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.
Supporters excited by step in the right direction but the strategy should phase out the continuation of waste incineration in London, if a true zero waste city is to be achieved
By Cameron Broome
Unveiling his environmental strategy for London, Sadiq Khan has pledged to make London a zero waste city.
Specifically, the London Mayor has suggested that “by 2026 no biodegradable or recyclable waste will be sent to landfill and by 2030 65 per cent of London’s municipal waste will be recycled”.
Mr Khan stated that “our linear economy (take, make and dispose) is unsustainable”, adding that “too much waste” is produced.
Further, the Mayor has suggested that he will “take a circular approach to London’s use of resources that designs out waste, keeps materials in use at their highest value for as long as possible and minimises environmental impact”.
The announcement is arguably indicative of the growing popularity of the concept of “zero waste” and “the circular economy”.
In Ireland, for example, a recently proposed Waste Reduction Bill has received cross-party support. Alternatively, a GAIA report, ‘On the road to Zero Waste’ indicates that the zero waste movement is gaining more and more momentum worldwide.
The policy document suggests that “around 7m tonnes of waste is produced each year from our homes, public buildings and businesses” in the capital.
Local Authority collected waste is suggested to be made up of 18% food waste, 44% main dry recyclables (e.g. glass, mixed plastics, paper, card, tins, cans), 10% other recyclables (e.g. electrical waste, textiles and wood) and 10% other (e.g. film, contaminated/broken waste, some drink cups, garden waste).
Alternatively, national food waste data published by in January 2017 WRAP estimating food waste arisings in the UK suggests that “London produces around 1.5 – 1.75m tonnes of food waste with a value of £2.55bn a year”.
In terms of recycling, the policy document suggests that in 2016, 52 per cent of London’s municipal waste was recycled or composted while around 37 per cent was sent to landfill or incineration.
The report also cites a 2016 WRAP plastic market situation report looking at the national picture, suggesting the “UK produces around 2.2m tonnes of plastic packaging with only around half (or 900,000 tonnes) recycled”.
Proposed Objectives And Strategy
Sadiq Khan has pledged to cut food waste by 20% per person by 2025, reduce plastic bottle and coffee cup waste, recycle 65% of London’s municipal waste by 2030 and send zero biodegradable or recyclable waste to landfill by 2026.
To achieve this, Mr Khan “wants to prevent materials from becoming waste in the first place by promoting more sustainable, circular business models that design out waste and ensures materials can be easily reused and recycled”.
Specifically, he has pledged to:
Work with Londoners, waste authorities, government and other stakeholders to significantly cut waste
Maximise recycling rates
Reduce the environmental impact of waste activities
Maximise local waste sites and ensure London has sufficient infrastructure to manage all the waste it produced
The London Mayor has pledged his support behind various waste-reduction campaigns including Recycle for London, Love Food Hate Waste, TriFOCAL and the Greater London Authority’s Foodsave programme.
Specifically of interest toin #breakfreefromplastic campaigners, the environmental strategy document has suggested that Sadiq Khan will “support campaigns and initiatives to cut the use of single use packaging”. The document states: “The Mayor will also take the following actions to reduce the amount of plastic bottles and single use cups:
Investigating the feasibility of a deposit return scheme for water bottles through the government’s litter strategy working group.
Working with stakeholders including environmentalenvironment groups, Transport for London and LWARB to improve access to tap water through community water refill schemes building on existing schemes.
Working with the GLA group to reduce plastic bottle sales and improve access to tap water on all our premises.
Working with the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers and waste authorities to trial and roll out coffee cup recycling bins across London”.
A step in the right direction?
The proposal is reflective of the broader growing popularity of zero waste initiatives across the UK. In October 2015, a 5p charge for single use plastic bags was introduced across England; this has been suggested to have reduced plastic bag usage by 85%.
In addition, the Liberal Democrats’ 2017 manifesto contained a “Zero Waste Bill” while Labour’s MP for Keighley, John Grogan, donated half of his first month’s MP salary to a local anti-incineration campaign.
Alternatively, there has been a growing campaign in the UK against coffee capsules; a March 2017 Metro article suggested that compostable coffee capsules could be set to become mainstream in the UK. Political parties (and the UK more broadly) have becoming increasingly sensitive towards plastic waste, and thus refill bottle schemes have spread across the UK.
Overall, in a UK context, this is arguably indicative of an increasingly positive towards the implementation of zero waste measures to reduce production of waste at source.
But ambition needs to be raised?
Though the London Zero Waste Strategy is argued to be evidence of the growing strength of the zero waste movement in the UK, critics point out that Mr Khan has pledged to reduce zero waste to landfill – something which allows for waste to be still send to incineration plants.
The environmental strategy policy document acknowledges incineration. It states that London “has the second highest incineration rate across the UK behind the North East at 50 per cent”.
The report claims that London will have “sufficient incineration capacity to manage London’s non-recyclable municipal waste once the new Edmonton and Beddington Lane facilities are operational”.
However, activists across London would rather incinerators didn’t exist at all. Shasha Khan is a local community activist leading the “STOP the South London Incinerator” campaign. Their website outlines their aims, rejecting the NIMBY idea instead claiming: “This isn’t about not wanting it in our back yard. We don’t want it anyone’s back yard.”
In 2015, UKWIN provided evidence as to why they believe incinerators should be opposed.
A recent Eunomia report suggested that incinerators could stop the UK from meeting its recycling targets. This is because incinerator capacity is increasing and incinerators need waste to function, and thus this may dilute incentives to recycle.
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 message called on world leaders to put their words into action and detailed 5 steps towards the implementation of circular economy and zero waste strategies globally.
Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities)
Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress
Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
Building separation facilities for the current fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilised either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
Announcing a date whereby only 5% (or less) of the waste stream is allowed into landfills.
Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies
The message comes as global leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan the United Kingdom, and the United States and the European Union met in Sicily between the 26 – 27th of May for the 42nd meeting of the group.
Signatories to the message include international NGOs, such as Zero Waste Europe, GAIA (Global Alliance for Zero Waste Alternatives), ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance) and The Indigenous Environmental Network, national organisations from around the world, and towns & cities such as Capannori, Italy, and San Francisco U.S.A. Prominent individuals such as Zero Waste hero Paul Connett and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini from the world of zero waste have also signed the statement which continues to gain signatories.
FULL MESSAGE WITH SIGNATORIES
A message to the G7 Heads of State meeting in Taormina, Sicily, May 26-27, 2017
This message is from citizens’ groups from at least 100 countries who are battling existing and proposed incinerators and are supporting positive steps towards Zero Waste.
Dear G7 Heads of State,
don’t just talk about the circular economy and sustainability, do it! Take active steps to support communities in your countries who are pioneering Zero Waste strategies.
Such active steps should include:
Ending subsidies for new resources destroying incinerators (euphemistically described as “waste to energy” facilities).
Announcing a phase out plan for existing incinerators as zero waste plans progress.
Setting up zero waste research facilities to help industry re-design. Products and packaging that cannot be reused, recycled or composted.
Building separation facilities in front of all existing landfills for the current residual fraction in the waste stream which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable. From this should be removed more recyclables, more household toxics and the dirty organic fraction which can be stabilized either via composting or anaerobic digestion before going to an interim landfill.
Providing positive incentives to industry to adopt zero waste strategies.
Providing funding to help set up Reuse and Repair centers in communities. Once funded these operations are usually self-sustainable.
Dramatically reduce the production and use of disposable plastic items which are unexpectedly ending up in the oceans and impacting seabirds and the aquatic food chains.
The Circular Economy is the only way to secure a future for our productive system. For example, Europe is importing 60% of primary raw materials and that simply cannot be sustained
Zero Waste practices are the perfect toolkit to turn the “dream” of a Circular Economy into reality, supplementing the traditional reduce/reuse/recycle strategy with the important additional tool of redesigning for improved durability, repairability, recyclability.
In the words of the EU commissioner for the Environment Karmenu Vella, our “ZW communities are the living examples of Circular Economy and its viability and environmental, economic, occupational benefits”
Zero Waste not only provides sustainable waste management solutions but also offers deep, cross sectoral benefits to address some of the most pressing global problems related to social and environmental justice and human rights.
As wars in the future, might well be caused by fights over limited resources, as they have been in the past, support for zero waste now may avoid incurring further international tensions over resources amongst Nations and can be seen as part of a global peace movement.
We know how busy you are, but may we request that you get your appropriate advisers to acquaint themselves with the details of the zero waste strategy from this book, “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time” (Chelsea Green, 2013) and also from this movie “Trashed” hosted and co-produced by Jeremy Irons.
Biodigestion Latin american Network
Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc, Boulder, Colorado, USA
GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives)
IEN (Indigenous Environmental Network)
ZWIA (Zero Waste International Alliance)
Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste Mediterranean
National, Regional and local Groups
Agro-ecology Centre , Wayanad, Kerala, India
Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) Indonesia
BaliFokus Foundation, Indonesia
Plastic Bag Diet Movement, Indonesia
Nol Sampah, Indonesia,
PPLH Bali, Indonesia
American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc., USA
APROMAC Environment Protection Association, Brazil
Basura Zero, Chile
Coalición Ciudadana Antiincineración, Argentina
Conservation Action Trust, India
Consumers Association of Penang, Malaysia
Društvo Ekologi brez meja / Ecologists without Borders Association, Slovenia
Ecological Recycling Society, Greece
Ecowaste Coalition, Philippines
Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA
Green Delaware, USA
Hnutí DUHA (Friends of the Earth) Czech Republic
Instituto Lexo Zero, Brazil
It’s Not Garbage Coalition, Nova Scotia, Canada
ISLR (Institute of Local Self Reliance), USA
Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines
National Toxics Network Australia, Australia
Pesticide Action Network India, Thrissur, Kerala, India
Polish Zero Waste Association, Poland
Rezero-Catalan Waste Prevention, Spain
Residuo Zero, Brazil
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia), Malaysia
Sound Resource Management, Seattle, USA
Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Pakistan
Texas Campaign for the Environment, USA
THANAL, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
TOXISPHERA Environmental Health Association, Brazil
UKWIN (UK Without Incineration Network), UK
Work on Waste, USA
Zero Waste OZ, Australia
Zero Waste USA
Zero Waste BC, Canada
Zero Waste Canada
Zero Waste Catalan Strategy, Spain
Zero Waste Cyprus
Zero Waste Italy
Zero Waste Sicily
Zero Waste Slovenia
Zero Waste Spain
Zero Waste Tanzania
Zero Waste Tunisia
Zero Zbel, Morocco
Za Zemiata (Zero Waste Bulgaria)
Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), India
Zero Waste Institute Africa
Zero Zabor ibe (Basque Country)
ZERO – Associação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável (Portugal)
State and local groups
Neighbors Against the Burner and Airheads, Minnesota, USA
CHASE (Cork Harbour Alliance for a Safe Environment), Ireland
Cobh Zero Waste, Ireland
Green Delaware, Delaware, USA
NO Macrovertedero, SÍ Residuo 0, Madrid, Spain
San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA
Zero Waste Beijing, China
Zero Waste Capannori (the first town in Italy to adopt zero waste), Italy
Zero Waste San Francisco (the first major city in USA to adopt zero waste), USA
Zerowaste Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Paul Connett, PhD (Work on Waste USA; director of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, Inc, AEHSP)
Rossano Ercolini (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)
Enzo Favoino (Zero Waste Italy; Zero Waste Europe)
Paolo Guarnaccia (Zero Waste Italy)
Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Environmental Indigenous Network, USA
Asrul Hoesein, Green Indonesia Foundation Jakarta, Indonesia
Dr. Mahmood A. Khwaja, Ph.D. (Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),
Gary Liss, Gary Liss & Associates, San Jose, California, USA
Patrizia Lo Sciuto, Zero Waste Italy
Eric Lombardi, (Eco-Cycle International, Zero Waste Strategies Inc.), Boulder, Colorado, USA
Jack Macy, Commercial Zero Waste Senior Coordinator, San Francisco Department of the Environment, San Francisco, California, USA
Dr. Jeffrey Morris, Sound Resource Management Group, Seattle, USA
Erika Oblak, Coordinator Zero Waste Slovenia
Stacy Savage, President, Zero Waste Strategies, LLC, Austin, Texas, USA
Helen Spiegelman, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Neil Seldman, President, ILSR, Washington, DC, USA
Antoinette “Toni” Stein, PhD, Environmental Health Trust, Berkeley, California, USA
Brenda Platt, Director, Composting for Community Project
Co-Director, Institute for Local Self-Reliance
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.
A future without waste in Europe is now closer to reality, after today, the European Parliament approved the Bonafè report. In a clear signal to both the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament has confirmed the increased ambition of the Environment Committee on four legislative proposals on waste. Now a common text needs to be agreed with the Council before it becomes law.
The Italian MEP Simona Bonafè has managed to raise the level of ambition of the Commission proposal by setting a 70% recycling target for all waste (5% to be prepared for reuse), 80% for packaging waste and by making separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, the text generalises the use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.
Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Zero Waste cities across Europe have already been successfully implementing the measures that were approved today. If the European Parliament decision becomes law they will become the mainstream”
The text adopted at the European Parliament today includes proposals to close the loop the call to review the Eco-design Directive with a broader scope and the emphasis on eco-design-guided Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to bring sustainable products.
Additionally, the report calls on the Commission to bring in new legislative proposals, such as a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste. The role of prevention has also been improved with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth) but remains far from being top priority.
Zero Waste Europe’s Rosa added: “The Parliament has raised the stakes for the circular economy. It’s time for the Member States to make it happen.” In this sense, Vice-President Timmermans when addressing the Parliament this morning acknowledged the emphasis on prevention and said he would do his best to make the final text be the closest to the one of the Parliament.
Zero Waste Europe congratulates the European Parliament and the team of rapporteurs and calls on the Council to accept these proposals. ENDS
By Erika Oblak, Ekologi brez meja / Zero Waste Slovenia
The municipality of Bled (with a population of 8,171 people) is one of the most famous and popular Slovenian tourist destinations, both nationally and internationally. The town is located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, on the picturesque shores of Lake Bled. At the beginning of 2015 Bled became the 7th Slovenian municipality on the road to Zero Waste. As a part of the recognition process we analysed their waste management data, and noticed a steep increase in municipal waste and residual waste generation during the summer months, starting at the beginning of June and lasting until the end of September when the data plummeted again. When we linked the data to tourist arrivals and overnight stays, and it matched perfectly.
When I started researching tourism it became obvious that waste is one of its major environmental impacts. Hotels, restaurants and other facilities use a huge amounts of products, very often delivered and packed in personal single use plastic packaging. For example, small plastic shampoo and soap bottles in hotel rooms. Or personal packaging for marmalade, honey and butter served at breakfast. Multiplied by the number of hotel beds and the number of overnight stays, it gives a rough picture of the magnitude of the problem. Data I came across claimed that as tourists we use more water, electricity and create more waste than when we live our ordinary everyday lives.
Looking for a solution, I was surprised how little literature is available on waste management in the tourism industry. The majority of those I could find mainly discussed strategies and recommendations, but in most cases lacked the data showing the effects of carrying them out. Zero Waste tourism soon became a focus of the Zero Waste Slovenia team. We set up a project aimed at finding waste minimisation and recycling solutions for events, hotels and restaurants.
The events turned out to be the easier part. There is a fair amount of literature with solutions and examples from different countries, including detailed guidelines. We integrated those which correspond best to our solid municipal waste management systems and legislation, and included the Zero Waste International Alliance recognition requirements for businesses. Again, Zero Waste Europe member organisations and staff turn out to be a priceless source of information: with their help we came across some inspirational stories like Boom festival in Portugal or Ecofesta Puglia in Italy. Armed with Zero Waste Events Guidelines, tailor-made for Slovenian circumstances, we organised several workshops around the country, which were eagerly accepted by event organisers.
Workshop for event organizers in Maribor (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)
Hotels were a harder nut to crack. First we checked the requirements of various green certificates, which mainly require waste separation and some basic prevention measures. The WRAP program is a good source for the ideas on how to minimise food waste in restaurants and hotel kitchens. The share of biodegradable waste in all waste generated in an average hotel is between 40% and 60%. After a while we started believing hotels might be too big a challenge for a small team as ours.
That was until Zero Waste Europe’s Enzo Favoino came to our rescue (again). He connected us with Antonino Esposito, who started introducing Zero Waste principles to hotels in famous Italian tourist destination, Sorrento. Antonino kindly accepted our invitation to join the project and we slowly began to understand why we couldn’t find much literature. Every hotel is its own story. They are diverse in size, services they offer, stars categories they need to comply with, some have already adopted green policies, others have not, etc. Reaching Zero Waste goals requires a complete change of the hotel’s culture, including employees, guests and suppliers. Such changes are only successful if they are developed slowly.
While Antonino trained and equipped our team with his Zero Waste tips and tricks, we were eager to find a pilot hotel ready to embark on a Zero Waste adventure. It turned out the concept fit perfectly into the vision of Hotel Ribno in Bled. At the moment our team – with Antonino’s support – is drafting proposed actions towards Zero Waste goals.
The co-funding by the Ministry of Environment ended at the end of February with the closing event at Astoria Hotel in Bled, a learning centre for catering and tourism. Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini (Ecofesta Puglia) presented their work to a number of hotels, event organisers, municipalities, NGOs, waste management companies and representatives of the Slovenian Tourist Organization. Since several hotels and event organisers expressed their interest in Zero Waste, we are convinced Zero Waste tourism will become one of our success stories.
Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini presenting their work in Bled (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)
Globally, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, with Europe contributing half of international arrivals and about the same in income. More tourists equals more waste, and more waste inevitably translates into a larger environmental footprint. It is not just a problem in the areas where establishing an efficient waste management system is challenging, like small islands or remote, sparsely populated areas. Bananas or pineapples travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers to end up at the breakfast buffet of a Northwest town in Slovenian Alps, using energy and adding GHG emissions. Waste, especially plastic, became a huge problem also in terms of the decreased value of tourist destinations. Solid waste minimisation should therefore become an important task for tourism sector. Not only to manage its own waste, but also to support and participate in setting up efficient waste management of tourist destinations. After all: who’d want to lie on a beach covered by plastic trash or stay in a mountain camp with waste rotting nearby?
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
On 24th January the Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted the legislative report for the four waste directives under discussion. With this, the legislative process goes a step further in the path to full adoption and will be voted at the Plenary in March. In the meantime, the Council is still negotiating its own position, so the final text will probably have to wait until Autumn.
Although the text approved on the 24th isn’t a final document, it certainly gives a clear direction on how to move towards a circular economy and zero waste. The MEPs and the rapporteur Simona Bonafè delivered the ambition the European Commission had forgotten and included brave measures to drive Europe towards a sustainable use of natural resources.
Among the amendments approved to the Commission’s proposal, the MEPs included an increase of the recycling targets for 2030 for municipal waste and for packaging to 70% and 80% respectively. Within the recycling target, it is particularly interesting to see that, at least, 5% of it should be prepared for reuse. For packaging, a target of 10% of reusable packaging by 2030 was inserted. Besides, the maximum target is reduced to 5% of all municipal waste. Zero Waste Europe welcomes the increased ambition, but regrets the lack of specific accompanying measures to the landfilling target. In this sense, Zero Waste Europe warns that the reduction of landfilling and progressive phase out shouldn’t mean an increase of incineration capacities, but rather a shift towards prevention, reuse and recycling.
In order to meet these objectives, MEPs took note of the success stories across Europe and proposed making separate collection truly compulsory for paper, glass, metals, plastic and extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste oils. MEPs approved getting rid of current loopholes that allow Member States not to roll out separate collection. In addition to separate collection, MEPs proposed making extensive use of economic incentives, such as landfill and incineration taxes or pay-as-you-throw schemes.
The Environment Committee of the Parliament also approved bolder minimum requirements for Producer Responsibility Schemes that will have to cover now the whole cost of waste management of the products they put in the market and will have to modulate their fees to drive eco-design. Another important amendments approved is the push on Member States to support the uptake of secondary raw materials.
Despite these strong messages, the most significant problem with the report adopted at ENVI Committee is the role of prevention. Although it sets three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and decoupling of waste generation from GDP growth), these remain non-binding and prevention is still far from being the cornerstone of waste policies. However, MEPs called on the Commission to set up a EU-wide waste prevention target, which is very much welcomed by Zero Waste Europe. ZWE also call on Member States to truly aim at achieving these targets.
Although this is only the first step in the legislative process, Zero Waste Europe overall welcomes the report adopted at ENVI Committee and urges on national governments to step up their level of ambition and make sure waste directives are properly implemented.
From Zero Waste Europe’s point of view, the Commission has positively changed its position from promoting incineration to acknowledging the problems related to overcapacities, distortive economic incentives and the risk that a very quick phasing out of landfills shifts waste from these to incinerators and not to prevention, reuse and recycling.
In this regard, the Commission advises those Member States heavily relying on landfills to focus on separate collection, on increasing recycling capacity and on diverting bio-waste from landfills. It insists that in case these Member States want to obtain energy from waste, they are recommended to recycle bio-waste through anaerobic digestion. In addition, they are called on taking into account the commitments and objectives for next 20-30 years (separate collection and recycling targets) and carefully assess the evolution expected for mixed waste when planning infrastructures, so as to avoid regrettable investments (i.e. redundant incinerators).
When it comes to those Member States heavily relying on incineration, the Commission calls on them to raise taxes on waste-to-energy, phase out public support schemes, decommission old facilities and establish a moratorium on new ones. The case on defunding waste-to-energy has been extended to all Member States, so as not to distort the waste hierarchy. In this sense, the Commission acknowledges that the waste operations delivering the highest reduction of GHG emissions are prevention, reuse and recycling and are the ones to be promoted, something Eunomia’s report for Zero Waste Europe of 2015 already showed.
Zero Waste Europe welcomes this call, but would have expected the Commission to show this ambition when last November proposed a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive that is the one opening the door for renewable energy subsidies for incineration. ZWE expects MEPs and national governments to take note of this communication when reviewing the Directive and bring coherence between EU legislation.
ZWE notes, however, that the text still considers that waste incineration has a role within a circular economy, which is a conceptual contradiction because if material loops are effectively closed there is nothing left to burn. A more accurate approach would be to say that the capacity of waste to energy incineration is to be used in the transition period to a circular economy but once proper material and value preservation policies are successfully implemented burning waste will be redundant.
Finally ZWE’s warns about the Commission current double standards with its approach to waste to energy (WtE) in Europe and its support to WtE in the rest of the world, particularly in the Global South where we have seen successful recycling programs having been dismantled to feed the European funded incineration plants.
Nevertheless, this communication seems a change in the mindset of the European Commission and a positive step to phase out environmentally harmful subsidies and move towards zero waste.
The European Commission published today the Communication on the role of waste-to-energy in a circular economy. The text, although non-binding, provides clarity for the implementation of the waste hierarchy and gives guidance for Member States to avoid problems such as incineration overcapacity.
For the countries with low incineration capacities and highly dependent on landfilling, the Commission advises to focus on improving separate collection and increasing the recycling capacity. Priority should be given to collection and recycling of bio-waste and to take into account a long-term perspective when assessing the need of so-called waste-to-energy facilities, as mixed waste is expected to be significantly reduced in the coming years as recycling rises.
Those countries with high incineration capacity (typically Northern European countries) are, however, recommended to raise incineration taxes, to phase out primes and subsidies to waste-to-energy incineration and to introduce a moratorium on new facilities, as well as decommissioning old ones.
Member States are recommended to phase out public subsidy for the recovery of energy from waste, and so is the support from the Commission for this infrastructure through EU funds.
Zero Waste Europe urges Member States to implement these recommendations so they move up in the waste hierarchy.
Despite these positive recommendations, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) regrets that the European Commission did not include the call to phase out subsidies for waste-to-energy in the recent Renewable Energy Directive proposal. ZWE would remind the commission that energy savings via prevention and recycling are currently undermined by subsidies going to lower levels of the waste hierarchy such as waste incineration. ZWE calls on MEPs and the national governments to fix this during the legislative process.
Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said “We cannot keep wasting our money and resources in subsidising waste-to-energy. Divestment from waste-to-energy is needed if we want to create the right incentives for a circular economy”.
ENVI MEPs want to be bold on Circular Economy. In a clear signal to the Commission and the Council, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament significantly increased the ambition of the Commission’s proposal on waste by including most of former Commissioner Potocnik’s proposals of first Circular Economy Package of 2014.
For Zero Waste Europe, the text adopted at the Environment Committee includes most of the elements of success for zero waste cities across Europe. The text raises, the level of ambition by setting a 70% recycling target (5% of which should be prepared for reuse) and makes separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, Member States are called to make extensive use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.
Ferran Rosa, ZWE’s Policy Officer said: “Achieving high recycling and low waste generation is not rocket science, but a matter of setting objectives, ensuring proper separate collection, getting citizens involved and making use of economic incentives and the vote of today allows for all of this to happen”.
The text adopted at the ENVI Committee today -if finally approved- also gives work to the Commission who will have to propose a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste.
The text also emphasises the importance of Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to implement eco-design and to reduce waste generation.
Although the role of waste prevention has been also notably improved compared to Commission’s proposal with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth), Zero Waste Europe believes that truly binding measures and targets are needed to achieve the desired effect of significant waste reduction..
Zero Waste Europe congratulates the ENVI Committee and the team of rapporteurs and calls on MEPs to support the adoption of the text in the plenary vote in March.
Today, on the International Day of Action on Bioenergy, several MEPs have expressed their support to phase out harmful subsidies that drive waste-to-energy incineration.
Across the EU, waste-to-energy incinerator plants receive financial support in various forms (i.e. feed-in tariff, tax exemption, premium taxes, etc) to produce so-called “renewable energy” from burning the organic portion of residual mixed waste – food waste from restaurants, households, farmers markets, gardens, textiles, clothing, paper and other materials of organic origin.
According to the Bioenergy Policy Paper released today by Zero Waste Europe, these subsidies are one of the major obstacles to achieving a Circular Economy, as most of these materials could be recycled or composted. This incineration process has severe consequences for climate change and air quality due to the huge amounts of greenhouse gases and toxic emissions released.
Ultimately, organic waste should be treated according to the Organic Waste Hierarchy, ensuring proper source-separation and giving priority to composting and biogas generation, after human and animal feed.
Piernicola PEDICINI MEP, EFDD:
“I have been fighting against environmentally harmful subsidies in this parliament since a long time. These are one of the main obstacles to the uptake of the circular economy. Waste to-energy incineration is not a sustainable waste management treatment and the emissions from incineration damage the environment and human health. It is now the time for the EU to stand strongly against this harmful practice and redirect investments towards prevention and composting of organic waste.
BasEICKHOUT MEP, GREENS/EFA:
“In a circular economy there is no waste. Discarded products and materials are reused or re-manufactured. As a final option they are recycled or used biologically. ‘Waste’ consists of finite resources and therefore shouldn’t be incinerated. Counting incineration as renewable energy is an absolute no-go.”
“We should definitely aim for greater renewable energy shares, but we need to respect the waste hierarchy over incineration. Incineration goes against the concept of Circular Economy and the waste hierarchy, which favours the reduction of the amount of wasted resources, the increase of their lifecycle and encourages recycling, and so does the EU renewable energy policies which are encouraging the burning of biomass resources, including waste and by-products, as renewable energy. Moreover EU Funds shall not be used to finance waste-energy infrastructure, as incineration practices are not only environmentally harmful (as they are greenhouse emissions contributor); but also, dioxins, produced by waste incineration have shown to be lingering in the bodies of people and identified as the cause of many cancers”.
Dario TAMBURRANO MEP, EFDD:
“The energy produced by incinerating waste can be called “renewable” only if G. Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” philosophy is applied, namely “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery”.
Organic material is recyclable into useful compost, but when burned it becomes instead useless and harmful ash. By providing public support to waste-to-energy, they are simply reducing into ashes the citizens’ money.”
Jean LAMBERT, GREENS/EFA MEP:
“We need to redirect spending to reducing waste and climate emissions and weed out perverse subsidies which encourage us to carry on producing waste for energy purposes – a double blow for the planet.”
Molly SCOTT CATO, GREENS/EFA MEP, South West, UK
“We must stop investing in damaging incineration that runs counter to the idea of a circular economy and undermines a waste hierarchy which prioritises waste prevention, recycling, composting and anaerobic digestion.”
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
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.
Zero Waste Europe has responded to the consultation on the Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) by highlighting the contribution that the waste sector can bring to a low-carbon economy, and calling the European Commission to have higher ambition.
In the response submitted today, Zero Waste Europe pointed out that the implementation of the Circular Economy Package could deliver far more GHG emission reductions than the total amount targeted by the implementation of the ESR, if GHG emissions savings from recycling and reduction of waste were accounted for, which shows that there is very significant room for improvement.
Recent research calculated the climate benefit from the optimal implementation of the Circular Economy Package waste targets (2014 version). Assuming the implementation of a 70% recycling, 30% of food waste reduction, and an 80% recycling of packaging waste, the EU would save 190 million/tonnes CO2-eq/year, which would be the equivalent to the total annual emissions of the Netherlands.
In comparison, the overall ESR proposal expects to reduce is 1,000 million/tonnes for the period 2021-2030, an average of 111 million/tonnes per year. This lower figure partly responds to the fact that the ESR is not taking into consideration the recycling and waste reduction related targets from the Circular Economy Package.
In this sense, with the proper accounting methodologies in place, the ESR ambition could be much higher and more coherent with the sectoral policies.
“The Effort Sharing Regulation should set mitigation targets that are consistent with the targets of the Circular Economy Package, making sure that the two sets of policies are coherent. These policies are called to drive the transition across sectors to a low-carbon economy, ensuring actual emission reductions and creative solutions for a long-lasting, inclusive change,“ said Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe Climate Policy Campaigner & Associate Director.
Furthermore, the response highlights that zero waste solutions, alongside climate action in other sectors, will contribute to achieving the global target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees global warming, embracing the principles of conservation of materials, the reduction of toxics, equitable distribution, and access to resources.
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
S&D MEP Simona Bonafè presented today the draft reports on the waste directives under review. Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) sees them as a positive step forward from European Commission’s text, but is disappointed by the absence of some specific targets and the lack of concrete binding measures necessary on the path to Zero Waste.
ZWE notes positively the emphasis given to waste prevention with the inclusion of new obligations for Member States on marine litter, food waste prevention and the reduction of single-use products. However, ZWE regrets that the targets proposed by the rapporteur on food waste and marine litter are only aspirational and not country specific targets, instead being EU-wide without clear local goals.
Despite raising the recycling target for 2030 to 70%, the report does not propose to cap the tonnage of waste that is sent to disposal, be it incineration or landfill. According to Joan Marc Simon, ZWE’s Executive Director, “EU policy makers still focus too much on the percentage of waste landfilled and too little on the kilos of waste disposed”. In this context, countries producing high amounts of waste and landfilling little have no incentive to improve. Mr Simon added that “a cap on residual waste sent to landfills and incinerators is the only way of pushing for high recycling and waste prevention at the same time”.
Despite the push for EPR (extended producer responsibility) as a tool for eco-design, ZWE believes these changes are still too weak to address problematic streams such as textiles, hygiene products, hazardous waste from households, and furniture. However ZWE welcomes the efforts to phase out toxicity as a precondition for circular economy.
ZWE also welcomes the clarity given by the new definitions and elimination of loopholes, chiefly by making waste separate collection truly compulsory and by eliminating a ‘double-calculation’ method. Nevertheless ZWE warns about the confusing definition of residual waste included in the package.
The changes proposed for the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive are a positive step towards increased resource efficiency. The inclusion of packaging re-use targets and the call for a EU-wide deposit-scheme for re-usable packaging are also to be welcomed. However ZWE believes that the proposed re-use targets are too low to stop the downward trend in the use refillable packaging.
Despite a modest increase of recycling targets for all materials by 2025, ZWE is disappointed by the lack of a recycling target for plastic packaging for 2030, and for multimaterial multi-layered packaging despite them being two of the fastest growing types of packaging. More concretely the EU should require a prevention target for plastic packaging.
Overall Bonafè’s report has managed to bring back the ambition that the European Commission missed in the December’s proposal but despite being a step in the right direction it is still insufficient to create a Circular Economy in Europe.
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.
European Commission keeps wasting energy on “waste-to-energy”
Ferran Rosa, Policy Officer
In December 2015, the European Commission launched the Circular Economy Package, which aims to bring a major shift in waste management, product and process design policies and consumption patterns that minimize the landfill and incineration of waste. Less than two months after, on Thursday February 4, the European Commission presented the Roadmap for the Communication on Waste to Energy, which sets the scope and terms for the Communication on waste-to-energy that will be published later on in 2016. As we read through it, this roadmap is a worrying step on four counts.
Firstly, the European Commission refers in this roadmap to non-recyclable waste as the perfect feed for an incinerator. However, no definition of non-recyclable waste can be found in the Waste Framework Directive or in the new proposal. The Commission mixes up non-recyclable waste with mixed waste, and while it’s true that mixed waste can’t be easily recycled, these are two different things.
While mixed waste is a problem of separate collection; non-recyclable waste is mostly a problem of product design. If properly separated, there’s no non-recyclable wasteonly non-recyclable materials and the solution to them isn’t burning, but re-design to make them fit into the circular economy.
Moreover, it is worrying because it doesn’t include a clear roadmap on how to tackle existing over-capacities and, actually pushes for more inflexible facilities requiring long-time investment, such as district heating. It ignores that in a circular economy, disposal facilities should instead be flexible, allowing waste managers to adapt progressively to higher recycling rates and lower levels of waste production. Linking houses’ heating system to residual waste generation through very expensive long-term facilities isn’t the best incentive to promote reduction, reuse and recycling
On January 12 2016, Zero Waste Europe, ACR+, and Zero Waste France held a conference; ‘The Potential of the Waste Sector to a Low Carbon Economy at the Committee of the Regions in Brussels, Belgium.
The conference focussed on the recently released report ‘Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy‘ conducted by Eunomia, and commissioned by Zero Waste Europe in partnership with ACR+ and Zero Waste France, the report highlighted how the carbon emissions relating to waste management have been consistently underestimated due to the way in which the emissions are indexed.
The event was opened by a speech from Céline Fremault, the Brussels Capital Region Minister for Environment and Energy. Dominic Hogg, Chairman of Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd then presented the key findings of the report.
Filipe Carneiro from LIPOR, the Intermunicipal Waste Management Agency of Greater Porto explained the model of the organisation which operates across 8 municipalities in Portugal and works towards the reduction of carbon emissions, avoiding the emission 248,865t CO2e over the last 8 years.
After the withdrawal of the former circular economy package and the promise of a more ambitious version by end of 2015, the European Commission has now, just published a weaker Circular Economy Package.
The package wants to transform the current European linear economy into a circular one, by making products last longer and keeping the value of materials within the economy for as much as possible and, virtually eliminating waste.
Although the benefits expected of such a transition are huge, the proposed legislation and action plan will not be sufficient to create such a systemic change. Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe, commented “the proposed package opens with the same scope as the former proposal and contains some positive elements, such as the obligation for member states to align waste management pricing with waste hierarchy, but it’s not a more ambitious proposal. The new waste legislation has been watered down as compared to 2014’s package, while the action plan is mostly a patchwork of very vague policy proposals, some of them not expected to be implemented until the end of the current Commission mandate”.
The legislative waste proposal is relatively similar to that of 2014, albeit substantially weaker. Mr Simon said that “some minor improvements have been included, such as the introduction of a system to monitor residual waste, and the promotion of reuse of WEEE, textiles and furniture. Other positive elements are the expected improvement of methodologies and higher clarity in definitions and minimum requirements for EPR schemes that could pave the way to better eco-design along the lines drawn in the recent report about redesigning producer responsibility  published by ZWE.
On the negative part, Zero Waste Europe is critical of the legislative proposal as it fails to address prevention and reuse, it even goes so far as to eliminate food waste and marine litter reduction targets, it is less ambitious on separate biowaste collection, lowers waste recycling targets and does little to avoid the “lock-in” effects caused by ‘zero waste to landfill’ strategies .
“Our case studies of Contarina, Ljubljana and Gipuzkoa  showcase how it is possible to achieve +70% recycling rates as well as substantial waste reduction in less than 10 years whilst reducing management costs and creating local jobs. We hope the codecision process that kicks off today will deliver more than what the Commission proposes and not less than what is feasible and necessary to move towards a Circular Economy.” concluded Simon.
In a policy paper released today Zero Waste Europe warns against the use of landfill bans and advocates for the use of more effective instruments to reduce residual waste and advance towards a circular economy.
The paper argues that most of the districts with landfill bans have seen an overcapacity of waste to energy plants, discouraging them to take further efforts on waste prevention, reuse or recycling.
According to Joan-Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe’s Executive Director, “Unless all treatment options which “break the loop” are considered, the consequence of banning or phasing out one of them will result in a transfer of waste to another. This will create unnecessary tensions which in no way help to move towards a circular economy.”
The policy paper analyses how in all 7 European countries where a landfill ban has been implemented it resulted into more waste being diverted towards incineration than towards recycling. This is the case in the Netherlands and Germany, where waste to energy incineration tripled and almost doubled the increase of recycling, respectively, and the case of Austria and Norway, where recycling has even decreased. In Denmark, the ban on landfill has seen a boost in incineration accompanied by a rise of waste generation of 37.5%.
Zero Waste Europe also believes that landfill bans are a way to “bury” waste under other statistics without necessarily improving performance. In this regard, some European countries like Germany or Sweden claim to have a zero waste to landfill policy, but they actually landfill the rejects of mechanic-biological treatment plants and ashes from waste to energy plants. The paper also highlights that a zero waste to landfill policy is “blind” to waste reuse and reduction, for countries could continue to run a linear economy, increasing waste generation as long as waste is burned or recycled.
Comparing two different cases, that of Copenhagen, where a zero waste to landfill policy is in place, and that of Treviso province, with a real zero waste strategy. The residual waste in Copenhagen is almost 6 times that of Treviso, where they don’t have landfill ban but a true zero waste policy to all sorts of disposal.
In order to advance towards a Circular Economy Zero Waste Europe recommends to use equally high taxes on landfill and waste to energy incineration combined with a lower tax on landfilling of stabilised waste for they prove to be more effective in diverting waste towards prevention , preparation for re-use and recycling than a landfill ban.
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
Sao Paulo llama la atención por sus grandezas: alberga el mayor parque industrial y financiero del Brasil, es su municipio más poblado y es la sexta ciudad más grande del planeta, donde viven más de once millones de habitantes. Esta grandeza genera también una cantidad de residuos difícil de dimensionar: se producen diariamente 12,3 mil toneladas de residuos domiciliares, de lo cuáles el 51% son residuos orgánicos compostables y el 35% son residuos secos reciclables.
Aunque no siempre los rellenos sanitarios fueron el principal destino de los residuos en Sao Paulo, esta práctica se fue expandiendo hasta llegar a una situación crítica donde el 100% de todo el residuo orgánico, 95% de todo el residuo seco y 100% de todo el rechazo eran, hasta hace 2 años, destinados exclusivamente a los dos rellenos sanitarios existentes, el Relleno CTL (Central de Tratamiento de Residuos Leste) y el relleno Caieiras.
Las motivaciones para revertir esta situación están relacionadas con obligaciones legalesi, pero también con la urgencia de economizar espacio en la región metropolitana extendiendo la vida útil de los rellenos sanitarios; de aprovechar la materia orgánica que aporta nutrientes y mejora las propiedades de los suelos en el estado de Sao Paulo; de unirse a los esfuerzos de reducción de lixiviados y de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) en la ciudad. El sistema de manejo de los residuos sólidos de Sao Paulo es el segundo más grande sector emissor de GEI (Inventario municipal, 2012), con 15,6% (14% proveniente de los rellenos). La práctica del compostaje puede disminuir en 5 a 10 veces las emisiones de metano en rellenos sanitarios.ii
La implementación de la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos (PNRS) dio sus primeros pasos con la participación ciudadana en 58 eventos y más de 7.000 participantes, organizados por la Administración Pública de Sao Paulo. 800 delegados elegidos por miles de paulistanos y apoyados por expertos y técnicos de la autoridad pertinente, acordaron los lineamientos principales respecto de qué hacer con los residuos generados en la ciudad.
Estos puntos constituyeron parte del Plan de Gestión Integrada de Residuos Sólidos de la ciudad de Sao Paulo – PGIRS, publicado a inicios de 2014, y que determinó la recuperación, en veinte años, del 80% de todos los residuos reciclables secos y orgánicos compostables. Entre los lineamientos aprobados destacan la segregación de los residuos orgánicos en las fuentes generadoras, su recogida selectiva universalizada, el compostaje, tratamiento mecánico biológico y fomento al compostaje doméstico.
“Composta Sao Paulo”
El compostaje domésticocomenzó a ser alentado por el gobierno de Sao Paulo poco después de la publicación del PGIRS en junio de 2014, mediante la entrega de composteras a viviendas unifamiliares. En seis meses se recuperaron 250 toneladas de residuos orgánicos.
El proyecto llamado “Composta Sao Paulo”entregó kits de compostaje doméstico con lombrices a 2.006 hogares en la ciudad de São Paulo. A través de una convocatoria pública, el proyecto consiguió en 40 días 10.061 inscripciones en el sitio web, de diversas regiones de São Paulo. Los seleccionados provenían de 539 departamentos y 1.467 hogares de ocho regiones.
La entrega de composteras fue acompañada por 135 talleres de capacitación para más de 5.000 participantes. También se alentó a los participantes a responder las encuestas programadas y asumir el papel de multiplicadores del compostaje doméstico.
Después de dos meses, los participantes del proyecto fueron invitados a otros talleres (88 talleres), donde recibieron consejos y técnicas de plantación en espacios pequeños para el uso del compost producido. Para resolver las dudas e inquietudes se optó por la creación de una comunidad virtual en Facebook. La comunidad de “composteros” terminó el primer año del proyecto con más de 6.000 miembros.
El levantamiento posterior de información relativo a los resultados del programa indicó que el 89% de los participantes disminuyó notablemente la entrega de residuos para la recolección. No hubo diferencias significativas en la evaluación de la práctica de compostaje entre clases sociales o entre los tipos de viviendas y sólo 47 hogares (2,3%) renunció a la actividad. En tanto, el 97% de los participantes de una encuesta realizada para medir el nivel de satisfacción (1.535 personas), se mostró satisfecho o muy satisfecho con la técnica, el 98% consideró una buena solución para los residuos orgánicos y el 86% la consideró fácil de practicar.
En su análisis económico, la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo constató que los costos de entrega de composteras, monitoreo y asistencia técnica entregados por el Gobierno local podían ser cubiertos a través de los ahorros logrados en la reducción de la recolección, transporte y disposición final de los residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios. El estudio comparó los costos (estimados) de recolección, transporte y disposicion de residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios con los costos (estimados) de entrega de composteras, comunicación, talleres, etc. Posteriormente, se realizó el cálculo con lo que efectivamente se invirtió para desarrollar las acciones antes mencionadas en el contexto de “Composta Sao Paulo”, trabajando con 2006 hogares. Considerado el efecto “contagioso” que se detalla más adelante, los costos serían igualados en menos de 5 años.iii
La estrategia de comunicación y el efecto contagioso
La vinculación de la práctica del compostaje doméstico con la participación y responsabilidad ciudadana fue una pieza importante de la estrategia comunicacional desarrollada para este programa en cuanto al involucramiento de la población. Además de la novedad del proceso del compostaje mismo, el uso de técnicas modernas de comunicación social despertó atracción por el proyecto, y el deseo de “ser parte”.
El efecto multiplicador no se hizo esperar. Los resultados de la encuesta indicaron que el 29% ayudó a otras personas que no recibieron composteras a hacer, instalar o gestionar una. Los participantes testimoniaron un efecto contagioso, que atrajo a 2.525 nuevos participantes que trataron de montar o comprar su propio sistema de compostaje.
El 27% de los participantes donó lombrices para que otros pudieran iniciar la práctica. Asimismo, los cambios de conducta en otros ámbitos también salieron a la luz: 84% afirmó haber ampliado mucho su conocimiento de la sostenibilidad urbana; 96% se consideró bastante más diligente en manejar adecuadamente los residuos que produce; el 54% dijo que comenzó a comer bastante más frutas y verduras.
Los nuevos “maestros composteros”
Los 2.525 nuevos participantes entusiasmados por los propios integrantes del proyecto son una muestra del potencial del ciudadano de convertirse de simple objeto de política pública a verdadero sujeto en el ejercicio de su ciudadanía: en este caso, de “capacitados” a “maestros composteros”. Al atraer a nuevos participantes y compartir sus aprendizajes, los integrantes del proyecto deben ser reconocidos por lo que efectivamente son: “Maestros Composteros”.
Por su parte, los gestores públicos están llamados a apoyar lo que las mismas personas pueden construir. Basta soñar en grande, empezar por lo pequeño y actuar ahora. El compostaje doméstico es un instrumento de política pública empoderador, forjador de compromisos colectivos, con un efecto multiplicador que alienta la conducta ciudadana responsable desde la alegría, el descubrimiento y el aprendizaje.
“Estoy muy atenta a mis residuos orgánicos y los residuos de los vecinos. Estoy más crítica con la cantidad de comida a comprar. Tengo afecto por las lombrices.”
“Nos dimos cuenta de que cada vez que íbamos a botar los residuos a la compostera sentíamos un bienestar profundo… algo así como si estuviéramos dejando de ensuciar la ciudad y convirtiendo la basura en flores. Intercambiamos ideas con otras personas que estaban haciendo compostaje y tenían la misma sensación! El compostaje es terapéutico!”
Testimonios de ciudadanos participantes del programa Composta Sao Paulo, 2014.
*Autores: Dan Moche Schneider. Coordinó el área de Residuos Orgánicos en el PGIRS de Sao Paulo. Claudio Spínola. Ideólogo y y operador de “Composta São Paulo”.
Magdalena Donoso, Coordinadora de GAIA para América Latina
iObligación de recuperar los residuos establecida por la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos – PNRS, aprobada en 2010.
ii Inácio, Caio de Teves. O papel da compostagem de resíduos orgânicos urbanos na mitigação de emissão de metano. Caio de Teves Inácio, Daniel Beltrão Bettio e Paul Richard Momsen Miller. Embrapa Solos, 2010. 22 p.
iii Cálculos estimados por Dan Moche, ex Coordinador de Residuos Orgánicos en el PIGRS de Sao Paulo. Análisis económico interno de la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo.
Our compost video competition is now closed. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a video entry. We have now passed the videos on to our panel of judges and will be announcing a winners shortly. – The Zero Waste Europe team
What is so great about compost?
Compost is an incredibly powerful tool in the zero waste tool box. Organic waste is often one of the most challenging waste streams in urban areas, as it’s usually the largest waste stream of household waste and the most problematic in environmental terms. With separation at source and proper treatment through composting however, it can be an amazing opportunity to help create a genuinely circular economy. Composting organic waste can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid hazardous disposal systems such as landfilling and incineration. As a natural soil improver, it replaces the need for chemical-based fertilisers (contributors to climate change), and it has amazing rejuvenating qualities for soil, increasing the capacity of the land to act as a ‘carbon sink’ and reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Across Europe millions of people are involved in composting, both on an individual level and as part of neighbourhood or community schemes. These actions are preventing vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing vital nutrients for soils. We want to hear your composting stories, and learn more about the inspirational ways that you and your communities are taking action to reduce organic waste.
That is why we have decided to launch a competition to celebrate composting, with some fantastic rewards.
Are you part of a fantastic composting project that doesn’t get enough attention? Do you need some added funds to expand your community composting scheme? Or are you just passionate about composting and want to promote your own creative organic waste solution? We want to know about it!
We have 3 huge prizes up for grabs, in our composting video competition, and all you have to do is submit a video or animation showing off your composting project, explaining why composting is so great, or highlighting a creative solution. We are particularly encouraging home-made and amateur video contributions, so remember the content is more important than the camera quality, and get out your smart-phones, and video-cameras and get stuck into a bit of compost.
The competition is divided into three categories, with different criteria and prizes, and will be judged by our panel of experts including experts from the European Compost Network (ECN), The Organic Stream, and Zero Waste Europe so if you want to participate, make sure you take a look at the different categories. You don’t have to specify which category your video comes under during the application process, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure, or feel that your video might fit more than one category, as our judges will assess which award the video would be most suited for.
Community Solutions Award — Prize 500eur
In this category we are looking for the best community solution, so if you are part of a neighbourhood composting project or work with other local composters to collect all that food-waste, or just want to talk about community solutions make sure that you send us a video.
Creative Composter Award — Prize 500eur
This category will choose the most creative composting solution, we want to see your innovative and unusual composting efforts, as well as any creative attempts to promote composting of organic waste.
Compost Education Award — Prize 500eur
In the final category we are looking for the most effective and inspiring educational video about compost. This could be about the benefits of compost, or how to start your own compost project, or anything else really, so long as it is educational and espouses composting!
Tips & hints
We know that not everyone out there is a master in creating videos, there may not even be a direct correlation between video-editors and composters at all! But there is no need to worry, as we have put together some simple tips and hints to make sure your video is in with the best chance of winning!
Keep your video relatively short and to the point. We would expect videos to be around the 1.5 minute mark, and if videos are longer than 3 minutes we will not be able to include them in our competition.
If you are filming on a smartphone make sure to have your phone rotated in landscape (we find that makes a much better film!)
Try and move the camera as smoothly as possible to help avoid a film which could be difficult to watch
If your computer doesn’t come with any, there are plenty of free video editing and animation software options available, which you should be able to find with a quick internet search.
If video isn’t your thing, then you are also free to submit animations or other ‘video’ forms. Be creative, and surprise us!
All entries must be received by midnight (GMT) on the 1st of November.
Entries should be uploaded to Youtube and set as unlisted, the link should then be sent to: COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
The judges will be looking for the best projects, ideas and composting solutions, not the most polished, professional videos.
The video should reflect the benefits of compost as explained above and the core values of Zero Waste Europe.
We are afraid that we will not be able to accept videos which are not either in English, or have English subtitles.
All entries must consist of original or previously unreleased content, by entering the competition you give Zero Waste Europe the right to host your video on our Youtube channel, and share it through social media.
Combining the stories of dozens of local and regional groups, this study demonstrates the importance of learning from successful examples of climate finance in looking ahead into the future. With the creation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), which was created to help transform developing country economies by supporting high quality investments in clean energy and climate resilience, it is essential that future projects are able to learn from a critical assessment of previous climate finance projects.
Previously concerns have been raised around the lack of criteria for the GCF investments. Earlier this year, civil society organisations demanded the GCF approve an exclusion list to ensure that none of this climate investments will end up financing dirty energy sources. In this regard, GAIA and Zero Waste Europe have been actively campaigning against the financing of incinerators by the GCF, Mariel Vilella, Associate Director of Zero Waste Europe said “Given the urgency of the climate crisis, the shrinking pool of public money, the health risks of incineration, and the availability of sound alternatives, waste-to-energy would be a bad investment for the Green Climate Fund”.
The new study consists of 22 examples of successful climate related projects, programs and policies, across three continents; Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The examples were identified by organisations from the Global South and North and follow a comprehensive list of overarching characteristics: all of them are deeply rooted in the local communities, are inclusive and encourage the participation of affected communities; recognize and respect people’s rights, with special attention on gender and relationships/partnerships building; and most importantly, all of them are fully grant-funded, which allowed for flexibility, experimentation and innovation. (See the full list)
One of the case studies featured in report, under the category of ‘mitigation’ is that of the Solid Waste Collection and Handling (SWaCH) cooperative. Based in Pune, India the cooperative is ‘an autonomous social enterprise that provides front-end waste management services’, over 80% of SWaCH members are women from marginalised castes, and as a result of the cooperative worker-members can earn up to three times their previous daily income.
It is further estimated that the SWaCH program saves the city an estimated $2.8 million per year in waste collection and disposal costs, and is responsible for preventing 640,000 tons of greenhouse gasses annually. The story and success of the SWaCH workers has been well documented, and more details can be found in the GAIA report on Successes and Lessons from Around the World
The case ofthe Zero Waste Program at Bir Hospital in Nepal, with no external funding the hospital managed to successfully reduce dioxin emissions associated with medical waste incineration by 90%, whilst increasing the percentage of the total waste stream which is recycled to over 50% , a move which is responsible for supporting hundreds of recycling jobs.
Such incredible achievements were possible through sustained efforts and initiatives from vermicomposting to the redesign of thermometers and other medical technology to use non-mercury alternatives, with the support of the Health Care Foundation and international allies such as Health Care Without Harm. This project carried out with zero budget, demonstrates the huge potential for a GCF funded program which would have the capacity to improve waste management across hundreds of hospitals in the region.
The success of the waste workers of Pune, and Nepal, on comparatively tiny budgets make it clear that the GCF should be doing more to expand and develop such programs and that truly effective climate finance projects include a wide range of factors, which are deeply rooted in affected communities. Only with these lessons of past successes can we hope to make progress towards a strong and effective climate finance model which is equitable for everyone involved.
This study provides clear evidence that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes in Europe are insufficient. In the Executive Summary, released on Wednesday 15, July, it has been found that despite 70% of municipal solid waste being product waste, only 45% of this product waste is currently covered by an EPR scheme and only 18% of the product waste is collected with existing EPR schemes.
In the full study to be released in October, there will be included a number of detailed and clear recommendations to the European Commission on improving the current EPR mechanisms and implementing truly effective EPR scheme with a broader definition which as the ‘father of extended producer responsibility’ Thomas Lindhqvist stated, would serve as “an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product”2.
For EPR thinking to fit into the circular economy, the study claims that it is necessary to connect waste managers with producers using economic instruments as well as the introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements that allow for better process and product design.
This study comes at important time for the European Commission who are currently conducting a review of waste policy and legislation. The aim of which is to “help turn Europe into a circular economy, boost recycling, secure access to raw materials and create jobs and economic growth”3. All ambitious targets which will need to incorporate strong EPR protocols to have achieve the desired goals, and move Europe towards a zero waste circular economy.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of Zero Waste Europe said “This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”. It is clear that whilst EPR schemes across Europe do not manage to reach most producers there is real potential in the current review for their reform, and it is hoped that if the European Commission takes these findings into account. That would be a real step forwards for the circular economy and another step towards a zero waste Europe.
2Thomas Lindhqvist, “Mot ett förlängt producentansvar — analys av erfarenheter samt förslag” (“Towards an Extended Producer Responsibility — analysis of experiences and proposals,” in Swedish), 30 April 1992, published by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources ini “Varor som faror — Underlagsrapporter” (“Products as Hazardous — background documents,” in Swedish), Ds 1992:82. The definition was published in English for the first time in: Thomas Lindhqvist, “Extended Producer Responsibility,” in the proceedings of an invitational seminar at Trolleholm Castle, 4-5 May 1992: “Extended Responsibility as a Strategy to Promote Cleaner Products,” edited by Thomas Lindhqvist, Department of Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund, June 1992.
Key findings from the new study covering 15 European cities have been published today , in advance of the publication of the full study in September. The study shows that 70% of municipal solid waste is product waste (waste that is not food or garden waste) and as such could be included under an EPR scheme. However currently only 45% of this product waste (by weight) is covered by the producer responsibility scheme. Furthermore, only 18% of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.
The full study to be released in September will make a series of recommendations to the European Commission. Among these it will call for a broader definition and a more comprehensive approach to EPR 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 the expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products.
Zero Waste Europe encourages the European Commission to take these findings into account in the up-coming proposal on the waste package which will be presented before the end of the year.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of ZWE said “This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”
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
The Commission has homework for the summer: if it wants to save time and efforts for the co-legislative process, it should take note of Sirpa Pietikäinen’s report and include its proposals in the future text.
On July 9 the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg approved the own initiative report “Resource efficiency: moving towards a circular economy”, giving a strong signal to the Commission and to the Council as to what kind of Circular Economy Package citizens’ representatives expect. Although this report is non-binding, it has a strong political message: the European Parliament remembers Commissioner Timmermans’ promise of proposing an ambitious and holistic circular economy package and urges the Commission to act consequently.
Although the report has been watered down -by an amendment from the European People’s Party and the European Conservatives and Reformists- which turns the proposal of a binding 30% resource efficiency target into a voluntary one, it still keeps some of its key aspects, such as the need of measuring footprint indicators for land, materials, water and carbon.
The European Parliament also calls for zero waste, proposing binding targets on waste prevention by 2025, a 70% recycling target of Municipal Waste by 2030 and an 80% recycling target of packaging by 2030. Other of the targets proposed are a 50% marine litter reduction target of 50% by 2025 compared to 2014 levels and a foodwaste reduction target of 30% by 2025.
Especial attention deserves the fact that the Pietikäinen report urges to strictly limit incineration to non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste by 2020. Besides, the Parliament stresses that there are loopholes in the Renewable Energies Directive that are being used to subsidize waste incineration, urging to phase out subsidies to incineration.
Zero Waste Europe welcomes the approval of this report and calls on the European Commission to take note of these proposals to include them in the circular economy package that is being drafted. The European Commission should enjoy the political momentum and commitment around circular economy to drive ambitious policies.
Last 17th June, the Committee on the Environment, Publich Health and Food Safety of the European Parliament approved the Own Initiative Report “Resource Efficiency: moving towards a circular economy“. Although the report still needs to be approved in the plenary on July the 7th and isn’t legally binding, the European Parliament gives a strong signal on what it wants to see in the future Circular Economy Package, to be presented in the fall.
Sponsored by the Finnish MEP of the EPP Sirpa Pietikäinen, the report addresses the main elements needed to bring a circular economy and to tackle the existing barriers. It is structured in four main areas: resource efficiency, product policy, zero waste and fiscal policies.
When it comes to resource efficiency, the report urges to develop indicators on resource use and resource efficiency and to mainstream them in all EU policy areas. It also proposes to include these indicators in the European Semester. Besides, it proposes a binding resource efficiency target of 30% by 2030 compared to 2014 levels.
On the field of product policy, the Environment Committee’s Own Initiative Report calls, among others, to end up with planned obsolescense, to phase out toxics from products and to favour repairability and recyclability of products.
Other of the proposals are thought to set Europe on track towards zero waste. The report calls for binding targets on waste prevention by 2025, a 70% recycling target of Municipal Waste by 2030 and an 80% recycling target of packaging by 2030. It also includes other targets, such as marine litter reduction target of 50% by 2025 compared to 2014 levels or a foodwaste reduction target of 30% by 2025. Environment Committee also urges to strictly limit incineration to non-recyclable and non-biodegradable waste by 2020. The report also proposes to improve the existing policy instruments, such as EPR schemes, mainstream pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes on landfilling and incineration; and to make separate collection of biowaste compulsory by 2020.
Other proposals are meant to improve governance and monitoring of EU policies, such as common and clear definitions of municipal waste and of the methodology to calculate recycling and preparation for re-use.
The last of the areas is fiscal policy, where the report suggests to relax VAT for products and services driving circular economy, such as 2nd hand products, repair activities, recycled products, etc. It also underlines the importance of phasing out environmentally harmful subsidies, such as those on incineration.
Zero Waste Europe welcomes this report and calls on Members of the European Parliament to support it on the Plenary vote taking place on July 7th and on the European Commission to take note of this report.
This case study proves that a fast transition to meet EU recycling targets is possible in less than 5 years
Zero Waste Europe publishes a new case study and video showing the transition of Gipuzkoa towards zero waste. This province located in the Spanish Basque Country has almost doubled recycling rates in five years and made investing in an incineration plant obsolete.
In 2011, the Province of Gipuzkoa decided to scrap the plans to build an oversized incineration plant and took steps towards Zero Waste, arguing that the plant was highly resource-consuming and it heavily endangered the circularity of resources. On top of saving € 250 million, Gipuzkoa has managed to meet EU targets 5 years earlier than expected.
Today, the province separately collects 51% of its municipal waste and plans to meet 70% by 2020. These improvements are even more significant when considering that only one fifth of Gipuzkoa’s population live in municipalities that have followed a transition, which prove that the results of these municipalities are outstanding, some of them above 80 or even 90% of separate collection.
Executive Director of ZWE, Joan-Marc Simon said “the transition we are seeing in Gipuzkoa proves that reaching the EU target of 50% recycling is completely feasible in only 5 years. Therefore, with enough political it should be possible for laggards to meet the targets for 2020 and aim at more ambitious targets for 2030.”
The drivers behind this change have been: political will, citizens mobilisation and participation, prioritisation of biowaste collection, intensive separate collection at source and not having built incineration capacity which would hijack prevention, reuse and recycling.
In less than five years, Gipuzkoa has moved from pushing for an outdated finalist treatments for waste to become Spain’s leading province in recycling, being above EU’s 2020 targets, and 12 points above Spanish average. Gipuzkoan towns have also proved that kerbside collection remains cheaper than roadside containers, while creating jobs and local economic activity.
Today, these case studies show that, in contrast with the outdated idea of burning or burying our waste, preventing, reusing and recycling it create jobs and resilience, save money, and protect the environment and public health.
Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.
This is the last of 6 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia), Contarina (Italy) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.
A group of progressive industries accounting for more than 2300 companies from all sectors, from multinationals to SMEs, have presented a joint manifesto calling for an ambitious renewed Circular Economy Package. This initiative has been led by De Groene Zaak, MVO Nederland and Circle Economy, but has been supported by other relevant stakeholders, such as the European Environmental Bureau or ACR+.
This manifesto stresses that “circular businesses are currently succeeding in spite of, rather than because of, the regulatory framework” and that further legislative and policy action is needed to bring circular economy. Among their proposals, we should highlight:
Strong leadership and political guidance: bringing circular economy means transforming the model of consumption and production we have had for 250. This requires a systemic approach and, thus, the new package should be an “integrated package of government measures providing systemic incentives that encourage companies to implement circular business models.”
Maintaineance of the initial targets and introduction of new ones: They recommend keeping the binding targets for recycling and landfilling, and create new ones on reuse. Economic incentives could complement these.
Discourage incineration: they recommend introducing stringent criteria to exclude incineration of household waste that can be recycled or materially recovered.
Shift on tax burden: the manifesto proposes shifting tax burden from labour to resources, incentivising ‘circular products’ via VAT, etc.
Europe’s material footprint, indicators beyond GDP: They “recommend using The Raw Material Consumption (RMC) per capita as a key indicator for resource productivity” and consider that GDP “is an inadequate linear measure of the economy”. Circular economy policies need new indicators, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator.
Creation of a European Institute for Circular Economy that would be based on existing national examples and could boost economic research, assist policy development, define transition paths, etc.
You can find here their manifesto. Zero Waste Europe supports these measures and would be very glad to see these proposals in the new Circular Economy Package.
These three toxic chemicals are listed in the Stockholm Convention for global elimination. They are ubiquitous in the environment globally and can disrupt human hormone systems, creating potential adverse effects on the development of the nervous system and children’s cognitive functioning.
The EU proposal wants to keep these toxic flame-retardants in products and recycled products such as children’s toys, food containers and soft furnishings. The main argument for this move was the protection of the European recycling industry. However, Zero Waste Europe has already argued about the importance to ensure a toxic-free Circular Economy and reinforce product policies that will drive toxics out of the cycles of materials as a way to guarantee quality recycling in the future.
“Without clean production there will be no circular economy. Bridging between products, waste and chemicals legislation is a key aspect to make it work. Keeping this flame retardants is a step back for the circular economy”, said Joan Marc Simon, ZWE’s Executive Director.
Precisely, Zero Waste Europe together with FOEE, ChemTrust and the EEB recently called the EU to find the right balance between encouraging recycling and avoiding re-injecting hazardous substances into the economy, and made a joint presentation of some key principles that would ensure clean, effective and sustainable circular economy, including the removal of problematic substances from products at the design stage, the full compliance with chemical legislation for products applying for end of waste criteria, and appropriate marking, amongst other key demands.
The EU proposal in the Geneva UN Conference would not only allow toxic recycled products to be used by consumers in the EU, but it would also impact developing countries if wastes were imported there. Thus this move would transfer a toxic burden from the Global North to the Global South where the capacity to deal with contaminated waste is generally limited, potentially increasing health problems and general wellbeing.
African countries expressed deep concern regarding the EU’s position in Geneva. “We do not want toxic chemicals recycled into toys for African children and we do not think EU children should be playing with them either,” said Tadesse Amera, PAN Ethiopia. “The EU already sends us e-waste and now it seems they want to increase our toxic burden.”
Jindrich Petrlik from Arnika Association said, “As an EU-based public interest NGO we find it shameful to see the EU violating the integrity of the Stockholm Convention, and putting economic interests before human health and the environment. This is poisoning the circular economy.”
More info, download:
New Study: Toxic Toy or Toxic Waste: Old POPs in New Products
Efficient material management, reduction of toxic substances, energy efficiency and economic incentives.
The Circular Economy could bring significant environmental, social and economic benefits to the European Union. In order to deliver resource efficiency, job creation, low-carbon prosperity, a healthy environment, clean production and sustainable consumption, it is necessary to take a holistic approach by working across a number of policy areas. Failure to address every aspect of the issue by developing only partial solutions will prevent the EU from enjoying the overarching benefits the circular economy can provide.
This paper highlights four key areas the undersigned NGOs believe must be addressed by the EU institutions to ensure a fully functioning circular economy, and some of the often overlooked benefits that can result.
Resource Efficiency and Zero Waste: the basis of a true circular economy
Although we live in a planet of finite resources, global extraction of resources has been rapidly increasing. The European Union is a net importer of natural resources; from precious metals to the water or land necessary to produce every product we consume. At the same time, our linear economic model results in 50% of Europe’s municipal waste being landfilled or incinerated, generating considerable carbon emissions. Our mismanagement of natural resources causes many environmental problems: climate change, depletion of resources, the release of toxics pollutants and marine litter, to name a few. It is estimated that fully implementing the EU’s waste laws could save up to €72 billion.
A true circular economy would reduce both inputs in the form of resources, and outputs, in the form of waste and emissions. The EU circular economy should aim to achieve high resource efficiency, zero waste and zero emissions.
The transition to a circular economy therefore requires fundamental changes across the entire economy based on the following interdependent pillars:
Material management from extraction to waste
Europe needs to radically increase the efficiency with which it manages its material resources, as measured by a continuing reduction in resource use per capita. This can be done by progressively closing the loop with effective product and waste policies.
To tackle Europe’s resource dependency, the EU needs to measure and reduce its material, water, land and carbon footprints. The material footprint (based on Raw Material Consumption, already measured by Eurostat) should be included as an indicator in the European Semester.
Product design is fundamental to reach the goals of the circular economy. Good design can improve product and process performance, phase out hazardous materials, enable and incentivise the repair and reuse of products, and can also ensure the use of recycled and recyclable materials.
Product design-related requirements should be set by the EU in four ways: (1) through the full implementation of the Ecodesign Directive, and also its extension and adaptation to non-energy related products; (2) through the Waste Framework and Packaging and Packaging Waste Directives; (3) through existing tools such as Ecolabel, Green Public Procurement and Energy labelling and (4) through certification and standardisation tools.
A credible long-term zero waste policy is not only crucial in eliminating waste but also in creating a feedback mechanism at the end of life-cycle that allows products to be redesigned and to re-enter the economy, thus preventing them from becoming waste. Therefore, an enforceable waste hierarchy that guides activities towards prevention, reuse and recycle with ambitious targets, while promoting zero landfill and zero incineration is an absolute necessity. In addition, it is necessary to have harmonised definitions and a single measurement methodology to allow Member States to monitor the progress of each of these activities towards the common goal of zero waste.
Toxics, chemicals and health
A circular economy cannot work without clean production. Toxic substances should be avoided at the design stage to allow products and materials to circulate in a closed loop without endangering the quality of materials and the health of citizens, workers and the environment. This requires changing our approach to toxic substances so that in a circular economy, hazardous substances will not hinder the processes of reuse, repair and recycling.
This requires stronger application of REACH, and potentially more product-specific requirements, with the example of the ROHS directive; restricting substances used in new electronic equipment, as a potential model. Stronger regulations are needed to trace and minimise hazardous chemicals in products which endanger the capacity of the product or material to circulate repeatedly in the loop.
When a temporary exemption or authorisation has been granted to enable the continued presence of hazardous substances in products made from recycled material, the material should be labelled and associated with a specific marking.
The circular economy can contribute a great deal to Europe’s energy efficiency drive. There is a huge potential in preserving the energy embedded in products and materials and preventing them from becoming waste; far more than can be generated by burning or landfilling them.
New methodologies must be developed to account for, and reward, the preservation of energy embedded in products or materials. Premiums for energy from waste incineration distort markets. Therefore they should not be considered unless there is a level playing field with embedded energy conservation, including taking into account the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from prevention, reuse or recycling during comparison.
This new approach to energy management should be included in the new Energy Union strategy and be incorporated in the renewable energy and climate policies through the clean development mechanism. Although this already exists, it is currently channelling public money to finance infrastructure developments that contradict the very concept of the circular economy.
Instruments: economic incentives
Maximising resource efficiency and keeping materials circulating in the economy should be cheaper and simpler than consuming virgin resources. To facilitate this, the EU needs to change the current economic incentives that drive our linear consumption pattern.
A circular economy will require policies to make it legally and economically viable to sell services instead of goods, to sell durable goods that are repairable, reusable and upgradable, to promote shared or leased ownership, and to have a return or reuse programme. Wasteful practices should be made more expensive than these efficient ones.
To further encourage resource efficiency and zero waste, resource consumption should be made more expensive in comparison with product service, maintenance and repair operations, which should become cheaper. This would mean taxation shifting from labour to resources, especially virgin resources, as this will help to increase employment in Europe and decrease resource use while incentivising businesses to move towards circular production and consumption patterns. Reduced taxes or tax allowances for repair, reuse and refurbishment businesses, and increased taxes on single-use and hard-to-recycle materials are a way to implement this.
In addition, the European Commission should explore the effects, impacts and options of extending minimum legal product warranties. This would oblige manufacturers to bear full responsibility for any product failure during a legally determined period after purchase.
Economic instruments such as incineration and landfill taxes are needed in order to move up the waste hierarchy. Burning and landfilling recyclable or compostable materials should be banned. Public funding, including public procurement and the €300bn Juncker investment plan should be used to fund prevention, reuse and recycling infrastructure as a priority. Deposit and refund schemes are useful for educating citizens on the value of recycling, as well as ensuring the collection of commonly littered items such as beverage bottles, and can be integrated within extended producer responsibility schemes.
Overarching benefits of working on the four pillars
The circular economy will help reduce costs related to extracting and transporting virgin resources. This will also reduce business resource costs; for example, the EU manufacturing sector could save up to $630 billion per year by 2025 thanks to resource-efficiency measures.
The full implementation of existing EU waste legislation would save €72 billion a year by 2020, and the waste package presented in July 2014 has the potential to increase these numbers significantly.
Job creation Full implementation of existing EU waste legislation would create over 400,000 jobs. The waste package presented by the European Commission in July 2014 was estimated to create an additional 180,000 direct non-delocalizable jobs by 2030. The thorough implementation of the other three pillars discussed here could increase these numbers significantly.
A shift from taxing labour to taxing resources will lead to reduced labour costs for the employer and/or higher take-home pay for the employee.
The significant investments necessary for creating incineration infrastructure could instead be redirected to developing re-use centres and networks, recycling infrastructure and renewable energy, all of which require more, better quality jobs than incineration and landfilling.
The circular economy will reduce the energy required for extraction of virgin materials and production. Processes that use secondary raw materials consume considerably less energy than manufacturing from virgin materials. For example, remanufacturing typically uses 85% less energy than manufacturing does. More durable and reusable products and materials will result in longer life-cycles and better retention of the embedded energy of products. Further, this will reduce the need to extract and produce new materials and products, resulting in radical energy savings in extraction and production. As a result, the EU will save energy, increase resource efficiency and will reduce its import dependence on energy from third countries.
Reuse of products and materials saves a considerable proportion of the resources needed to manufacture goods from virgin materials. For example, UK analysis suggests that remanufacturing saves at least 70% of materials compared to manufacturing new goods.
Climate Change Mitigation
The Circular Economy will represent a significant step towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy, advancing towards the EU’s objective for 2050.
The waste package presented by the European Commission in July 2014 was estimated to have the potential to reduce emissions by 443 million tonnes of greenhouse gas between 2014 and 2030, without taking into account the further changes discussed here.
Health & Well-being
Reducing hazardous chemicals in production and in products will consequently reduce the impact on human health caused by close daily contact, or from indirect exposure from emissions into the environment.
Eliminating wherever possible toxic materials at the design stage will make it easier to safely and efficiently reuse, repair and recycle those products.
Europeans will benefit from avoiding emissions caused by burning and burying waste. A reduction in crop loss, respiratory and skin diseases, infertility, certain cancers, metabolic diseases and neurological/mental health issues will result. A recent study of the health costs of certain toxic chemicals estimated an annual cost to the European Union of approximately €157 billion per year and noted that this was an underestimate as only some chemicals and some diseases were included.
Reduction in marine litter
80% of marine litter results from land-based activities and is a consequence of unsustainable production patterns and poor waste management. Marine litter also represents a threat to human and ecosystem health, as plastic particles are known to bioaccumulate up the food chain, and carry dangerous pathogens across oceans to new areas.
Turning our economy into a circular economy is the ultimate solution to this problem. A significant reduction in marine litter will bring about a multitude of benefits. The annual costs from marine litter in Europe have been estimated at between €259 to 694.7 million for the fisheries, tourism and recreation sectors, as well as clean-up costs for coastal municipalities. Less waste in the sea means less marine animals and birds suffering entanglement or ingestion of litter, representing savings of around €12 billion each year.
The costs to the marine environment from marine litter cannot be fully quantified, but considering waste has been found in the bodies of hundreds of species, and the remotest corners of the marine environment, urgent action must be taken to prevent the problem from getting worse.
Stability of supply
Improvement of resource efficiency, by measuring and reducing our material, land, water and carbon footprints will result in member states being less dependent on imports.
The EU could also benefit from improved trade balance due to reduced imports. The Waste and Resources Action Plan estimates them as €110 billion.
Greater security in resource supply, and reduced land and water consumption outside our borders, can lead to improved geopolitical relations across the world.
Closing the nutrients loop would allow vital components such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to return to the soil in the form of compost, effectively capturing carbon and improving crop resilience, along with increasing the water retention capacity of the soil.
Pesticide-free agriculture would allow for job creation, energy savings and potential health benefits.
Taking ambitious steps towards a circular economy would reduce Europe’s use of materials and energy, decrease the amount of hazardous chemicals entering our environment, and ensure a multitude of economic benefits while creating locally-based, stable employment for thousands of Europeans. A circular economy in which we not only use resources and energy more efficiently, but also consume less in total, will benefit the environment and reduce the European Union’s import dependency along with the likely threat of price shocks in the future.
Many of these ambitious steps are achievable in the short-term, and the sooner they are implemented, the greater the benefits will be. Any of these benefits would be enough on their own to commend a policy, but the positive, cumulative effects of each of these changes will be multiplied. Improving our material management will lead to greater energy efficiency, as well as economic, environmental and social benefits for European communities. The EU must not hesitate to spearhead the transition to a circular economy, for the benefit of both people and planet.
According to the SERI/WU Global Material Flows Database, global extraction has increased by 118% over the past 31 years http://www.materialflows.net/trends/analyses-1980-2011/global-resource-extraction-by-material-category-1980-2011/.
 European Environmental Agency, Environmental Indicator Report, 2014, 30.
 Eurostat 2014, env_wasmun series reported that in 2013, 41.8% of EU-28 waste was recycled.
 Bio Intelligence Service for European Commission DG Environment, Implementing EU Waste Legislation for Green Growth, 2011.
 McKinsey & Company, Remaking the industrial economy, 2014.
 Bio Intelligence Service for European Commission DG Environment, Implementing EU Waste Legislation for Green Growth, 2011.
 Commission Staff Working Document (SWD/2014/0207 final), Impact assessment accompanying the document Proposal for reviewing the European waste management targets.
 Commission Staff Working Document (SWD/2014/0207 final), Impact assessment accompanying the document Proposal for reviewing the European waste management targets.
 KTN, Supporting Excellence in UK Remanufacturing, 2014.
 Next Manufacturing Revolution, The Next Manufacturing Revolution: Non-Labour Resource Productivity and its Potential for UK Manufacturing, 2013.
 Commission Staff Working Document (SWD/2014/0207 final), Impact assessment accompanying the document Proposal for reviewing the European waste management targets.
 Trasande et al, Estimating Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2015 Apr;100(4):1245-55.
 GESAMP, The State of the marine environment ,1991.
 Arcadis for European Commission DG Environment, Marine Litter study to support the establishment of an initial quantitative headline reduction target, 2014.
After the withdrawal of the Circular Economy Package in February 2015, the European Commission committed itself to present a more ambitious proposal that would drive the European Union towards a truly circular economy.
Zero Waste Europe and a group of likeminded NGOs believe that, in order to create a circular economy, the new legislative package needs to focus on four interdependent pillars:
– efficient material management,
– reduction of toxic substances,
– energy efficiency,
– and economic incentives.
Joan-Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe said “In order to reap the potential that the Circular Economy has to offer it is necessary to address material management, toxics, energy and economic incentives simultaneously. This wholistic approach is the silver bullet to trigger a multiplicator effect on employment, resource dependency, fight against climate change, health, agriculture and reduction of marine litter.”
EU policies should emphasize resource efficiency via product design related and waste policies that allow to phase out hazardous materials, enable and incentivise repaire and reuse of products and ensure the use of recycled and recyclable materials.
Toxic substances should be avoided at the design stage to allow products and materials to circulate in a closed loop without endangering the quality of materials and the health of citizens, workers and the environment. The new Circular Economy Package should therefore strengthen the REACH regulation.
EU energy policies should also be oriented towards energy preservation of prevention of re-use and recycling. The existing methodologies and premiums schemes should be revised to stop rewarding energy generation from burning waste incineration over preservation of energy embedded in products and materials.
Finally, the EU needs to change the current economic incentives that drive the linear consumption pattern in order to maximise resource efficiency and make it legally and economically viable to sell services instead of goods. Wasteful practices should be more expensive than efficient ones.
The document details how only through a coordinated and coherent policy addressing these four pillars, the European Union will be able to build a circular economy, capable of maximizing its benefits in terms of economic savings, job creation, energy and resource savings and healthier environment.
“We live in a disposable society. It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them.” – Neil LaBute
If the rest of the world consumed the way Europeans do, we would need the equivalent of two‐and-a-half planets to meet the demand for resources.
Usable products and device components are scrapped at an alarming rate instead of being salvaged, fixed, and reused. By 2050, our level o
of consumption of minerals, fossil fuels and biomass will reach 140billion tonnes, over double the current amount.
Products must be durable, easy and affordable to repair, and information on these aspects clearly available to consumers. Half the respondents
to a recent EU survey said they decided against repairing a faulty product in the past 12 months because repair costs were too high. 92% agreed that the lifespan of products available on the market should be indicated.
As one of the fastest growing sectors, electric and electronic products are the first candidates for increased repair and longevity —but the principles could equally be applied to textiles, furniture and other products. Legal changes and economic incentives are needed to promote product durability and repair, requiring a coordinated approach with all stakeholders -including policy makers, manufacturers, consumers, reuse organisations, recyclers and environmental NGOs.
The benefits of improved durability and reparability
For the environment: prolonging the lifespan of products avoids their early replacement by new products. To reduce the depletion of natural resources, it is crucial to maximise the utilization of the precious materials already contained in everyday products. Environmentally, it is optimal to give appliances a second life – either by repairing them, reselling them, refurbishing them or at least remanufacturing and recycling the most vital components.
By 2050, our level of consumption of minerals, fossil fuels and biomass will reach 140 billion tonnes, over double the current amount
For the economy: finished products have more economic value than the raw materials inside them. By breaking products apart for recycling, this added value is lost. Repair, reuse and remanufacturing maintain, rather than destroy that economic value. Manufacturers should embrace a more service-oriented approach to their business strategy and enhance their brand reputation as makers of durable products. Moreover, maintenance and repair services would provide a significant potential for job creation if labour is taxed less and resource consumption more. Owing to the labour intensive nature of re-use and repair activities the potential for job creation in this area is many times higher than recycling.
For society: consumers would have a better choice of after sales service providers at more competitive prices, driving down the cost of repair. Easily repairable goods could also be sold on the second hand market at low prices, especially to low-income groups. Easily reparable products and modular design may also have a marked impact on the EU’s consumption patterns while boosting innovation in a rejuvenated market for repair, reuse and repurposing.
Create awareness and advocate for the importance of reparability and durability of electronics and other products for society, economy, and environment
Facilitate a constructive debate amongst relevant stakeholders on designing Electronic and Electrical Equipment (EEE) and other products for reparability and durability, as well as discuss potential new business models related to repairable products
Promote a regulatory environment that enhances reparability and durability, and to challenge EU and national policy makers to enforce appropriate and supporting legislation
Suggestions on where start
Oblige manufacturers to provide independent re-use and repair organizations with all means to ensure the full functioning and serviceability of their products over their entire lifetime including free-of-charge access to repair and service documentation together with any troubleshooting and diagnostic tools, circuit diagrams, machine codes, software and hardware
Work with manufacturers and EU regulatory parties to ensure that consumables in EEE—like batteries—are adhesive free and easily replaceable with common, non-proprietary tools.
Set design requirements for products to guarantee a minimum life time and ensure non-destructive disassembly of products into individual parts and components for reuse
Provide consumers with more information about product lifetimes through provision of information on the average expected product lifetime for a specific model.
Spare parts must be widely available and affordable for a minimum number of years following the last product batch depending on the product’s average expected lifetime. They must be available at non-discriminatory pricing to third parties. Re-use of used and remanufactured product components must also be allowed.
Develop a system to rate the durability and reparability of products and establish standards to measure these aspects for products placed on the European market.
Explore the effects, impacts and options of extending minimum legal product warranties, differentiating between product categories, while obliging manufacturers EU-wide to bear full responsibility for early failure as a minimum during the first two years after purchase
Lower taxes on repair service activities and increase them on resource-intensive and single use products instead.
Which are the relevant EU policy tools to build on?
Making repair cheaper could be tackled by reducing VAT on repair activities
A move towards a truly circular economy requires a horizontal approach across different policy areas. Designing products for ease of repair, together with any relevant information requirements for re-use operators can be tackled through the Ecodesign, WEEE and Batteries Directives. For other products, such as textiles and furniture, design requirements could be addressed within the framework of the EU circular economy package and related waste policies. Whilst information for consumers on product longevity and warranties could also be tackled in the aforementioned Directives, the Consumer Rights and Energy Labelling Directives could also have a major role to play. Regulations in the automotive sector such as the Massachusetts Right to Repair Law and the EU Regulation of motor vehicles and engines provide a source of inspiration which have addressed a number of these issues already. Finally, making repair cheaper could be tackled through innovative use of the VAT Directive through reduced VAT on repair activities.
A group of experts involved in the European Project SCOW, among which Zero Waste Europe, gathered in Barcelona to sign a manifesto to outline the strategies for improving food waste management in the Mediterranean area. It is estimated that this waste stream represents between 30% and 50% of the municipal solid waste in the countries of the Mediterranean basin.
The document outlines how the key factors necessary to achieve good implememntation in this field are: prevention, quantity and quality of selective collection and recycling, the establishment of clear objectives, the citizen awareness and participation, the redefinition of the infrastructures of waste treatment, in terms of efficiency, flexibility and scale, the production of quality compost assuring its final application, the regional cooperation among Mediterranean countries and the monitoring of results and dissemination of good practices.
The document remains open to new signatures by other entities and experts of the Mediterranean zone. If you are interested in receiving information about the manifesto and sign it, you can contact with BCNecologia, leader partner of the project, through the next e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or via the specific section of the Manifesto included on the SCOW website:
The SCOW project aims the definition of an innovative and sustainable management system for organic matter. It seeks a collection and a recycling of low cost, technically simple and of high quality.
The effectiveness of the system is related to the introduction of door to door collection systems and the creation of small scale composting plants distributed in a decentralized way in the territory, located near the places of generation of the organic matter and also where obtained compost can be used.
It is also one of the objectives of the SCOW project the proposal of regulatory and policy recommendations on bio-waste management, and here is where the manifesto is framed. The manifesto was elaborated and agreed by a working group conform by different stakeholders and experts (including project partners and associates as well as entities involved in waste management) in the field of bio-waste and waste management within the Med Zone, during the SCOW technical workshop organized by BCNecologia that took place on the 25th of February 2015 in Barcelona. Some of the attendants apart from the project partners and associates were: Marco Ricci, from CIC and Chair of the Biological Treatment Working Group of ISWA; Michele Giavini, CIC and ARSambiente; Stefanie Siebert representing European Compost Network (ECN); Markus Luecke form SWEEP-Net; Jane Gilbert, Carbon Clarity; Joan Marc Simon from Zero Waste Europe; Jean-Jacques Dohogne representing ACR+; Francesc Giró from Waste Agency of Catalonia; and Ana Rodríguez as the representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment of Spain.
Economic, social and environmental improvements
One of the main challenges in countries of the Mediterranean Basin is sustainable waste management, in particular the management of bio-waste. As bio-waste represents the largest fraction of MSW, it is therefore of particular importance. In the countries of the Mediterranean Basin, food waste represents the predominant fraction of bio-waste, reaching up to 30%-50% of total MSW production.
Strategies aiming to prevent and divert bio-waste (and food waste, in particular) from disposal can have significant outcomes, in particular addressing urgent environmental threats within this area:
*Effective and economically sustainable collection schemes for bio-waste represent the first step to produce quality compost, that can be used to mitigate soil erosion, desertification and enhance organic content in agricultural land improving its production as well as the fixation of carbon in soils.
*Diversion of bio-waste for recycling has a direct effect in reducing the environmental impacts of waste disposal due to landfilling of MSW; it limits the emission of greenhouse gasses (GHG) and leachates that may pollute ground water. It also reduces the use of landfill space.
Additionally, the introduction of separate collection schemes and models promote the development of a strong waste management sector with the creation of green jobs, even propitiating the effective regulation and involvement of the current informal recycling sector.
Generally speaking, the aim of bio-waste recycling can be considered to be the backbone of a modern and sustainable management solution for MSW.
A common and co-ordinated strategy within the Mediterranean Basin is therefore welcome. It can lead to faster adoption of measures and MSW management practises that aim to achieve the above mentioned environmental and socio-economic benefits, as well as contributing to support the North and specially Southern countries of the Mediterranean area in finding sustainable waste management solutions. This includes improved management of waste according to specific waste arisings, cultural and cooking habits and potential needs for assuring long term sustainability of agricultural land. This is set against a backdrop of increasing population and worsening effects due to climate change.
About the SCOW Project
SCOW is the abbreviation of Selective Collection of the Organic Waste in tourist areas and valorisation in small-scale composting plants. This is a European project of 3 years (2013-2015), which has as its aim the development of new models for the recollection and recycling of organic waste in areas with both tourist and agricultural activity.
SCOW is part of the Program ENPI CBC Med (Cross-Border-Cooperation in the Mediterranean) which aims to strengthen cooperation between the European Union and the countries located on the shores of the Mediterranean. The project has a budget of 4.970.000 euros. 90% of this total is funded by the European Union through the ENPI (European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument).
The partners of the SCOW project are: Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona (leader partner) (Spain), Development Agency Gal Genovese (Italy), Local Government Association (Malta), House of Water and Environment (Palestinian Authority), Upper Galilee Regional Council (Israel), MIGAL – Galilee Research Institute (Israel), SYVADEC (SIRET) (France) and Environment Park SpA (Italy).
The front-runners in the US and the EU when it comes to waste management presented their experiences in Brussels in March 4. A selected audience composed of members of the European Parliament, European Commission officials and stakeholders learned about the good practices from San Francisco and the province of Treviso in northern Italy.
In the event Joan-Marc Simon, executive director of Zero Waste Europe presented the zero waste philosophy and how it is necessary to design products without toxics and keeping in mind how they will be reintroduced into the technical or natural cycle, the necessity to optimise separate collection and finally reduce resource use. It was also made clear the difference between Zero Waste to Landfill and real Zero Waste by comparing both approaches with concrete examples of performance.
The event continued with the presentation of Kurt Vandenberghe, Director for Climate Action and Resource Efficiency in the European Commission. Mr Vandenberghe welcomed the initiative to organise a workshop about best practices and noted that ecoefficiency fixes are important but they will not be enough to reverse the current unsustainability trend and changes in the way we produce and consume will be needed. Moreover confirmed the commitment of the EC to present a more ambitious proposal for the Circular Economy which takes into account waste and products.
Jack Macy from the Zero Waste program in the city of San Francisco started his presentation building the link between waste and climate policy, with the experience of carbon capture by using compost on rangeland. He went on to present the exerience of San Francisco, based on the “fantastic three”; separate collection door-to-door in three waste streams, organic waste, recyclables and residuals. The system is optimised with pay-as-you-throw which makes waste generators pay according to how much waste they take out. Prevention measures such as banning single-use plastic carrier bags, single-use plastic water-bottles or extended polistyrene complete a model which represents the state of the art in the US.
Marco Mattiello presented the most succesful practice in Europe so far, in which the district of 550,000 people covered by Contarina has achieved recycling rates of 85% and residual waste rates -what is sent for disposal after recycling- of only 53kg. But faithful to the zero waste spirit Contarina wants to continue improving and has set itself recycling targets of 96,7% and prevention targets of reducing 80% which will mean producing only 10kg per person per year –average residual wste in EU is 250kg-. Mattiello showed how in Contarina this has helped reduce costs and create jobs.
JM Simon concluded the event by highlighting the fact that these transitions have taken place in less than a decade and hence prove that it is possible to achieve high separate collections rates in less time than what is needed to build an incinerator plant. Simon noted that three factors have made possible these initiatives; political leadeship, source separation of organics and not having invested into incineration capacity, and warned that the European Commission has been stopping separate collection of organic waste since 15 years and has been facilitating growth of incineration since 10 years. These are two things that need to change in order to make possible a circular economy.
To download the presentations of this session click:
EU Circular Economy Package: Questioning the reasons for withdrawal
The proposal by the European Commission to withdraw the Circular Economy Package from its 2015 Work Programme has produced a worrying climate of uncertainty. The arguments given for proposing the withdrawal call into question the legality, substance and democracy of the decision.
In short, we call on the European Commission to:
1) allow the current version of the circular economy package to follow the democratic co-decision process and address any improvements needed. Considering the loud condemnation of the withdrawal by both the Parliament and the Council, a withdrawal of this proposal by the Commission would be undemocratic.
2) Increase the level of ambition in a potential new proposal, should it unilaterally decide to withdraw the current one: increase number of jobs created, the environmental benefits to be gained, the cost savings to the public purse and the revenue to the repair and recycling sector. Any new proposal must provide nothing less than the benefits of the current proposal.
Furthermore, in the absence of any final formal decision by the Commission on its work programme, or any clear announcement on when it will do so, we present below the reasons given by the Commission for its withdrawal along with our counter-arguments.
1. The Circular Economy Package does not fit with the new jobs and growth agenda.
The current waste proposal has clear economic, social and environmental benefits at its core. The impact assessment estimates the creation of 580,000 jobs, the increase in annual turnover of the EU waste management and recycling sector by €42 billion, savings of €72 billion a year in waste management costs and a 27.5% reduction in marine litter by 2030. This would improve competitiveness of EU waste management and recycling sectors, and provide greater resource security with secondary raw materials being re-injected into the economy2. In addition, between 146 and 244 million tons of GHG emissions could be avoided by 2020 through reinforced application of the waste hierarchy, representing between 19-31% of the 2020 EU target.
These changes lead on from the Commission’s 2011 Raw Materials Communication and Resource Efficiency Roadmap, which highlight that, as worldwide demand for raw materials increases, greater efforts are necessary to boost recycling, reuse and repair in order to reduce the pressure on demand for primary raw materials, and reduce energy consumption and GHGs from extraction and processing.
Finally, the streamlining of present legislation would allow for increased legal certainty and make recycling legislation more easily enforceable, lifting regulatory and administrative burdens for SMEs as stated in a previous analysis by the Commission.
2. There would be ‘no foreseeable agreement’ between the European Parliament and the European Council
The Circular Economy Package fulfils obligations already agreed upon in the 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP), adopted by the Council, the Parliament and the Commission in 2013. Within the 7th EAP the three institutions call for full implementation of existing waste legislation, the need for additional efforts to reduce waste generation and limiting landfilling and energy recovery to residual waste, while moving towards a lifecycle-driven ‘circular’ economy, with residual waste close to zero.
The reactions from MEPs and member states opposing the withdrawal, suggests that an agreement would have been reached, and that both institutions were eager to work further on the proposal. The threat of withdrawal has led a group of leading EU lawyers to state that “from a democratic point of view, it would be odd that an executive agency is able to depart so easily and so significantly from the Union lawmaker’s 2013 policy goals” and that “a definitive withdrawal from existing proposals would run counter to the general legal principle of loyal cooperation.”
3. EU law needs to be simplified
One of the stated objectives of the proposal is to simplify waste legislation. The proposal as it stands simplifies definitions, identifies one methodology instead of four and combines several directives into one in order to avoid confusion and administrative burdens. Therefore, any new circular economy proposal must not halt the already-started streamlining exercise of the current package.
4. European citizens want change as demonstrated by the election results. Therefore, the EU needs to focus on the big things that matter: jobs, growth and fairness in our societies.
It is true that the European election results signalled a desire for things to be different. However there is no evidence that citizens want a cut back on environmental laws. The Eurobarometer poll 4165 conducted over the period Europe was going to the elections (mid 2014) showed that 74% of Europeans believe that environmental protection can boost economic growth, and 56% believe that the EU is not doing enough to protect the environment. The more recent Flash Eurobarometer 3886 from June 2014 also highlighted that 86% of people think that the impact of more efficient resource use would be positive on the quality of life, bring economic growth (80%), as well as on employment opportunities in their country (78%). Most of them consider that reducing waste and sorting recyclable waste at home (51%) and in industry and construction (50%) would make the biggest difference.
Withdrawal of the Circular Economy Package from the current co-decision process makes no sense and constitutes a huge waste of the Commission’s, Council’s and Parliament’s resources.