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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

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.


UNFCCC approved incinerator reveals double standards in climate finance that undermine European climate policy

Waste pickers protest Okhla incinerator in 2011
Waste pickers protest the Okhla incinerator in 2011

A waste incineration plant in Delhi, India has been called a ‘multi-faceted disaster’ after local groups have uncovered evidence that the project may have been fraudulently claiming carbon credits for technologies that do not exist. Over the entire period of its operation the project has faced consistent criticism and protest from residents of the surrounding areas for pollution violations including the release of dangerous dioxins.

The incineration plant is radically different to the original plan approved by the Indian Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC). The original plans included the establishment of an integrated Municipal Solid Waste Plant (MSWP), an industrial complex that would include two Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) plants, a bio-methanation plant and a waste-to-energy incinerator plant. This plan would in itself have been a disaster, and was strongly opposed from the outset by local residents and environmentalists as an unsustainable waste management plant. However, the reality of the project falls well short of these original plans with the absence of the Bio-methanation plant and Refuse Derived Fuel plants. Originally approved on the basis that the project would avoid the need for landfills, which are a major social, health and environmental problem in India, the Okhla incinerator project has been allowed to claim carbon credits from the UNFCCC (under the former Clean Development Mechanism) for claimed, yet unproven, GHG emissions reductions.

Local residents, concerned about the health impacts of the incinerator have voiced strong objection to the project, and have gained the support of two major hospitals in the area. In 2009 the Timarpur-Okhla Waste Management Company (responsible for running the project) was taken to the Delhi High Court over claims of toxic emissions of heavy metals and dioxins several times the permissible limit, since then the case has been heard 28 times in the High Court and in 2013 the case was transferred to the National Green Tribunal (the fast track court for environmental cases) where it has been heard a further 21 times.

The Timarpur-Okhla wasteto- energy incinerator near Sukhdev Vihar. Photo: V. Sudershan
The Timarpur-Okhla wasteto- energy incinerator near Sukhdev Vihar. Photo: V. Sudershan

A representative of local residents of Sukhdev Vihar said “It is unfortunate that there is such blatant fraud on the UNFCCC’s carbon credit mechanism as well as on the conditions on which the environment clearance was granted by Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change,” said Umesh C. Bahri, a resident of Sukhdev Vihar and a scientist familiar with accreditation processes. “While both entities have been notified of the fraud no action has been taken by either bodies or by the NGT.”

The project was originally received with strong criticism and opposition from the local and international community due to its poor climate credentials, in the context of increased questioning over the Energy Policy agenda in India. Scandalously, the project proponents have failed to deliver the very technologies that would supposedly assist in reducing GHG’s and utilise the resources contained in the waste stream in a more ecologically sustainable way. Instead, lesser quality and more polluting technology components have been included such as ‘Chinese Stoker Boilers’ which have been associated with massive protests across China.

The case of the Okhla incinerator seems to be a key example of misdirected carbon credits. The plant which claims to process 2,050 tonnes per day of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) has been accused of submitting a false monitoring report to the UNFCCC by including the bio-methanation and RDF plants in the Validation and CDM Monitoring reports when this technology is not actually included in the plant.

This has sparked outrage from environmental groups and local citizens in India who have launched a petition to the UNFCCC CDM Board. The petition calls for an immediate investigation into the plant, compensation for local residents and assurance that future credits will not be allocated to such polluting projects.

Bharati Chaturvedi, the founder and director of Chintan, an organisation that works with waste-pickers and recyclers for environmental justice said:“Climate change is about justice and sustainability, not about poisoning people and snatching away livelihoods. But this is what the Okhla waste-to-energy plant has done-displace nearly 300 waste pickers, and consequently, 63% of their children out of school. For this, it has received carbon credits. Is this how the world will fight climate change? By funding poverty creation? The new climate finance regime must put decent, sustainable livelihoods and the poor at its centre rather than expect technologies alone  to make the world cooler.”

Waste burning technologies are often misleadingly classified as generators of “renewable-energy” and are therefore categorised as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is based primarily on the flawed accounting method for the burning of the organic portion of waste whereby it is claimed that ‘emissions of CO2 of non-fossil origin can be ignored’. This is simply untrue. The atmosphere simply does not differentiate between sources of GHGs. Zero Waste Europe’s report ‘The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy’ demonstrates that  ‘the only correct way to proceed is to account for emissions of all greenhouse gases since they all have ‘warming potential’, irrespective of their origin’.

“Incinerating waste, which are actually recyclables, deprives us of our already meagre livelihoods,” say Zainab Bibi one of an army of waste pickers engaged in collecting and recycling plastic waste in the Okhla area. “There is no alternate employment available to us.”

With incineration sitting firmly at the bottom of the waste-hierarchy it is clear that waste-to-energy incinerators such as the Timarpur-Okhla plant are net contributors to climate change. Their categorisation as ‘renewable-energy’ is based on a flawed accounting method which ignores the true climate impact of emissions from the burning of organics.

Smog over Delhi
Smog over Delhi

There are well documented and serious health impacts from waste to energy incinerators which emit heavy metals (such as lead & mercury) and dioxins which are classified persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and banned under the Stockholm Convention. POPS pose a global threat to human health and the environment due to their specific characteristics. They are toxic and persistent in the environment, can travel long distances and accumulate in the food chain.The promotion of waste incineration, the second largest emitting source of dioxin, is contrary to the intent of the convention.

Research has shown that for those living close to incinerators the risk of sarcoma (a type of cancer) is 3.3 times higher than those who do not live near a plant. The risk extends to other types of cancer, miscarriage, birth defects and preterm births as well as heart and respiratory disease. In India it is estimated that 1.59 million premature deaths happen every year due to air pollution.

The trade in carbon credits has consistently been shown to undermine European climate and waste policy, directing climate finance towards dirty-energy projects. The carbon market is regulated through the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is a greenhouse gas emissions offset scheme created under the Kyoto protocol. The scheme involves the trading of carbon credits called Certified Emission Reductions (CERs). The CDM is supposed to encourage sustainable development and help reduce overall emissions, however as GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) have noted the CDM frequently ends up supporting dirty energy, incinerators and landfills in the Global South, often far worse than would be permitted in the Northern countries. A replacement for the CDM was agreed upon at the COP21 in Paris, and will be negotiated at the COP22 in Marrakech in November.

In Europe the trading of carbon credits issued by the CDM has been regulated by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) legislation which allows member states to purchase the credits. This has seen landfill gas systems, and waste incinerators, both at the bottom of Waste Hierarchy, sell credits into the EU market, undermining progressive EU legislation on waste.

Paris, the location of the UNFCCC COP21. Photo: B. Giambelluca
Paris, the location of the UNFCCC COP21. Photo: B. Giambelluca

With the Paris treaty being agreed last December at the COP21 summit, a new offset mechanism is being developed. The Sustainable Development Mechanism (SDM) aims to supersede the CDM and ‘contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development’. Many aspects of the SDM are currently undefined and will be clarified at the COP22 summit taking place in Marrakech, Morocco in November.

Critical to the success of  the Sustainable Development Mechanism will be the credibility and reliability of ‘sustainable development definitions’ particularly related to waste management. It is therefore essential that any future definition excludes landfill gas systems, and waste to energy incinerators including cement kilns burning waste, from generating credits. If such a definition is adopted it will prevent a repeat of the cases where EU member states effectively supported waste management projects which would not have been approved in their own countries.

The case of the Timarpur-Okhla waste-to-energy incineration plant demonstrates why it is so important that the future of carbon trading accounts for the climate and social impacts of waste management technologies. Furthermore, the social and environmental justice of communities in the global south must be upheld and protected from the misguided trade of carbon credits and false carbon accounting related to any UNFCCC subsidised waste management project. It is clear that any future implementation of emissions trading in Europe needs to ensure compatibility with existing EU legislation on waste, giving primacy to the waste-hierarchy and ensure that the projects can demonstrably prove their GHG emissions reductions. Anything less simply risks repeating historical and colonialist approaches to well intentioned aid and support for developing nations.


Press Release: Circular Economy can be a game-changer to reach ESR targets

For immediate release: Brussels, September 27 2016

Contact: Mariel Vilella , Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director-  mariel@zerowasteeurope.eu

Zero Waste Europe[1] has responded to the consultation on the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) by highlighting the contribution that the waste sector can bring to a low-carbon economy, and calling the European Commission to have higher ambition.

In the response submitted today[2], Zero Waste Europe pointed out that the implementation of the Circular Economy Package could deliver far more GHG emission reductions than the total amount targeted by the implementation of the ESR, if GHG emissions savings from recycling and reduction of waste were accounted for, which shows that there is very significant room for improvement.

Recent research calculated[3] the climate benefit from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tonnes CO2-eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.

In comparison, the overall ESR proposal expects to reduce is 1,000 million/tonnes for the period 2021-2030, an average of 111 million/tonnes per year[4]. This lower figure partly responds to the fact that the ESR is not taking into consideration the recycling and waste reduction related targets from the Circular Economy Package.

In this sense, with the proper accounting methodologies in place, the ESR ambition could be much higher and more coherent with the sectoral policies.

“The Effort Sharing Regulation should set mitigation targets that are consistent with the targets of the Circular Economy Package, making sure that the two sets of policies are coherent. These policies are called to drive the transition across sectors to a low-carbon economy, ensuring actual emission reductions and creative solutions for a long-lasting, inclusive change,“ said Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director.

Furthermore, the response highlights that zero waste solutions, alongside climate action in other sectors, will contribute to achieving the global target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees global warming, embracing the principles of conservation of materials, the reduction of toxics, equitable distribution, and access to resources.

The response submitted by Zero Waste Europe is available to download on our website.

Contact: Mariel Vilella , Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director-  mariel@zerowasteeurope.eu

NOTES

  1. Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
  2. Zero Waste Europe’s official response to the ESR consultation: https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ESRSubmission.pdf_V4.pdf
  3. The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy, Eunomia/ZWE, 2015. https://www.zerowasteeurope.eu/downloads/the-potential-contribution-of-waste-management-to-a-low-carbon-economy/
  4. The EU 2016 Reference Scenario, see here: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/sites/ener/files/documents/20160712_Summary_Ref_scenario_MAIN_RESULTS%20(2)-web.pdf

Youth group highlight waste at the climate talks: the YOUNGO Zero Waste Working Group

cop21-youth-celebrations

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.

YOUNGO logo
YOUNGO Logo

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:

  1. Include waste management as an integral part of climate mitigation policy
  2. Waste policies should manage waste in the higher tiers of the waste management hierarchy (i.e. recycling or above)
  3. Discontinue support for all forms of “renewable” energy generated from residual waste
  4. Implement circular economy and product stewardship incentives
  5. 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.

The opening plenary of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement
The opening plenary of the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Paris Agreement

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).

There will be space to get in direct contact with the COY12 (Conference of Youth, 12th edition) organisers to probe their willingness in this regard, as we will be likely to attend in mid-July the Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum in Tangier, Morocco. Making the COY12 a zero waste event will give continuity to what has been done in Paris for the COY11, which was the first COY to adopt a zero waste plan, with the collaboration of Zero Waste France.

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!


Policy Briefing: the Waste Sector under the Effort Sharing Decision

Today, Zero Waste Europe released a new policy briefing on the waste sector under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) with key recommendations to ensure real GHG emission reductions in the waste sector.

Read the full Policy Briefing

Greenpeace volunteers end incinerator occupation. Eleven Greenpeace volunteers ended their occupation of Sheffield incinerator after protecting the people of the city of polluting gases for three days. The volunteers occupying the plant maintain that they acted lawfully but have agreed to comply with an injunction from Leeds High Court ©Greenpeace/Sims GREENPEACE HANDOUT/NO ARCHIVING /NO MAGAZINES
Greenpeace volunteers end incinerator occupation.
Eleven Greenpeace volunteers ended their occupation of Sheffield incinerator after protecting the people of the city of polluting gases for three days.
©Greenpeace/Sims
GREENPEACE HANDOUT/NO ARCHIVING /NO MAGAZINES

The Effort Sharing Decision, which will set targets for GHG emission reduction in the waste sector for 2030, has so far considered only a portion of emissions in the waste sector, mainly those related to landfills and incinerators.

However, this assumption is misguided and incorrect, as the waste sector involves a much larger range of activities and a much larger portion of GHG emissions that unfortunately go unaccounted. In fact, the waste sectors contribution to GHG emission reduction has enormous potential when support is given to the higher tiers of the Waste hierarchy -including reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, biogas generation, sustainable consumption and production, and it can be a game-changer to the development of a low-carbon economy.

“The waste sector is a large and untapped sector with a significant potential for cost effective mitigation.”

Looking at the potential contribution of the waste sector to a low-carbon economy, recent research calculated the climate contribution from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tones CO2 -eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.

IMG-20151209-WA0000

“Unreported emissions from incineration of waste act as a loophole in the EU GHG emission accounting”

The Effort Sharing Decision 2030 framework has the potential to further reduce emissions in the waste sector, and this is an opportunity that should not be missed. In order to deliver effective GHG emission reductions, the new 2030 framework should follow some key recommendations both for the overall framework and in particular for the waste sector:

  1. Be aligned with the Circular Economy Package and the Waste Hierarchy, ensure support for the most environmental and cost-effective options for reducing emissions in the waste sector. This will lead to significant GHG emission reductions and reinforce the synergies between European climate, energy and waste legislation.
  2. Increase ambition in line with the Paris Agreement, with a long-term goal to limit temperature increase to well below 2°C, and pursue efforts for limiting it to 1.5°C. This will require the development of a solid set of guidelines and robust governance to ensure the effective implementation of sectoral policies.
  3. Avoid loopholes and apply the correct carbon accounting of biogenic emissions from biowaste or biomass. The reformed ESD should contribute to correct carbon accounting of bioenergy emissions and secure strict compliance with bioenergy sustainability criteria in order to guarantee real emissions savings.
  4. Avoid the use of surplus allowances from the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) to increase the appropriate incentives for the development of a low-carbon economy where real emissions reductions are guaranteed.
  5. Support Member States’ ability to meet their climate targets and provide guidance for governance and compliance, including annual reduction targets and effective corrective actions to avoid non-compliance as well as transparency mechanisms to allow effective monitoring of Member States’ action.

With the incorporation of these recommendations Effort Sharing Decision would dramatically increase its effectiveness in tackling greenhouse gas emissions, particularly the otherwise underestimated portion from the waste sector.

Read and download the full policy briefing on our website


Network of Zero Waste Towns Meeting in Ljubljana

On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd Ljubljana, the 2016 European Green Capital, and first Zero Waste European Capital, played host to municipal representatives, entrepreneurs, zero waste campaigners and experts as part of the Network of Zero Waste Towns Meeting.

Erick Oblak opening the Network of Zero Waste Towns Meeting Foto: Maša Kores
Erick Oblak opening the Network of Zero Waste Towns Meeting Photo: Maša Kores

The conference was opened by an introduction to the history of Ljubljana and the implementation of zero waste policies in the city, from Erika Oblak of Ekologi Brez Meja. From the early struggle against the construction of an incinerator and the subsequent referendum, with overwhelming opposition in 1999 to just a few years later, having the neighbouring town of Vrhnika already leading the way with recycling rates as high as 50% as early as 2003.

When in 2012 another incineration plan was proposed, Ekologi Brez Meja with Zero Waste Europe’s support, successfully countered the plan with a zero waste alternative, which has led Ljubljana to being the waste management success story that it is today.

This was followed by Zero Waste Europe, Director, Joan Marc Simon expressing how amazing it was that such significant progress had been made by the city in only 2 ½ years.

The first discussion panel focused on reusable nappies, featuring Elizabeta Zust, from a nursery in Vhrnika that only uses cloth nappies and Hilary Vick, from Nappy Ever After, a nappy laundry service in London. The panel also included Joan Crous from the Eta Beta/Lavanda cooperative in Bologna, Italy, where 1,100 to 1,800 nappies are washed and delivered every day.

The panel covered the environmental and social benefits of reusable nappies as well as technical and commercial difficulties and issues surrounding the issue. This provided highly informative, inspirational and technical discussion by the participants.

Tourism was the focus of the next panel discussion. With Nina Kosin from the Ljubljana Tourism Board opened with a focus on the significance of the Green Capital award for the city, as well as the introduction of reusable crockery at the Christmas market with a deposit scheme in place.

Antonio Esposito spoke about Conka Park, the first zero waste hotel in Sorrento, Italy. With a wide range of initiatives promoting zero waste in the hotel, they have found significant success, and positive reactions from the hotel guests.

The afternoon of the first day covered the topic of food waste. Involving food waste entrepreneur Joris Depouillon from the Food Waste Entrepreneur Network, Laura Chatel, from Zero Waste France, and Albin Keuc, from Food Waste Reduction a Slovenian initiative which has provided 16 DIY tools for food waste reduction.

The participants emphasised the importance of differentiating between ‘food waste’ and ‘food surplus’ with the larger portion remaining fit for human consumption, the highest level of the ‘food waste hierarchy’.

The second day was opened by Zero Waste Europe’s President, from Capannori, Italy – Rossano Ercolini. Before hearing speeches from Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana, and Irena Majcen, the Slovenian Minister for the Environment and Spatial Planning, offering their insights on Ljubljana’s success as a environmental leader across Europe.

The keynote speaks for the day was from Paul Connett, internationally renowned campaigner on zero waste, with over 30 years of experience in working on incineration and waste issues. Dr. Connett used his time to speak on zero waste as stepping stone to sustainability. His speech presented an inspiring vision of citizen action for the creation of a world without waste, a sustainable future and a better planet.

Dr. Paul Connett speaking at Network of Zero Waste Towns. Photo: Maša Kores
Dr. Paul Connett speaking at Network of Zero Waste Towns. Photo: Maša Kores

This was followed by a discussion of policies on a local level, with Tihana Jelacic, from Prekom, the Croatian waste management company for Prelog and the surrounding municipalities, who have recently adopted a Zero Waste Strategy, and are working to implement zero waste policies and practices. Stojan Jakin, from Vrhnika, the first Zero Waste Town in Slovenia spoke about how ranking towns by the recycling rates can be misleading when towns like Vrhnika are reducing the amount of residual waste year-on-year despite a less dramatic increase in recycling rates.

Matteo Francesconi, the Deputy Mayor of Capanorri spoke about how Capannori was first launched on the road to zero waste by the anti-incineration fight led by Rossano Ercolini, and now has a holistic approach to waste, with a system that adapts to the local reality and, therefore, integrates local people at every level.

In the afternoon. Mitja Praznik, from Snaga, the waste management company in Ljubljana went into great detail and depth on exactly how Ljubljana has become the best performing capital in waste management in Europe

This was followed by Mariel Vilella, Associate Director of Zero Waste Europe explaining the immense impact which waste management has on climate change, and how current accounting methods downplay this impact. Emphasising that it is time that we harvested this ‘low-hanging-fruit’ when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

The full presentation by Mariel is available online, with visual slides making a strong case for ‘Zero Waste’ as ‘Climate Action!’. The route to moving towards this low-carbon economy through zero waste is detailed in Zero Waste Europe’s recent report, ‘The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy’. Mariel, made the strong and compelling case that cities are at the forefront of this effort to move away from carbon intensive waste management practices, with cities being uniquely positioned to implement effective and efficient policies.

David Franquesa, then took to the stage to present eReuse, an open source reuse platform for electronic waste, which can be used to dramatically extend the use life of electronic products, as well as ensuring the traceability of the items from reuse through to recycling.

The final speaker at the conference was from the ECO-PULPLAST project which works with the paper industry in Northern Italy to recycle pulper waste from the recycling of paper to make ‘eco-sustainable plastic pallets’. This project has significant support from key players in the paper recycling industry where it forms a major alternative to waste incineration and offers a way to reduce costs.

The conference incorporated a wide range of expertise and experience. With inspiring and informative talks from politicians, industry representatives, social entrepreneurs, activists, and innovator. The focus on local action towards zero waste presented a number of concrete actions which can be taken by different municipalities in following the path to zero waste.


European Commission keeps wasting energy on “waste-to-energy”

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European Commission keeps wasting energy on “waste-to-energy”

Ferran Rosa, Policy Officer

In December 2015, the European Commission launched the Circular Economy Package, which aims to bring a major shift in waste management, product and process design policies and consumption patterns that minimize the landfill and incineration of waste. Less than two months after, on Thursday February 4, the European Commission presented the Roadmap for the Communication on Waste to Energy, which sets the scope and terms for the Communication on waste-to-energy that will be published later on in 2016. As we read through it, this roadmap is a worrying step on four counts.

Firstly, the European Commission refers in this roadmap to non-recyclable waste as the perfect feed for an incinerator. However, no definition of non-recyclable waste can be found in the Waste Framework Directive or in the new proposal. The Commission mixes up non-recyclable waste with mixed waste, and while it’s true that mixed waste can’t be easily recycled, these are two different things.

While mixed waste is a problem of separate collection; non-recyclable waste is mostly a problem of product design. If properly separated, there’s no non-recyclable waste only non-recyclable materials and the solution to them isn’t burning, but re-design to make them fit into the circular economy.

Secondly, this road-map especially worrying because it ignores the role of civil society and local governments, as the Commission aims at consulting only Member States’ regulators, “waste-to-energy” plant operators, RDF producers, the recycling industry and other waste burning industries (chiefly cement kilns). Neither municipalities, nor NGOs are included in the list, despite the fact that waste incineration remains highly contested from NGOs to local neighbourhood associations and resident groups, citing a wide range of concerns from health and environmental issues to financial problems.

Moreover, it is worrying because it doesn’t include a clear roadmap on how to tackle existing over-capacities and, actually pushes for more inflexible facilities requiring long-time investment, such as district heating. It ignores that in a circular economy, disposal facilities should instead be flexible, allowing waste managers to adapt progressively to higher recycling rates and lower levels of waste production. Linking houses’ heating system to residual waste generation through very expensive long-term facilities isn’t the best incentive to promote reduction, reuse and recycling

Finally, granting so called “waste-to-energy” a role of within the Energy Union, is everything but doing a favour for the climate, since “waste-to-energy” is one of the most polluting, expensive, and inefficient forms of energy production available today. Burning waste will not contribute to secure energy supply, nor to the promotion of clean renewable energy to secure the reduction of our carbon footprint and the mitigation of climate change

Unfortunately this isn’t a systemic change, just more of the same.

 


Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy Conference

The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy Conference
The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy Conference

On January 12 2016, Zero Waste Europe, ACR+, and Zero Waste France held a conference; ‘The Potential of the Waste Sector to a Low Carbon Economy at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels, Belgium.

The conference focussed on the recently released report ‘Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy‘ conducted by Eunomia, and commissioned by Zero Waste Europe in partnership with ACR+ and Zero Waste France, the report highlighted how the carbon emissions relating to waste management have been consistently underestimated due to the way in which the emissions are indexed.

The event was opened by a speech from Céline Fremault, the Brussels Capital Region Minister for Environment and Energy. Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd then presented the key findings of the report.

Mariel Vilella, Associate Director and Climate Policy Programme Officer from Zero Waste Europe put the report in context following the December COP21 climate negotiations in Paris. Stating “the Paris Agreement is an opportunity to increase our ambition for climate action and the EU must take leadership”.

Philippe Micheaux Naudet of ACR+ spoke of the importance of a circular economy to the creation of a low carbon society in Europe.

Filipe Carneiro from LIPOR, the Intermunicipal Waste Management Agency of Greater Porto explained the model of the organisation which operates across 8 municipalities in Portugal and works towards the reduction of carbon emissions, avoiding the emission 248,865t CO2e over the last 8 years.

Cedric Chevalier from the Brussels Environment, Waste Department the importance of a circular economy to the creation of a low carbon society in Europe.

 

 


Press Release: New Report Finds, Municipal Solid Waste a Key Sector for a Low Carbon Economy

For Immediate Release 27/10/2015
Download full Press Kit

 

A newly released report has found the waste sector has a key role to play in the development of a low carbon economy and the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The report will be launched at a press conference, organised by Zero Waste France in Paris on Tuesday the 27th. This report comes in advance of the UN Climate Conference in Paris, which will take place in December.

The report was commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+. The report finds that the role of waste prevention and improved waste management can play in reducing GHG emissions and the development of a low carbon economy has previously been significantly understated, partly due to the structure of the national inventories of the UNFCCC.

The report further provides an accurate examination of the true impact of waste management on climate change and carbon emissions. It confirms that actions at the top of the waste hierarchy – including waste prevention initiatives, reuse and recycling – have considerable scope to reduce climate change emissions.

As the report states “A climate friendly strategy, as regards materials and waste, will be one in which materials are continually cycling through the economy, and where the leakage of materials into residual waste treatments is minimised”. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging can be a saving of 500 kg CO2 eq, whereas using one tonne less plastic packaging results in avoiding 6 times more emissions (3 tonnes CO2 eq).

In the report 11 key recommendations are made, calling for waste policies to be redesigned in order to prioritise the higher level options of the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ (waste prevention, reuse and recycling) and immediately reallocate climate finance subsidies which are currently supporting energy generation from waste. These recommendations put a strong focus on correcting methodological issues that are currently preventing Member states and the European union from implementing waste policies that are efficient in terms of GHG emissions.

The report shows that in the decarbonising economy required to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, technologies such as incineration will become less attractive options and ultimately present an obstacle to a low carbon economy.

 

Reactions

 

Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director said “For far too long the climate impact of waste management has been overlooked. Now it’s clear that waste prevention, reuse and recycling are climate change solutions that need to be fully integrated into a low carbon economy. Both at the EU and international level, it is time to shift climate finance support to these climate-friendly options instead of waste incineration, which in fact contributes to climate change and displaces livelihoods of recyclers worldwide.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste France’s Advocacy Officer,said: “With France hosting the COP21 in December, it is a real opportunity to raise decision makers’ awareness about the real impact of waste management on climate change and the extent to which Zero Waste strategies have to be put on the agenda of solutions to climate mitigation supported by the French government.”

Françoise Bonnet, Secretary general of ACR+ said: “Efficiency and smart waste management is key for a low carbon economy. Still, it is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective”.

Links

 

Download the full report, executive summary, or technical appendices

Press Contacts

Zero Waste Europe

Mariel Vilella

Associate Director and Head of Climate Policy Programme

The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy: report cover page

+44 784 7079-154 – mariel -at- zerowasteeurope.eu

Matt Franklin

Communications & Programme Officer

+44 792 337-3831 – matt -at- zerowasteeurope.eu

Zero Waste France

Delphine Lévi Alvarès

Advocacy officer

+33 7 89 85 06 58 – delphine -at- zerowastefrance.org

ACR+

Françoise Bonnet

Secretary general

+32 474 412 653 – fb -at- acrplus.org

The partners

Zero Waste EuropeZero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu

Zero Waste France – Zero Waste France (formerly Cniid – Centre national d’information indépendante sur les déchets) was founded in 1997. As an independently funded NGO and a member of Zero Waste Europe, it has been advocating for waste reduction since then, talking to local and national public officials as well as citizens groups or businesses. In 2014 the organization changed its name to Zero Waste France to emphasize its ambition but also the links with the other groups involved in this issue worldwide. Zero Waste France works closely with local stakeholders – among them its 2,000 members (individuals and groups) to encourage and implement Zero Waste strategies at the local level. www.zerowastefrance.org

ACR+ The Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+) is an international network promoting sustainable resource management through prevention at source, reuse and recycling. Through its activities, ACR+ strives to develop the expertise and skills of public authorities in effective waste-product-resource policies. Building on a 20 year experience, ACR+ launched in November 2014, the Circular Europe Network, a multi-stakeholder platform aiming at supporting local and regional authorities in adopting aspiring circular economy strategies. www.acrplus.org

 


Sao Paulo Apuesta En Serio Por El Compstaje Domiciliario

Dan Moche, Claudio Spínola y Magdalena Donoso*

Septiembre, 2015

Sao Paulo llama la atención por sus grandezas: alberga el mayor parque industrial y financiero del Brasil, es su municipio más poblado y es la sexta ciudad más grande del planeta, donde viven más de once millones de habitantes. Esta grandeza genera también una cantidad de residuos difícil de dimensionar: se producen diariamente 12,3 mil toneladas de residuos domiciliares, de lo cuáles el 51% son residuos orgánicos compostables y el 35% son residuos secos reciclables.

Aunque no siempre los rellenos sanitarios fueron el principal destino de los residuos en Sao Paulo, esta práctica se fue expandiendo hasta llegar a una situación crítica donde el 100% de todo el residuo orgánico, 95% de todo el residuo seco y 100% de todo el rechazo eran, hasta hace 2 años, destinados exclusivamente a los dos rellenos sanitarios existentes, el Relleno CTL (Central de Tratamiento de Residuos Leste) y el relleno Caieiras.

Las motivaciones para revertir esta situación están relacionadas con obligaciones legalesi, pero también con la urgencia de economizar espacio en la región metropolitana extendiendo la vida útil de los rellenos sanitarios; de aprovechar la materia orgánica que aporta nutrientes y mejora las propiedades de los suelos en el estado de Sao Paulo; de unirse a los esfuerzos de reducción de lixiviados y de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) en la ciudad. El sistema de manejo de los residuos sólidos de Sao Paulo es el segundo más grande sector emissor de GEI (Inventario municipal, 2012), con 15,6% (14% proveniente de los rellenos). La práctica del compostaje puede disminuir en 5 a 10 veces las emisiones de metano en rellenos sanitarios.ii

Implementación participativa

La implementación de la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos (PNRS) dio sus primeros pasos con la participación ciudadana en 58 eventos y más de 7.000 participantes, organizados por la Administración Pública de Sao Paulo. 800 delegados elegidos por miles de paulistanos y apoyados por expertos y técnicos de la autoridad pertinente, acordaron los lineamientos principales respecto de qué hacer con los residuos generados en la ciudad.

Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo
Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo

Estos puntos constituyeron parte del Plan de Gestión Integrada de Residuos Sólidos de la ciudad de Sao Paulo – PGIRS, publicado a inicios de 2014, y que determinó la recuperación, en veinte años, del 80% de todos los residuos reciclables secos y orgánicos compostables. Entre los lineamientos aprobados destacan la segregación de los residuos orgánicos en las fuentes generadoras, su recogida selectiva universalizada, el compostaje, tratamiento mecánico biológico y fomento al compostaje doméstico.

Composta Sao Paulo”

El compostaje doméstico comenzó a ser alentado por el gobierno de Sao Paulo poco después de la publicación del PGIRS en junio de 2014, mediante la entrega de composteras a viviendas unifamiliares. En seis meses se recuperaron 250 toneladas de residuos orgánicos.


El proyecto llamado
“Composta Sao Paulo” entregó kits de compostaje doméstico con lombrices a 2.006 hogares en la ciudad de São Paulo. A través de una convocatoria pública, el proyecto consiguió en 40 días 10.061 inscripciones en el sitio web, de diversas regiones de São Paulo. Los seleccionados provenían de 539 departamentos y 1.467 hogares de ocho regiones.

La entrega de composteras fue acompañada por 135 talleres de capacitación para más de 5.000 participantes. También se alentó a los participantes a responder las encuestas programadas y asumir el papel de multiplicadores del compostaje doméstico.

Después de dos meses, los participantes del proyecto fueron invitados a otros talleres (88 talleres), donde recibieron consejos y técnicas de plantación en espacios pequeños para el uso del compost producido. Para resolver las dudas e inquietudes se optó por la creación de una comunidad virtual en Facebook. La comunidad de “composteros” terminó el primer año del proyecto con más de 6.000 miembros.

Delivery of compost kits to selected households
Delivery of compost kits to selected households


El levantamiento posterior de información relativo a los resultados del programa indicó que el 89% de los participantes disminuyó notablemente la entrega de residuos para la recolección. No hubo diferencias significativas en la evaluación de la práctica de compostaje entre clases sociales o entre los tipos de viviendas y sólo 47 hogares (2,3%) renunció a la actividad. En tanto, el 97% de los participantes de una encuesta realizada para medir el nivel de satisfacción (1.535 personas), se mostró satisfecho o muy satisfecho con la técnica, el 98% consideró una buena solución para los residuos orgánicos y el 86% la consideró fácil de practicar.

¡Económicamente conveniente!

En su análisis económico, la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo constató que los costos de entrega de composteras, monitoreo y asistencia técnica entregados por el Gobierno local podían ser cubiertos a través de los ahorros logrados en la reducción de la recolección, transporte y disposición final de los residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios. El estudio comparó los costos (estimados) de recolección, transporte y disposicion de residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios con los costos (estimados) de entrega de composteras, comunicación, talleres, etc. Posteriormente, se realizó el cálculo con lo que efectivamente se invirtió para desarrollar las acciones antes mencionadas en el contexto de “Composta Sao Paulo”, trabajando con 2006 hogares. Considerado el efecto “contagioso” que se detalla más adelante, los costos serían igualados en menos de 5 años.iii

La estrategia de comunicación y el efecto contagioso

La vinculación de la práctica del compostaje doméstico con la participación y responsabilidad ciudadana fue una pieza importante de la estrategia comunicacional desarrollada para este programa en cuanto al involucramiento de la población. Además de la novedad del proceso del compostaje mismo, el uso de técnicas modernas de comunicación social despertó atracción por el proyecto, y el deseo de “ser parte”.

El efecto multiplicador no se hizo esperar. Los resultados de la encuesta indicaron que el 29% ayudó a otras personas que no recibieron composteras a hacer, instalar o gestionar una. Los participantes testimoniaron un efecto contagioso, que atrajo a 2.525 nuevos participantes que trataron de montar o comprar su propio sistema de compostaje.

El 27% de los participantes donó lombrices para que otros pudieran iniciar la práctica. Asimismo, los cambios de conducta en otros ámbitos también salieron a la luz: 84% afirmó haber ampliado mucho su conocimiento de la sostenibilidad urbana; 96% se consideró bastante más diligente en manejar adecuadamente los residuos que produce; el 54% dijo que comenzó a comer bastante más frutas y verduras.

Los nuevos “maestros composteros”

Los 2.525 nuevos participantes entusiasmados por los propios integrantes del proyecto son una muestra del potencial del ciudadano de convertirse de simple objeto de política pública a verdadero sujeto en el ejercicio de su ciudadanía: en este caso, de “capacitados” a “maestros composteros”. Al atraer a nuevos participantes y compartir sus aprendizajes, los integrantes del proyecto deben ser reconocidos por lo que efectivamente son: “Maestros Composteros”.

Por su parte, los gestores públicos están llamados a apoyar lo que las mismas personas pueden construir. Basta soñar en grande, empezar por lo pequeño y actuar ahora. El compostaje doméstico es un instrumento de política pública empoderador, forjador de compromisos colectivos, con un efecto multiplicador que alienta la conducta ciudadana responsable desde la alegría, el descubrimiento y el aprendizaje.

Alcalde de Sao Paulo entrega primera compostera

Recuadro

“Estoy muy atenta a mis residuos orgánicos y los residuos de los vecinos. Estoy más crítica con la cantidad de comida a comprar. Tengo afecto por las lombrices.”


“Nos dimos cuenta de que cada vez que íbamos a botar los residuos a la compostera sentíamos un bienestar profundo… algo así como si estuviéramos dejando de ensuciar la ciudad y convirtiendo la basura en flores. Intercambiamos ideas con otras personas que estaban haciendo compostaje y tenían la misma sensación! El compostaje es terapéutico!”

Testimonios de ciudadanos participantes del programa Composta Sao Paulo, 2014.

*Autores: Dan Moche Schneider. Coordinó el área de Residuos Orgánicos en el PGIRS de Sao Paulo. Claudio Spínola. Ideólogo y y operador de “Composta São Paulo”.
Magdalena Donoso, Coordinadora de GAIA para América Latina

i Obligación de recuperar los residuos establecida por la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos – PNRS, aprobada en 2010.

ii Inácio, Caio de Teves. O papel da compostagem de resíduos orgânicos urbanos na mitigação de emissão de metano. Caio de Teves Inácio, Daniel Beltrão Bettio e Paul Richard Momsen Miller. Embrapa Solos, 2010. 22 p.

iii Cálculos estimados por Dan Moche, ex Coordinador de Residuos Orgánicos en el PIGRS de Sao Paulo. Análisis económico interno de la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo.


Alternatiba: grass-roots alternatives to climate change

After 5,637 km of cycling, the Alternatiba Festival finally arrived in Paris on the 26th September, having left Bayonne in early June and travelled through Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and most of France and gathered in these four months, more than 300,000 people in 187 cities and towns.

Zero Waste France's stall at Alternatiba Paris
Zero Waste France’s stall at Alternatiba Paris

Alternatiba was born two years ago in Bayonne, in the French Basque Country, hoping to present real and grass-roots alternatives to climate change. Two years later, it has become the largest ever environmental festival in France and it has raised awareness about climate change as a systemic problem, requiring systemic changes.

The weekend in Paris consisted of 14 different “neighbourhoods”, from ‘Energy’ to ‘Zero Waste’, but also ‘Banking’,and ‘Agriculture’, emphasizing that the fight against climate change is diverse in itself and requires efforts from all sectors. More than 60,000 people visited the stalls of NGOs, associations and civil society, attended talks, ate ‘un-wasted food’ at the Feed the 5000 event, and generally enjoyed the good mood and atmosphere of the people mobilized and engaged for the betterment of the planet, our present and our future.

Alternatiba Paris
The Alternatiba Festival in Paris

Zero Waste was particularly visible aspect of the Paris Alternatiba Festival thanks to the efforts of our friends at Zero Waste France who provided their expertise on how to minimize waste at the event: deposit and return cups, increasing the segregation of biowaste and compostable products, ensuring proper information, etc. At the same time, the Zero Waste neighbourhood stressed the importance in the fight against climate change of shifting from wasteful societies to zero waste societies. Zero Waste France presented their Plan B’OM, a citizens-led alternative plan to the construction of a big incinerator in Ivry (Paris region), organized workshops on how to make fabric bags and another on the importance of buying in bulk, and how to do so. Their rubbish autopsy was also a success, showing that there are still many non-recyclable products that need to be re-designed.

Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) presented a guide on re-use and participated in a debate on ‘planned obsolescence’ along with HAP, a new organisation created to fight the artificial limiting of a products life. Other stands offered training in composting and vermi-composting or presented warnings about the most useless big investments in waste facilities in France (mostly MBT plants and incinerators). Repair café demonstrated how to empower citizens re-use their products and other groups showcased upcycled objects.

Waste management at Alternatiba Paris
Waste management at Alternatiba Paris

The Zero Waste neighbourhood was very well complemented by the ‘Water’ neighbourhood, where Surfrider highlighted marine litter and plastics, the ‘Banking’ neighbourhood advocating for the divestment from environmentally toxic projects, such as incinerators, and by the ‘Housing’ neighbourhood that underlined the importance of green building and recyclable construction materials.

Overall, the Alternatiba Festival was successful in making the case that there are alternatives to climate change in addition to energy transition and that without them, it will not be possible to mitigate the effects of climate change.


Alappuzha India, Zero Waste Town

This article is the third in our “Waste & Climate Solutions” series, detailing zero waste stories from around the world. We are releasing this series to mark the final push before COP21, and will release a different climate and waste solution from a different region for the next 2 days until 27 September. The other articles in this series are São Paulo’s Commitment to Household Composting, and Boston Builds Solutions.

In this article we hear about how the Indian town of Alappuzha, made drastic improvements in organic waste management, through the installation and community management of aerobic compost bins across the town. A move which will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of landfilled organic waste. Whilst Alappuzha might be an exceptional case in India, it is hoped the model can be expanded to other towns and cities across the country. With the potential to revolutionise waste management as a climate solution in India.


Zero Waste Town – Alappuzha

Excerpts from Dr. T. M. Thomas Issac’s article on Alappuzha, an elected representative from the constituency of Alappuzha in Kerala. Edited by Zero Waste Europe & GAIA

 

No other Indian State has been able to revolutionise municipal solid waste management in the same way as Kerala. Kerala has historically enjoyed social advantages such as total literacy, better healthcare, effective land reform and decent housing for almost everyone. This may not be the situation in most parts of our country. Nevertheless, there are significant lessons to be learned from Alappuzha.

 

Alappuzha – A historic town

Alappuzha is a sleepy old town situated between the great Vembanad lake and the sea, nearly 60 kilometres south of Kochi. The port town, established by the king of Travancore in the late 18th century, had grown along the two trunk canals connecting the port to the great lake. The web of canals in the city and its surroundings earned Alappuzha the name, “Venice of the East”. It became the major port and industrial town in southern Kerala. But by the 1970s, it began to resemble a ghost town, as its port was eclipsed by Kochi’s and the coir industry moved out. This decline continued till the late 1990s, when backwater tourism gave it a new lease of life. But by then, the canals had got silted and become garbage pits. The town also began to rapidly lose its architectural heritage, a process that has been marvellously documented by Laurie Baker through his inimitable sketches and comments in Alleppey — Venice of the East (1991).

Photo by Evgeni Zotov licensed under creative commons
Alappuzha – Photo by Evgeni Zotov licensed under Creative Commons

 

The decline

The insanitary conditions made the town an abode of ill health. In the state with the longest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality, we had a paradox of high morbidity, dominated by environment-related traditional diseases. Alappuzha became notorious as one of the most unclean towns in Kerala, seriously jeopardising its future as a tourism centre. Things came to a head in 2001, when the transport of solid waste from the town to its central processing plant in the neighbouring Panchayat was disrupted. Though called a processing plant, it was really a dumping yard and an environmental hazard. The local population rightfully protested and blocked the movement of waste. The streets of the town were littered with garbage. Finally, an agreement was brokered with the protesters, reducing waste movement from 50 tonnes a day to five tonnes. The municipality pursued an aggressive policy of landfilling within the town, an evidently unsustainable policy.

 

With centralised processing ruled out, at least for the time being, what was to be done? Scavenger’s Son (1947), the first novel of the Jnanpith award winner, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, an illustrious son of Alappuzha, held a clue. The novel, narrating the story of three generations of scavengers of the town, created such a social stir that it put an end to the century-old institution of manual scavenging in Alappuzha. The human excreta dumping yard in Sarvodayapuram was used for other solid waste from the town. The human excreta depot shifted to latrines within the town itself. Almost all the houses in the town now have latrines that are either inbuilt or in the compound. This raised a simple question. If human excreta could be processed in our own houses, why not the little bit of kitchen waste? The town folk usually lumped together all sorts of waste into a plastic kit and demanded that the municipal corporation collect and process the garbage. It was the duty of the present generation of sanitation workers in the municipality to segregate the waste. A new edition of Scavenger’s Son was in order.

 

Processing at Source

That was how a people’s campaign for processing waste at the source was born. A change in mindset was required. Normally, all government programmes consider sanitation to be merely an issue of technological choice. This was our major point of departure. Our pilot project for 12 wards was funded by the sanitation mission of the government of Kerala. But then it was converted into a popular campaign for better sanitation.

Coir Rope making - photo by Ajay Jain licensed under Creative Commons
Coir Rope making – photo by Ajay Jain licensed under Creative Commons

 

The approach was simple. Every household was to install a biogas plant or pipe compost to process its organic waste. Three wards have already achieved this. If, for some reason, a household was not able to process its waste, it should not be littering the street. Anybody caught doing so would be fined. The organic waste was to be brought to the collection points set up by the municipal corporation, which would compost it in aerobic compost bins installed in various parts of the city. The aerobic composting system in Alappuzha is an innovation by the Kerala Agricultural University where layers of organic waste and dry leaves are laid in a bin with sufficient ventilation. Inoculum cultured from cow dung is sprayed on dry leaves before a layer of organic waste is deposited over it. Each bin can process two tonnes of waste and in three months, high quality compost is ready. Instead of being garbage collectors and segregators, municipal workers now manage community compost bins.

 


Initial Opposition

Initially, wherever we attempted to put the compost bin, there was stiff local opposition and the plans had to be shelved. So we chose the worst garbage dumping areas in the town to set up our compost bins. Nobody objected. Nothing could be worse than the existing situation. These sites were cleared and the sheds housing the bins decorated with plants and murals. The artists of Kochi Biennale lent their support in setting up the largest community compost centre, WATSAN Park. All meetings of the sanitation campaign are normally held at this park. Visitors and curious onlookers are amazed that there is no smell. The place truly has been converted into a park, with a vertical garden, poly house and flower pots. Thus, we broke the backbone of the opposition to community compost bins.

 

There are two innovations worthy of mention in our biogas plant and pipe compost campaign. Heavily subsidised programmes have generally failed in Kerala and other parts of the country. There are two reasons for this. One, sufficient attention is not paid to user education. The service provider installs the plant, pockets the service charge and moves on. Even if user meetings are held, they are normally attended by the men who do not handle the waste processing. Because of faulty handling, most plants break down after some time. Second, there is no local maintenance team that could respond quickly to plant breakdowns. Sooner or later, the biogas plants and pipe composts are discarded and can become another hazard. Our campaign involves intense, targeted awareness programmes and also a maintenance team of two or three trained women in every ward.

Mural by Kochi Biennale artist (not one mentioned in article) - Photo by -Reji licensed under Creative Commons
Mural by Kochi Biennale artist (not one mentioned in article) – Photo by -Reji licensed under Creative Commons

 

Commercial establishments are to segregate their waste and either process the organic refuse themselves or enter into a contract with a service provider to remove it. Most of the waste is further segregated as feed for fish, chicken or pigs. The rest is composted. Just through systematic segregation, most of the organic waste can be transformed into inputs for agriculture. The plastic waste is periodically collected and given to contractors for recycling. We intend to collect the e-waste and store it till the government establishes a centralised processing plant.

 


Community Participation

The resident associations and the neighbourhood women’s groups of Kudumbashree are the main organisational support for the campaign. There is also a band of committed local resource persons, many of whom are experts with technical competency. Schoolchildren organised in WATSAN clubs are the main sanitation messengers to households. Every second Saturday, student leaders meet to chalk out certain simple activities that can be undertaken. Songs, street plays, exhibitions, marches and so on are effectively utilised for environment creation.

 

Currently, efforts are being made to scale up the Alappuzha experience to the rest of Kerala.

 

We cannot claim that we have achieved total sanitation in Alappuzha. But the difference between the situation two years back and the present is too marked for anybody to miss. Today, the transport of waste to the centralised processing plant has completely stopped. But the city is clean.


São Paulo’s commitment to household composting

Zero Waste Solutions to Climate Change

This blog is the first in our series on “Waste & Climate solutions” from around the world. We are releasing this series to mark the final push before COP21, and will release a different climate and waste solution from a different region for the next 4 days until 27 September. This edition covers the municipal composting scheme implemented in São Paulo, which gathered large numbers of participants and was responsible for preventing 250 tons of food waste from going to landfill and thereby preventing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the landfilling of organic waste. To find out more about the ‘Power of Compost’ have a look at our post for International Compost Awareness Week or our report back on our organics management training. Read our second post in the series, on Boston’s worker co-operative recycling company.


Dan Moche, Claudio Spinola and Magdalena Donoso*, September, 2015

 

Although landfills have not always been the main destination for waste in São Paulo, this practice was massively expanded until it reached  a critical situation in 2013. Until then, 100% of the organic waste, 95% of dry waste and 100% of all residual waste would go directly to two specific landfills, the CTL Landfill (Central Waste Treatment Leste) and the Caieiras Landfill.

The motivation to reverse this situation was triggered by changes in legal obligations within the new Solid Waste National Policy (PNRS)i, and the urgency of extending the life of these landfills to save land space in the metropolitan region. Moreover, the solid waste management sector in São Paulo was the second largest source of GHG emissions (Municipal Inventory, 2012), being responsible for the 15.6% of the total GHG emissions in the city, 14% of those coming from landfills. In this way, reducing the contribution of the waste sector to the carbon footprint of the city was critical, and composting was a particularly well-suited opportunity, as studies showed that the practice of composting would potentially decrease 5-10 times the emissions of methane in landfills,ii integrate efforts to reduce leachate while increasing the benefits from retaining organic matter to provide nutrients and improve soil properties in the state of São Paulo.

 

Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo
Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo

Participatory implementation

The implementation of the Solid Waste National Policy (PNRS) began with citizens participating in 58 events with more than 7,000 participants, which was organised by the Public Administration of São Paulo. 800 delegates elected by thousands of São Paulo citizens and supported by experts and technicians from the authority ad hoc, agreed on the main guidelines as to what to do with the waste generated in the city.

These points formed part of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan of the city of São Paulo – PGIRS, published in early 2014, and determined the recovery, over twenty years, of 80% of all compostable waste and recyclable waste. Among the approved guidelines, source separation of organic waste, selective collection, composting, mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and promotion of home composting were included.

Delivery of compost kits to selected households
Delivery of compost kits to selected households

“Compost São Paulo”

Home composting began to be encouraged by the government of São Paulo shortly after the publication of the PGIRS in June 2014 by delivering compost bins to houses. In six months, 250 tons of organic waste were recovered.

The project called “Composta São Paulo” handed kits for home composting with worms to 2,006 households in the city of São Paulo. Through a public announcement, the project achieved 10,061 registrations in 40 days on the website, from various regions of São Paulo. Those selected were from 539 apartments and 1,467 houses in eight regions.

“Now I pay a lot of attention to my organic waste and also my neighbours waste. I’m more critical of how much food to buy. I have affection for worms”, said one of the participants in the “Composta São Paulo” 2014 program. 

The delivery of compost bins was accompanied by 135 training workshops for over 5,000 participants. Participants were encouraged to respond to scheduled polls and assume the role of multipliers of home composting.

After two months, the participants were invited to other workshops (88 workshops), where they received advice and techniques for planting in small spaces in order to use the produced compost. The questions and concerns raised were shared and addressed in a virtual community on Facebook. The community of “composters” (comunidad de “composteros”) finished the first year of the project with more than 6,000 members.

Subsequent information gathering on program results indicated that 89% of participants significantly decreased the amount of waste for collection. There were no significant differences in the evaluation of the practice of composting between social classes or between types of housing and only 47 households (2.3%) gave up the activity. Meanwhile, 97% of respondents of a survey to measure the level of satisfaction (1,535 people) were satisfied or very satisfied with the technique, 98% considered it a good solution for organic waste and 86% considered it easy to practice.

Strong economic basis

In its economic analysis, the Municipality of São Paulo found that the costs of delivery of compost, monitoring and technical assistance provided by the local government could be covered through the savings achieved in reducing the collection, transport and disposal of the organic waste in landfills. The study compared the (estimated) costs of collection, transportation and disposal of organic waste in landfills with the (estimated) costs that compost bins, delivery, communication, workshops, etc, would imply. Then, the calculation was made with what was actually spent to develop the above actions in the context of “Compost São Paulo”, working with 2006 households. Considering the “contagious” effect explained below, costs would be matched within 5 years.iii

The communication strategy and the contagious effect

The mayor of Sao Paulo at the first delivery
The mayor of Sao Paulo at the first delivery

Linking the practice of home composting with participation was an important part of the communication strategy developed for this program in terms of the involvement of the population. In addition to the novelty of the composting process itself, and the use of modern techniques of social communication aroused interest in the project, and the desire to “be a part”.

The multiplier effect was immediate. The results of the survey indicated that 29% helped others who did not receive compost bin, to make, install or manage one. Participants witnessed a contagious effect, which attracted 2,525 new people to try to assemble or buy their own composting system.

“We realized that every time we went to throw the waste into the compost bin we felt a deep sense of wellbeing … kind of like we had stopped making the city a dirty place and turned garbage into flowers. We exchanged ideas with other people who were doing composting and they had the same feeling! Composting is therapeutic!”, read the testimony of another participant at the “Composta São Paulo” 2014 program. 

27% of participants donated worms for others to start practice. Also, behavioural changes in other areas also came to light: 84% said they greatly expanded their knowledge of urban sustainability; 96% considered themselves far more diligent in handling properly the waste produced; and 54% said they began to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.

The new “master composters”: dream big, start small, and act now!

The 2,525 new participants, excited by the project members themselves, are a sign of the potential for citizens to transition from mere objects of public policy to true subjects in the exercise of their citizenship: in this case, transforming themselves from “trained” to “master composters”. By attracting new participants and sharing their learning, project members should be recognized for what they really are:  “master composters”.

On the other end, public managers are called to support what people can build. Just dream big, start small, and act now. Home composting is an empowering tool for public policy, and of collective commitments, with a multiplier effect that encourages responsible behaviour with base on joy, discovery and learning.


* Authors: Dan Moche Schneider, who coordinated the area of ​​organic waste in the PGIRS of Sao Paulo / Claudio Spinola, ideologue and operator of “Compost São Paulo” / Magdalena Donoso, Coordinator for GAIA Latin America

i Obligation to recover waste under the National Solid Waste Policy – PNRS, approved in 2010.  

ii Inacio, Caio de Teves. O papel da compostagem de resíduos orgânicos urbanos na mitigação de emissão de metano. Caio de Teves Inácio, Daniel Beltrão Bettio e Paul Richard Momsen Miller. Embrapa Solos, 2010. 22 p.

iii Calculations estimated by Dan Moche, former Coordinator at the Organic Waste PIGRS of Sao Paulo. Internal economic analysis of the Municipality of Sao Paulo.


Power of Compost: Video Competition

 

"The Power of Compost" Competition Closed

Our compost video competition is now closed. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a video entry. We have now passed the videos on to our panel of judges and will be announcing a winners shortly. – The Zero Waste Europe team

What is so great about compost?

Compost is an incredibly powerful tool in the zero waste tool box. Organic waste is often one of the most challenging waste streams in urban areas, as it’s usually the largest waste stream of household waste and the most problematic in environmental terms. With separation at source and proper treatment through composting however, it can be an amazing opportunity to help create a genuinely circular economy. Composting organic waste can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid hazardous disposal systems such as landfilling and incineration. As a natural soil improver, it replaces the need for chemical-based fertilisers (contributors to climate change), and it has amazing rejuvenating qualities for soil, increasing the capacity of the land to act as a ‘carbon sink’ and reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.

Across Europe millions of people are involved in composting, both on an individual level and as part of neighbourhood or community schemes. These actions are preventing vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing vital nutrients for soils. We want to hear your composting stories, and learn more about the inspirational ways that you and your communities are taking action to reduce organic waste.

That is why we have decided to launch a competition to celebrate composting, with some fantastic rewards.

 

Our competition…

Are you part of a fantastic composting project that doesn’t get enough attention? Do you need some added funds to expand your community composting scheme? Or are you just passionate about composting and want to promote your own creative organic waste solution? We want to know about it!

Submit your video to win

We have 3 huge prizes up for grabs, in our composting video competition, and all you have to do is submit a video or animation showing off your composting project, explaining why composting is so great, or highlighting a creative solution. We are particularly encouraging home-made and amateur video contributions, so remember the content is more important than the camera quality, and get out your smart-phones, and video-cameras and get stuck into a bit of compost.

The competition is divided into three categories, with different criteria and prizes, and will be judged by our panel of experts including experts from the European Compost Network (ECN), The Organic Stream, and Zero Waste Europe so if you want to participate, make sure you take a look at the different categories. You don’t have to specify which category your video comes under during the application process, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure, or feel that your video might fit more than one category, as our judges will assess which award the video would be most suited for.

 

The categories:

 

Community Solutions Award — Prize 500eur

In this category we are looking for the best community solution, so if you are part of a neighbourhood composting project or work with other local composters to collect all that food-waste, or just want to talk about community solutions make sure that you send us a video.

 

Creative Composter Award — Prize 500eur

This category will choose the most creative composting solution, we want to see your innovative and unusual composting efforts, as well as any creative attempts to promote composting of organic waste.

 

Compost Education Award — Prize 500eur

In the final category we are looking for the most effective and inspiring educational video about compost. This could be about the benefits of compost, or how to start your own compost project, or anything else really, so long as it is educational and espouses composting!

 

Tips & hints

We know that not everyone out there is a master in creating videos, there may not even be a direct correlation between video-editors and composters at all! But there is no need to worry, as we have put together some simple tips and hints to make sure your video is in with the best chance of winning!

There are so many more benefits of compost which we wrote about in depth for International Compost Week. We recommend that you give the article a read over before making your video to help ensure that you cover the kind of advantages of composting we are looking for.

  • Keep your video relatively short and to the point. We would expect videos to be around the 1.5 minute mark, and if videos are longer than 3 minutes we will not be able to include them in our competition.
  • If you are filming on a smartphone make sure to have your phone rotated in landscape (we find that makes a much better film!)
  • Try and move the camera as smoothly as possible to help avoid a film which could be difficult to watch
  • If your computer doesn’t come with any, there are plenty of free video editing and animation software options available, which you should be able to find with a quick internet search.
  • If video isn’t your thing, then you are also free to submit animations or other ‘video’ forms. Be creative, and surprise us!

The rules – COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

This is the short version of the rules, for the legal stuff have a look at our full rules.

  • All entries must be received by midnight (GMT) on the 1st of November.
  • Entries should be uploaded to Youtube and set as unlisted, the link should then be sent to: COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
  • The judges will be looking for the best projects, ideas and composting solutions, not the most polished, professional videos.
  • The video should reflect the benefits of compost as explained above and the core values of Zero Waste Europe.
  • We are afraid that we will not be able to accept videos which are not either in English, or have English subtitles.
  • All entries must consist of original or previously unreleased content, by entering the competition you give Zero Waste Europe the right to host your video on our Youtube channel, and share it through social media.
  • Winners will be contacted by email.

“Getting Climate Finance Right” in the Waste Sector

At a historic juncture for climate finance, Friends of the Earth US and the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) have co-edited a report showing that it is possible to get climate finance right.

In the report, which includes work from many global, regional and local organisations including the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), zero waste solutions are advocated as solid examples of successful climate programs, which should be the focus of further funding. This includes both the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative from Pune who provide door-to-door waste collection for more than 400,000 households and the Zero Waste Program at Bir Hospital in Nepal, which has reduced dioxin emissions from medical waste incineration by over 90%.

Waste-pickers from SWaCH and the KKPKP in Pune
Waste-pickers from SWaCH and the KKPKP in Pune

Combining the stories of dozens of local and regional groups, this study demonstrates the importance of learning from successful examples of climate finance in looking ahead into the future. With the creation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created to help transform developing country economies by supporting high quality investments in clean energy and climate resilience, it is essential that future projects are able to learn from a critical assessment of previous climate finance projects.

This report comes as the GCF accredited 13 new organisations to administer and distribute funds. Controversially this list included the Deutsch Bank who are the worlds 10th largest backer of coal, having invested €15bn in the industry since 2005, according to the BankTrack network. This decision sparked outrage from over 20 of the worlds leading climate organisations including GAIA, Friends of the Earth US, Action Aid International, and many others. In the statement the groups said they were “tremendously discouraged and disappointed” adding that the fund was at “real risk of losing credibility”.

Previously concerns have been raised around the lack of criteria for the GCF investments. Earlier this year, civil society organisations demanded the GCF approve an exclusion list to ensure that none of this climate investments will end up financing dirty energy sources. In this regard, GAIA and Zero Waste Europe have been actively campaigning against the financing of incinerators by the GCF, Mariel Vilella, Associate Director of Zero Waste Europe said “Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the shrinking pool of public money, the health risks of incineration, and the availability of sound alternatives, waste-to-energy would be a bad investment for the Green Climate Fund”.

The new study consists of 22 examples of successful climate related projects, programs and policies, across three continents; Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The examples were identified by organisations from the Global South and North and follow a comprehensive list of overarching characteristics: all of them are deeply rooted in the local communities, are inclusive and encourage the participation of affected communities; recognize and respect people’s rights, with special attention on gender and relationships/partnerships building; and most importantly, all of them are fully grant-funded, which allowed for flexibility, experimentation and innovation. (See the full list)

One of the case studies featured in report, under the category of ‘mitigation’ is that of the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative. Based in Pune, India the cooperative is ‘an autonomous social enterprise that provides front-end waste management services’, over 80% of SWaCH members are women from marginalised castes, and as a result of the cooperative worker-members can earn up to three times their previous daily income.

Bir Hospital
Bir Hospital in Nepal have undertaken an effective ‘Zero Waste Program’

It is further estimated that the SWaCH program saves the city an estimated $2.8 million per year in waste collection and disposal costs, and is responsible for preventing 640,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually. The story and success of the SWaCH workers has been well documented, and more details can be found in the GAIA report on Successes and Lessons from Around the World

The case of the Zero Waste Program at Bir Hospital in Nepal, with no external funding the hospital managed to successfully reduce dioxin emissions associated with medical waste incineration by 90%, whilst increasing the percentage of the total waste stream which is recycled to over 50% , a move which is responsible for supporting hundreds of recycling jobs.

Such incredible achievements were possible through sustained efforts and initiatives from vermicomposting to the redesign of thermometers and other medical technology to use non-mercury alternatives, with the support of the Health Care Foundation and international allies such as Health Care Without Harm. This project carried out with zero budget, demonstrates the huge potential for a GCF funded program which would have the capacity to improve waste management across hundreds of hospitals in the region.

The success of the waste workers of Pune, and Nepal, on comparatively tiny budgets make it clear that the GCF should be doing more to expand and develop such programs and that truly effective climate finance projects include a wide range of factors, which are deeply rooted in affected communities. Only with these lessons of past successes can we hope to make progress towards a strong and effective climate finance model which is equitable for everyone involved.


Climate and waste talks in Bonn

On the run-up to the COP in Paris, GAIA, Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste France participated in the UNFCCC intersessional conference that took place on Bonn, June 3-11. The talks did not deliver significant progress on the deal that is expected to be shaped and agreed by the COP 21 in Paris in 6 months, but nevertheless it was a chance to raise important issues in regards to waste and climate finance.

CSC_0530

Zero Waste Europe co-organized together with Carbon Market Watch a side-event on “Effective stakeholder engagement in NAMA development and implementation”. Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, highlighted that the waste sector can make a major contribution to the reduction of GHG emissions and that NAMAs can be an effective policy tool to drive the appropriate investments. NAMAs is the abbreviation for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, which comprise GHG reductions projects in all sectors in all developing countries, as reported in the NAMA Database.

“At this point, thought, we see that the NAMAs in the waste sector do not have a vision for resource efficiency and circular economy” Vilella remarked. “Some NAMAs include incineration of used tires in cement plants as a climate strategy, which shows there is a lack of environmental criteria and vision for the sector”. Burning of waste in cement plants has reportedly been a major concern for communities all over Europe and internationally.

“There are sustainable, toxic-free and resource-efficient ways to reduce GHG in the waste sector, that can also create jobs and stimulate local economies”, Vilella highlighted in her presentation, in regards to several zero waste case studies that have shown major contributions to GHG reductions, both in the North and Global South.

Another important target in these negotiations is the Green Climate Fund, which is supposed to channel financial contributions from the developed countries to the Global South, following a commitment to support vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change and drive transformational change to reduce GHG emissions within principles of sustainable development.

Yet, it is unclear how exactly this will happen, if it may at all. On this regard, GAIA collaborated with Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Friends of the Earth US (FOE), Heinrich Böll Stiftung North America, and Jubilee South Asia/Pacific, on the side-event “Green Climate Fund: How can it support transformational change?”.

This event looked at projects and programs that GCF should and should not support in developing countries, with a particular focus on the role of GCF in energy financing. Another crucial aspect was the role of GCF in ensuring effective multi-stakeholder participation at the national level and the actions that are needed to increase direct access to GCF resources.

The Bonn talks were a mid-term meeting on the way to the important conference in Paris this December, at which governments are hoping to sign a new global pact, to take effect from 2020, when current commitments from developed countries to limit their emissions are set to expire.


Zero Waste France on its Way to COP21

France is preparing to host the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), a.k.a. the COP21, and so does Zero Waste France.

 

The COP21 will take place in Paris from November 30th to December 11th, and the French government will be in charge to facilitate this high-level international negotiation to bring governments to agree on a plan of action to tackle climate change; not an easy job, but certainly one that can’t be postponed, given the urgency to mitigate climate change and support vulnerable  countries and communities that are already suffering the consequences of climate change on the ground.

 

In this context, Zero Waste France is taking the chance to put waste issues in the climate change agenda and underline the important linkages between these two fronts of action. The team has published a monthly newsletter with a thematic focus on climate change and waste, a brief for MPs is on its way out, and since last week, it has started a series of training for communities and general public.

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, in charge of  Zero Waste France’s Institutional Relations said “Climate change and waste have been treated conceptually as two separate issues within environmental thinking, but in practice they are closely linked. We believe that it is essential for citizens and policymakers to understand better these linkages and the COP21 is an excellent opportunity to work in that direction ”.

Last 25th April 2015, three members of the Zero Waste France team, Delphine, Manon and Anna travelled to Lyon to provide training on Waste and Climate to a newly formed local Zero Waste group.

 

 

The aim of this training was to show the impacts of waste management on the climate and how zero waste strategies can help reducing GHG emissions and build a resource-efficient society to stop climate change. In a more practical sense, the training provided communities with tools to reduce waste while fighting climate change.

The training was attended by sixteen members of Zero Waste France Lyon. First, they were given a general explanation on the impact of waste management on climate change, particularly looking at waste disposal options (waste incineration, landfill and related transport), over-consumption and food and product waste. The potential of Zero Waste strategies to reduce  GHG emissions was also underlined. After breaking up in small groups, participants worked on the climate impacts of a product (a mobile phone, a plastic bottle, amongst others) and followed up with a planning session of actions to be carried out in Lyon.

 

Some of the participants expressed: “It’s very interesting to picture the lifecycle of everyday items” and “There is a lot to be done, it’s a huge responsibility but the COP will be a good opportunity to change things”.

The Zero Waste France team were very happy with this first experience and are planning to repeat this Waste and Climate training in May near Paris and Nantes.


Zero Waste is a Climate Solution at the COP20

 

The UN Climate Conference (COP 20) concluded in Lima last 13th December after 12 days and 33 extra hours of negotiations, with a far more disappointing agreement that the more sceptical-minded would have dared guessing. Yet still, this was an important space to bring up our community-led climate justice solutions for the waste sector, which as much as it is often part of the climate problem, it can definitely be turned into a great climate solution.

 

An agreement with no real teeth

Following-up on previous commitments, countries meeting in Lima were meant to frame the new legal, binding, global agreement that is supposed to be adopted in the next COP 21 in Paris. This new treaty is expected to ensure climate action from 2020 onwards to keep the planet’s temperature rise below 2Cº.

The outcome from Lima, far from bringing countries closer to a legally binding global treaty, delayed all the important and most controversial decisions and produced a shy ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’, a document that puts forward a number of key recommendations, without any real mandate for countries to pursue them.[1]

Apart from the big picture negotiations, the COP20 was a very relevant space to monitor and analyse specific country efforts to implement climate action in the waste sector. Precisely, several experiences have shown that whereas waste is part of the climate problem as a source of GHG emissions, it can definitely be turned into a key climate solution with greatest emission savings and further co-benefits.


ZWE Blog post 7


Zero Waste – Key Solutions for Climate Justice

“Zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.” (Excerpt of the GAIA Declaration towards the COP20)

As done in previous years, GAIA organized a delegation of representatives of grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners that showed that zero waste is a key strategy for climate justice and to develop a low-carbon economy. Throughout a week of action both inside the COP and also outside at the People’s Summit for Climate Change, the delegation engaged in promoting community-led climate solutions in the waste sector and also challenged the misleading assumptions around waste burning as a clean energy and/or renewable energy source.

Starting the week with a colourful and exciting public action at the heart of the COP, the delegation pointed out at the current lack of environmental criteria in climate finance, most noticeable in the under-construction policies of the Green Climate Fund. This institution, which has received financial pledges from developed countries to up to 10 USD billion during the COP20 and that may be approving project proposals as early as next summer 2015, has refused so far to commit to an ‘exclusion’ list of projects which would ensure that none of this eventual money ends up burning fossil fuels, municipal solid waste, biomass or producing any sort of dirty energy. Several civil society organizations have joined efforts to raise this demand, yet to be considered by the GCF Board.

ZWE Blog post 6

 

Specific action was taken to put the Mexico government on the spotlight, as it has recently granted permission to use municipal solid waste as fuel in cement plants all over the country. Doña Venancia Cruz, representative of the Indigenous Community of Santiago de Anaya in México, appealed directly to the government representatives bringing the testimony of her impacted community by this polluting practice.

As mentioned above, the COP20 was an excellent context to show the key achievements of zero waste strategies in reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, providing livelihoods and restoring the soils. A press conference was held to showcase the specific examples.

Dan Moche and Beth Grimberg from the Aliança Resíduo Zero Brazil presented the progress made in Sao Paulo, which as recently implemented source separation of organic waste and domestic composting for 10.000 homes. Compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.[2]

Special attention was given to the contribution of the recyclers community, represented by Denisse Moran from REDLACRE. The recycling sector, with more than two million informal recyclers in developing country cities, offers climate-smart urban solutions to sustain and strengthen livelihood development, improve local environmental health, and strengthen local economies.

Last but not least, representatives from the Coalición Anti-incineración Argentina stressed the need to work at the local and national level and root climate solutions on the basis of communities and national coalitions of civil society organizations.

ZWE Blog post 4

Monitoring national climate policies in the waste sector.

As mentioned above, the COP20 is a very useful space to monitor and analyse national climate mitigation policy – aka NAMAs, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, in the UNFCCC jargon. As the global agreements have not offered any solid environmental guidance, the current situation shows a wide variety of climate mitigation policies, often in the wrong direction. This is particularly obvious when looking at the waste sector in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Dominican Republic.

Colombia for example, which is known to host one of the most vibrant grassroots recyclers movements recognized internationally, presented a climate mitigation policy that will entail the implementation of an MBT plant in two cities, with the subsequent production of Refuse-Derived Fuel to be burnt in cement plants as an emission reduction strategy. The polluting impacts of waste burning in cement kilns have been thoroughly reported.

Worryingly enough, Dominican Republic also presented a climate mitigation project with the support of GIZ consisting in burning of used tires in cement kilns, arguing that it would not only reduce GHG emissions but it would also benefit the local population via job creation. Likewise, the climate mitigation policy presented by Indonesia also makes a reference to developing 5 waste-to-energy projects in 5 different cities, even thought it’s unclear what kind of technology it will be.

On the other hand, the Dominican Republican also presented a project to apply anaerobic digestion to pig farming, which could indeed contribute to GHG emissions if done appropriately. In this sense, it was made clear that when it comes to climate mitigation policies in the waste sector, the UNFCCC is unable to provide any solid environmental and social criteria and it needs close monitoring to discern the good, the bad and the ugly.

In conclusion, as Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, put it in her presentation about climate policy in the waste sector in the People’s Climate Summit: “Let’s not rely on misleading concepts. Biomass and waste cannot be the “new coal” because they are not clean energy, and they are not renewable. There is a critical need to develop environmental and social criteria for climate action in the waste sector, to ensure that we take advantage from its enormous opportunity to mitigate climate change and reach further co-benefits in air pollution reduction, green jobs, and the empowerment of resilient communities,”

 

ZWE Blog post 5

 

Next steps – toward Paris COP21

The COP21 in Paris will take place next December and the National Climate Coalition 21 is already gearing up to it. International networks had a chance to discuss plans at the People’s Summit in Lima and put forward a calendar of decentralized mobilizations for the whole year. Once again, community-led zero waste solutions will be at the front of the mobilizations, showing the work done throughout the whole year at the local and national contexts.

 

[1]For a comprehensive analysis of the COP20 outcomes, we recommend the following article by Oscar Reyes, at Institute for Policy Studies, and also this article by Lili Furh, Liane Schalatek and Maureen Santos at Heinrich Boell Foundation.

[2] See http://www.marincarbonproject.org/marin-carbon-project-science for the latest bibliography on this work.


Zero Waste illuminates the Low-Carbon Development Path in China

There is ample scientific evidence warning of the imminent dangers of climate change and inaction – not only the last 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC has been clear on these projections: while the UN Climate Change COP20 negotiations were taking place in Lima, another typhoon called Hagupit hit the Philippines.

In other words, there is no time to waste for climate action, and municipal solid waste sector can be not only a place to reduce GHG emissions, but also to provide clean air, clean water, clean energy, healthy food, healthy people, healthy wildlife, and the availability of resources for future generations.

Precisely, this was the spirit of the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum celebrated in Shanghai last 4-6 December 2014, which brought together Chinese policy-makers, city officials from Shanghai and San Francisco (US), university professors and the members of the China Zero Waste Alliance, amongst other allies, to discuss the specific ways in which Zero Waste Strategies can contribute to this low-carbon future.

 

china 2

 

Moreover, some of the international speakers took the chance to visit some cities and learn further about the potential of the waste sector in China, which was reported in the media in several articles, such as this.

 

An International Panel to introduce the Zero Waste vision

The Forum counted with the celebrated interventions of Professor Paul Connett, professor emeritus at St. Lawrence University in New York, and Rossano Ercoloni, Zero Waste Europe President and Goldman Prize winner, both visionary leaders that have inspired the international zero waste movement with their energy and enthusiasm.

Prof. Connett explained how Zero Waste solutions can directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both. “Burning waste feeds a linear system that drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns”, said Prof. Connett. “With zero waste we turn into the circular system”, he added.

 

china 3

Ercoloni presented the main zero waste experiences in Europe, with special emphasis on the organic waste separate collection system in Milan, which is an example of a very high-condensed city that has successfully diverted tones of organic waste from landfill and thus reduce large amounts of GHG gases.

Precisely, the Forum put especial emphasis on the climate benefits from treating organic waste. Calla Ostrander from the Marin Carbon Project, presented their research on the matter, showing that compost avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. Ostrander’s research showed that if compost was applied to just 5 percent of the California state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.[1]

Jack Macy from the San Francisco Zero Waste Program presented the very successful progress made in the city in the last decades since they started with the zero waste strategy. According to Macy, the key elements of their strategy were to establish convenient source separation with processing, conduct extensive outreach and education, provide incentives, and implement producer and consumer responsibility policies.

Moreover, the City believed that its zero waste and climate action goals would not likely be achieved under voluntary participation programs alone, so it develop a city ordinance to make recycling and composting mandatory for everyone in San Francisco.

“Before the Mandatory Ordinance we were collecting about 400 tons of compostables a day, and thanks to the Ordinance since it passed in June 2009 we’ve seen almost an overnight a 25% increase of collecting about 500 tons of compostables a day!”, Macy explained.“Today San Francisco has the goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. We are getting close by being at a current diversion rate of 72%”, he concluded.

 

The Zero Waste Experience in China

 

One of the main highlights of the Forum was the opportunity to learn from the local experiences on the ground, places in China that are already making difference by changing the way they handle waste.

One of the most inspiring experiences has been developed in Xiao Er Township in Gong County, Yibing, Sichuan Province. Facing a waste generation peak without proper systems to sort it in 2006, the local government collaborated with the local NGO Partnerships for Community Development (PCD) and undertook a pioneer pilot project on waste separation was launched in 2007. After six years of trial, most people of Xiao Er Township now give greater importance to waste treatment and they are much more aware of the issue than before. Moreover, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions of Xiao Er has gone down which in turn contributes to improving the environment.

Read here the full story of Xiao Er Township.

china 1

A climate policy challenge

Even if these local experiences are illuminating the path towards a Low-Carbon, Toxic-Free development for China, the Forum devoted special attention to the policy obstacles that may be hindering further progress. Mao Da from RREI presented its research about the national renewable energy subsidies given to waste incinerators. The full report is available here, in Chinese.

“Waste incinerators receive benefits for every kilowatt of electricity put on the national grid. In this sense, there is a strong economical interest in burning waste and this is an uneven playing field for policies aiming at waste prevention, reuse and recycling which would offer higher climate benefits”, Mao Da said.

His research, which is planned to be published in early 2015, recommends the cancellation of the renewable energy subsidies for trash incineration, as well as its classification as a low-carbon technology. Moreover, it suggests implementing Pay-As-You-Throw system (see examples such system in Europe here) and shift subsidies towards waste management systems that can be truly low-carbon, such as recycling and composting.

Overall, the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum was an excellent opportunity to explore the potential of such development in China, opening up new exciting connections, conversations and projects for the future.

 

[1] See http://www.marincarbonproject.org/marin-carbon-project-science for the latest bibliography on this work.


Waste – the controversial side of climate change mitigation in the latest IPCC report


Waste is contributing to climate change but it can also be part of the solution if true Zero Waste principles are implemented. Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on mitigation of climate change, an attempt to provide a state-of-the-art on strategies and technologies available to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. What did the IPCC say about waste?

As the Zero Waste Europe team has been able to confirm, the report has turned up with shocking controversies.

On the one hand, the report does confirm once more the 101 bases on waste and climate change – basically, that waste reduction, reuse and recycling are the most effective options for emission reduction in the waste sector.

It also acknowledges that zero waste strategies do exist and offer visionary development for waste reduction strategies. But apart from these, the report devotes little attention to elaborate on the current state of the best practices on upstream solutions and focuses mostly on downstream industrial options.

IPCC launch room
The IPCC Working Group III launched the report on mitigation of climate change in Berlin, after a week of negotiations.

Following this narrow-focused vision, the report includes the misleading consideration of burning waste as replacement of fossil fuels in combustion plants, i.e. cement plants, as a climate mitigation strategy for the waste sector –considering that burning waste is better than disposing it in landfills and that this is the best option we can aspire to. This perspective is out of touch with reality. Zero Waste towns prove on an everyday basis that prevention, reuse and recycling are better options and can be implemented rather quickly.

In the Summary for Policy Makers, the specific text argues that replacing fossil fuels with waste may be a significant mitigation option since ‘reuse and recycling levels are still very low’ at the global level. Again, this appreciation ignores the daily experience of Zero Waste municipalities and regions that are achieving recycling targets above 80% and that have substantially reduced their waste generation. Moreover, since waste management is a dimension of public policy generally dealt with at the local level, why should a global rate be taken as the key reference?  This seems to be just inappropriate reasoning. The point is further referenced in the full report (Ch. 10.14, Ch. 10.4).

ipcc report cover
IPCC Report on Mitigation of Climate Change

Interestingly enough, some of the claims are quoted to authors such as Holcim or CEMBUREAU (Ch.10, p. 26), which, as cement producing companies, should be considered very invested parties and thus biased. Other authors that have contributed directly to the report are publicly known for promoting waste as fuel and incineration technologies in general, which also raises questions about whether the IPCC has or should have a conflict of interest policy to its own authorship.

GAIA– Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has responded with this letter to such misleading claims and it has urged the IPCC to correct and amend this language.

“We feel compelled to urge the WGIII to amend its support for using waste as a fuel to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. This is not a sustainable climate mitigation strategy, but a highly controversial and ultimately misleading suggestion. If we are to change our energy system and decarbonise our electricity supply, waste cannot be taken as the new coal“, said Mariel Vilella, Climate Policy Campaigner with GAIA.

waste not in berlin
Climate activists in Berlin stressed the need to transform our energy systems and stop polluting sources of energy such as waste incineration

 

Precisely, the IPCC fails to report on the most innovative approaches to waste reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery through composting and anaerobic digestion within zero waste strategies that are taking place all over the world, which do not necessarily or exclusively come from the industrial sector but from the redesign of our resource management systems.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that in the US, for example, 42% of emissions come from resource management – that is, considering all the life-cycle of products in their extraction – production – distribution – consumption – and disposal stages of stuff. This reality requires social innovation to stop waste reaching the landfills and incinerators in the first place. Limiting our vision to industrial options on how to deal with landfill emissions it is not a useful approach; even worse, it will only accentuate the tendency to allocate the least resources and effort to waste prevention, which is found at the top of the Waste Hierarchy.

It is not too late for the IPCC to amend the report before the final publication in October 2014. If the IPCC is committed to fight climate change it is vital that it looks into solutions that really reduce emissions and starts working with unbiased experts.

At the end of the day, the relevance of the IPPC depends on its usefulness to fight climate change and currently, in the waste sector, it seems to be more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.


Better waste policy: Europe’s golden opportunity to create jobs and cut pollution

An ambitious waste policy in Europe would help create more jobs by 2025 than the European Commission claims would be generated from its trade agreement with the US, according to a new report from the EEB.

The report launched today ‘Advancing Resource Efficiency in Europe’ points to the potential of creating 750,000 new jobs by 2025, and 860,000 by 2030, if the EU adopts ambitious new policies and targets for the prevention and recycling of waste as part of its upcoming Waste Targets Review.

More jobs

Furthermore, the report finds that in an ambitious scenario for EU resource efficiency would also have important benefits for the climate.

Municipal waste recycling

A strong policy in food waste reduction could also help avoid cropland use of 57,000 km² by 2030 – an area larger than Croatia.

Land use Croatia

In brief, an ambitious scenario of 60% reduction in food waste by 2030 could reduce Europe’s burden of land-use, generate financial savings to European householders of over €73 billion and avoid over 80 million tonnes of GHG.

Ambitious scenario

This report underlines the massive potential for advancing resource efficiency in Europe. If the EU is ambitious, it could help create work for one in every six currently unemployed, young Europeans. It underlines that good environmental policies create jobs – and lots of them”, said Piotr Barczak, the EEB’s Waste Policy Officer.

The report comes out as the Commission is finalising a major Waste Targets Review that is expected to align key targets in upcoming legislation with goals outlined in its overarching strategy document – the Resource Efficiency Roadmap.

The Roadmap was approved in 2011 and it set the goal to creating a resource efficient EU in which landfilling without pre-treatment would be reduced to virtually zero and incineration would be limited to non-recyclable materials. Now it’s time to turn this declaration of intentions into effective policy.

It is time for the European Commission to limit overall disposal and energy recovery options – particularly incineration – of all reusable and recyclable waste and to set specific targets for preferable options within the waste hierarchy, such as waste prevention, re-use and recycling.

Member States have a number of levers at their disposal to meet the ambitious scenario outlined in this study. These include tax incentives for recycled or re-used goods, levies on disposed products, variable-charging schemes for households, such as Pay As You Throw, and reinforced Extended Producer Responsibility.

Moreover, successful zero waste strategies already implemented give clear practical guidance on how to incentivise the upstream options. In cities around the world, grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners are showing that zero waste is an achievable goal whose day has come.

 

 

 


What to do with the “leftovers” of Zero Waste

Zero Waste is about minimising waste generation, maximising reuse & recycle and redesigning the economy in order to phase out those products that are either toxic or not recyclable.

However, during the time in which we can’t stop producers from selling badly designed stuff we need to find the best option to treat the waste that today can’t be recycled or composted and which amounts to 5 to 20% of total household waste -depending on the community-. For instance in the first European town to declare Zero Waste, Capannori, this amounts to 8%. In the Gipuzkoa province the waste that is not recyclable is 19%.

So what to do with what is left? According to a scientific study recently published the disposal option with the lowest impact is MRBT to landfill, or in other words, pre-treat the waste, recover as much as possible, biologically stabilise and landfill it.

The European Commission and the waste incineration industry promote the belief that after maximizing recycling, reuse and composting, the best thing a community can do with leftover waste is to create energy with it. But this is a political choice with little science behind.

A new lifecycle analysis report, which compares the environmental impacts of the three most common disposal methods used globally, finds that the best approach to protecting the public health and the environment isn’t mass burn waste-to-energy, and it isn’t landfill gas-to-energy. The report found that, after aggressive community-wide recycling, reuse and composting, the most environmentally-sound disposal option for any waste that may still remain is a third option: Materials Recovery, Biological Treatment (MRBT). 

 

Graph MRBT

Material Recovery, Biological Treatment is a process to “pre-treat” mixed waste before landfilling in order to recover even more dry materials for recycling and minimize greenhouse gas and other emissions caused by landfilling by stabilizing the organic fraction with a composting-like process. Very similar to the MBT systems used widely in Europe, the goal of MRBT is to capture any remaining recyclables and then create inert residuals that will produce little to no landfill gas when buried. The system can also classify non-recyclable dry items for the purpose of identifying industrial design change opportunities, which helps to drive further waste reduction.

 

This report emphasizes that source separation for recycling and composting is still the best environmental option for managing all discards and should be the focus of community efforts. However, “on the way to Zero Waste” there is still the need to reduce the negative impacts of disposal and minimize the need to invest in new disposal facilities. Communities should look beyond the two traditional options—burying and burning—toward building MRBT systems that have the lowest overall environmental impact of the technologies commercially available today.

 

Using a tool developed by economist Dr. Jeffrey Morris called MEBCalcTM, or Measuring Environmental Benefits Calculator, the study compared the three disposal strategies—MRBT, mass burn waste-to-energy and landfill gas-to-energy—across seven environmental categories, including climate change, water pollution, air pollution and human health impacts.

The MRBT system was shown to be the best choice for a community to dispose of its leftovers because it recovers the greatest amount of additional recyclables, stabilizes the organic fraction of the residuals, reduces the amount of material to be disposed of in a landfill, and minimizes the negative environmental and public health impacts of landfilling leftovers compared to the other disposal alternatives, landfill gas-to-energy or mass-burn waste-to-energy.

MRBT Urbaser

“MRBT is not a replacement or substitution for source separation, but it is a tool for helping communities reduce the environmental impacts of managing their leftovers as they progress on their way to Zero Waste,” says Eric Lombardi, the Executive Director of Eco-Cycle and sponsor of the study.

 

When utilized in a community with successful recycling and composting programs, MRBT has further benefits beyond its lower environmental impacts. Because the pre-treatment process includes additional sorting and recovery of recyclable dry materials, MRBT can help support very high levels of landfill diversion. The study modeled an 87% diversion rate for the city of Seattle, Washington based on 71% diversion from current source-separated recycling efforts and an additional 16% from the MRBT process, including increased recovery of recyclables and the weight reduction of the organic materials from moisture evaporation and biogenic carbon conversion to carbon dioxide.

 

MRBT infrastructure is also flexible and dual-purposed, able to handle both mixed waste and source-separated recyclables and organics. This means a community is not tied to feeding the facility a continuous flow of mixed waste over the next several decades and is not investing in a future of ever-more waste. Rather, as a community’s Zero Waste efforts improve, the MRBT model can adjust to a declining volume of leftover waste and support the growth of source separated collection systems. In addition, MRBT infrastructure can be built and operational on a shorter time scale than landfills and incinerators, and can be modular in size to help communities manage their leftover waste more locally.

 

According to Joan Marc Simon, Founder of Zero Waste Europe, “This report is exactly what we need at the right time to help guide the debate on what to do with residuals once we reach high separate collection rates. Europe has over-invested in waste incineration and needs solutions that deliver environmental safety while still focusing on increasing recycling and reducing material consumption.”

 

The report was an international effort authored by Dr. Jeffrey Morris, an economist and life-cycle assessment expert with Sound Resource Management Group based in Olympia, Washington; Dr. Enzo Favoino, Senior Researcher at Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza in Milan, Italy; Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, a Zero Waste social enterprise based in Boulder, Colorado; and Kate Bailey, Senior Analyst for Eco-Cycle.

The full report, “What is the best disposal option for the ‘Leftovers’ on the way to Zero Waste?” is available at http://www.ecocycle.org/specialreports/leftovers.


How to measure sustainability?

www.seppo.net

Is Zero Waste good for the economy? Sure it is! Does it show in current indicators? Mmm… not always. What’s wrong here?

 

One of the main reasons that can explain the current European economic crisis are something as simple –yet complicated- as indicators. The quest for GDP growth has driven the EU countries through very unsustainable paths. Indeed current indicators give an extra bonus to a throw-away society; for every piece of waste we generate, a new process of extraction, processing, transport, manufacture and disposal is triggered which the increases the economic activity making GDP grow. This explains the obsession for consumption of throw-away goods; the more garbage we produce the better for the economy! But this is true only when measured with traditional indicators. Common sense tell us that producing more waste can not be good for the economy, but according to current indicators it is.

 

For instance, if we stop buying bottled water in single-use packaging and change to tap water or if we start replacing single-use plastic bags for reusable bags we will be reducing economic activity as it is measured with traditional indicators. There is obviously something wrong with our indicators if sustainability features as a minus and not as a plus.

 

In the long run, unsustainable practices end up harming the economy so badly that even traditional indicators such as GDP show it but then it is often too late to act. Climate change is a good example of this; there is scientific consensus that global warming is taking place but too often measures to mitigate it they depress traditional indicators such as GDP growth -despite improving sustainability!-. Another example, home composting captures carbon, builds top soil, saves transport, collection & transport emissions and educates society but from the point of view of GDP incineration of organic waste features better despite vastly increasing CO2 emissions & wasting energy in the collection and burning.

 

There is no discussion on the need to replace or complement GDP as an indicator, the discussion is which indicators to chose: UNEP and the UNU-IHDP presented the Inclusive Wealth Index in June which measures wealth using countries’ natural, manufactured, human and social capital, and which is intended as a replacement to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Human Development Index (HDI). Also the European Commission has been working on indicators in the Beyond GDP, measuring progress, true wealth, and the well-being of nations. Many environmental indicators can be found here. Friends of the Earth also proposes indicators to measure Resource Use.

 

However the EU is still stuck in old and failed ways of measuring economic activity and the current debate on austerity vs growth can’t be more missleading and self-defeating. It is time to replace or strongly balance GDP with a new indicator such as the IWI which takes into account sustainability and natural capital. The moment that takes places Zero Waste will be given a major push and landfills and incinerators will be a bit more buried into history.

 


SOS message to Copenhagen – Save Our Soils

The final resolution reads:
1. In support of our children’s children, we recognise that this generation has the responsibility to repair the damage caused by the human induced aspects of global warming.
2. The simplest, quickest and most cost-effective way to address global warming is to encourage every human being in the world to source separate the organic fraction from their discard streams, so that it can be composted and returned to agriculture. In this way the carbon can be  captured in the soils of the earth.
3. We call upon all governments to pledge their support for making every city and every region of the world as independently sustainable as possible.
4. We further resolve that we encourage all citizens and grass roots organisations across the world to heed this message and do everything they can to persuade their local, state and national governments to take this critical step of composting the organics in the discard stream.
5. In short, to save our species we need to save our soil – soil is the solution.
Supporting document
Why Composting holds the key to solving four critical problems facing our planet:
1) Global climate change
2) The depletion of soil of key nutrients
3) Unemployment, especially in large cities
4) Energy conservation
1) Global Climate Change. By sequestering carbon in the soil, it reduces the global warming which would be otherwise caused by the carbon dioxide, released rapidly when this material is burned, or the methane that is more slowly released in landfills. Also, in as much as the addition of compost to soil, reduces the need for topsoil, derived from other sources like peat, and from energy intensive synthetic fertilizers, it further reduces global warming impacts.
2) Soil enrichment. It goes without saying that composting on a massive scale will replenish the depleted soils of vital minerals and other nutrients and therefore is of critical importance not only to agriculture but also to human health.
3) Unemployment. Once the organic fraction is removed from domestic waste the remaining material is far easier to store, handle and mine for its reusable objects and recyclable fraction. Once cities have removed organics from their discard stream it is a relatively easy task to use large warehouse type facilities to recover glass, metals, plastics, wood, ceramics etc and create both large and small businesses and a large number of jobs in the process. In Brescia, Italy the city leaders spent over 300 million Euros to build a giant incinerator that only produced 80 full-time jobs. In Nova Scotia (a province of Canada) spent far less money on a curbside collection program for compostables and recyclables, and created 1000 jobs collecting and handling the discarded materials and another 2000 jobs in the industries using those secondary materials for re-manufacture.
4) Energy conservation. By expediting the recovery of more objects and materials for reuse and recycling, far more energy can be conserved (the embedded energy) when these materials and objects go back into commerce. Recycling reduces the energy involved in extraction and shipping primary materials around the globe; reuse of objects reduces both extraction impacts and manufacturing impacts. ICF, a Canadian consulting company, indicates that about 10 times more energy is saved recycling plastics than obtained by burning them to produce electricity and for one particular plastic, PET, 26 times more energy is saved. Overall Jeffrey Morris indicates that 4 times more energy is saved by recycling the total domestic waste stream than obtained by burning it to produce electricity.
Relating back to issue 1, overall, a report from Europe indicates that a combination of recycling and composting reduces the emissions of global warming gases as much as 46 times more than incineration producing electricity (AEA, 2001).
People need good food, clean air, clean water, clean air and strong communities. Zero Waste offers all of these, but will the world heed this message in time?

In view of the coming Copenhagen summit Zero Waste Europe as part of the Zero Waste International Alliance calls for:

1. In support of our children’s children, we recognise that this generation has the responsibility to repair the damage caused by the human induced aspects of global warming.

2. The simplest, quickest and most cost-effective way to address global warming is to encourage every human being in the world to source separate the organic fraction from their discard streams, so that it can be composted and returned to agriculture. In this way the carbon can be  captured in the soils of the earth.

3. We call upon all governments to pledge their support for making every city and every region of the world as independently sustainable as possible.

4. We further resolve that we encourage all citizens and grass roots organisations across the world to heed this message and do everything they can to persuade their local, state and national governments to take this critical step of composting the organics in the discard stream.

5. In short, to save our species we need to save our soil – soil is the solution.

Why Composting holds the key to solving four critical problems facing our planet:

1) Global climate change

2) The depletion of soil of key nutrients

3) Unemployment, especially in large cities

4) Energy conservation

1) Global Climate Change. By sequestering carbon in the soil, it reduces the global warming which would be otherwise caused by the carbon dioxide, released rapidly when this material is burned, or the methane that is more slowly released in landfills. Also, in as much as the addition of compost to soil, reduces the need for topsoil, derived from other sources like peat, and from energy intensive synthetic fertilizers, it further reduces global warming impacts.

2) Soil enrichment. It goes without saying that composting on a massive scale will replenish the depleted soils of vital minerals and other nutrients and therefore is of critical importance not only to agriculture but also to human health.

3) Unemployment. Once the organic fraction is removed from domestic waste the remaining material is far easier to store, handle and mine for its reusable objects and recyclable fraction. Once cities have removed organics from their discard stream it is a relatively easy task to use large warehouse type facilities to recover glass, metals, plastics, wood, ceramics etc and create both large and small businesses and a large number of jobs in the process. In Brescia, Italy the city leaders spent over 300 million Euros to build a giant incinerator that only produced 80 full-time jobs. In Nova Scotia (a province of Canada) spent far less money on a curbside collection program for compostables and recyclables, and created 1000 jobs collecting and handling the discarded materials and another 2000 jobs in the industries using those secondary materials for re-manufacture.

4) Energy conservation. By expediting the recovery of more objects and materials for reuse and recycling, far more energy can be conserved (the embedded energy) when these materials and objects go back into commerce. Recycling reduces the energy involved in extraction and shipping primary materials around the globe; reuse of objects reduces both extraction impacts and manufacturing impacts. ICF, a Canadian consulting company, indicates that about 10 times more energy is saved recycling plastics than obtained by burning them to produce electricity and for one particular plastic, PET, 26 times more energy is saved. Overall Jeffrey Morris indicates that 4 times more energy is saved by recycling the total domestic waste stream than obtained by burning it to produce electricity.

Relating back to issue 1, overall, a report from Europe indicates that a combination of recycling and composting reduces the emissions of global warming gases as much as 46 times more than incineration producing electricity (AEA, 2001).

People need good food, clean air, clean water, clean air and strong communities. Zero Waste offers all of these, but will the world heed this message in time?