Save the date! The 16th September 2017 is the International Coastal Cleanup Day. From an activity previously only carried out by a small group of ecological frontrunners, coastal cleanups have become a big deal. Last year, a large US-based network involved almost 800,000 volunteers internationally and, since launching in 1985, claims to have involved more than 12 million people in the cleanup effort. According to the survey by Ocean Conservancy, over 8 million kilograms of trash were collected last year. During 2016, the top three items collected were cigarette butts (almost two million), plastic beverage bottles (just over one and half million ) and plastic bottle caps (over eight hundred thousand).
Are coastal cleanups the solution to the litter problem?
It is undeniable that coastal cleanups can work as a tool for awareness raising, since they highlight how a significant amount of marine litter is created by our day-to-day products. It also demonstrates the sheer volume of plastics in the sea. Indeed, it is claimed that by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the sea, and many of us are familiar with the pictures of sea life with stomachs full of plastic. What the debate does not cover enough is the economic consequences.
At this time, the spending on marine litter is most often used to cover the removal of debris or recovering damage which marine debris has caused. This expenditure represents treatment of symptoms rather than cure. Conversely, the real impacts go beyond this as they include damage to other economic activities, such as the fishing or tourism industry. Hence, although probably cheaper than inaction, recent estimates show that such cleanups are not a strategy fit for the future.
On the one hand, plastic consumption levels play a big role in the whole picture of plastic litter both in the marine and the land environment, and they needs to be addressed. On the other hand, plastic production plays a role as big as, or even bigger than, that of consumption. The industry is the upstream source of marine litter and it must be regulated. Hence, governmental legislation can help in reducing plastic pollution. The European Commission is expected to publish a Plastic Strategy in December 2017 and a movement is gearing up to demand an ambitious strategy, in particular with regards to a legally binding target on the reduction of plastic use.
How can we reduce plastic use in Europe?
An initial step would be to start reducing the production of single-use plastics, since in most cases alternatives already exist. For example,grocery shops selling locally sourced food and drink products in bulk, where local residents can buy pasta, wine, oil and many other necessities without having to throw away any packaging. This kind of business is getting more and more profitable not only in cities, but also in towns and villages. It is usually the result of proactive political nudges in the right direction, leading to residents becoming aware of and able to implement virtuous consumption habits. Shortly, a substantial part of the civil society, made of individuals, business and organisations is already embarked upon theeffort of reducing plastic overconsumption. Nowit is time for governments to let these seeds sprout.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
The waste hierarchy is the main principle at the cornerstone of the European Union’s waste policy. It establishes the priority order Member States should apply when developing waste management legislation and policy. It envisions that waste should be in the first place prevented, then reused, recycled, processed for energy recovery, and finally disposed of.
Unfortunately, although waste prevention represents the top priority of the waste hierarchy, effective waste measures of this kind have rarely been yet developed by Member States. This delay in the implementation of the waste hierarchy principles is in part due to the lack of consistency among national waste policies: on the one hand, there are principles and other non-binding tools to promote more sustainability-oriented practices; on the other hand, Member States are free to subsidise the activity of burning mixed municipal waste, known as incineration.
When waste is not subjected to separate collection, it is called mixed or residual waste. This means that many materials (plastics, paper, organics), which could be recycled if they were separated at the source, are inexorably lost, because they will be burnt into incineration facilities.
The European Parliament is currently amending the European Directive on Renewable Energy, which will be implemented in the following decade. The legislation that emerges from this process will influence the choices of local policy makers and financial investors. This represents a major opportunity to offset unproductive investments and concentrate the efforts on the options that are the most sustainable, the most profitable, and generate the most jobs. In all these aspects, recycling makes much more sense than incineration, and here is why.
1. Recycling saves energy
The practice of incineration is bad for several reasons. On the first hand, it disincentivises citizens to care about what they consume. This is very dangerous in a world where more than 7 billion people live out of finite resources.
Not very long ago, recycling was considered difficult, even impossible, according to the most skepticals. However, nowadays recyclers run a business of millions of euros, while preserving materials in the economic loop. A combination of recycling and composting can save three to four times more energy than an incinerator can produce. 1
Moreover, recycling saves massive amounts of CO2 emissions and, if optimised, it can play key role in meeting the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement to contrast climate change. 2
Finally, when “embedded energy” is taken into account as an indicator (which, unfortunately, is not the case in many Life Cycle Assessments), the amount of energy that a high-quality recycling can potentially saves is astonishing when compared to incineration, as pointed out in a recent study.
2. Recycling is more profitable
Incineration of mixed municipal waste is an expensive practice which requires significant financial investments from local authorities. Unfortunately, the costs to build the facilities and to run them are are covered mainly by public funds with very little private contribution. Therefore, its costs are, in reality, to be paid by the citizens through higher taxes and bills for waste management.
On the contrary, the recycling sector has developed into a successful business. In Germany, its turnover increased by 520 per cent between 2005 and 2009.3 Agreeing to take the path to maximize recycling is particularly important for those countries that joined the EU recently and are currently building their waste management system. They have also the most to gain in terms of jobs and savings.
3. Recycling creates more job
Burning waste requires a lot of money but very little workforce. This means that incineration facilities create almost no jobs.
On the contrary, recycling benefits the whole economy by creatingat least ten times more jobs than landfilling or incineration. 4
In 2014, for the city of Treviso, Italy, the public company Contarina’s operational cost were contained and 26 new jobs were created. 5
It is estimated that, in addition to the nearly 400 000 direct jobs brought by the implementation of the existing EU waste legislation, 170 000 more jobs could be created, most of them impossible to delocalise outside the EU, and 30 billion euro could be saved by 2035. 6
When comparing the costs, one can see how good management and recycling save money for the taxpayers and create real and tangible wealth.
Incinerators are not flexible. This means that, in order to deliver a sound economic profit, they need from 40 to 50 years of activity, without taking into account the management costs. In 1998, when the UK’s Kent County entered into a twenty-five-year contract to burn waste, it thought it was making a wise economic move. But now, as the recycling economy has vastly improved, the County is losing an estimated €1.5 million a year.7 Rather than selling its recyclables for reuse, which would be both economically and environmentally efficient, it must send those valuable resources up in smoke. That is an unfortunate situation that will persist until the contract expires.
On the contrary, re-use and recycling activities are not only environmentally friendly, but they also deliver a far better result from the economic and social point of view.
Nevertheless, because of misconceptions and sometimes poorly transparent decision making process, incineration still represent a serious threat, while every year less than 40% of European waste is recycled or re-used. The best way to invert this trend is to implement effective source separation (of waste) and separate collection schemes. By doing that, it is possible to boost the percentage of recycling and the quality of recyclates, thus creating an added value for society and the environment, and finally moving beyond the practice of mixed waste incineration for good.
1 J. Morriss and D. Canzonieri, Recycling versus Incineration: An Energy Conservation Analysis, Seattle, Sound Resource Management Group, 1993. 2 E. Katrakis, Time to make a decisive difference for recycling in Europe, The European Files, N. 44, Page 15, December 2016. 3 K. Florenz, Time for Change, The European Files, N. 44, Pp 9-11, December 2016. 4 P. Connet, The Zero Waste Solution. Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time, Paul Connet, 2013. 5 J.M. Simon, Case Study #4.The Story of Contarina, 2015 6 D.C. Crespo, Ambition and realism – key ingredients for a future-oriented waste policy, The European Files, N. 44, P. 8, December 2016.
7 P. Connet, The Zero Waste Solution. Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time, Paul Connet, 2013.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
The Renewable Energy Directive (RED) is currently under revision in the European Parliament. Soon the committees responsible for the file will vote on the amendments, many of which cover use of waste for energy generation.
Just like the previous version, the new proposal (RED II) continues to promote energy recovery processes from the biodegradable fraction of mixed waste, thus circumventing the waste hierarchy. These processes not only undermine the waste management options with a higher circular economy potential, such as waste prevention and recycling, but also significantly contribute to climate change.
There are 3 key adjustments the European Parliament can make to align the RED II proposal with the EU waste and circular economy policies:
Firstly, the proposal should ensure that the promotion of energy from waste is strictly guided by the principle of the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy ranks waste management options according to their sustainability, and it therefore prioritises waste prevention and recycling. In addition, the waste hierarchy also reflects the preferred environmental options from a climate perspective. To ensure that the Directive takes into account the principle of the waste hierarchy, new criteria for the use of waste for energy purposes should be introduced in the Directive.
Secondly, support schemes for energy from waste should be consistent with the goal of shifting upwards in the implementation of the EU waste hierarchy. Therefore, support measures for recovery of energy from the organics fraction of mixed waste processes (incineration and co-incineration), that undermine the waste hierarchy and discourage actions at the top of the waste hierarchy, should be phased out. This is critical to the achievement of higher separate collection and recycling rates of biowaste, in line with the requirements of the new waste legislation. Moreover, higher recycling of biowaste could produce the equivalent of over 12 large coal fire plants, or as much as the entire annual electric consumption of Austria for 2015 (60.813.000MWh).
Finally, the proposal should exclude any mention of the use of waste-based fossil fuels from the scope of the Directive. The renewable energy support schemes were developed to promote the use of energy from renewable sources in the EU. Therefore, the inclusion of waste-based fossil fuels (g. from plastics) within the scope of the proposal is a harmful distortion of renewable energy standards, and inconsistent with EU climate policies. Such a use of renewable energy funding is a massive step backward for the deployment of renewable energy sources in Europe and the achievement of a Circular Economy, and should therefore be explicitly excluded from the Directive.
Will the European Parliament fix the Renewable Energy proposal?
Find out more on why the current proposal is flawed in our previous blog.
Who said that Brussels and the European Institutions are places for cold bureaucracy and economic reasoning only? We met with Paolo, Ieva, Diego, Adrian, Karin and Nico, who prove that the seeds of ecology, sustainability and active citizenship can sprout everywhere – even in the not-so-sunny Brussels’environment.
During their traineeship within the European institutions, they launched the Plastic-Free Plux project to reduce the amount of single use plastic cups going to waste.
Every Thursday evening, some hundreds people, mainly young professionals from the EU bubble, gather in Luxemburg Square (the so-called Plux), right in front of the European Parliament. Some go there for a networking drink, some to celebrate a profitable week some others to forget a bad one. They all get their drinks in single-use plastic cups, and every Thursday a huge amount of plastic cups is thrown away. Paolo and his colleagues report: “after the first Thursday of ‘Plastic-free Plux’ we counted 50 trash bags full of plastic waste”. They know that single-use plastics is a major problem for the environment, since it is hard to recycle and it is used massively and in various forms in our everyday life.
The idea of the organizers of Plastic-Free Plux is to incentivise people coming to Plux to bring their own mug or reusable cup from home: if they do, they enjoy a discount of €0.50 in what they consume, thanks to an agreement with the bar owners.
At the beginning, their goal was to raise awareness about the single-use plastic and alternatives and, subsequently, for the fifth and last edition, of Plastic-Free Plux, they adopted an ambitious target: to attract 50 people with mugs on Plux, one for each of those 50 trash bags they found at the first edition. They reached the remarkable amount of 41 mugs that fifth night.
Besides the awareness-raising initiative, Plastic-Free Plux believes that the best long-term alternative is introducing a deposit scheme for solid, reusable cup system on Plux. Despite of the very short time-frame of the activity (from June to July 2017), they succeeded to communicate with the Mayor of Ixelles and gain the support of some environmental NGOs (Plastic Soup, Kot Planète Terre, Greenpeace Brussels, and of course Zero Waste Europe).
Despite the fact that many public events in Brussels are already eco-friendly, in the sense that they provide reusable cups on adeposit scheme, e.g. Bruxelles Les Bains and Brussels Summer Festival, on the average the city lacks a broader strategy for zero waste events. Thus, the majority of social gatherings, which take place at neighborhood level, characterized by the regularity in time and internalization into the everyday life, are still waste intensive.
The obstacles to change are numerous and fragmented, and therefore difficult to address. This is why the young change-makers’ action from Plastic-Free Plux is even more significant, and it is worth hoping that it will inspire many other people to do the same. The ingredients for a substantial impact are provided by Paolo and his colleagues:
“First, we suggest you start organising the event. One can adjust it and take care of the details in the aftermath. It is something that can be improved step by step, but the initial action is so simple that you do not need to think much about it. In our opinion, for these kinds of actions it is important to be brave and confident and start from somewhere; the rest will follow;
Second, communication is crucial! Spread the word, use all the tools available to you, and be regular and consistent in your communication strategy;
Third, you need to believe in the cause, that what you are doing is something good for the environment and for the people around you, and that it can be a success. If your attitude is positive and your actions show your confidence and your faith in the cause, people will notice it and join you as well. The support we received outweighed the inevitable negativity we sometimes observed”.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
Plastic is a revolutionary material that lasts up to 100-500 years depending on its type. However, when we use this material to create something like a plastic bag, with an average life span on 25 minutes, we have a problem. Our oceans are heavily polluted and 80% of the marine litter is plastic. While the scale of our plastic pollution grows, we like to wait around for a prodigious solution that will make it disappear. This time, it seems to be worms that are coming to our rescue.
In case you haven’t heard, a study at Stanford University has found that wax worms eat plastic. The microorganisms in their gut biodegrade the plastic in the process, say the researchers. Those wax worms usually live of wax in bee hives. Digesting beeswax involves breaking down similar types of chemical bonds as in polyethylene (which is a type of plastic). Although much is still unknown, the study has been praised as a unique solution to plastic pollution.
It is not the first time such magical solutions have been presented. Although an interesting study, how are we going to use this information when it comes to the industry and consumers behaviour? At the rate of 1 million plastic bags used globally every minute, solutions such as feeding plastic to wax worms are not only costly and unrealistic to implement, but also a bad excuse. Worms won’t save us from our wasteful lifestyles, only we can do that.
The huge plastic pollution problem actually has a simple, straightforward solution: to have less plastic waste, we should just use less plastic. That involves producing, consuming and throwing away fewer plastic items, especially single-use ones.
And the change is much easier than one might expect. Refusing plastic bags and making sure you have a reusable bag at hand when you go grocery shopping is a great first step to reducing your plastic waste. You can use reusable bags for your fruits and veggies too!
Each July the 3rd, scores of organisations and citizens all over the world celebrate the International Plastic Bag Free Day, to raise awareness about the problems of using single-use plastic bags. Taking a reusable bag to the store with you is a simple and yet concrete first step towards a world free from plastic pollution. Let’s quit waiting for some worms to save us, and make everyday a plastic bag free day.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
Styrofoam containers have been voted the 2nd most wasteful item at the Designed For Trash Awards, organised by the People’s Design Lab during last May 2017. Participants on this popular contest have also suggested sustainable alternatives to replace these problematic containers, which are responsible for an increasing amount of plastic pollution on the environment.
Styrofoam – what do we know about it?
Styrofoam comes in all shapes and sizes for purposes ranging from packing material to holding your soda pop, most of us have grown up with it yet what do we know about it?
Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic. Its history is surprisingly old, dating back to 1839, when German apothecary Eduard Simon, isolated polystyrene from natural resin. Over 100 years later, a process was invented to commercially manufacture polystyrene (including the foam version “styrofoam”) and the world of products, food and packaging was forever changed.
Styrofoam has an increasingly bad rap as it has an impressive lifespan i.e. forever. Because of this, it is now taking up vast amounts of space in landfills across the world, or is afloat at sea, where it is often accidentally eaten by a hungry turtle, sea bird, fish, whale, or whatever else mistakes it for food. In fact, Styrofoam has been labeled one of the top sources of marine litter. And all the while, this buoyant white substance is leaking harmful chemicals. It’s main component – styrene- is a carcinogenic substance. Prolonged exposure can cause irritation the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, and has also been linked to fatigue, depression, lymphoma, and leukemia. Disturbingly, styrene residue has been found in 100% of human fat tissue (source).
Many restaurants, events, and companies still resort to styrofoam, often due to a lack of awareness about alternative disposable dishware.
Needless to say, we must make some adjustments for sake of our health and our environment. Fortunately, it’s 2017 and intelligent, inspired people have come up with a variety of plant based food containers to mitigate the styrofoam apocalypse.
Never too late to move on!
Reusable Alternatives to Styrofoam
The best alternative to styrofoam containers, and other “single-use” take-away containers, are the reusable options. Simply, you can start changing the styrofoam trend by bringing your own food containers when eating out. The options are many, from stainless steel tiffins, to the classic glass tupperware or the innovative Boc’n roll (a plastic sack that you can securely bundle your takeaway in). For restaurants that use plastic tupperware, wash and return them next time for your next meal there. They will likely be happy to re-use it!
More and more options seem to emerge. In Switzerland, the company reCIRCLE has invented the very first system which provides restaurants with reusable containers for take-away customers. When the customer buys food in their take-away container, they pay a “deposit” on it and once they have used it, they can bring it back to the restaurant next time, and get another reusable containers for no extra fees, or simply get their money back. This is system is spreading out quickly in Switzerland and hopefully it will land in more countries!
Not only are these options more sustainable, they just sound like more fun to eat and drink out of!
Single-use Alternatives to Styrofoam
However, when these reusable options are not available and there is no way to avoid the use of a single-use item then there are several biodegradables solutions that in terms of “end-of-life” of the product are less problematic than styrofoam or plastic.
Corn starch – Essentially, corn starch based food containers use corn-based polymers (PLA) instead of petroleum based. Because of this, these food containers look and feel similar to traditional styrofoam but can be composted.
Plant leaves – These leaf based food containers are rapidly growing in popularity because of their durability, biodegradability, and also, they just look really cool. The process uses the pulp of fallen palm leaves and represses them into dishware.
Edible – Various companies have been making headlines as of late for producing edible food containers. The company Loliware uses a seaweed base to create flavored drinking cupsand the company Munch bowls has designed a wheat based bowls.
From the most preferred reusable options to the biodegradable single-use containers, we could see that in this day and age the negative impact of styrofoam is simply unnecessary. Making changes in our own lives, while also demanding change in food industry standards, is the way forward to a foam free world.
If you want to check out all solutions suggested by the People’s Design Lab users click here!
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
Environmental organisations from all around the Mediterranean are launching the Break Free From Plastic Movement in the region, to save the cradle of human civilisation from a plastic pollution crisis. At their first meeting in Barcelona last June, they agreed on a manifesto calling for systemic change along the whole plastic value chain to prevent plastic pollution at source.
The Mediterranean sea is affected by one of the highest concentrations of plastics in the world. Plastic litter accumulates from the sea surface to the seafloor, on the shorelines of even the most remote islands, and in the deep sea. It conveys non-indigenous and potentially harmful organisms, transfer toxic chemicals and fragment into microplastics, that can subsequently be ingested and may end up poisoning the food chain. Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean must be stopped before it’s too late.
Most of the plastic pollution in the Mediterranean comes from land-based activities. Far from being a purely marine issue, it is rooted in our unsustainable production and consumption patterns, ranging from bad product design and consumption habits, to inappropriate solid waste management practices at all stages on land and at sea, to discharges of inappropriately treated or untreated municipal sewage and industrial waste. This is why end-of-pipe solutions such as marine litter cleanups are not enough: as pointed out by Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic Movement, “to prevent the Mediterranean sea from turning into a ‘plastic soup’, we need to adopt a holistic approach which focuses primarily on prevention rather than cure.”
In October 2017, the European Commission will host the Our Ocean conference in Malta, which will also touch upon the future of the Mediterranean. At the same time, the Commission is working on a Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy. This conference is a tremendous opportunity to take ambitious commitments to break free from plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, and the EU Strategy for Plastics must reflect these commitments: the time to act is now!
The Break Free From Plastic Movement was created in September 2016 by 90 organisations from all over the world willing to tackle together the issue of plastic pollution. The movement has developed regional cooperation dynamics across Africa, America, Asia and Europe, and within just a few months it has been joined by 800 organisations. Find out more, and join the movement!
In the frame of the policy discussions to transition towards a circular economy, the European Commission intends to produce a Communication on the interface of Chemicals, Products and Waste legislation. This should analyse and prepare policy options on how to address the interface of chemicals, products and waste legislation, including how to reduce the presence and improve the tracking of chemicals of concern in products.
ZWE has responded to the public consultation as it reads:
Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the stakeholder consultation of the European Commission’s work on the analysis of the interface between chemicals, products and waste legislation and identification of policy options.
From ZWE’s point of view, in this interface between the chemicals, products and waste regimes, several elements are needed to be addressed:
Firstly, a qualitative prevention of hazardous chemicals from entering the material cycle. The development of non-toxic material cycles was already included as an objective of the 7th EAP and this is clearly needed both to transition to a non-toxic environment and to secure a circular economy in which high quality and clean materials can keep circulating. For that matter, and following the position of the European Parliament on the Waste Directive, the European Commission is urged to present a legislative proposal on waste prevention that also drives qualitative prevention of waste.
The lack of sufficient information available for recyclers and waste operators on the toxicity of wastes, which brings in potential risks all along the value chain: including the employees of the recycling industries and the consumers of products with secondary raw materials who may be exposed to substances of concern or of very high concern without knowing it. The problems associated with the lack of traceability are further increased in the case of those materials being recycled outside of the EU, often in sub-standard conditions. An example of this was highlighted by IPEN who alerted that toxic flame retardant coming from recycled plastics was found in toys in the EU, giving an evidence of the total lack of traceability of materials.
The need for Member States to have an easy way to meet European targets on recycling comes at the cost of less transparent calculation methods which bring in a lack of traceability of waste. This insufficient traceability is often translated into the recycling of European wastes containing toxic substances and the re-introduction of these secondary raw materials back in Europe’s economy without due information of the presence of these substances. A divergence between European standards and international ones does not only prevent a level-playing field between European and foreign operators but it is a real threat to Europe’s transition towards a circular economy. Two main solutions appear to this: on the one hand, the calculation method on recycling needs to get as close as possible to the actual recycling (thus closer to the balance of mass), so as to improve the traceability of the management of waste. On the other hand, the Basel, Stockholm and Rotterdam conventions should level up the criteria, so as to avoid the re-introduction of toxic substances into the economy through sub-standard recycling in countries of the South, in line with the point expressed above.
In order to improve the rules included on these conventions, the EU’s role needs to be significantly improved, so as to avoid the double standard role the EU has played in the past, by which the EU was promoting the recycling of toxic substances in countries in the South. In case a level-playing field is not finally reached through these conventions (next one in 2019), the European Union should set clear rules guaranteeing that the import of secondary raw materials or products with secondary raw materials does not contain toxic substances.
Additionally, this communication should acknowledge the need to ensure that the legal framework is not less protective of human health and the environment when products are made of recovered materials. This means notably requiring appropriate decontamination of waste before it can be recovered and avoiding restrictions of hazardous chemicals that are less protective when applied to recovered materials.
Lastly, the lack of clearer rules for circular design of products and packaging hampers Europe’s transition to both a circular economy and a non-toxic environment. In this regard, the European Commission should complement the legislative proposal on Waste with guidance on how to modulate EPR fees to disincentive the use of toxic and potentially toxic substances. Additionally, in line with the European Parliament’s position on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive, the European Commission should update the essential requirements for packaging, so as to make sure that packaging put in the European market is free from toxic substances. Similarly, the European Commission is urged to accomplish the Communication ‘Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy’ and “promote the (…) recyclability of products by developing product requirements relevant to the circular economy in its future work under the Ecodesign Directive”. These product requirements should contain clear rules against toxic substances hampering the circularity of materials.
It is predicted that the implementation of measures such as deposit refund schemes, refundable taxes and buy back schemes would lead to a major reduction of littering and a significant reduction in plastic pollution. Such instruments are already widely used in the private sector, but have yet to be fully utilised from a public policy perspective.
This study highlights the fact that, despite widespread support for the circular economy across all stakeholders, current fiscal policies continue to support a linear economy model. This is evident in the unacceptably low collection rates for textiles (<20%), cigarette butts (<35%), batteries (<40%), and even lower rates for other waste streams such as coffee capsules. Without strong economic incentives for collection, it is unlikely that these numbers will change.
Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe, said: “The move from a linear to a circular economy will require changing the economic incentives. This study provides a great toolbox to double or even triple collection rates for a variety of materials, including waste streams with existing EPR (extended producer responsibility) schemes.”
Clarissa Morawski, Managing Director of the Reloop Platform: “Deposit return have been used to capture high quantities of empty beverage containers for decades. With more than 35 successful systems around the world and growing, maybe it’s time for governments to consider this economic instrument for their own countries or regions. Just look to the best practice programs and follow their lead.”
The study proposes a number of economic instruments to increase the collection and recovery of various waste streams including:
A deposit system for mobile-phones: Proposes to complement the current EPR systems for WEEE with a refundable deposit applied on mobile phones in order to provide incentives to increase the collection rates of a product that contains a high number of scarce and strategic materials.
A new EPR system for carpets, which would help increase the currently low recycling rate (<3%) of this waste stream.
A deposit system for coffee-cups to promote the use of reusable cups, which will reduce the more than 15 billion units of disposable coffee-cups going to waste in Europe each year.
To achieve the ambitious goals of the Circular Economy it is essential to consider all possible measures. This study highlights the key steps that can be taken immediately, under existing legislation, to make Europe take a major leap forward towards a Circular Economy.
Rethink Plastic has sent an open letter to the European Commission calling on them to propose strong and harmonised EU legislation within the EU Strategy on Plastics in the Circular Economy – due to be published at the end of 2017.
We call for concrete policy action on reducing, redesigning and better managing plastics, and challenge the Commission to think broader and bolder, including trying to live plastic free for a day. #RethinkPlastic!
Rethink Plastic is an alliance of leading European NGOs with one common aim: a future that is free from plastic pollution. We represent hundreds of thousands of active groups, supporters and citizens in every EU Member State. We bring together policy and technical expertise from a variety of relevant fields and are part of the global Break Free From Plastic movement, consisting of over 800 NGOs and millions of citizens worldwide.
EU countries obstructing key measures that would bring the EU closer to a circular economy are revealed – and they are not your usual suspects.
The European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe and Zero Waste Europe asked member states whether they will support key proposals to boost EU waste policy in the negotiations taking place in Brussels in the coming weeks.
The proposals, already approved by the European Parliament in March, include higher recycling targets for municipal solid waste; targets for preparation for reuse of municipal solid waste and reuse of packaging; better separate collection of all waste streams, including biowaste; EU-wide rules for producer responsibility; and objectives to reduce waste generation by 2030.
The investigation shows that ambitious reform of EU waste laws is under attack by a number of countries. If a regressive position is to prevail in the negotiations, plans to accelerate the transition to a circular economy in the coming years will most likely stall.
Recent leaks (paywall link) of the Council’s current common position show that the laggards are winning out, despite higher individual ambition by some member states in areas including recycling targets, extended producer responsibility and biowaste separate collection.
Ferran Rosa, waste policy officer at Zero Waste Europe said: “Member States all agree to go towards a circular economy, but when it comes to making it happen, many are reluctant. It is time for Member States to stop being short-sighted and push for a real transition”
Countries opposing most of the proposals include Denmark and Finland – often regarded as leaders in waste policy despite their enormous amount of waste generated. Other countries set to categorically reject higher ambition are Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.
While eventually supporting a 65% recycling target, countries such as the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Luxembourg and Slovakia are expected to oppose plans to make preparation for reuse mandatory, set a 10% target for packaging reuse and set waste prevention targets–all top priorities in a circular economy.
On the other hand, southern countries that generally struggle with waste management such as Greece and Romania as well as Spain are calling for stronger support for recycling, waste prevention, preparation for reuse and better separate collection.
Other progressive countries supporting the reforms are France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
What happens next?
• High representatives from member states will meet before the end of the month to define the position of the Council of the European Union.
• By the end of May, all three EU institutions – the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union – will enter the final inter-institutional negotiations before agreeing on the final text of the new waste laws.
Live from the United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) to the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam conventions – Geneva
There is a group of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) that it is critical to address to ensure we are moving towards a clean circular economy. Although the EU is continuously setting the tone towards more circularity internally, it has clearly lacked ambition and clarity on the issues at stakes in Geneva this week. This post goes through the details of the negotiations around the global regulation framework of the Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) and outlines the positions the EU must take to safeguard a clean future for the circular economy.
A ban on decaBDE without exemptions
On Tuesday, the listing of decaBDE in Annex A of the Stockholm Convention for an immediate ban was discussed. DecaBDE is a toxic flame retardant which is primarily found in the plastics of electronic devices and in some textiles and upholstery. Most countries supported this ban, but several delegations are asking for exemptions to allow for the continued production and use of this toxic POP in certain sectors. The EU in particular is asking for exemptions in the automotive and aviation sectors, despite leading companies in these sectors having already stated that a complete ban would be feasible in a very short time frame (see our latest policy briefing).
End the recycling exemptions for pentaBDE and octaBDE
On Wednesday, the debate turned to the recycling exemptions for pentaBDE and octaBDE which were adopted at a previous COP until 2030. Pakistan, Gabon and Norway in particular held very strong position to end the recycling exemption immediately, to protect the life and health of millions of kids in the global south contaminated by toys and other products made of recycled plastics containing these substances. Canada strongly opposed the immediate termination of the recycling exemptions. EU did not take a clear stand to support Pakistan, Gabon and Norway’s proposal, which is an endorsement by abstention of Canada’s proposal and an incompatible positioning in the context of the clean circular economy that EU is advocating for within its frontiers.
Impose strong limits on the levels of POPs in waste
Last but not least, an intense debate is currently taking place about the Low POP Content level (The concentration threshold above which wastes are considered POPs waste) of waste containing PBDEs allowed to be exported under the Basel Convention. In the debate, EU’s is defending a weak limit for POPs in waste which can result in toxic waste being exported outside its borders without effective controls, this represents a clear double standard and an irresponsible position.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste Europe policy officer made an intervention from the conference floor calling on the European delegates to support the immediate end of the recycling exemptions for octaBDE and pentaBDE, and the inclusion of decaBDE in Annex A of the Stockholm conventions which prohibits production, use and recycling of the chemicals, calling for no exemptions to be made
The intervention argued that such a ban was essential to prevent the recycling of waste which contains toxic chemicals at the ‘expense of the health of children or recycling workers in the informal sector or other end users of such products globally’. Recently released reports such as IPEN’s Toxic Toys have shown that the recycling of products containing toxic chemicals such as octaBDE and decaBDE has resulted in toys made from recycled plastics which contain extremely high levels of these toxic POPs.
Delphine went on to say “To achieve a circular economy, we need to close the loop of materials by building trust in a toxic-free secondary material market so that both producers and consumers are willing to use them.” Increasing recycling in Europe is critical to reduce the use of virgin resources, but this aim cannot supercede the rights of children, recycling workers and other end users to a safe and healthy environment. In addition, authorising the inclusion of these banned toxic substances in recycled products seriously threatens the credibility and economic model of the entire recycling industry.
Zero Waste Europe calls on the EU to support international policies which are consistent with a clean and safe circular economy today, and take a clear stand on banning POPs at the source and against recycling exemptions of POPs containing materials.
Geneva: Today, at the Stockholm Convention 8th Conference of the Parties, Chile and Canada surprised delegates by proposing to allow recycling materials containing a toxic flame retardant widely found in electronic waste (e-waste). The proposal violates the Stockholm Convention which explicitly prohibits recycling and reuse of substances on its list.
DecaBDE is used in the plastic casings of electronic products and if it is not removed, it is carried into new products when the plastic is recycled. Toxicity studies indicate potential adverse developmental, neurotoxic, and reproductive effects, and DecaBDE or its degradation products may also act as endocrine disruptors.
Ironically, a new IPEN study1 shows that the toxic recycling policy advocated by these countries widely contaminates children’s products. In fact, in Canada all sampled toys made of recycled plastic contained both OctaBDE and DecaBDE.
“How can these countries advocate a policy that potentially poisons children?”said Pam Miller, IPEN Co-Chair. “Recycling materials that contain toxic chemicals contaminates new products, continues exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling.”
The treaty’s expert committee has warned against toxic recycling and explicitly recommended to eliminate these substances from the recycling streams “as swiftly as possible” noting that, “Failure to do so will inevitably result in wider human and environmental contamination… and in the loss of the long-term credibility of recycling”
The proposed recycling exemption also is tantamount to legalizing electronic waste (e-waste) dumping in developing countries which is cynically described as “recycling.”
“E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream and now it seems these countries want to make it legal and dump even more,” said Tadesse Amera, PAN Ethiopia. “OECD countries already sends us lots of e-waste and now it seems they want to increase our toxic burden – exactly opposite to the treaty’s goal.”
Between the 24th of April and the 5th of May, Zero Waste Europe will be in Geneva, attending the ‘super-COP’ (Conference of the Parties) covering 3 major global conventions on toxics: the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. At the conference, Zero Waste Europe will be promoting our newest policy briefing opposing exemptions for decaBDE.
The COP will be an important forum for the discussion of policies that could determine the global future of the circular economy.
Despite the significance of this meeting it remains largely unknown, an inaccessible policy arena shrouded in jargon and secrecy. The meeting covered largely by trade journalists rarely makes headlines, but the decisions made here affect the lives of millions of people.
What is worse is that in this largely unreported conference EU delegates and representatives are actively pushing for the implementation of policies which could jeopardise the creation of a clean circular economy in Europe and around the world.
Toxic chemicals, watered down legislation
A significant point of concern for observers of the conference are the substances which are listed to be banned under the Stockholm Convention. These substances include hormone-disrupting chemicals which are extremely resistant to breaking down in the environment. Known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) many of these chemicals have already been banned under the convention. However whilst the effects of these chemicals on the environment and human health is well documented, when it comes to a chemical used as a flame retardant called decaBDE, the EU has continued to lobby against increasing regulations.
EU delegates at the conference are actively pushing for less stringent regulation and specific exemptions for the recycling of waste containing decaBDE. The position of the EU is significantly weaker than the recommendations from the conventions expert committee which calls for no recycling exemptions and an immediate ban of decaBDE.
Time to act for a clean and safe economy
As recycling increases it is a matter of time before a scandal about toxics in recycled material explodes damaging the image of recycling and of the Circular Economy strategy. For this reason it is imperative to move quickly in the restriction of hazardous substances and organise a proper tracking of polluted waste streams to ensure a reliable and safe secondary market for raw materials.
The EU needs to ensure that their delegates advocate for strong international policies on toxics including decaBDE which fully align with the European Circular Economy. A large proportion of Europe’s electronic waste (WEEE) is exported to countries in the Global South ostensibly to be recycled, however it can often end up in dangerous dumping sites, where toxic chemicals can harm the environment and human health. If the EU continues to argue for these exemptions it will be recycling and waste workers in these countries who will bear the full burden of toxics in our recyclables. The EU needs to be consistent in eliminating toxic chemicals from our products, including those which are going to be recycled and lead the way to a clean and safe economy.
A new petition asks large supermarket chains in France to stop using non-recyclable plastic in their own-branded milk bottles. The bottles are causing mayhem in recycling plants and stalling the country’s circular economy goals.
What’s in a circle? Well at first glance we might think nothing of it. Its simplicity evokes plainness, but as we look deeper we discover harmony at its core. Harmony in the form of completeness and sustainability. Harmony in the form of collaboration and sharing. Harmony in the form of life as we know it. There’s much more to a circle than meets the eye. Just like with a circular economy. Although the concept seems simple, creating a truly sustainable economy means careful planning, attention to detail, and that every section of the economy works together in harmony.
While across Europe, the circular economy concept has taken root, the unfortunate truth is that not everyone is entirely on board with circular design.
Recently, Zero Waste France discovered that many of France’s large supermarket chains who stock their own branded milk on the shelves use bottles made from the non-recyclable polymer commonly known as opaque PET. That equates to millions of non-recyclable bottles in the French marketplace alone. And with the implementation of proper recycling methods far from being ready, the presence of opaque PET in recycling centers disrupts the entire process because it can’t properly be identified by current machinery. This has led to the unnecessary allocation of manpower and resources to handle this difficult material, the costs of which fall on the shoulders of the taxpayer.
We can all help solve this problem while also checking one for mother earth by signing Zero Waste France’s petition which aims to stop the usage of opaque PET among supermarket chains in France.
Although a small effort, the signing of the petition not only pinpoints a major sustainable ‘no-no’ in the bottling industry, but also contributes towards the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) system. As a tool that can be used to provide economic incentives for producers to better design their products, EPR schemes are designed to penalize non-circular products, ensuring that the polluter pays, not the people.
The idea behind it is to create a closed-loop economy and incentivize producers to either create products that are durable, reusable, repairable, and recycle or pay the price.
EPR schemes can be one of the essential cornerstones for transitioning to a circular economy, however, it’s clear that there’s much room for improvement regarding their performance and implementation here in Europe.
With your help and support, we’re one step closer to closing the loop on that circle and building a future fit for both the environment and the people living in it.
Graph showing results of recent research showing the gap between amount of EU municipal waste eligible under an EPR scheme (70%), and how much is actually covered (45%). Source: Zero Waste Europe, Extended Producer Responsibility: Creating the Frame for Circular Products, January 2017.
This blog was written by Christopher Nicastro for Zero Waste Europe
An article from Zero Waste Tunisia, part of the developing Zero Waste Mediterranean network. If you part of, or want to join a zero waste group in the Mediterranean contact us to find out more.
The beginning of the end for the plastic bag?
It’s created in just a few seconds, serves a purpose for a only few minutes and takes more than 400 years to completely breakdown. It is, of course the plastic bag that Tunisians particularly adore for their shopping. However despite this disastrous love affair recent developments, including an agreement between the supermarkets and the government could herald the beginning of the end for the single-use plastic bag.
Plastic bags are a real scourge. In fact, they are harmful to the environment and kill thousands of animals each year. They are dumped our countryside and beaches releasing their poison everywhere and ending up in the soil.
Tunisians consume one billion plastic bags each year, of which 30% (approximately 315 million of them) come from the large supermarkets. Those 315 million bags are equal to 10,000 tons of plastic waste according to the ministry.
In an effort to phase plastic bags out, the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment has recently signed an agreement with the supermarket union chamber. This agreement, which was effective from the 1st of March, prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags.
The alternative is not difficult to find, in fact we could use the traditional Tunisian basket (the Koffa) or other ecological bags.
The minister describes that approach as “gradual” and which in a few months will result in a total ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags in Tunisia.
The idea is to encourage the factories to produce, using the same technologies, reusable bags that will be sold for use several times. It is also about changing the behavior of the consumer to control the use of plastic bags and think about alternative solutions.
The ministry has therefore opted for a progressive approach, in several stages instead of a global and radical approach which will not work.
So, will these plastic bags completely be eliminated by the end of the year? Will the environmental police control this issue, especially outside supermarkets? The coming months will provide an answer.
Find out more about the work of Zero Waste Tunisia on their website, and get involved in & find out more about zero waste activities in the Mediterranean via our contact form.
It is estimated that Italians drink 14 billion espressos every year. While many enjoy their daily espresso, they may never consider the waste – an estimated 380,000 tons of coffee grounds – left behind by such a large amount of coffee production. The Italian startup Funghi Espresso has developed an innovative system that closes the loop of coffee production – recycling the waste to create a new product.
Funghi Espresso was born in 2013 out of an environmental education pilot project that taught children to cultivate mushrooms using coffee grounds as a substrate (the substance that the mushrooms gain nutrients from). The success of this project led to the development of an innovative and sustainable model of resource reuse and production inspired by the principles of Blue Economy. Funghi Espresso collects discarded coffee grounds from bars and restaurants in the territory, and uses them as a substrate for cultivating mushrooms, which are then sold to local restaurants and consumers. Since its inception in 2014, the company has recovered over twelve tons of coffee grounds, and used them to produce over one ton of fresh mushrooms. The process does not stop there – after
use in mushroom cultivation, the now twice-used grounds are repurposed yet again as compost to enrich agricultural soils. The company also produces “Do it Yourself” kits for growing mushrooms at home using the same coffee ground substrate.
Funghi Espresso has been recognized and rewarded for its creative approach in numerous ways, including being selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MIPAAF) as one of the 25 most innovative agricultural startups in Italy.
It is a simple, yet brilliant idea; an example of “thinking outside the box” to solve a problem that many people never even realized exists, and create a system of sustainable, local and circular production from which everyone benefits.
The study tour started with an event organised by Zero Waste Europe and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 28 November. It consisted of an international conference focused on the reduction of costs in waste management for municipalities through the optimisation of separate collection, the reduction of residual waste and the transformation of these fraction into market products. Javier Garaizar, Vice-rector of the Campus of Álava of UPV/EHU opened the conference, followed by Ainhoa Etxeandia, Director of Environment of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council. Their interventions were followed by Joan Marc Simon, Ferran Rosa, Enzo Favoino, Marco Mattiello, Kevin Curran, Nekane Artola and Ainhoa Arrozpide.
48 participants attended the conference, among which we found civil servants, representatives from companies and environmental consultancies, policy-makers, professors and students of the university, etc. The presentations can be found here.
The afternoon was used to get to know the situation regarding waste management in Vitoria-Gasteiz, thanks to the Zero Waste group Gasteiz Zero Zabor.
The 29 and 30 November were devoted to the tour of good practices of waste management and circular economy. The tour allowed visiting municipalities and counties that have experienced a significant improvement in their separate collection systems. Among these experiences, the tour visited small villages like Leintz Gatzaga or Elburgo that collect and treat bio-waste in the same municipality. The participants also visited the counties of Debagoiena and Sasieta to better know about their waste collection systems (door-to-door, roadside containers with chip or mixed systems) that have made the municipalities in these counties reach 70% and 80% separate collection or more.
On top of the good practices of waste management, the tour visited good practices on circular economy. In this sense, several companies were visited in sectors like gastronomy, fashion or remanufacturing.
At the Restaurant Azurmendi of Eneko Atxa, with a three-Michelin-stars Basque chef, the participants learned about the philosophy of the project and visited the facilities. After this visit, an excellent meal was provided and the participants could learn about the way they manage the bio-waste at the restaurants. Gurpide Elkartea, an association working for the municipality of Larrabetzuko, manages the bio-waste of Azurmendi and of the neighbours of the municipality. In Larrabetzuko they follow the ‘Austrian system’ of composting that involves local farmers in the treatment of bio-waste in decentralised composting sites. This reduces the cost for the municipality, while allow the local farmer to obtain an extra income and have access to good quality compost.
Not far from there, in Zamundio, Cristina Cendoya and Mikel Feijoo of Skunkfunk presented the philosophy of the company and the design of the collection Capsule Zero Waste. After that, the tour went to a facility of the social economy company Koopera where they sort 18,000 tn a year of clothes.
In a totally different sector, the tour also visited Rebattery, a company located in Bergara that remanufactures and recovers batteries. Rebattery manages to give a new life to 60-75% of the batteries they receive and place them again in the market.
The three-day study tour was not only interesting, but the living proof of the current initiatives of circular economy in the Basque Country and the potential for these activities to keep growing. The tour managed to successfully illustrate best practices through all the economic cycle.
Prior to the discussions on the waste directives at the European Parliament, Zero Waste Europe releases a position paper outlining the main challenges of current Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes and the solutions to make EPR a key tool for circular economy.
According to recent research (1), EPR schemes only manage to cover 31% of municipal solid waste and even these products which are covered are not necessarily successfully separately collected or recycled. At the same time, in most countries, EPR fees fail to take into account how products are designed, meaning that circularity is not incentivised.
Cover the full cost of products at the end of life
Support moving up the waste hierarchy
Are agents for closed-loop sectors
Bring greater transparency to waste management
Zero Waste Europe considers EPR schemes a key tool to bridge ecodesign and waste management and calls on to MEPs and Member States to implement the above guidelines.
“The current EPR tools are insufficient to meet the level of ambition set by a Circular Economy. Closing the material loops and keeping the value and the embodied energy in the system will require changing responsibilities, incentives and indicators; hence our 6 recommendations.” Said Ferran Rosa, waste policy officer at ZWE.
For immediate release: Brussels, November 30, 2016
In an extremely well attended conference held in Valencia on November 29th the regional government of Valencia (Eastern Spain) showed its commitment to forge ahead with the project of creating a law where beverage containers will be sold with a deposit across the whole region. With this law the government aims to reduce litter while significantly increasing the recycling rates for bottles, cans and cartons, which currently stagnates at under 30%.
The region of Valencia, accounting for 5 million inhabitants, is the first in Spain to move in this direction, following the successful examples of Germany and Norway and, more recently, Estonia and Lithuania. The government expects, after the approval in Parliament, to start selling beverage containers with a deposit as of January 2018. Other Spanish regions such as Baleares, Catalonia and Navarra have expressed an interest to follow suit.
Zero Waste Europe congratulates the Valencian government for this commitment to build a circular economy and for the reduction of litter both on land and in the ocean.
Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe said “Deposit systems have proven to be the most effective tool to implement Extended Producer Responsibility on beverages and we are happy to see Valencia joining progressive regions in Europe in increasing recycling and reducing litter.”
The illustrated comic is a work of art in itself and can be used to communicate the message that incineration has no places in a circular economy where we need to look towards zero waste solutions.
Within the first week of publication, the pamphlet has already sold more than 1,000 copies and is currently being translated into Bahasa Indonesia, making it more accessible across South-East Asia.
For Frances the project took 9 months of work from the conception of the idea to the release, and made up a part of their Masters Degree in Graphic Arts. The project received research and administrative assistance from Zero Waste Europe and UKWIN leading the the publication of this amazing document.
The illustrator Frances Howe elaborated on their work, saying “My work attempts to generate debate and provoke more questions than it answers. I like working with visual narratives because they provide different ways for people to experience a piece of work. For example, do they focus on the pictures or the text? Do they read it in a linear way or take it in all at once? This makes comics an inherently democratic medium because the viewer has so much choice about how to interact with it.
“I wanted to make comics about extreme energy in general, and waste incineration in particular, because it brings up a lot of topics and questions that are not always easy to discuss; questions about energy, climate change, pollution, social and environmental justice, as well as consumption, capitalism, local democracy and community agency for change.
“My hope is that using a medium such as comics, which encourages freer thought and associations between things, can help people to engage with these topics in a way that gives them more agency to get involved in making change.”
The comics are printed in full colour on two sides of durable A1 card which has been folded down to A4, and can fold out to be used as a poster highlighting the necessity for a move to a zero waste world.
Scientists predict that without urgent action there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050, threatening marine biodiversity and posing a risk to human health. Yet, despite the danger that plastic pollution poses to our planet and to Human well-being, governments and industry have so far failed to face up to the systemic change required to solve the issue.
At the European level, the development of the Circular Economy Package and the EU Strategy on Plastics present a major opportunity to fundamentally tackle the use of plastic and prevent the creation of plastic waste. This cannot be done without policy makers addressing the full life-cycle of plastics from oil extraction and design, to end-of-life.
“This is the first time that groups from all around the world have come together to find a common solution to the problem of plastic pollution. It is the beginning of a movement which will lead to governments, cities and companies taking major action to tackle this ever-growing problem” said Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste Europe policy officer and coordinator of the European plastics alignment process.
European governments and multinationals need to face up to their responsibility for driving the irresponsible use of plastics and for the resulting environmental damage around the world, which often most affects the most vulnerable globally. It is clear that without a strong and coordinated effort and impetus by policy makers, businesses will continue to use plastic indiscriminately and the pollution will intensify.
The NGOs below call on the European Commission and Member States to strive for ambitious policy changes to lead the way to a future free from plastic pollution.
For immediate release: Brussels, September 08 2016
There are several different fire safety standards for furniture in Europe. Some standards lead to the use of flame retardant chemicals. Scientific research shows that many flame retardants are hazardous to both human health and the environment, without providing a demonstrated fire safety benefit.
Furniture flammability standards that lead to the use of flame retardants bring harmful and potentially harmful chemicals into homes, schools, hospitals and workplaces. Such requirements threaten human health, the global environment, and the recycling of furniture in the circular economy.
“Creating a real circular economy will be impossible for as long as toxic chemicals enter the cycle and are recycled into new products. We have already seen kitchen utensils and plastic cutlery with hazardous flame retardants. Toxics in, toxics out.” Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe
There are more effective and less harmful ways to achieve fire safety, without potentially putting the whole population and the environment at risk. The use of smoke detectors is one way of increasing escape time as the fire is detected earlier, without the potential harm from exposure to chemicals.
“Fire fighters have a higher risk than civilians for a variety of cancers, and we know there is a concern flame retardants contribute to increasing that risk. Fire safety can be achieved in other means than using potentially harmful chemicals: smoke detectors and sprinklers are amongst the most effective.” Mikael Svanberg, European Fire Fighter Unions Alliance (EFFUA).
Flame retardant chemicals leak out of products and build up in the environment. They create a toxic legacy that does not disappear over time, but stays in the air, soil and sediments of the oceans – eventually ending up in the food we eat.
“If we can increase fire safety without causing serious harm to humans and nature, we should go for it! In the US, California and Washington states have already scrapped flammability standards which filled household furniture with hazardous chemicals. Europe should follow suit and end this madness immediately.” Tatiana Santos, Senior Policy Officer on Chemicals, European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
The different flammability standards throughout Europe are complicated to comply with and place a costly burden on the producers. Flame retardants increase costs in production, while lowering the quality of products. This is a serious challenge to the furniture sector in Europe, putting jobs and growth at risk.
“As a producer, having to comply with several standards to be able to sell our products on the European market is unbearable. The existing multitude of National Flammability standards are effective barriers to trade in the internal market.” Markus Wiesner, President, European Furniture Industries Confederation (EFIC)
Important steps to eliminate hazardous flame retardants have already been taken through REACH and other regulatory approaches in the EU. It is time for the final step through harmonised safety requirements for furniture that do not lead to the use of flame retardant chemicals. ENDS PRESS CONTACT: Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer +32 (0) 478 712 633 firstname.lastname@example.org
Following a successful campaign in the USA, the regulation in California has been changed in order to avoid the use of flame retardant chemicals whilst maintaining a high level of fire safety. Other states are following California’s lead. Here are some useful links:
The 7th Annual Plastic Bag Free Day 2016 took place on July 3rd, seeing hundreds of actions take place around the world. With scores of organisations and hundreds of citizens taking part in events and awareness raising activities highlighting the environmental impact and hazards of single-use plastic bags.
In Dhaka the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO) launched electronic posters to raise awareness for the campaign.
These actions represent only a fraction of the total activities which took place around the world calling for a ban for the bag. Considerable progress has been made over the past year by many organisations and campaigners. However, with the recent revelations regarding the impact of ocean plastics on wildlife and human health the issue of plastic waste has rarely seemed more urgent. The success of Plastic Bag Free Day is central to raising awareness of this problem, and pushing for an effective ban on the non-compostable bag!
Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Ferran Rosa covers his experience of the Zero Waste Festival in Paris.
From 30th June to 2nd July the first Zero Waste Festival took place in Paris. Organised by Zero Waste France, the festival brought 5,000 participants together in a unique event where policy-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, waste managers, individuals living a zero waste lifestyle and civil society organisations shared a forum.
The Festival successfully managed to provide a holistic vision around waste, from management and institutional solutions, to consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles. More than a congress on zero waste, it was truly a Festival, with workshops, conferences, debates, seminars and lots of space to discuss and learn from different experiences, all accompanied with an excellent atmosphere of good music and veggie food.
Zero Waste France was made the case for the need to transition towards Zero Waste from many different angles including: individual consumption and waste generation patterns, municipal waste management, requirements for design, industrial responsibility, and more. In this regards, a wide range of solutions enabling a phase out of the take-make-dispose model were presented, from collective action (Capannori, Parma or San Francisco) to individual engagement to transition (Roubaix, Bea Johnson or Famille Zero Déchet).
Among these solutions, Zero Waste Europe launched its latest campaign, the People’s Design Lab, a collaborative tool allowing citizens to nominate wasteful products that will eventually be, redesigned in design workshops partnering with consumers, producers and designers. On top of that, Zero Waste Europe presented the network of Zero Waste municipalities and the importance of building a network of change-makers at the European level so that municipalities can learn from each other.
The attendance of 5,000 people at the Festival is testament to the success of Zero Waste France’s initiative and that there are plenty of people willing to make the transition happen in France and abroad, and that this number is indeed growing. The Festival didn’t only inspire individuals to finally live a zero waste lifestyle, but also local councillors to re-think their waste management systems and individuals to create a local Zero Waste groups.
Written by Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Delphine Lévi Alvarès after experiencing the incredible amount of plastic waste on beaches in the Philippines.
On the morning of Saturday 16th of July some of Zero Waste Europe’s staff took part in their first Philippines beach cleanup. It was only 8am, and a swarm of volunteers were already in action on Freedom Island’s beach, armed with bags and gloves to clear the sand from layers and layers of garbage carried downstream into the Manila bay from all the small canals and rivers crossing the megalopolis.
Our first impression when we arrived at the beach was shocking. It was almost uniformly covered by little used sachets of shampoo, detergent, and instant coffee… an ocean of colours and brands among which many were recognised by the sharp eye of a western consumer. Nescafé, Maggi, Ariel, Palmolive, Colgate, Head & Shoulders, Mentos and many others, directly coming for the marketing brains of American and European multinationals such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.
Why such a flow of single use sachets in this region of the world, to package the same products that we have in bigger containers in Europe and the US, and how do they end up in the rivers and the ocean? Speaking with our colleagues from South East Asia, we understood that behind the false affordability (the so-called ‘pro-poor’) argument made by the companies manufacturing these products (i.e. that for people with low income it is cheaper to buy these products on a daily basis than buying larger quantities despite the fact that the total cost they will end up paying is higher) there is a more significant marketing argument. Hence the appealing colours and glossy packaging. And even if it’s not part of their strategy, the absence of sound waste collection and management systems in most of the places where people use these sachets leads to massive littering both on land and in waterways increasing their brand’s visibility even more than the market stalls.
Yet the solutions to replace these sachets exist and many Zero Waste groups have been promoting them in front of these brand’s corporate leaders. In low-income areas they should be replaced by dispensers from which people could get one pump of their required product (oil, shampoo, detergent, etc.) in small returnable and reusable containers. It would be even cheaper to buy on a daily basis, because a large part of the product’s price is in the cost of the packaging itself. Improving the waste management systems in these areas is of course of high priority, but in regardless case it’s better to prevent than manage waste, and even more so because these sachets, made of multilayered material, are not recyclable.
The response of the brands to this proposal has been a resounding ”no”.
It is necessary for the producers to take responsibility for the products they put in the market and if they are sold in places where the means to manage this waste are not available they should -at the very least- shoulder the costs of collecting and treating this waste. If they do it in Europe, why can’t they do it in Asia?
On July 2nd at the Festival Zero Waste in Paris, Zero Waste Europe announced the launch of the People’s Design Lab, an international project aimed at identifying and redesigning poorly designed and wasteful products and pave the way for a Circular Economy.
People’s design lab online platform is targeting products that break too early, that are not repairable, that are toxic, that are not recyclable or for any other reason are unfit for a Circular Economy. The People’s Design Lab enables citizens to take action in highlighting the problems and identifying the zero waste solutions.
The nomination stage of the People’s Design Lab will run from July 2nd to September 2nd and will identify some of the worst designed and most wasteful products. Next, two rounds of voting will choose the products that will be receive close attention in the redesign stage, in which solutions to wasteful design will be proposed.
During the third stage of the project ‘Redesign Workshops’ will be held across Europe and have opportunities for online participation, allowing a wide range of stakeholders (citizens, designers, entrepreneurs, public authorities, etc.) to have their say in how the products are redesigned for a zero waste future. After that, efforts will be made to turn these ideas into reality. This process will aim to tackle to the problem on both the legislative level and by directly engaging companies guilty of producing wasteful products.
Zero Waste Europe, Policy Officer Delphine Lévi Alvarès said: “Waste is just a symptom, if we want to fix the problem we have to focus on the source, creating a world where everything is designed for repair, reuse and recycling. The People’s Design Lab will facilitate the involvement of citizens in highlighting problematic design and finding creative and innovative solutions.”
Examples of badly designed products which have already been submitted include boiled eggs removed from their shells and repackaged in individually wrapped plastic containers, and iMac chargers which are prone to breaking sooner than expected.
The People’s Design Lab takes inspiration from the Little Museum of Bad Industrial Design in Italy, and ‘The People’s Design Lab UK’ where examples of bad design were identified by groups of citizens and attempts were made to redesign the products with zero waste alternatives.
Only 4 months away from the transposition deadline of the EU Plastic bags directive, environmental NGOs celebrate today the 7th edition of the International Plastic Bag Free Day. 2016 is a pivotal year which will pave the way towards what NGOs hope, a European plastic bag free future.
EU governments have until the end of November to adopt national legislative measures to drastically reduce the use of single-use plastic carrier bags. While many initiatives have popped up locally, some Member States are still lagging behind in engaging in the fight against plastic bag pollution. At the same time, some EU countries such as Italy and France already have, or are planning bans on plastic bags and are paving the way ahead.
More than 100 billion bags are used annually in Europe and most end up in landfills, incinerators or as litter in aquatic environments. In addition to harming the marine environment, producing these bags requires millions of barrels of oil per year. Moreover, plastic bags can take centuries to degrade and are responsible, together with other litter items, for the deaths of an estimated 100,000 marine mammals every year.
The International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated over the World on July 3rd, is a unique occasion for Fundació Prevenció de Residus, together with NGOs Surfrider Foundation Europe and Zero Waste Europe, and the undersigned organisations to spread the word that a plastic bag free world is possible and that sound environmental alternatives to single use plastic bags are available.
NGOs ask governments to show ambition and caution, recalling that paper bags and biodegradable bags remain single use options and should be avoided. They call on the European Commission to speed up the two reports promised in the Plastic Bags directive on very-lightweight and oxo-degradable plastic bags, as they are still far too common in the European market. Oxo-degradable bags, in particular, have proven to be extremely harmful for the marine environment, as they break into small pieces impossible to remove.
European citizens expect national governments to seize this opportunity for action. NGOs too call on governments to set an example, and take ambitious action: “We are glad that more and more regions, municipalities and Member States are taking on what Italy has started in 2011 with its ban on single use bags. It is now time for all EU Member States to take their responsibilities and stop the plastic bag flow – whether they are used as carrier bags or for the transport of fruits and vegetables- into the environment and eventually into the Ocean”.
On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of April, Zero Waste Europe held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) with the participation of most of the members of the ZWE network. Held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the first ‘Zero Waste European Capital’ and the European Green Capital for 2016, the event was co-hosted by Ekologi Brez Meja, the Slovenian member organisation of Zero Waste Europe.
The meeting opened with introductions from the various member organisation of Zero Waste Europe in attendance. The attendees had produced short ‘posters’ giving an overview of the work that their organisations had been doing.
This was followed by presentations from Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe, on the activities and the financial position of the organisation. Then, the Zero Waste Europe staff gave an overview of their work areas and the upcoming events planned for the year ahead.
The plans were then presented in a plenary session to all of the attendees of the AGM, thus closing the first day of the AGM.
On the second day, the meeting began by discussing issues, problems and opportunities surround
‘Zero Waste Municipalities’. This discussion focussed on the regional and national differences in the use of the term, as well as national legislative implications for these variations. The current process was explained in detail and a number of different options for the future were discussed.
The penultimate session was the election of a new member to the Board of Zero Waste Europe. Flore Berlingen Director of Zero Waste France, stood for the position and after a brief deliberation was elected to the Board.
The 2016 AGM brought together the majority of Zero Waste Europe’s members for two days of reflection and strategy discussion as well as the approval of future activities, new members, and the election of a new board member. Across the weekend, members shared inspirational stories and ideas, as well as developing a stronger connection between members, facilitating cross-european work over the coming year.
The full minutes for the meeting will be distributed to members shortly.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over 80 signatories worldwide from civil society groups and research organizations have endorsed the Declaration, demonstrating overwhelming support for the demand to categorize waste containing manufactured nanomaterials as hazardous waste. This is necessary to better control disposal routes of such waste in order to limit human and environmental exposure to MNM. In addition, the Declaration calls for waste reduction at the source, full producer responsibility, and the creation of a public EU nano-product register.
“From creation to use to disposal, there are far too many unknowns to flood the market with unregulated nanomaterials. The precautionary principle must be applied immediately to avoid toxic exposure from nanomaterials, including in waste streams,” says David Azoulay, Director of the Environmental Health Program at CIEL. “The risks are just too great to ignore.”
“A nano-product register at the EU level is necessary for both industry and authorities to identify the origins and destinations of waste flows of products containing MNM,” stresses Andreas Hermann, Senior Scientist at Oeko-Institut.
The Declaration coincides with the standardization activities on lifecycle and waste aspects of nanomaterials underway within the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). It is also particularly relevant in the context of the Circular Economy discussions within the European Union, as well as other equivalent processes worldwide, such as 3Rs in China and the Sound Material Society in Japan.
The Declaration on Waste Concerning Nanomaterials addresses all relevant actors throughout the value chain of nanomaterials: governments, research institutions, funding agencies, and companies.
ECOS Senior Policy Officer Doreen Fedrigo-Fazio highlights: “Nano content in waste must be taken into account by waste generators. The long delays in revising the REACH Annexes are exacerbated by the absence of waste policy addressing nanomaterials, thus multiplying the challenges.”
The Declaration is one of the outcomes of a three-year collaboration between ECOS, CIEL, and Oeko-Institut working towards expanding the understanding of nanomaterials and bridging the gap between policy and science. It was reinforced by a workshop in Brussels in December 2015 that looked into the lifecycle aspects of nanomaterials.
The Declaration is now open to the public for additional organization sign-ons. As this occurs, an updated list of support for the Declaration will be published in the coming months.
An analysis of the new EC proposal on Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD)
Joan Marc Simon – Director of Zero Waste Europe
On December 2nd the European Commission (EC) presented the new legislative proposal aiming to amend waste directives and move the EU towards a Circular Economy. However if one analyses the text of the proposal on Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) in detail one wonders whether this proposal is legislating for 2030 or for 2010.
Effective action in the field of packaging is as important as it is urgent. There are many reasons for this;
packaging is growing in absolute terms both in volume and in weight. Between 2000 and 2015 the share of plastic packaging has grown 5% annually and is now 25% of the market,
once it becomes waste most packaging (notably plastic but not exclusively) is generally disposed of, not recycled,
marine litter is global problem and 80% of it is made of plastic packaging and by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Moreover current packaging recycling schemes in Europe are generally inefficient. In a study we published in 2015 we demonstrated that in Europe 70% of the municipal waste is product waste, i.e. not biowaste, 45% of which is not covered by Extended Producer Responsibility schemes which only succeed to separately collect 18% of it. Hence the recycling system is not performing very well and leads to most product waste ending up in the environment, in landfills or in incinerators.
With this in mind the European Commission presented a proposal in December 2015 aiming to create an “economy that preserves the value added in products for as long as possible and virtually eliminates waste. It retains the resources within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, so that they remain in productive use and create further value”.
Hence, one would expect that the aim of the amended Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) is to go in the direction of increasingly preserving this value that we seem to be so inefficient at maintaining.
If we look into the current proposal from the EC to amend the PPWD we will see that it mainly proposes two things;
Firstly, it suggests that preparing for reuse rates can be counted as contribution to recycling efforts. One can understand the political reasons behind this move, help those countries which will see their recycling rates shrink with the new suggested methodology to account for the targets, but technically it is an objectively bad idea because it mixes apples with pears and will not help bring clarity and legal security to neither the recycling industry nor public authorities. If the EC wants to increase reuse of packaging it is a lot better to set separate preparation for reuse targets altogether.
Secondly, it reduces the targets of preparation for reuse and recycling by an order of 5 to 15 points from the 2014 proposal, although the targets proposed will remain above those of the PPWD directive of 1994. All in all this is to be welcomed but if preparation for reuse is to be counted together with recycling it might well be that many countries will be already meeting the recycling targets today.
However, before ranking the level of ambition of the EC proposal we need to zoom out and ask ourselves a simple but important question; if the aim of this legislation is to contribute to the creation of a Circular Economy which preserves the value added in products as long as possible… are the measures presented the appropriate ones?
Unfortunately the answer is a resounding no. The current proposal would have been appropriate for the discussions we had 10 years ago during the revision of the waste framework directive in which the aim was to “turn the EU into a recycling society” but not in 2016 in the framework of Circular Economy discussions.
Many stakeholders including the EC itself recognise that the real added value of products and resources is in prevention and reuse operations. A very simple example; if we recycle a mobile phone the value of the materials we will extract will not be above €2 whereas if we repair and resell it we have the possibility of getting several hundred euros. In this sense the proposals to amend the PPWD are not legislating for the future but rather for a situation which belongs to the past. Where are the proposals to reduce packaging waste? What about increasing packaging reuse? And deposit schemes? By focusing primarily on recycling the EC commits the same mistake of previous decades; work at the bottom of the hierarchy and ignore the biggest potential benefit which lies at the top.
Another sign that the proposal is legislating for the past is the fact that it does not address current market developments. The fastest growing packaging waste streams are composite packaging (multilayer packaging, pouch-ups, etc) growing at double digits rate yearly. They are difficult to collect and even more difficult to recycle yet completely absent in the directive. On the other hand we see the rise of online shopping which involves a lot of packaging which producers like Amazon put in to the EU market but for which they don’t take any responsibility… on top of evading most taxes these companies get another competitive advantage by passing the responsibility of managing their packaging waste to the public authorities. Where is the action from the EC on this front?
And what about coffee-capsules? They are a problem today which will continue to grow in the coming years and legally speaking they are not even considered to be packaging! We need a proposal that legislates not for the past but for the Europe we will have in 2025 and 2030.
Essential components to make the PPWD fit for the Circular Economy
If the objective is to build a Circular Economy which preserves the added value in the economy there are at least four instruments that the EC should be considering:
Prevention targets for plastic packaging
We need to stop the growth of packaging waste in Europe. This means that there should be prevention targets which in my opinion do not need address the totality of packaging waste but rather specific waste streams and at the very least have prevention targets for plastic packaging. There are three reasons for this; plastic packaging is the stream with lowest recyclability and the one with lowest recycling rates, it is the fastest growing packaging waste stream and it is a major problem for marine environment and hence human health. Moreover, because of its light weight it is hard to compare with metals, paper and glass and the EC is working on a strategy on plastics which needs to address plastic packaging. Why not start here?
The current PPWD directive already includes prevention targets for single use carrier bags which focus in reducing the units of plastic bags instead of addressing the stream by weight. A similar approach can be used to set prevention targets for plastic packaging.
2. Separate targets for preparation for reuse
If there are targets for recycling, there could also be separate targets for preparation for reuse or any other commitment to have refillables return to Europe. Otherwise there is the paradox that by trying to meet recycling targets by weight member states might decide to dismantle existing packaging reuse schemes. Over the past few decades the market for refillable and reusable packaging in Europe has been inexorably shrinking and without a clear sign and guidance from the EU level nothing encourages governments thinking this process could be reversed or even stopped. The current PPWD already includes good wording on packaging reuse but still lacks the teeth and targets to make it possible.
3. Modulate EPR fees according to ‘circularity’ of products
There should be a clear feedback mechanism that connects waste with product and process design. In a circular economy, waste and inefficient resource use anywhere along the value chain should translate into direct costs for business. In other words, less durable, reusable or recyclable products should be more expensive for the producer and for the consumer than the circular ones. A way to do this is by using modulate fees in the extended producer responsibility schemes as it is being used in some cases such as for paper in France. Luckily the current proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive already dwells on this option but we need stronger legislation in order to give clear signs and legal security to producers.
4. More and better recycling, but as a last option
Recycling is very important as last stage of a circular economy but it cannot do the job alone. Yes, we need more recycling, yes we need separate targets for recycling, yes we need to have separate recycling targets for composite packaging and yes we need more directly enforceable legal formulations but recycling alone cannot bring about a Circular Economy.
To conclude, the effectiveness of the new PPWD will be judged according to two parameters; on one hand the measures to tackle plastic packaging and on the other one the measures to support reusable and refillable packaging. Both currently missing and which will need to be introduced during the co-decision process.
Disruptive legislation in this field will not be easy because of the economic interests that lay behind single-use packaging but if Europe is serious about becoming a circular economy and fighting marine pollution it will need to stop looking at the past and start legislating for the future.
This speech was delivered at Packaging & Sustainability Forum, 2/3/16.
Since 2006 the seven municipalities of the lower Međimurje (The City of Prelog and the municipalities of Kotoriba, Donja Dubrava, Donji Vidovec, Sveta Marija, Goričan and Donji Kraljevec) have been developing a joint waste management system. Organised by the municipally owned company Pre-Kom, waste has been separately collected in the region since 2007. With the region currently ranked top in terms of separate collection within Croatia, it seemed the next logical step was the creation of a society without waste, or the implementation of a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’.
Zero Waste 2020 commitments
By the adoption of a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’ the municipalities of the region have committed to meeting the following waste management conditions by 2020:
70% of useful waste to be extracted, processed and recovered (recycling, composting, anaerobic processing, or other acceptable means of useful waste recovery) through separate waste collection.
The amount of bulky waste and combined waste will be reduced from the current (2015) level of 98.8 kilograms per capita per year to 50 kilograms per capita per year by 2020.
The priorities in the field of waste management (prevention of waste, reuse and recycling) will be reinforced to the fullest extent, waste incineration will be avoided, the amount of waste deposited on landfills will be reduced to the lowest possible level.
An analysis of useless waste will be conducted yearly, and an operative strategy and campaigns for further improvement in waste management will be defined based on the results of the analysis.
In addition to the initiated activities in waste management, and according to Waste management plans of municipalities of lower Međimurje, the municipalities commit to start and take part in the following activities:
Organising educational sessions related to sustainable development and waste management and to promote the zero waste development strategy.
Work on projects related to reuse of the collected waste (clothing, shoes, etc.).
Promote separate waste collection of biodegradable communal waste and the composting of it.
Promote the use of compost given back to users.
Promote increasing the amount of households included in the waste management system.
Introduce a billing system based on the volume of collected waste.
Start projects on all levels of development, or public and private initiatives in order to secure improvement of living standards and sustainable development in their areas.
Encourage green construction using environmentally friendly materials.
Take part in sustainable mobility (car sharing, walking, bus transport, etc.).
Promote new lifestyles (tourism, catering, Fair trade commerce, etc.).
In order to track their progress, the municipalities have formed the ‘Council for Waste Management in Lower Međimurje’ which will track the fulfilment of the goals of the international strategy for “Zero waste”, this council will consist of:
The president of the Council is a Director of PRE-KOM, and the council will meet at least once every six months.
In adopting a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’ the region of Lower Međimurje will join an international community of municipalities moving towards zero waste. This community includes; New Zealand (the first country in the world to include the Strategy in its national legislation), New Scotia, British Columbia in Canada, Buenos Aires in Argentina, San Francisco in California, Canberra in Australia and many other local communities, regions and cities across the EU.
The municipalities of lower Međimurje are becoming a key example of good practice in waste management, and an exemplary model for other local communities in Croatia and around the world in the struggle towards a zero waste society.
Current waste management practices & infrastructure
In the area of lower Mešimurje, mixed communal waste is collected in black containers, biodegradable communal waste is collected in brown containers, bulky waste is collected after a phone call, paper and carton are collected in blue containers or bags, plastics in yellow containers or bags and metal and glass are collected in free bags. Aside from the gathering infrastructure, Pre-Kom. manages a composting plant, a sorting plant and a recycling yard.
Amounts of bulky and mixed communal waste disposed on a landfill per household:
2011 2,888 t — 424 kilograms per household (128.5 kg per capita)
2012 2,801 t — 409 kilograms per household (123.9 kg per capita)
2013 2,794 t — 407 kilograms per household (123.9 kg per capita)
2014 2,862 t — 412 kilograms per household (124.8 kg per capita)
2015 2,299 t — 326 kilograms per household (98.9 kg per capita)
Amount of separately collected, processed and recovered waste:
2011 16.93 %
2012 19.04 %
2013 19.63 %
2014 22.39 %
2015 49.58 %
By completion of the separate waste collection system and by introducing containers for biodegradable waste, Pre-Kom. has already significantly increased the amount of separately collected waste in 2015, compared to 2014. Analysis show an increase in other materials collected separately door-to-door. In 2015, 49,58% of waste has been collected and processed separately, which is a better than EU average of 43%. The results weren’t achieved quickly, they were achieved by continual investments and upgrades to the waste management system.
Considering what has already been achieved, municipalities of lower Međimurje aspire to demonstrate some of the best waste management practices in the world and to lead the way a zero waste society.
Between 13 & 15 November, 2015, Zero Waste Europe co-organised with The Bridge Productions a Redesign Innovation Jam devoted to plastic.
Multi-disciplinary teams of experts & innovators met in Copenhagen, Denmark, to analyse municipal plastic streams, identify problematic products and redesign processes and products in order to advance towards a zero waste society. In 48 hours, they took on the challenge to re-design a number of products & services that could be delivered in a much more sustainable way to consumers.
The event began with a reception organised in Malmö, Sweden, on Friday 13 November and continued in Copenhagen until 15 November, it brought together participants and experts mainly from Denmark and Sweden although other countries such as UK, Spain, Switzerland, France and Russia were also represented.
A jury of experts awarded the best ‘re-design’ at the end of the weekend.
This is just the first of many redesign innovation jams to come in 2016 which will look into plastics and other waste streams in order to detect those products designed for the dump and offer bottom-up alternatives.
To learn more about the details of this great event watch the following video:
A new report released today by Zero Waste Europe has found that waste incineration activities, both in incineration facilities and cement plantsacross Europe, have had serious breaches of emission limits and have experienced other significant technical and legal problems. Across 5 case studies a number of environmental, procedural and technical issues faced by waste incinerators are exposed.
The report, elaborated by consultancy group ENT, investigates 5 cases around air pollution limit breaches in incineration facilities; the Lafarge cement plant in Montcada I Reixac (Barcelona, Spain), Lafarge cement plant in Trbovlje (Slovenia), Ivry waste incinerator in Paris (France), Dargavel waste incinerator (Scotland, UK), and incinerators of Bavaria, Germany.
The report highlights that the emission limits of hazardous air pollutants as designated by the EU Air Quality Directives (AQDs) are significantly higher than recommended safety limits by the World Health Organization (WHO), creating a significant amount of uncertainty and potential safety risks for both the environment and public health. Moreover, the reliance on the principle for “best available techniques” (BAT) favours far higher emission limits than are deemed environmentally and epidemiologically safe by the WHO. Furthermore, the monitoring of air pollution in waste incineration activities are handled by the same facilities, and are therefore not subject to independent monitoring practices.
In the case of the Lafarge Montcada I Reixach cement plant, there is a long history of popular opposition to the plant, with protests taking place in 1975, however more recently in 2006 a petition gained 6,000 signatures opposing a plan to use sludge, bone and meat meal, and plastics as fuel. This opposition delayed the permit for the plant, but it was subsequently granted in 2008. However this began a long series of legal and procedural challenges to the permit, which continues to take place up until the current day.
Further cases such as Dargavel, and the incinerators in Bavaria highlight the instances where the legally defined limits are exceeded. Having potentially hazardous effects on human health and the environment. The case of the cement plant in Trbovlje, Slovenia, has been on the national and European spotlight in the last years, given the complaints from local communities for toxic emissions, odours, and lack of environmental permits.
Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Associate Director said: “How many air pollution incidents do people need to put up with before policy-makers realise that burning waste is not the way forward? Recycling and composting create livelihoods, save money, and protect the environment and public health, while the incineration of waste just keep us away from a truly sustainable Circular Economy.”
The report adds further support to the call for an end to the incineration of waste, as practice which continues to exacerbate climate change and creates damaging and hazardous environmental pollution. Instead Zero Waste Europe calls for the implementation of zero waste policies that prioritize the higher options of the Waste Hierarchy, such as waste prevention, reuse and recycling, including redesign and the implementation of improved Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, where producers are mandated to work to eliminate their product waste.
The report has been launched in Barcelona, as a start to the International Meeting of Key Struggles around Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns, This meeting is a follow up from the previous European Gathering that took place in 2014 in Barletta, Italy, and builds up the efforts of the Spanish Network against Waste Incineration in Cement Kilns that has been active for the last 6 years.
Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid is successfully paving the way for Zero Waste Municipalities in the area of Madrid, in Spain.
Since this summer, thanks to the progressive political turn in many municipalities in the area, the network has been able to ally with alternative political parties and pass a motion in at least 4 municipalities calling for zero waste. Moreover, the network has been able to create and develop working groups for the implementation of Zero Waste in various municipalities, as an alternative to the waste management model of municipal waste.
The four municipalities that have already approved the motion are Loeches, Mejorada del Campo, Torres de la Alameda and Velilla de San Antonio. All of them are small municipalities no more than 44km2 and with no more than 23,000 inhabitants. However, they have a lot of environmental problems such as plants for the treatment of sludge from toxic materials, wastewater treatment, the deposit of industrial and dangerous waste, illegal landfills, incinerators and cement kilns burning waste.
The approval of the motion brings positive news and hope to the current waste management situation in Madrid. It is a presents a step in the right direction on the way to a Zero Waste reality.
The motion in detail
The motion recognises the urgent need to stop relying on false solutions, such as lanfills and incinerators. This model effects the environment and the health of the people of neighbouring and nearby municipalities. We therefore need a paradigm shift, and in the motion we ask for:
The creation of a working committee to implement a zero waste model with the participation of local political and civil society groups.
The council to be formally required to create a ‘regional waste strategy 2016-2026’ for the City of Madrid. This would replace the current and outdated strategy and set the objective of ‘Zero Waste’ waste management in our region..
An awareness raising campaign should be carried out with citizens participation, where people are informed about the current waste management practice, its impacts, the alternatives, and benefits involved such alternatives.
The municipal waste collection should be evaluated and be run by the municipality and not by external companies. This would include:
A study of current and future costs of waste management if it were to be run by the municipality should be conducted. This study should assess its viability and implementation.
A review of current waste management contracts and whether they can be modified, to allow a gradual implementation of a zero waste selective collection project.
Control and monitoring of the current waste collection to ensure that contracts are enforced, so we would able to confirm that they are not mixing municipal waste and other types of waste (packaging) etc. in its collection.
‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’
This Zero Waste Europe member is a network of neighborhood associations, environmental groups, Popular assemblies of 15M, collectives of organic gardens, organisations formed to fight facilities and harmful waste plans, “No Macro-Landfill, Yes Zero Waste” campaign, representatives of political groups and individual zero waste campaigners. Their common goal is the fight against the creation of hazardous waste, against harmful waste facilities and planned facilities primarily located in the Eastern region of Madrid.
Over the years this network has been a focal point of resistance to environmental damage in the area. It works to submit refutations to waste projects, environmental damage reports, conducting lobbying and organising trainings, rallies and demonstrations aiming to show the popular opposition against these projects.
While challenging these facilities, the network has developed, and now promotes an alternative Zero Waste policy to the current waste treatment plans. This should be implemented in all municipalities of the City of Madrid. In this way, Zero Waste Madrid also wants to reach the institutions through the current ‘popular unity’ candidates who are much more open to this project through motions in the municipalities where they are in office.
In conclusion, thanks for the wonderful work of ‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’, zero waste is really happening in Madrid!
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.
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”.
Zero Waste Europe – 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
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
The study published today  analyses the waste composition of 15 European cities showing that 70% of municipal solid waste is product waste, and therefore not food or garden waste, and as such could be included under an EPR scheme. However, on average, only 45% of this product waste (by weight) is currently covered by producer responsibility schemes. This means that, on average, EPR schemes only cover 32.5% of total municipal waste, with coverage varying from 14.9% in Copenhagen to 47.6% in Paris. Furthermore, only 18% of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of ZWE said “The current interpretation of EPR was useful to increase recycling rates in Europe over last 20 years but it will need updating for it to help move us towards a circular economy. We call on the European Commission to use the upcoming waste package to include incentives to redesign systems and products in order to drive prevention and reuse, foster a serviced-based economy, put recycling as last option and progressively phase out disposal.”
The report makes a series of recommendations to the European Commission. Among these it calls for a broader definition and a more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility which includes the use of economic instruments. The introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements as well as better EPR schemes with full-cost coverage, individualisation, targets for separate collection and considering expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products and incentivise reuse.
The study also finds that existing EPR schemes have been ineffective in driving eco-design, both because of its limited coverage of product waste and the lack of modulation of EPR fees based on eco-design. Zero Waste Europe urges the European Commission to develop minimum European-wide individualisation criteria based on eco-design.
1. Zero Waste Europe– 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
This year saw a significant growth for Zero Waste Week, held between 7th – 13th of September. What has previously been a national UK based week expanded internationally drawing participants from across the world. The theme for this years Zero Waste Week, was that of ‘Reuse’. One of the ‘3 R’s’, reuse is an essential aspect of any zero waste strategy, and is near the top as one of the ‘most favoured options in the ‘Waste Hierarchy Pyramid’.
Kornelia from Warsaw, Poland said “I started the Zero Waste project in my family in July 2015 and I try to respect all 5 rules of Zero Waste. I write about it on my blog”
Hana from Tunisia said “I pledge to make my own reusable bags”
In the UK, Zero Waste Week was celebrated in Parliament in an Early Day Motion recognising the hard work carried out by founder Rachelle Strauss, and the wide reach and success of the week. The week was further referenced by Kerry McCarthy MP who introduced a bill proposing a reduction on the ‘obscene amounts of food needlessly wasted through the food industry supply chains’, and making this waste available to charities and people in poverty.
Klaus from Munich, Germany pledged to “Buy no plastic packaging [and] recycle waste for different uses”
The increasing reach of Zero Waste Week stands as an exemplary model for moving towards a zero waste world. With participants in all levels of society, and increasing recognition from national legislative bodies, it seems that zero waste ideas are becoming popularised.
Valerie from Paris, France, pledged to “Avoid every kind of packaging”
Many more exciting events such as ‘repair cafés, smoothie bikes, roadshows, meals made from ‘waste’, swap events, and art projects’ also took place during the week, with a huge response on twitter under the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek
With the EU currently in the process of preparing a the circular economy package, these efforts should demonstrate the potential and energy for waste reduction in our economy from across Europe, as well as the recognition of the importance of waste within our supply chains.
This blog is the second article 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 across the world for the next 3 days until 27 September. Yesterday we told the story of São Paulo’s household composting schemes which have resulted in a significant reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions from landfills.
Today, our article looks at the zero waste model of CERO in Boston, where the innovative worker co-operative had provided a strong economic boost for the local community whilst simultaneously working to reduce GHG emissions. Find out how below.
This following article is based on an interview with Alex Papali, an organizer with Clean Water Action and the Boston Recycling Coalition; and Lor Holmes, a cooperative worker-owner and business manager at Cooperative Energy Recycling and Organics (CERO) in Boston.
Imagine a city where all products are reused, repaired, or recycled, and all workers make a family-supporting wage. Where local economic development projects are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the climate.
Boston, Massachusetts is on its way.
Last year, the Boston Recycling Coalition submitted a set of “Zero Waste Recommendations” to the city government detailing a proposal for Boston to vastly expand their recycling and composting programs, with the ultimate goal of a 90% recycling rate. The final Climate Action Plan adopted a zero waste goal, which the coalition is working to strengthen and implement.
Most of Boston’s garbage is currently burned in incinerators. Garbage incinerators (sometimes falsely named “waste-to-energy facilities) are major contributors to climate change—burning waste emits even carbon dioxide than burning coal to produce the same amount of energy. On the flip side, community-led zero waste solutions like recycling and composting have enormous benefits for clean air and the climate while revitalizing local green economies.
This model is already happening at CERO, a worker-owner zero waste coop in Boston.
While providing family-supporting jobs for the community, CERO works with businesses on separating out materials that can be recovered. They then collect this waste in a truck and bring it to facilities where it can either be recycled or returned to the soil as compost. The COOP diverts thousands of tons of waste per week from being burned or buried, and is still expanding.
CERO’s board members and employees are people like Guadalupe Gonzalez and Josefina Luna, who have been recycling informally for years or decades. Guadalupe Gonzalez used to do backbreaking work, cleaning commercial buildings during the day while picking bottles from the trash at night. She was one of the thousands of underrated recycling workers, earning precious extra money to support her family. Josefina Luna explains that, at CERO, “Now we can earn a living while protecting the environment.”