Zero Waste Europe was born due to the desire of grassroots organisations to connect and collaborate in order to make a Europe without waste possible.
We are deeply connected to this origin.
In June 2017, 10 new member organisations join the movement
After new organisations attended Zero Waste Europe’s AGM in Madrid in April and following our onboarding process, we are thrilled to welcome 10 new members to our network. These members come from across Europe and are working on a diverse and exciting range of activities to implement zero waste plans in their countries.
To: Members of the European Parliament, ITRE & ENVI Committees Subject: No Renewable Energy incentives for waste-based fuels from plastic
Brussels, 29 June 2017
Dear Members of the ITRE & ENVI Committees,
We the undersigned organizations believe that the inclusion of waste-based fossil fuels e.g. from plastics within the scope of the Renewable Energy Directive is a harmful distortion of renewable energy standards, and inconsistent with EU circular economy and climate policies. We call for integrity in standards for renewable energy incentives, and for an explicit exclusion of all articles related to the waste-based fossil fuels from the Commission’s proposal on the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive.
Renewable energy support schemes were developed to promote the use of energy from renewable sources in the EU, in order to fight climate change and encourage the shift to a low-carbon economy. Burning or heating fossil waste such as plastics is the equivalent of burning fossil fuel, and therefore the opposite of renewable energy. Almost all plastics are derived from oil, gas, or coal, and burning them releases pollutants and greenhouse gases.
In addition subsidising energy generation from waste–based fossil fuels (including gasification and pyrolysis) would subvert one of the cornerstones of the EU circular economy policy, and notably the waste hierarchy. This hierarchy establishes an order of priority in waste prevention and management: waste is meant to be firstly prevented, then prepared for reuse, and then recycled. Conversely, the current proposal allows renewable energy support schemes that conflict with the waste hierarchy, by encouraging recovery of energy from waste, which is the second least desirable option of the waste hierarchy. While solutions do exist to recycle low-grade plastics, the focus should be redesigning products, in particular single-use and non-recyclable ones. On the contrary, promoting the plastic waste to fuel would jeopardise the efforts to close the loop of materials, while increasing our reliance on residual waste and non-recyclable plastics.
We are deeply concerned about the inclusion of waste-based fossil fuels in the scope of the Directive. The use of renewable energy funding for these is a massive step backward for the deployment of renewable energy sources in Europe and Circular Economy. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and redesign products to use less but more circular plastics, instead of trying to recover energy from them.
We therefore urge the members of the ITRE and ENVI Committees to explicitly exclude waste-based fossil fuels from the scope of the Commission’s proposal for a revised Renewable Energy Directive.
On June 23rd the steering board of the Ecopulplast Life Project, financed by the European Union, took place in Capannori (Lucca).
On this occasion, the new pilot plant which transforms paper mills’ pulper waste into pallets was presented at the headquarters of Selene (Selene is the leading company participating in the Ecopulpast Project and is partnering with Zero Waste Europe, Lucense and Capannori’s paper mills consortium).
The pilot plant, which transforms pulper waste into pallets thank to a system of injection, extrusion and molding, shows that waste which is currently landfilled and incinerated can be easily transformed into valuable materials and products. The Ecopulplast project puts the often spoken about Circular Economy principles into practice.
Written by Nina Thomas, Volunteer Content Creator for Zero Waste Europe
From the air, the island of Stromboli, located off the north coast of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea, appears quite literally as a volcano, a jagged rock rising from the sea. In fact, it is one of only three active volcanoes in all of Italy and a UNESCO world heritage site. On this little shard of land, there exists a town, and in that town one can find Aimée, an 80-year-old zero waste activist. While she might not label herself as such, her actions speak for themselves. Nowadays, you can find her tending to her 20-something cats, wandering through the cool alleyways, or buying fresh vegetables at the market. At first glance, she would seem like a local, born and bred. But her history with this island is different than one might expect, because Aimée is not Italian at all, she is French.
How did a French woman end up on this tiny island? The story goes something like this – she and her husband moved from France in the mid-seventies, in search of the quiet and charm of life in an Italian seaside village. After only a year of living there, her husband realised the village life didn’t quite suit him as much as he would have hoped and moved back to France. But Aimée had other ideas. During that year, she had fallen in love with the volcanic island in the sea, and had grown deeply attached to the smells, the sights, the people. So, she stayed and ended becoming something she could have never expected – a champion for a better waste management system and all around eco-warrior.
But Aimée came to this place to escape the dreariness of urban life, including the rubbish and pollution. Why on earth would she decide to take on this landfill sized burden? Well it seems Aimée was always of a practical mindset. A child of the war, she was always conscious of her consumption and careful to avoid excessive waste. Her pre-existing habits and values combined with her love of the island made for the perfect proactive equation.
So, what exactly are the waste issues of Stromboli? Like many holiday destinations, it exists in polar opposite states depending on the season. During the winter months, the island hosts a humble 400 residents, and that number booms to 20,000 in the summer. The brief intensity of summer brings about more trash than the island can handle, and for as long as the people can remember, Stromboli’s waste has been shipped back to Sicily in one unsorted jumble, usually going to the landfill, recyclables and all. Not only does this cause issues on the mainland, Stromboli’s streets are often littered with an assortment of wayward rubbish, looking for the right disposal bin. Instead, it makes its way down to the beach for a bit of sunbathing and finally a lifelong swim in the Mediterranean.
Organic waste is another component of this export to Sicily, which Aimée aptly coined the “banana peel cruise ship” to describe the somewhat gratuitous journey these humble little food bits make. She argues that using valuable fossil fuels to send these food leftovers abroad rather than compost them here on the island is quite literally a wasted opportunity.
As the world had rapidly entered the consumerist age, Stromboli never quite managed to establish an adequate method to manage the remnants of this consumption. And with each year, as thousands of satisfied tourists leave with happy memories shared through photos and conversation, Stromboli is rapidly becoming an established tourist destination. Business is booming, and so is waste generation.
The system was simply inadequate – it needed of a revamp, a sustainable way to sort all that trash! And while many people agreed with the idea, no one seemed to care enough to do anything about it. So Aimée decided to take the waste of Stromboli into her own hands. She contacted Paolo Garelli, the founder of Carreta Careta, a waste pick up system that had been installed in other cities facing similar waste management challenges to Stromboli. Carretta Caretta uses a grid system of waste collection spots across the town. People are given a calendar which tells them what day they can bring specific waste types to the spot where a tiny waste lorry is waiting. Ideally people do not have to walk more than 150 meters to dispose of ALL waste, including e-waste, green waste, and standard recyclables. Carretta Caretta is the perfect system for many Sicilian islands, because it’s pint sized pick up vehicles are able to manoeuvre the narrow streets and paths.
Even with no financing officially in place, Paolo agreed and in the winter of 2010, Aimée and Paolo began to implement the system. For Caretta Carretta to work, the citizens of the town need to be proactive and engaged with the concept and according to Paolo and Aimée, the people of Stromboli were enthusiastic about the idea. The first week in action, there was a bit of confusion regarding waste separation, but was fairly standard according to Paolo. A bit of extra communication seemed to resolve this confusion, and after that week people happily adhered to the calendar. For the first 20 days, things seemed to be progressing well and Stromboli had never looked so clean.
With every change come a few naysayers, and this project was no exception. Unfortunately, this particular naysayer, had some influence over the happenings in Stromboli. His name was Mario Cincotta – he ran a nightclub and a few restaurants on the island, and liked to consider himself the unofficial mayor around town. The Cincotta family had lived on Stromboli for many generations, and Mario not only took pride in this but also used it as justification to impose his will. So, when Caretta Caretta’s jolly trucks began to appear, the natural order (according to Mario) of the island was upset. How dare this strange mainlander come here and impose his silly ideas? This excessive waste separation simply would not do – Mario challenged the project and within ten days, Caretta Caretta evaporated into the air like the smoke of the volcano just beyond the town. His only response when asked why? “It just wasn’t working”.
The thing is, Caretta Caretta WAS working. People were excited, the village was noticeably cleaner, and the new system seemed to be a viable alternative to a decades long problem. No, this was not an issue of not working, it was something more subtle and deep. It was an issue of clinging to the remnants of a different world, one before climate change, before regulation, and before plastic ruled the seas. It was the conflict of the old way versus the new, of what once was and what is, of the power dynamics that ran deep in this old town. And it was bigger than just Mario. This moment highlighted the fact that the Strombolian municipality was not necessarily operating for the good of the people and the environment.
While the little lorries no longer amble through the narrow alleyways, Caretta Caretta cannot be considered a failure. Rather than admitting defeat, Aimée realised it was simply not the right time. It was her attachment to this place that drove her to action, and it was the residents that stood behind her that brought her vision to life. This project empowered the community through conversation and choice. The people of the island had been given the opportunity to engage with a new and more sustainable future. It was an idea that some had never even entertained, yet now that it had come, and the seed was planted. For many, that seed would lie dormant, a pleasant memory of correctly sorted waste. However, the next time a sustainable measure came along the people would be familiar and perhaps that seed would shoot through the dark soil into the hot Italian sunshine.
At the moment, Aimée has redirected her efforts. If she couldn’t control all the waste of Stromboli, she would address the problem nearest to her heart – the banana peel cruise ship. Coincidentally, Italy has just passed a law allowing community composting. Because of this the country has seen a dramatic increase in community compost machines and Aimée knew this was exactly what Stromboli needed. Once again, Aimée spread the idea, garnered support, and the town has just placed an order for the charmingly named “Big Hanna”. The Big Hanna machines were invented by a Swedish sociologist in 1991, with the desire to raise “awareness around misused resources and how dependent we are on our local and global environments. The machines are essentially large metal bins that automatically aerate and turn the contents, minimizing odor and accelerating decomposition time to approximately 6 to 10 weeks. Once the process is complete, nutrient rich soil awaits you on the other end. While Big Hanna has yet to arrive, Aimée lives each day with the vision of a healthy and vibrant Stromboli, alive with culture and community, and a whole lot of compost.
And is Aimée concerned with what Mario has to say about the composter? “I didn’t ask, and I will not ask, what he thinks. To me, the only existing power is the law which respects economic convenience for its citizens. The law on community composting is the only thing that matters. Who know, maybe we will go back to the Carretta Caretta. But first, let’s settle the organic waste matter. This way, we remove one bullet point from a long list of materials (wastes) that the municipality and other waste management institutions have to take care of. The organic waste is OURS. It belongs to the island and its people, us”
And there you have it. Aimée’s story shows that outdated ways of thinking and biased administrative system are no match against a clear vision, a strong community and persistence. Oh, and also that it’s never too late to start fighting for what you believe in.
The study analysed and evaluated the waste management systems in 5 different Spanish cities with different collection system for organics, showing that door-to-door and community composting models, which involve greater citizen participation, result in the least unsuitable material content and a lower economic cost, thus these being the most effective.
The different models for separate collection of organics were classified according to the final quality of the compost, for example, as one key factor to take into account. The best collection systems obtain the best compost, determined by the level of residual waste contamination (pieces of plastic, metal or anything non-organic). The analysis also took into consideration the number of tons treated by each of the models, the level of contamination in the organic waste stream, the participation of citizens, the costs, and the reduction of emissions of gases that cause climate change.
The top 5 organic collection models
The study gives the first place to the model of community composting, a system whereby neighbours take their organic waste directly to the local composter. This is a way to secure greatest climate benefit, as the compost is locally applied (saving Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions related to transport) and also applied locally in public gardens and allotments, which increases the carbon sink capacity of soils.
The second best model is the door-to-door collection, which requires neighbours to be very careful with separation of waste streams and achieves great levels of non-contaminated organic waste stream.
The third best model is the public container in the street only accessible with a key, so that only those neighbours committed to the separation of organic waste are allowed to open the container and put their organic waste there.
The fourth best is the 2 waste streams collection ‘wet-dry’, where organic and inorganic waste are separated.
Finally, the fifth best system it’s the open container, where even if organic waste is separated, there is a lot of improper residues and it generates a compost of very low quality.
The models analysed were the fifth container of Barcelona, the door-to-door collection in Esporles (Majorca), the Wet-dry system in the community of Barbanza (Galicia), the community composting in Hernani (Guipuzkoa), the fifth container with key in Pamplona and a failed pilot project in Rioja.
The study also highlights that separate collection of organic waste is completely necessary to reach the objectives set by the EU – the recycling target of 50% by 2020. More and more regions and municipalities, such as the Foral Community of Navarra or the municipalities of Madrid and Valencia, have become aware of the need to implement separate collection of organics and are growing into the benefits of producing quality composting while reducing GHG emissions.
From May 16 until June 26 citizens where asked to vote on the People’s Design Lab’s website the most wasteful products on the market. Today, we finally announce what are the three most hated products, and hence, have been awarded with the #Designed4Trash award!
The first place award went to plastic bags, with the second going to Styrofoam containers and the third one to coffee capsules!
Many of the people who took part to the Redesign Europe Challenge also suggested a fantastic number of valuable zero waste solutions to the #Designed4Trash products. Make sure to have a look here:
In the next phase, we will tell the stories of the three #Designed4Trash products: why they are wasteful, what their life-cycle looks like, what solutions exist out there and how we can transition to possibly implement them. Stay tuned! More exciting things coming up very soon!
Sweden is not known for its lack of innovation. In fact, in the 2016 Global Innovation Index conducted by Cornell University, INSEAD and WIPO, Sweden sits only behind Switzerland as the second most innovative country in the world. And while Sweden is credited with innovations like the Solar safe water system and Spotify, much of their innovative brain power has been channelled into tackling one of the world’s biggest problems – waste.
Thanks to their increased efforts in incineration, the amount of trash sitting in Sweden’s landfills measures only 1% of their total MSW, eliminating harmful greenhouse gases (GHG) like methane, which is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. Additionally, Sweden has found success in decreasing its dependency on fossil fuels by harnessing energy from the waste itself through incineration. Roughly three tons of waste equals one ton of fuel oil, which is quite a good ratio considering waste is more abundant than fossil fuel in this day in age. In fact, it’s for this very reason that Sweden has turned waste into a lucrative commodity. By selling their incineration services and importing trash from countries that are willing to pay the price for greener pastures, Sweden has deepened their pockets and captured nn more energy for its plants and municipal utility services.
In relation to waste management, it would seem like Sweden has reached the Promised Land. Even if that were true in the short term, on a large scale, and in the long term, this strategy has negative effects on the very foundations of zero waste and the circular economy.
Sweden claims to be undergoing a recycling revolution, boasting that they recycle nearly 100% of household waste. But how could that be true when nearly 50% of their waste is incinerated. Incineration and recycling are two completely different things. Between 2000 and 2015, Sweden recycled an average of 33% of its total MSW (excluding compost). In 2015 alone, Sweden recycled only 32% of its total MSW (48% with compost included), which is still a ways away from the European Commission’s common EU MSW recycling target of 65% by 2030. When it’s all said and done, however, Sweden ranked sixth among European countries in recycling in 2015. That might seem like cause for celebration, but their increased focus on incineration over the years has brought about stagnation in recycling rates since 2006.
Dependency on Waste
Sweden’s stagnating recycling rate is concerning because as waste incineration becomes an increasingly reliable source of energy for them and their dependency on it grows, there is less motivation to better recycling efforts countrywide. In some cases, sorted trash actually gets incinerated, further demotivating municipalities and individuals to invest time and money into waste separation. For this reason, many recyclables are lost through incineration, leading to the destruction of valuable goods that would normally contribute to a higher, more efficient recycling rate and production cycle.
A Costly A(ir)ffair
Sweden’s increased dependency on incineration for their energy and economic needs has prompted them to continue building plants, which are very costly to both build and run, not to mention the pollutants that they produce. According to the EPA, quoted in Treehugger and Slate, incineration plants release about 1.3 times the amount of CO2 per megawatt generated than burning coal does, and they have been shown to release many other toxic chemicals such as dioxins. And while much of the CO2 would have been emitted from the waste over time anyway if left untouched, the fact that it’s being released all at once is cause for concern. From a cost perspective, a cost-benefit analysis on waste incineration conducted by Columbia University shows that plants can cost upwards of 100 million euros to construct and anywhere from 3 – 7 million euros yearly to maintain. And in order to make a return on investment, incineration plants have to process steady amounts of waste. This puts Sweden between a rock and a hard place as their reliance on generating waste to keep up with their energy and economical demands goes against their zero waste claims and the very basis of the circular economy.
Weine Wiqvist, Swedish Waste Management and Recycling Association CEO, cited “’Zero waste’ – that is our slogan. We would prefer less waste being generated, and that all the waste that is generated is recycled in some way. Perfection may never happen, but it certainly is a fascinating idea.”
As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
Accepting the award, the UKWIN National Coordinator Shlomo Dowen said: “Over the past decade UKWIN has been blessed with hundreds of dedicated, passionate and conscientious volunteers, who have made a real difference in their communities. I dedicate this award to all of UKWIN’s worthy volunteers, and pay special tribute to two of them.”
Shlomo spoke of Mick Bee’s sense of humour and Jeff Meehan’s extraordinary determination, noting that the culture of mutual support and camaraderie that they embodied, and that so many fellow anti-incineration campaigners continue to exhibit, has helped make UKWIN such a successful and formidable campaign network.
At Basecamp UKWIN was involved in workshops on the barriers that incineration pose to recycling and the circular economy, on opportunities for local Zero Waste campaigning, and on the great work being done around the country to tackle food waste.
Zero Waste Europe welcomes the ENVI committee’s draft report on the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive. This report represents a first important step towards the alignment of EU energy and circular economy policies, by excluding financial support for incineration of mixed municipal solid waste.
“We have been calling for the elimination of financial support for energy extraction from mixed waste as this subverts one of the key cornerstones of the EU waste policy – the waste hierarchy” said Janek Vahk, Development and Policy Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe. Such a hierarchy establishes an order of priority in waste prevention and management: waste is therefore meant to be firstly prevented, then prepared for reuse, and recycled.
The effect of the financial support to waste to energy has so far resulted in a clear distortion of the market, whereby the choice of waste management options and the investment in waste infrastructure have been based on such subsidies, rather than on a sound environmental and economic performance. As a consequence, several European countries, e.g. Denmark and Sweden, have overinvested in energy from waste plants, whilst underinvesting in recycling facilities.
“We hope that this is now going to change – continued Vahk – and that the European Parliament will take on this report, and prioritise waste reduction, reuse and recycling over waste to energyschemes”.
About Rome and Zero Waste – Rossano Ercolini and Zero Waste Italy meet the government of the municipality of Rome.
On the 6th of June, a delegation from Zero Waste Italy and Zero Waste Europe president, and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini held a positive meeting with Pinuccia Montanari, the councillor for the environment of the municipality of Rome, her staff and the president of AMA (the municipal waste management company for Rome), Lorenzo Bagnacani.
The group focused on the fundamental steps Rome should take in order to begin the zero waste path, taking into consideration the important role of civil society, industries and political leadership.
“The plan is to transform the MBT [mechanical biological treatment] plants in “material factories”, removing all interests related to incineration as way to treat waste, and moving towards door-to-door separate collection of waste with the consequent reduction of residual waste. Home-composting, the selling of light-packaging products and reuse/repair practices should be encouraged also in terms of job opportunity.” Montanari and Ercolini explained.
Rome, a world leader?
Rome could become an example for the world, showing how even a complex and highly populated city could work towards the zero waste solution, when strongly supported by the political leadership. For this reason, the local town hall has started the process to make Rome a zero waste community, formalising the zero waste observatory (called Osservatorio Capitolino), composed of the most important national environmentalist associations.
In order to facilitate this process from an international perspective, it has been decided that an international task force will be created, as proposed by Zero Waste Italy. This team of experts should be composed of representatives from Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe, individual experts such as Prof. Paul Connett, Jack Macy from the municipality of San Francisco and Jeffrey Morris, an expert in circular economy.
The task force would also have the task of stressing the importance of “Rome towards zero waste” as an international example, leading the Italian capital city to the “zero waste by 2021” goal.
This is a challenge that will need the cooperation of all civil civil society, the environmentalist associations and the political leadership.