz Gatzaga or Elburgo that collect and treat bio-waste in the same municipality. The participants also visited the counties of Debagoiena and Sasieta to better know about their waste collection systems (door-to-door, roadside containers with chip or mixed systems) that have made the municipalities in these counties reach 70% and 80% separate collection or more.

On top of the good practices of waste management, the tour visited good practices on circular economy. In this sense, several companies were visited in sectors like gastronomy, fashion or remanufacturing.

At the Restaurant Azurmendi of Eneko Atxa, with a three-Michelin-stars Basque chef, the participants learned about the philosophy of the project and visited the facilities. After this visit, an excellent meal was provided and the participants could learn about the way they manage the bio-waste at the restaurants. Gurpide Elkartea, an association working for the municipality of Larrabetzuko, manages the bio-waste of Azurmendi and of the neighbours of the municipality. In Larrabetzuko they follow the ‘Austrian system’ of composting that involves local farmers in the treatment of bio-waste in decentralised composting sites. This reduces the cost for the municipality, while allow the local farmer to obtain an extra income and have access to good quality compost.

Not far from there, in Zamundio, Cristina Cendoya and Mikel Feijoo of Skunkfunk presented the philosophy of the company and the design of the collection Capsule Zero Waste. After that, the tour went to a facility of the social economy company Koopera where they sort 18,000 tn a year of clothes.

In a totally different sector, the tour also visited Rebattery, a company located in Bergara that remanufactures and recovers batteries. Rebattery manages to give a new life to 60-75% of the batteries they receive and place them again in the market.

The three-day study tour was not only interesting, but the living proof of the current initiatives of circular economy in the Basque Country and the potential for these activities to keep growing. The tour managed to successfully illustrate best practices through all the economic cycle.


MEPs bring back Potocnik 2014’s spirit in a push towards zero waste

For immediate release, 24 January 2017

ENVI MEPs want to be bold on Circular Economy. In a clear signal to the Commission and the Council, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament significantly increased the ambition of the Commission’s proposal on waste by including most of former Commissioner Potocnik’s proposals of first Circular Economy Package of 2014.

For Zero Waste Europe, the text adopted at the Environment Committee includes most of the elements of success for zero waste cities across Europe. The text raises, the level of ambition by setting a 70% recycling target (5% of which should be prepared for reuse) and makes separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, Member States are called to make extensive use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.

Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said: “Achieving high recycling and low waste generation is not rocket science, but a matter of setting objectives, ensuring proper separate collection, getting citizens involved and making use of economic incentives and the vote of today allows for all of this to happen”.

The text adopted at the ENVI Committee today -if finally approved- also gives work to the Commission who will have to propose a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste.

The text also emphasises the importance of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to implement eco-design and to reduce waste generation.

Although the role of waste prevention has been also notably improved compared to Commission’s proposal with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth), Zero Waste Europe believes that truly binding measures and targets are needed to achieve the desired effect of significant waste reduction..

Zero Waste Europe congratulates the ENVI Committee and the team of rapporteurs and calls on MEPs to support the adoption of the text in the plenary vote in March.

 

ENDS

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer
ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu

+32 470 838 105


Press Release: Six paths to make Extended Producer Responsibility fit for a circular economy

For immediate release: Brussels, January 11, 2017

Prior to the discussions on the waste directives at the European Parliament, Zero Waste Europe releases a position paper outlining the main challenges of current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and the solutions to make EPR a key tool for circular economy.

According to recent research (1), EPR schemes only manage to cover 31% of municipal solid waste and even these products which are covered are not necessarily successfully separately collected or recycled. At the same time, in most countries, EPR fees fail to take into account how products are designed, meaning that circularity is not incentivised.

Zero Waste Europe identifies six paths to improving EPR schemes in Europe so that there is a framework for circular products.
These EPR schemes should:

  1. Be expanded to cover more products
  2. Cover the full cost of products at the end of life
  3. Drive eco-design
  4. Support moving up the waste hierarchy
  5. Are agents for closed-loop sectors
  6. Bring greater transparency to waste management

Zero Waste Europe considers EPR schemes a key tool to bridge ecodesign and waste management and calls on to MEPs and Member States to implement the above guidelines.

The current EPR tools are insufficient to meet the level of ambition set by a Circular Economy. Closing the material loops and keeping the value and the embodied energy in the system will require changing responsibilities, incentives and indicators; hence our 6 recommendations.” Said Ferran Rosa, waste policy officer at ZWE.

ENDS

FIND HERE THE POSITION PAPER

Contacts:
Ferran Rosa, Waste Policy Officer, ferran@zerowasteeurope.eu +32 470 838 105
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Product Policy Officer, delphine@zerowasteeurope.eu +32 478 712 633

NOTES
(1) Zero Waste Europe, Redesigning Producer Responsibility: A new EPR is needed for a circular economy, September 2015