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.
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?
According to Eurostat statistics on waste released on 22/03/16, each European generated 475 kg of waste in 2014, only 44% of this is being recycled or composted. The remaining 56% ended up landfilled (28%) or incinerated (27%).
Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) notes that two continuing trends in these statistics:
Little improvement in terms of waste generation
Waste is being diverted from landfills into incinerators (up 1.1%) and to a lesser extent to recycling (up 1%)
In general terms, the countries which are performing well in waste treatment seem to be unable to reduce their waste generation, while the most efficient ones in terms of waste generation tend to be unable to reintroduce materials into the economy through recycling and composting.
In view of these facts and in order to advance towards a circular economy ZWE calls for the adoption of targets for residual wastei of 100kg per capita as a more effective tool to increase recycling in countries with low waste generation and reduce waste generation in those countries with advanced recycling programs.
Zero Waste Europe’s Executive Director, Joan Marc Simon said “A residual waste target of 100kg per capita for 2030 is a good indicator of resource efficiency and resource use, as it works on the top levels of the waste hierarchy, effectively combining prevention, reuse and recycling policies”.
When looking at 2014 statistics from a residual waste per capita perspective one can see that, besides Malta and Cyprus (both islands) and Denmark, there is already considerable convergence between EU member states with the EU average being at 259kg per capita, hence a target of 100kg for 2030 is a feasible target.
The situation is, however, very diverse across the EU, both in terms of waste generation and waste treatment. Some Member States like Romania, Poland or Latvia are well under the average EU waste generation with less than 300 kg per inhabitant, while some others like Denmark, Cyprus and Germany generate substantially more than EU average, being over 600 kg per inhabitant and even over 750 kg, as it is for Denmark.
ZWE also notes that Slovenia, a relatively new member state, is today the best EU country implementing waste hierarchy management practices with stable waste generation well below EU average and a high recycling rate. This makes of Slovenia the best performing EU country with the lowest amount of residual waste, just 102 kg per capita in 2014.
Mr Simon added that “The Circular Economy in Europe means reducing waste generation and increasing recycling rates and Slovenia is a good example of how to both things can take place simultaneously”.
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.
After 5,637 km of cycling, the Alternatiba Festival finally arrived in Paris on the 26th September, having left Bayonne in early June and travelled through Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and most of France and gathered in these four months, more than 300,000 people in 187 cities and towns.
Alternatiba was born two years ago in Bayonne, in the French Basque Country, hoping to present real and grass-roots alternatives to climate change. Two years later, it has become the largest ever environmental festival in France and it has raised awareness about climate change as a systemic problem, requiring systemic changes.
The weekend in Paris consisted of 14 different “neighbourhoods”, from ‘Energy’ to ‘Zero Waste’, but also ‘Banking’,and ‘Agriculture’, emphasizing that the fight against climate change is diverse in itself and requires efforts from all sectors. More than 60,000 people visited the stalls of NGOs, associations and civil society, attended talks, ate ‘un-wasted food’ at the Feed the 5000 event, and generally enjoyed the good mood and atmosphere of the people mobilized and engaged for the betterment of the planet, our present and our future.
Zero Waste was particularly visible aspect of the Paris Alternatiba Festival thanks to the efforts of our friends at Zero Waste France who provided their expertise on how to minimize waste at the event: deposit and return cups, increasing the segregation of biowaste and compostable products, ensuring proper information, etc. At the same time, the Zero Waste neighbourhood stressed the importance in the fight against climate change of shifting from wasteful societies to zero waste societies. Zero Waste France presented their Plan B’OM, a citizens-led alternative plan to the construction of a big incinerator in Ivry (Paris region), organized workshops on how to make fabric bags and another on the importance of buying in bulk, and how to do so. Their rubbish autopsy was also a success, showing that there are still many non-recyclable products that need to be re-designed.
Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) presented a guide on re-use and participated in a debate on ‘planned obsolescence’ along with HAP, a new organisation created to fight the artificial limiting of a products life. Other stands offered training in composting and vermi-composting or presented warnings about the most useless big investments in waste facilities in France (mostly MBT plants and incinerators). Repair café demonstrated how to empower citizens re-use their products and other groups showcased upcycled objects.
The Zero Waste neighbourhood was very well complemented by the ‘Water’ neighbourhood, where Surfrider highlighted marine litter and plastics, the ‘Banking’ neighbourhood advocating for the divestment from environmentally toxic projects, such as incinerators, and by the ‘Housing’ neighbourhood that underlined the importance of green building and recyclable construction materials.
Overall, the Alternatiba Festival was successful in making the case that there are alternatives to climate change in addition to energy transition and that without them, it will not be possible to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Plastic has permeated every corner of our oceans and rivers, leaving virtually no inch of ocean plastic free.1 But all around the world, communities and cities are showing that another way is possible. From Manila to Montenegro, people are saying no to plastic pollution and calling for a world without plastic bags.
On Friday the 3rd of July groups and organisations from across the world took action for the 6th International Plastic Bag Free Day. The day saw creative events across five continents, in a unified call for reusable, responsible alternatives.
Montenegro saw a ‘plastic bag monster’ roaming the streets of Podgorica, the capital city, as Zero Waste Montenegro raised awareness of the environmental impact of single-use plastic bags and informed people of the alternative zero waste solutions. Hungarian campaigners from Humusz held a flashmob and trolley race to from a central square to a nearby market, highlighting the alternative solutions to plastic bags, such as shopping trolleys. In Sofia, Bulgaria, there was a ‘plastic bag free party and fotomarathon’ with theatre, music and drinks. A German group held a film showing of ‘Trashed’ in Konstanz. And in Slovenia a trade in scheme was held, where people could swap 10 disposable plastic bags for a re-usable cotton bag. In addition to having fun and raising awareness, groups in Europe had concrete policy goals. In Europe, groups including; Zero Waste Europe, Fundació Prevenció de Residus, Friends of the Earth Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe, and the European Environmental Bureaurenewed their call for for EU Member States to put into effect the new EU directive to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags, and make this policy a reality.
In Manilla, Philippines, a forum was held by a number of organisations exposing the truth behind many types of ‘degradable’ plastic bags and their impacts on the environment. Sonia Mendoza, President of the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines, said “Degradable plastic bags will not help solve our environmental problems concerning waste and pollution, as their use will merely instil and promote further the throwaway attitude and culture that have so permeated modern society,” and called for a ban on plastic bags in the Philippines.
Members of the Korea Zero Waste Movement Networkworked to raise awareness in front of the Seoul Jongno Tower Saengtegye, encouraging South Koreans to stop using single-use plastic bags, and instead use reusable shopping baskets. And in Hong-Kong and Taiwan groups encouraged people to “Say no to plastic bags!” and reduce their use of disposable bags.
In Botswana, Somarelang Tikologo (Environment Watch Botswana), called upon the Botswanan government to enforce their levy on plastic bags, which officially came into force in 2006 and use the proceeds to fund environmental activities in Botswana, saying “We also call on the government to use the levy as it was intended to create a cleaner Botswana,”.
The Kicking the Bags Out campaign in Zambia lobbied for a plastic bag ban or fee across Zambia as part of a community solution to the issue of clogged drainage systems from plastic bag waste and donated reusable bags to legislators and ministers.
In Canada volunteers on Vancouver Island offered reusable bags by donation and held a voluntary plastic bag ban, where shoppers were encouraged not to use single-use plastic bags as part of their daily shop.
In Argentina a comedy event was held where monologues highlighted the ‘pointlessness’ of plastic bags.
More and more people on every continent are choosing to take their reusable bags to the shops, and ditching disposable plastics. But we don’t have time to wait for everyone in the world to follow this trend. The disastrous effects that single-use plastic bags are having on our environments, means that we need bold policies to tackle the issue of destructive disposable plastics and begin to move towards a world where single-use plastics are completely eliminated.
Many of the events and actions which took place are available to view on world map at http://www.plasticbagfreeday.org/ where you can read stories, view actions and add any of your own actions which may be missing.
1Doyle, Christopher, “No part of the ocean untouched by plastic rubbish.” ABC Environment, 11 December 2014.
From Friday 5th to Sunday 7 June, dozens of zero waste campaigners, experts and supporters from across Europe gathered in Sofia, Bulgaria for 3 days of discussion, planning and strategy at the Zero Waste Europe Annual General Assembly, hosted by Zero Waste Europe’s member in Bulgaria, Za Zemiata.
On Friday 5th, the Zero Waste Conference opened with a speech from Ivelina Vasileva, the Bulgarian Minister of environment and water. This was followed by a passionate speech from Enzo Favoino, the Chairman of the Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee, who told the audience that “we must never surrender to the idea that there is something which is not reusable or recyclable”.
The Director of Zero Waste Europe, Joan Marc Simon (ZWE) emphasised in his speech that zero waste is about “asking the right questions: not ‘Is it better to landfill or incinerate?’ but rather ‘How do you mainstream the support to re-use, recycling, and redesign?”.
In a series of short presentations, the conference heard the story of a variety of different campaigns and their successes and strengths. These included Camille Duran, from Green White Space, who
examined the economic context for zero waste as part of a larger “sharing economy” in a globalised world. Dimo Stefanov spoke about his challenges in creating a zero waste compost farm, and creating a viable zero waste business in Bulgaria.
Delphine Lévi spoke on behalf of Zero Waste France about the incredible speed at which their campaign has grown, and how zero waste has become “trendy” in France, with the possibility of many significant gains on the horizon.
Victor Mitjans from the Barcelona-based Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus i el Consum Responsable, highlighted the use of ‘deposit schemes’ for recyclable materials as a financial incentive to increase the recovery rates of one-way packaging, and put forward the idea for this to be further extended towards other waste streams including precious metals and other pollutants. Csilla Urban, from Humusz in Hungary told the audience about the zero waste events they had held, as well as their plans for the future of Zero Waste in Hungary.
In the next presentation the conference heard from Sofia resident Irena Sabewa who had pioneered a community composting scheme called “living together” bringing together neighbourhood residents and using “community effort to produce community results”.
The presentations ended with a talk from Ilian Iliev from the Bulgarian Public Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development. This talk tied together many of the key aspects of the Bulgarian zero waste movement. With a wide range of community projects focussing on addressing problems with collection, tackling low levels of knowledge and fighting incinerator projects. His closing remarks made clear challenges of tackling the various stakeholders of the zero waste project in Bulgaria, and claimed that it is only through working with these groups that Bulgaria can begin to move up the European ranking for waste management.
Saturday saw members of the Zero Waste network looking ahead to the coming years, discussing the priorities for the campaign and strategy for growing, developing and increasing the ‘Zero Waste Cities’ across Europe. The final day of the ZWE Annual Meeting saw a summary of the ideas presented over the previous two days as well as the administrative tasks of the AGM.
The meeting closed with an inspirational presentation from Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, Mariel Vilella who highlighted the global scale of zero waste campaigns, covering the work of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the changing landscape of global campaigning.
Throughout the meeting, hundreds of conversations took place, experiences were shared, tactics discussed and strategies developed setting the groundwork for increased pan-European actions and co-ordination. Hearing about the successes and struggles of groups organising for zero waste, left the Zero Waste network enthused, inspired and ready to drive the campaign for zero waste forward.
If you couldn’t make it the ZWE Sofia Meeting, or have only just heard about the ZWE network and want to get involved or help out, you can get in touch via email or have a look to see if there is a local group in your region by checking the Our Network section of the website.
Every year, millions of tonnes of litter end up in oceans, beaches, forests and elsewhere in nature. That’s why between 8th and 10th May, we celebrated the clean up Europe day within the campaign “Let’s clean up Europe”. This campaign that takes place annually intends to bring visibility and raise awareness of the problem of littering and its causes, such as poor waste management and unsustainable consumption patterns.
The event took place simultaneously all over the European Union and in five non-EU European States. Year after year, “Let’s Clean Up Europe!” manages to fight littering and to increase consciousness on the origin of the problem and how this affects the ecosystems. Let’s clean up Europe is coordinated by the European Week for Waste Reduction. Here you can find further information on the campaign, the local organizations involved and the actions that were carried out.
Inter-linkages between waste and climate change issues are not always self-explanatory to the common eye. Apparently it seems that the former deals with the rubbish bin and the latter deals with reducing CO2 and typhoons, doesn’t it?
Well, if you still think this way, please feel very welcomed to check out our previous post about how we can bridge the two campaigning fronts and create mutually reinforcing positive drivers: zero waste solutions offer a very easy way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while creating green jobs, cutting down waste disposal pollution and building a more resource-efficient society.
The relevance of the connection between the two fields of action increases when we look at the money flows, especially money that is meant to support the mitigation and adaptation of climate change (aka, climate finance) and instead may end up supporting waste incinerators, cement kilns burning used tires or landfill gas capture in open landfills. Precisely, the kinds of projects that contribute to climate change rather than fighting it.
Another similar situation has emerged in Indonesia, where the national climate plan (Indonesia NAMA plan) has also encouraged cement plants to substitute the use of conventional fossil fuels and burn waste instead, and it’s seeking international financial aid of 2.063 million EUR to do so.
Alerts levels continue raising as we hear from multilateral development banks and top international finance leaders from the International Development Finance Club that waste-to-energy is one sector they could invest in in order to mitigate climate change. These global chiefs have recently published their Common Principles on what projects will be fit to receive climate finance. As said, waste-to-energy (e.g. incineration of waste, landfill gas capture, and landfill gas combustion) are amongst the eligible candidates.
It must be acknowledged that the Common Principles do refer to recycling projects as potential climate finance investments. Specifically, it reads as “Waste-recycling projects that recover or reuse materials and waste as inputs into new products or as a resource (only if net emission reductions can be demonstrated).”
Thus this may remind us that climate finance is a tool to mitigate climate change in the first place, and it’s up to all of us to ensure it goes to the right places. It’s about time that these financial institutions agree on an environmental criteria, certainly one for the waste sector is badly needed.
In the context of the upcoming municipal election in Catalonia the next 24th of May, the Estratègia Catalana de Residu Zero (Catalan Zero Waste Strategy) has activated its political influence to put pressure on all political parties and request their commitment to a zero waste agenda.
The Estratègia Catalana de Residu Zero was created in 2011 to promote comprehensive waste management plans that would aim at closing the cycles of materials and reducing the production and disposal of waste. The Catalan ZW Strategy has been key in the promotion of alternatives to the throwaway society and it has led the constitution of a network of 60 municipalities committed to Zero Waste principles.
Knowing the importance of working at the municipal and community level to implement Zero Waste solutions, the Estratègia Catalana de Residu Zero has put forward 10 proposals that could feed the zero waste agenda of all political parties. The 10 proposals would be:
The approval of a local zero waste plan
The establishment targets of waste prevention and separate collection aiming at recycling 70% of municipal waste and at producing less than 100 kg per inhabitant and year of residual waste in two electoral terms.
Evaluate the construction of composting facilities.
Study the viability of introducing door-to-door collection for household waste.
Analyse the production of commercial waste and collect it via a door-to-door system.
Take measures on waste prevention and green public procurement within the city council.
Promote reuse and repair and facilitate the access to reused products.
Implement economic incentives to promote waste prevention and a more effective and better separate collection.
Increase the cost of landfilling and incinerating whenever these are municipal facilities.
Oppose to any type of incineration of the residual waste of the municipality.
Mercè Girona, president of the Fundació Catalana de Prevenció de Residus i Consum Responsable, (Catalan Foundation of Waste Prevention and Responsible Consumption) in charge of the Catalan Zero Waste Strategy, presented the call for commitment along with the mayors of Cruïlles and Sant Jaume de Llierca and two local councillors of Girona and Celrà.
“In order to fully achieve the Zero Waste objectives, it is essential to count on political will and a legal framework promoting good practices and discouraging those that are unsustainable”, said Girona in her intervention.
The next election on May 7th may be the beginning of a renovated political scenario in Catalonia, may it be one that shows a stronger commitment to building a zero waste future.
The world of arts and fashion maintains a very stimulating dialogue with the world of waste. Artists, eco-designers, and handcrafts professionals have found in waste materials a source of inspiration, a thrilling challenge to their creativity and even a conceptual pillar to build a whole new vision of arts, fashion and sustainability.
Katell Gelebart is an example of this wave of artists looking at waste as a treasure. A French independent, Katell is an eco-designer using arts and fashion to raise awareness about waste.
“My creations are born in different cultural environments around the globe, with whatever waste and unwanted material there is already there that can act as a social trigger to inspire and raise awareness amongst communities in their social and environmental choices”, says Katell.
Katell founded her workshop, shop and brand Art d’Eco & Design in Amsterdam in 1998 in a groundbreaking initiative in the world of ecodesign. Passionate about waste and giving a new lifecycle to any material, she is a pioneer in developing design articles from unwanted and waste materials: stationery, fashion accessories, women garment, toys, and home furnishing. In 2012, Gelebart was awarded the Kairos Prize for her special contribution to European culture, rewarding her “creative vision to revisit what’s already there”.
Apart from her redesign work in her Amsterdam base, Katell has been sharing her current knowledge on upcycling, recycling and ecodesign in lectures and presentations in various fashion institutes and design academies, as well as in primary and high schools. In short, her philosophy and vision around creativity and sustainability is introducing many different audiences into what she calls New Thinking for New Times.
Perhaps one of the most exciting experiences for the creative minds is her ecodesign workshops, in which participants experience a “hands on material” time. Participants themselves collect the waste and raw materials in their local environment, and learn to transform them with crafts techniques and low-tech means. Essentially, the workshop guides participants to explore the potential of any material to be given a second life, transforming it to another design item with the minimal intervention.
Gelebart’s current main concerns focus on big fashion company’s corporate responsibility. “According to Hasmik Matevosyan in her book Paradigm shift in Fashion, the production of a clothes collection wastes up to 30% of the textile materials, which will never be retailed,” says Katell. “This seems to me like a huge amount of raw material wasted that it has been processed for nothing.”
Gelebart is thriving to pursue a dialogue on this issue and support organizations and companies in rethinking their production systems to achieve zero waste. In other words, lots of residual waste items are waiting out there to be on Karell’s hands and be transformed into beautiful and useful solutions. Redesign, arts and creativity may be indeed, one of the most mind-blowing responses to our wasteful, throw-away society. Nothing less than lots of fun and truly sustainable change for us and the future generations.
Karell Gelebart’s upcoming book Trash is Treasure: ecodesign and conscious living will be published shortly.
The UN Climate Conference (COP 20) concluded in Lima last 13th December after 12 days and 33 extra hours of negotiations, with a far more disappointing agreement that the more sceptical-minded would have dared guessing. Yet still, this was an important space to bring up our community-led climate justice solutions for the waste sector, which as much as it is often part of the climate problem, it can definitely be turned into a great climate solution.
An agreement with no real teeth
Following-up on previous commitments, countries meeting in Lima were meant to frame the new legal, binding, global agreement that is supposed to be adopted in the next COP 21 in Paris. This new treaty is expected to ensure climate action from 2020 onwards to keep the planet’s temperature rise below 2Cº.
The outcome from Lima, far from bringing countries closer to a legally binding global treaty, delayed all the important and most controversial decisions and produced a shy ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’, a document that puts forward a number of key recommendations, without any real mandate for countries to pursue them.
Apart from the big picture negotiations, the COP20 was a very relevant space to monitor and analyse specific country efforts to implement climate action in the waste sector. Precisely, several experiences have shown that whereas waste is part of the climate problem as a source of GHG emissions, it can definitely be turned into a key climate solution with greatest emission savings and further co-benefits.
Zero Waste – Key Solutions for Climate Justice
“Zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.” (Excerpt of the GAIA Declaration towards the COP20)
As done in previous years, GAIA organized a delegation of representatives of grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners that showed that zero waste is a key strategy for climate justice and to develop a low-carbon economy. Throughout a week of action both inside the COP and also outside at the People’s Summit for Climate Change, the delegation engaged in promoting community-led climate solutions in the waste sector and also challenged the misleading assumptions around waste burning as a clean energy and/or renewable energy source.
Starting the week with a colourful and exciting public action at the heart of the COP, the delegation pointed out at the current lack of environmental criteria in climate finance, most noticeable in the under-construction policies of the Green Climate Fund. This institution, which has received financial pledges from developed countries to up to 10 USD billion during the COP20 and that may be approving project proposals as early as next summer 2015, has refused so far to commit to an ‘exclusion’ list of projects which would ensure that none of this eventual money ends up burning fossil fuels, municipal solid waste, biomass or producing any sort of dirty energy. Several civil society organizations have joined efforts to raise this demand, yet to be considered by the GCF Board.
Specific action was taken to put the Mexico government on the spotlight, as it has recently granted permission to use municipal solid waste as fuel in cement plants all over the country. Doña Venancia Cruz, representative of the Indigenous Community of Santiago de Anaya in México, appealed directly to the government representatives bringing the testimony of her impacted community by this polluting practice.
As mentioned above, the COP20 was an excellent context to show the key achievements of zero waste strategies in reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, providing livelihoods and restoring the soils. A press conference was held to showcase the specific examples.
Dan Moche and Beth Grimberg from the Aliança Resíduo Zero Brazil presented the progress made in Sao Paulo, which as recently implemented source separation of organic waste and domestic composting for 10.000 homes. Compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.
Special attention was given to the contribution of the recyclers community, represented by Denisse Moran from REDLACRE. The recycling sector, with more than two million informal recyclers in developing country cities, offers climate-smart urban solutions to sustain and strengthen livelihood development, improve local environmental health, and strengthen local economies.
Last but not least, representatives from the Coalición Anti-incineración Argentina stressed the need to work at the local and national level and root climate solutions on the basis of communities and national coalitions of civil society organizations.
Monitoring national climate policies in the waste sector.
As mentioned above, the COP20 is a very useful space to monitor and analyse national climate mitigation policy – aka NAMAs, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, in the UNFCCC jargon. As the global agreements have not offered any solid environmental guidance, the current situation shows a wide variety of climate mitigation policies, often in the wrong direction. This is particularly obvious when looking at the waste sector in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Dominican Republic.
Colombia for example, which is known to host one of the most vibrant grassroots recyclers movements recognized internationally, presented a climate mitigation policy that will entail the implementation of an MBT plant in two cities, with the subsequent production of Refuse-Derived Fuel to be burnt in cement plants as an emission reduction strategy. The polluting impacts of waste burning in cement kilns have been thoroughly reported.
Worryingly enough, Dominican Republic also presented a climate mitigation project with the support of GIZ consisting in burning of used tires in cement kilns, arguing that it would not only reduce GHG emissions but it would also benefit the local population via job creation. Likewise, the climate mitigation policy presented by Indonesia also makes a reference to developing 5 waste-to-energy projects in 5 different cities, even thought it’s unclear what kind of technology it will be.
On the other hand, the Dominican Republican also presented a project to apply anaerobic digestion to pig farming, which could indeed contribute to GHG emissions if done appropriately. In this sense, it was made clear that when it comes to climate mitigation policies in the waste sector, the UNFCCC is unable to provide any solid environmental and social criteria and it needs close monitoring to discern the good, the bad and the ugly.
In conclusion, as Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, put it in her presentation about climate policy in the waste sector in the People’s Climate Summit: “Let’s not rely on misleading concepts. Biomass and waste cannot be the “new coal” because they are not clean energy, and they are not renewable. There is a critical need to develop environmental and social criteria for climate action in the waste sector, to ensure that we take advantage from its enormous opportunity to mitigate climate change and reach further co-benefits in air pollution reduction, green jobs, and the empowerment of resilient communities,”
Next steps – toward Paris COP21
The COP21 in Paris will take place next December and the National Climate Coalition 21 is already gearing up to it. International networks had a chance to discuss plans at the People’s Summit in Lima and put forward a calendar of decentralized mobilizations for the whole year. Once again, community-led zero waste solutions will be at the front of the mobilizations, showing the work done throughout the whole year at the local and national contexts.
For a comprehensive analysis of the COP20 outcomes, we recommend the following article by Oscar Reyes, at Institute for Policy Studies, and also this article by Lili Furh, Liane Schalatek and Maureen Santos at Heinrich Boell Foundation.
There is ample scientific evidence warning of the imminent dangers of climate change and inaction – not only the last 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC has been clear on these projections: while the UN Climate Change COP20 negotiations were taking place in Lima, another typhoon called Hagupit hit the Philippines.
In other words, there is no time to waste for climate action, and municipal solid waste sector can be not only a place to reduce GHG emissions, but also to provide clean air, clean water, clean energy, healthy food, healthy people, healthy wildlife, and the availability of resources for future generations.
Precisely, this was the spirit of the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum celebrated in Shanghai last 4-6 December 2014, which brought together Chinese policy-makers, city officials from Shanghai and San Francisco (US), university professors and the members of the China Zero Waste Alliance, amongst other allies, to discuss the specific ways in which Zero Waste Strategies can contribute to this low-carbon future.
Moreover, some of the international speakers took the chance to visit some cities and learn further about the potential of the waste sector in China, which was reported in the media in several articles, such as this.
An International Panel to introduce the Zero Waste vision
The Forum counted with the celebrated interventions of Professor Paul Connett, professor emeritus at St. Lawrence University in New York, and Rossano Ercoloni, Zero Waste Europe President and Goldman Prize winner, both visionary leaders that have inspired the international zero waste movement with their energy and enthusiasm.
Prof. Connett explained how Zero Waste solutions can directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both. “Burning waste feeds a linear system that drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns”, said Prof. Connett. “With zero waste we turn into the circular system”, he added.
Ercoloni presented the main zero waste experiences in Europe, with special emphasis on the organic waste separate collection system in Milan, which is an example of a very high-condensed city that has successfully diverted tones of organic waste from landfill and thus reduce large amounts of GHG gases.
Precisely, the Forum put especial emphasis on the climate benefits from treating organic waste. Calla Ostrander from the Marin Carbon Project, presented their research on the matter, showing that compost avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. Ostrander’s research showed that if compost was applied to just 5 percent of the California state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.
Jack Macy from the San Francisco Zero Waste Program presented the very successful progress made in the city in the last decades since they started with the zero waste strategy. According to Macy, the key elements of their strategy were to establish convenient source separation with processing, conduct extensive outreach and education, provide incentives, and implement producer and consumer responsibility policies.
Moreover, the City believed that its zero waste and climate action goals would not likely be achieved under voluntary participation programs alone, so it develop a city ordinance to make recycling and composting mandatory for everyone in San Francisco.
“Before the Mandatory Ordinance we were collecting about 400 tons of compostables a day, and thanks to the Ordinance since it passed in June 2009 we’ve seen almost an overnight a 25% increase of collecting about 500 tons of compostables a day!”, Macy explained.“Today San Francisco has the goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. We are getting close by being at a current diversion rate of 72%”, he concluded.
The Zero Waste Experience in China
One of the main highlights of the Forum was the opportunity to learn from the local experiences on the ground, places in China that are already making difference by changing the way they handle waste.
One of the most inspiring experiences has been developed in Xiao Er Township in Gong County, Yibing, Sichuan Province. Facing a waste generation peak without proper systems to sort it in 2006, the local government collaborated with the local NGO Partnerships for Community Development (PCD) and undertook a pioneer pilot project on waste separation was launched in 2007. After six years of trial, most people of Xiao Er Township now give greater importance to waste treatment and they are much more aware of the issue than before. Moreover, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions of Xiao Er has gone down which in turn contributes to improving the environment.
Even if these local experiences are illuminating the path towards a Low-Carbon, Toxic-Free development for China, the Forum devoted special attention to the policy obstacles that may be hindering further progress. Mao Da from RREI presented its research about the national renewable energy subsidies given to waste incinerators. The full report is available here, in Chinese.
“Waste incinerators receive benefits for every kilowatt of electricity put on the national grid. In this sense, there is a strong economical interest in burning waste and this is an uneven playing field for policies aiming at waste prevention, reuse and recycling which would offer higher climate benefits”, Mao Da said.
His research, which is planned to be published in early 2015, recommends the cancellation of the renewable energy subsidies for trash incineration, as well as its classification as a low-carbon technology. Moreover, it suggests implementing Pay-As-You-Throw system (see examples such system in Europe here) and shift subsidies towards waste management systems that can be truly low-carbon, such as recycling and composting.
Overall, the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum was an excellent opportunity to explore the potential of such development in China, opening up new exciting connections, conversations and projects for the future.
Waste incineration in cement kilns has been put on the spot once more as one of the biggest obstacles to zero waste solutions and a major source of pollution with severe impacts on the environment and public health, this time at the European Gathering Against Waste incineration in Cement Kilns (see programme) that took place the last 8-9 November in Barletta, Italy.
The event had an enormous success of participation, with more than 200 people attending the talks given by community leaders, NGOs, waste experts, and policy-makers on the various issues surrounding waste incineration in cement kilns and the main solutions around zero waste alternatives.
It received extensive press coverage in local newspapers and television (see below for press clipping) and all of the organizers, including Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero Puglia, Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA – Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, celebrated its outcomes.
Precisely, the gathering was a chance to strategize and plan further coordination at the European level amongst the various groups working on this front and resulted in the elaboration of a manifesto that will be made public in the coming days.
Waste incineration in cement kilns: an obstacle to zero waste and a source of pollution
‘Waste incineration in cement kilns is the biggest obstacle to zero waste’ said Paul Connett, professor emeritus at St. Lawrence University in New York in his keynote speech. Connett argued that waste incineration in cement kilns is not sustainable, neither saves as much energy as reuse and recycling do. In fact, this industrial practice releases toxic emissions into the air containing mercury, lead, cadmium and thallium, and other heavy metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants. Moreover, cement plants usually reintroduce the fly ash and the bottom ash resulting from the combustion process back into the cement, which basically makes buildings constructed with this cement highly toxic and threatening for people and the environment.
Regarding public protection from toxic emissions, Profesor Connett pointed that even if there were strong regulations, adequate monitoring and consistent enforcement, there would no way to control nanoparticles of dioxins, furans or toxic metals that result from waste incineration in cement kilns or any other combustion plant. Air pollution control devices do not efficiently capture nanoparticles, which can travel long distances, remain suspended for long periods of time and penetrate deep into the lungs, as referenced in scientific literature such as this and this.
“I am opposed to waste incineration in purpose-built facilities, but when you burn the waste in cement kilns you are taking it out of the hands of professionals and giving it to amateurs!, concluded Prof. Connett in reference to the increased interest of the cement industry to provide waste disposal services to municipalities and become actual incinerators.
When analyzing the emissions coming from a cement plant, di Ciaula concluded: “the pollutant emissions from cement-incinerators are much higher and would be illegal if they were coming from incinerator!”. Di Ciaula also reported a number of scientific studies about impacts on public health from toxic emissions, particularly regarding impacts of NOx emissions (here, here and here), PCBs compounds (various studies: here, here, here, here, here), and the increased effects on children (here), and reminded that PCBs are not systematically monitored neither regulated.
Impacted communities: testimonies that need to be heard
Undoubtedly, one of the high points of the event was the opportunity to hear the testimonies of several communities from Italy and around Europe that are facing waste incineration in cement kilns at their doorstep as well as engaging in transforming their local waste management systems to aim at zero waste.
In the first place, Sabrina Salerno from Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero Puglia talked about the situation in the city of Barletta, where a cement plant very close to the town threatens to start burning 65.000 tons/day of waste. This is a shocking contradiction in a town that has recently implemented door-to-door collection to increase recycling rates and reduce residual waste. Amongst other actions, the Movimiento Legge Rifiuti Zero and Zero Waste Italy are promoting a petition to the European Parliament against the use of Refuse-Derived-Fuel as a clean source of energy. Other representatives from around Italy presented similar battles in Monselice (Veneto) where the local cement plant has been called into question at the European Parliament for intolerable toxic emissions, Gubbio (Umbria) where local opposition has been successfully preventing waste incineration in the cement plant for many years. Other presentations refered to similar situations in Trapani (Sicily), Lazio (Rome) and Galatina (Puglia).
The collective Eko-Krog in Slovenia has also been protesting the potential incineration of waste in a Lafarge-owned plant in Trbovljefor the last ten years. Despite many victories along the way and wide popular support opposing this practice, the cement industry still intends to burn waste and the battle has started over many times over different permits and resolutions.
In the UK, Lillian Pallikaropoulos has been leading the campaign against the Cemex-owned cement plant in Rugby for the last ten years. The plant, placed just in town, burns waste and tires without appropriate regulatory and environmental permits. The case was brought up to the Court of Justice, which unfortunately failed in favour of the cement plant and charged Mrs Pallikaropoulos with the total cost of the legal proceedings. This was appealed at the European Court of Justice and is pending to be resettled.
Serbia was also present with the NGO Egrin, based in Kosjerić, where waste the cement plants of Holcim and Lafarge have been burning waste since 2006. Branislav Despotov argued that cement plants are increasingly making its main profits by burning hazardous waste rather than producing cement, as shown in this paper.
The way forward: connecting the local and the global level on a zero waste path.
Last but not least, one of the most exciting talks of the gathering was given by Erika Oblak, Zero Waste Slovenija coordinator with Ecologists Without Borders. The zero waste strategies in Slovenia have been moving forward with huge steps and culminating with the recent declaration of Ljubljana as the first Zero Waste EU capital, which was celebrated and inspired all the participants.
Precisely, host speakers such as Rossano Ercoloni, ZWE’s President and founder of Zero Waste Italy reminded that a zero waste path should not include waste incineration activities, even less in a cement kiln. “We have alternatives to incineration that are proven and already working” stated Enzo Favoino, the ZWE Scientific Chair, who addressed what would do a zero waste strategy in dealing with residual waste.
“In fact, we are at the #ageofdeccomissioning of incinerators, and we cannot allow waste to be promoted as ‘alternative fuel’ to fossil fuels”, concluded Mariel Vilella, ZWE Associate Director and also host to the meeting. “Now it’s time to coordinate our efforts at the local and global level, so that we make sure that our stories inspire and strength further all the other communities that are facing similar threats in Mexico, India, South Africa and all over the world”, she said.
Everyone showed enthusiasm to celebrate another international gathering in 2015, so more activities and further planning shall be announced soon.
South African Waste Pickers are amongst those organized communities that have turned the tide of their role in the waste management systems. Since the creation of their national organization SAWPA – the South African Waste Pickers Association with the support of groundWork in 2009, their empowerment as the de facto recycling system in South Africa has reached important political milestones and it keeps expanding. Their latest step: undertaking a Zero Waste Tour in Europe to learn about organic waste treatment, visiting the Zero Waste Best Practices in Gipuzkoa (Basque Country, Spain) and sharing their story of collective organizing with the informal recyclers in Barcelona.
Management of organics, a key pillar for zero waste success
The Zero Waste Tour started in Donosti with the International Training Course on Organics Management, which addressed the management of the organic fractions of waste, including collection and treatment. It also included a site-visit to the door-to-door collection system of Hernani and a composting facility plant. As it was pointed out by one of the trainees Enzo Favoino, Chair of the Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee, specific collection and treatment of biowaste is a must to move towards zero waste.
“With recycling of packaging we only go halfway”, Favoino argued. Biowaste still makes a significant part of the total municipal solid waste and therefore ambitious zero waste plans cannot be reached by collecting and treating only dry waste. “SAWPA supports a zero waste approach as it creates jobs, saves public money, and it combats climate change”, said Simon Mbata, national spokesperson for SAWPA. “Organic waste is a critical waste stream within a zero waste approach but it’s not included in the South Africa’s Waste Act (2008), so coming to this training it’s been really useful to start developing organic waste strategies back home,” he added.
First international meeting of waste pickers in Barcelona
Moving on to Catalonia, one of the most striking activities of the Zero Waste Tour was the meeting with the local waste pickers in Barcelona, most of them involved in the Cal Africa Moving cooperative. This was the first time that an international delegation of waste pickers visited Barcelona and so it was a key opportunity to exchange notes on working conditions and strategies for collective organizing to improve and demand recognition for their valuable work. Together with researchers from Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Research & Degrowth, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA, representatives from SAWPA and Cal Africa Moving joined for a whole day of strategy talks culminating in the public event “Informal recycling: ecological alternatives and socials rights” that opened up the debate in Barcelona about the inclusion of recyclers in the waste management system in the city.
Those conversations stressed the need to recognise the environmental and social contribution of recyclers to resource recovery and job creation. They collect, sort, clean and in some cases, process the recyclables, returning them to industry as an inexpensive and low-carbon raw material. Essentially, their work represents a huge opportunity to save resources and reduce GHG emissions through increased recycling rates, if given the proper recognition and support.
Precisely, one of the obstacles for the expansion of recyclers’ activities that were discussed in the meeting was the role of the intermediate positions in the trade channels of resources (commonly known as the ‘middle men’), which in Barcelona corresponds to some enterprises that maintain a privileged position over the street waste pickers and the scrap market. Moreover, for many recyclers in Barcelona, this obstacle is aggravated by their migrant situation and lack of resident or working permit, running the risk to be detained and deported.
“In South Africa we have received many brothers and sisters from our neighbouring countries and we have welcomed everyone in our organization, which in turn it’s linked to many other waste pickers cooperatives around the world,” said Simon Mbata. “Our Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a key space to strengthen the international coordination and solidarity amongst waste pickers”, he added.
The public event celebrated in Can Batlló was a chance to bring these conversations on to the open space, giving a chance to bring forward many interested suggestions such as generating a census of recyclers in Barcelona and providing identity cards to enable their formalisation. The Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus i Consum pointed out the challenge posed by the recycling of e-waste and the need for quality standards to improve the recyclability of products. Other participants lamented that the administration has implemented an extremely expensive waste management system, considering the low recycling rates in the city, and the consumer misinformation that hinders recycling at source and other good practices. Ultimately, there seemed to be much support to integrate the informal recycling into the formal system and take that as an opportunity to re-evaluate and transform the way of handling waste in Barcelona.
Last but not least, SAWPA met with a Barcelona City Council-led working group that is coordinating the start-up of a cooperative of recyclers in the city. Apart from learning the details of the project, it was a useful chance to exchange experiences and local knowledge. On the basis of their experience in the field, SAWPA warned about the potential division amongst communities of waste pickers if the new cooperative would not involve all of them and suggested the direct inclusion of waste pickers in all the phases of development of the project. On this point, SAWPA and Zero Waste Europe agreed it’s fundamental to create a working group with all the relevant stakeholders that can accompany this process.
All in all, it was a very productive and fruitful week, taking another step forward towards the transformation of our society with more inclusive, sustainable, toxic-free and resource-efficient waste management systems.
The International Training Course on Organics Management took place last 13-14 October in Donosti (Basque Country, Spain) and it was an excellent opportunity to address the management of the organic fractions of waste, including collection and treatment. The course intended to empower policy makers, waste managers and activists by providing them with relevant tools and knowledge on biowaste management. The course counted with participation of waste or other environmental NGO activists, representatives of local authorities and policy makers from the Basque country, the rest of Spain, France, Italy, South Africa and China.
Three trainers Dr Marco Ricci, Dr Enzo Favoino and Dr Alberto Confalonieri, from the Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza provided relevant knowledge and illustrative examples of separate collection and treatment of biowaste in Italy and Europe. Besides, the course included a site-visit to Hernani, and one to a centralised compost site.
The importance of treating the organic fraction separately
Enzo Favoino showed that a specific collection and treatment of biowaste is a must to move towards zero waste: “With packaging recycling we only go halfway”, he argued. Biowaste still makes a significant part of the total municipal solid waste and, so ambitious zero waste plans cannot be reached by collecting and treating only dry waste.
The main advantages of treating biowaste that are mostly linked to climate change: GHG emission reduction as a result of less landfilling or incinerating biowaste, the possibility of sequestrating carbon in the soil and of preventing the degradation of the soil. At the same time, treating biowaste specifically was shown to be the best way to meet EU objectives of landfill diversion, while proves that incineration is not needed.
One of the current best practices in Europe is found in the Contarina district in Northern Italy, the European champion of separate collection and residual waste reduction. On the contrary, the case of Majorca, claiming to have the biggest incineration facility of Southern Europe, showed the implications of having an incinerator that needs to be fed. Other bad examples arose from the public, such as that of Tenerife or South Africa, where incineration plants are planned.
Separate collection schemes: the simpler, the better.
Dr Marco Ricci-Jürgensen’s session dealt with the elements to be considered when designing separate collection schemes: the main elements to be taken into account and the pros and the cons of each of them, including different collection systems and policy instruments to implement biowaste collection.
Among these instruments, the door-to-door collection system was argued to be the most efficient because it raises the share of separate collection and reduces significantly the presence of contaminant elements in the different fractions. Other policy instruments underlined were the pay-as-you-throw schemes (PAYT), permitting to establish a direct link between waste production and the cost of the service. The session concluded that on the light of the different implementation options, seems clear that the simpler, the better it tends to work.
“There is no perfect solution and any system must be adapted to the local situation” said Marco Ricci. “However, it is crucial to have stakeholders involved to make the transition towards zero waste work. In this sense, environmental NGOs, agricultural sectors and citizens (waste producers) must be involved and informed of the changes.”
Milan was presented as one successful example of implementation of biowaste collection. The city with 1,5 million inhabitants and densely inhabited, has recently introduced door-to-door collection of biowaste and has reached its objectives after 6 weeks. Another different and interesting example was Castelbuono, an old town with medieval structure in Sicily, where the logistics of collecting biowaste were complicated and they started collecting biowaste with donkeys. After all, it was proven that no matter what challenges are faced by any given municipality, there is always a feasible way to collect biowaste.
Garden waste: a chance for community compost.
Garden waste is also an important waste stream within the general biowaste. The session led by Dr Favoino focused on home and community composting and the reality of these systems across Europe.
Community composting is usually a parallel element to public management, but it may be also a very good substitute to collection in isolated or remote areas, as it has no cost of collection and treatment. However, the fact of changing the ownership of the discards may challenge the existing legislation. For instance, in Bulgaria they have adapted their legislation and included community composting as “decentralized composting” with no need of administrative approval, as long as it does not exceed 10m3 annual compost.
Site-visit to Hernani
The group also had a chance to visit the Zero Waste Best Practices of Hernani, one of the forefront towns in the Zero Waste movement in Gipuzkoa. Hernani decided in 2010 to implement a door-to-door collection system with specific collection of biowaste, but it was not until 2013 when the community composting in urban areas was launched. According to the civil servant in charge of waste, the system is working and they have succeeded in reducing residual waste by 60%. They are still committed to keep on improving and they are looking for the ways of overcoming the 90% separate collection. The system in Hernani has proved to be successful and has today 14 employees, when it had 3 in 2010. This is also a part of the success story in a country with high unemployment rates. See the full case study here.
The nitty-gritty details of composting
The following sessions got down to the nitty-gritty elements of composting, covering the biological process of transforming biowaste into compost and the main technologies for composting, as well as the options for treating odours.
Again, it was stressed that the best technique is the one defined for a precise situation and specific needs. “Composting is in fact a very versatile process so, it permits small-scale low-tech facilities to large industrialized and centralized facilities, said Dr Alberto Contalonieri. For example, weather conditions or the fact of being a rural or an urban area may affect the decision of having an open or a closed systems or a dynamic or a static one.
Dr Enzo Favoino talked about the use of compost as a natural fertilizer, explaining the positive effects of compost both for the soil and for the vegetables produced. The presence of organic matter reduces the soil loss by one third, while increases substantially the presence of earthworms. These work as a natural indicator of the health of the soils. At the same time, the use of compost as natural fertilizer reduces the percentage of vegetables with diseases at their roots. With half of Europe suffering from a situation of pre-desertification in terms of the presence of organic matter in the soil, the use of compost is a very good way to close the loop and tackle this situation. Dr Favoino underlined other benefits of compost, such as its slow-release of Nitrogen, which permits to avoid Nitrogen losses during heavy rainfalls and that an eventually excess derives into nitrates.
Site-visit to Lapatx centralised composting facility
The afternoon we visited the Lapatx centralised composting facility, in the Aizpeitia municipality. The director of the plant along with the director of the provincial waste consortium in charge of it presented the different problems they had with the plant. It was an excellent way of applying the concepts learned in the morning to the decision-making process and to see why the facility was not properly designed. In this sense, while they were supposed to cover the demand of the whole province, the former government expected to collect a small amount of organic waste because they intended to build an incineration facility. However, the change of government stopped the incinerator and required of adapting the Lapatx composting centre to allocate larger amounts of biowaste.
Today Lapatx works in full performance but suffers from the problems of an initial bad design: it is very small and has an inappropriate shape; the upload of biowaste takes place in a slope; the machine opening the bags was originally designed to open packaging, etc. However, in the near future, two new facilities will be opened in Gipuzkoa with the duty of complementing Lapatx.
An experience to be repeated!
This training course was the first of its kind within the Zero Waste Europe and it proved to be a perfect opportunity to learn the rationale behind separation of organic waste at source, and the logistics and economics of separate collection of biowaste systems. The site-visits allowed the direct observation of how a zero waste system can work, with full details of the main challenges and opportunities. The participants were very satisfied of this experience and look forward to further training programmes.
More than 100 organizations from all over the world took action on the International Plastic Bag Free Day, celebrated last 3rd July, to demand an end to plastic bags use and raise awareness about its impacts on the environment, most importantly in the marine ecosystems.
The growing number of groups that sign-on to this international day of action, and the wide variety of activities celebrated across the world, showed that sensitivity towards the impacts from plastic bags is increasing significantly. As a main result, communities are getting organized to demand effective measures to cut back plastic bags and plastic waste in general, which has been described as an ugly, unhealthy, unsustainable and useless product.
Furthermore, plastic bags are a major threat to biodiversity and contribute to maintaining the throwaway society patterns that are trashing our finite resources and polluting the environment. From a sustainability point of view, the 80 million of tones of plastic waste that can be found in the sea represent 100 million barrels of oil. These and other outstanding facts and figures about the impacts of plastic bags have been heard across the world in a wide variety of actions – see complete map of actions:
In Berlin, a collective action protested against the excessive use of plastic bags and provided the opportunity to children and general public to create their own cloth bags upcycling recycled textiles while enjoying the performances of the Plastic Monster.
In Bangladesh, the Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) and Poribesh Bachao Andolon (POBA) met outside the National Press Club to form a human chain and ask the government to take action to enforce the ban on polythene bags in Bangladesh.
In Bhutan, Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative [SJI] conducted IEC about a new initiative that community shopkeepers have taken on: to discontinue giving plastic bags for free.
In Malaysia, the Consumers Äô Association of Penang (CAP) spend the day in the Bayan Baru Market in Penang, distributing free reusable bags made from discarded t-shirts.
In Philippines, the 3rd Quadi-Annual Waste Audit with GAIA, EcoWaste, Greenpeace, MotherEarth Foundation, Miss Earth Philippines, Philippine Coast Guard
The organizers of the International Plastic Bag Free Day expressed their satisfaction with the international response to the call out for action.
“Plastic bags are a great place to start taking action and design waste out of our systems”, said Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe ‘s Executive Director, one of the organizing networks together with GAIA and Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus. “We are moving forward building up zero waste societies that are resource-efficient and plastic bags have no place in them”.
The campaign for a Plastic Bag Free World will continue throughout the year on a regular basis supporting groups and individuals all over the world in its mission to phase out plastic bags from our consumption habits and ecosystems.
The Zero Waste activist Danilo Boni started cycling the tour which will bring him to visit many Zero Waste experiences in the country.
The tour starts today Tuesday, May 27, in Milan in an event which acknowledge the efforts of 19 companies and start-ups who have distinguished themselves for promoting clean production processes in which all the outputs of the production are turned into inputs so that the materials remain in use.
With this initiative, Zero Waste Italy in collaboration with the Municipality of Capannori (LU ), the Zero Waste Research Centre, the Association AmbienteFuturo and many local groups and municipalities throughout Italy, aim to highlight and reward the commitment of businesses in achieving the goal of Zero Waste .
“More than 70 % of the waste problem can be solved by the citizens by separating waste for recycling. But the remaining 30% is waste which cannot be properly managed and needs to be redesigned upstream. This must be solved together with companies” said Rossano Ercolini, president of Zero Waste Europe.
In the morning of May 27, councillor Piefrancesco Maran welcomed the delegation of the Zero Waste movement , including Paul Connett , a global promoter of Zero Waste strategy, Rossano Ercolini , winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2013 and president of Zero Waste Europe and Enzo Favoino , a researcher at the Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza and coordinator of the Scientific Committee of Zero Waste Europe.
The meeting, sponsored by the City of Milan, highlights the success in the separate collection of organic waste in this municipality, which in June will cover 100% of the population and represents the most extensive and successful experience of separate collection of organic waste worldwide.
In the afternoon the cyclist Danilo Boni, accompanied by a delegation of Zero Waste Italy, will start pedalling the electric bicycle Frisbee, provided by TC Mobility official sponsor of the tour.
Later in the afternoon there was a meeting in Busto Arsizio, to be attended by Paul Connett and Enzo Favoino . After the meeting the tour continues along the way from the Villa Tovaglieri to the headquarters of the incinerator Accam. The event is organized by local committees Zero Waste under the patronage of the town of Busto Arsizio.
The stages of the tour will be the following :
Bolzano ( May 31)
Este -PD (2-3 June)
Marzabotto -BO (4-5 June)
Florence ( June 6 to 7 )
Greve in Chianti – FI (8 June )
Montefiscone –VT (June 10 )
Rome ( June 12 to 13 )
Naples (June 15 )
Sorrento -NA (16-17 June)
Capannori -LU ( 20-21-22 June )
In parallel to the tour, Professor Paul Connett will be the protagonist of another tour that will take him on May 30 in Naples, where he will attend a meeting with the schools on the theme of “Terra dei Fuochi” (Land of Fires), and Saturday, May 31 he will join Rossano Ercolini in Sorrento for a meeting in the Conca Park Hotel as part of the “Hotels and restaurants Zero Waste.”
Ercolini will also participate in a panel discussion open to citizens of the Versilia with mayors and councillors of Seravezza , Pietrasanta and Forte dei Marmi. The meeting, scheduled for May 29, is organized by GAS di Pietrasanta and Seravezza .
This is an awakening moment for cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure in the last decades and that have not been able to consider a way out of a burning-focused system in all this time due to the strict 20-30 year contracts to provide stable amounts of waste to the incinerators (“put or pay” contracts). This has been the inheritance of the 80s and 90s, when well-resourced European governments relied on large industrial incinerator infrastructures to deal with their waste and decrease reliance on landfills as a first and only priority. Today, many of these old incinerators are arriving at the end of their life, opening up a door for municipalities to consider the opportunities in an incineration-free system. This is, a system aiming at zero waste that would minimise reliance on waste disposal by means of reduction, reuse, recycling and better design of products. Enough is enough!
The most remarkable examples of cities that are moving on from incineration and have committed to decommissioning the plants are in the North of Italy, that once more calls our attention for being at the frontline of zero waste development and innovation.
One of the most remarkable examples is the city of Reggio Emilia where the old incinerator that had been burning waste for the last 40 years was finally shut down in 2012. As is often the case, the incinerator had raised the alarms for its harmful emissions, the lack of pollution monitoring and the administration failure to provide adequate information to the population in the area. Such problematic performance had even been brought up to the European Commission.
Right now Reggio Emilia has tabled its exit strategy from its old ties to the incinerator through maximising separate collection and reuse. In regards to the management of residual waste, the city has developed a plan was to build a MRBT (Materials Recovery Biological Treatment) site, aiming at recovering further materials from residual waste, instead of burning or producing Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) for co-incineration.
This approach, in combination with progressive policies to increase separate collection and recycling rates, keeps the system adaptable to ever-increasing recycling rates, hence it’s been regarded as an option towards embracing a zero waste vision and system. Indeed, one of the most important advantages of the MRBT site in comparison to the incinerator is that the former is a flexible system, meaning that it does not require a stable amount of waste to function as incinerators do, and it may deal with increasing amounts of materials coming from separate collection, so in this sense it does not contradict policies encouraging waste prevention, reuse and recycling.
Remarkably, the need to dismiss excess capacity for incineration and adopt options for the management of residual waste that are flexible and efficient, has been formally stated in a Resolution adopted by the Council of Region Lombardy, the most populated Region in Italy, with10 million inhabitants.
The Resolution, which was approved unanimously, states that there is a need to table a regional strategy for “decommissioning” of existing incinerators so that “(incinerator) sites shall be progressively shut down, consistently with the ongoing increase of separate collection, waste reduction, and the resulting minimisation of residual waste”. Moreover, “options for the management of residual waste that minimise landfilling by means of further recovery of materials (and not incineration) shall be promoted”.The local Zero Waste networks and NGOs are now engaged to make sure that the Resolution will be complied with in every specific case.
One of the first cases where the Resolution has prompted plans to shut down the incinerator is Busto Arsizio, where the Council is considering the decommissioning of the plant. If the incinerator was to be kept running, it would need a technological revamping to renovate the installation, which in a context of general overcapacity, increased recycling rates and less waste to burn, would be a high financial risk for the Local Authorities. Moreover, an incinerator technology upgrading could be far more expensive than dismantling the plant and investing in designing a new incinerator-free waste management system, which could then be more suitable to support a zero waste policy.
Similarly, the debate to dismantle existing incinerators or dismissing plans for building new ones has been tabled in the Region of Veneto, with a population of 6 million and the best separate collection rates – regional average already beyond 60%, with peaks around 90% in single Municipalities. The city of Verona, for instance, recently shifted to the incinerator-decommissioning trend. As a matter of fact, the Regional Council of Veneto has recently acknowledged that if good recycling policies are implemented and taken to their full potential (which may require far less time than building and running a new incinerator), there will not be enough waste to feed new incinerators. Following up this eye-opening vision, the City recently declared they might as well get rid of plans for the new incinerator and invest in a more resource-efficient path, maximizing recycling and putting emphasis on reduction and reuse.
Italy is today at the frontline of zero waste innovation, and yet many other countries may be following suite. We’ve recently heard important messages from Denmark, the European country with highest incineration rates: its latest report about Danish waste policy acknowledged that it needed an exit strategy from its old-fashioned waste management model if it was really going to care about being more resource efficient, never mind increasing its recycling rates that are currently far lower than elsewhere in Central Europe (and kept low in order to feed their ever-hungry incinerators).
Other ambitious incinerator projects are being abandoned due to the financial uncertainty of their investments, notably in Norfolk (United Kingdom), where a 500 million pounds contract has been cancelled, or in Guipuzcoa (Basque Country), where the long dispute over the incinerator plant was finally over with the dismissal of the proposal.
In brief, we may be staring at the beginning of the end of an era; a time of less waste travelling around Europe to feed the always insatiable beasts and more resource-efficient strategies to boost local economy, through separate collection, reuse and recycling.
Welcome to the age of decommissioning! Incinerators, it’s time to rest.
Note: do use the hashtag #ageofdecommissioning to keep list of ongoing stories on incinerators decommissioning.
In view of the coming Clean-up actions planned for May 10, we issues a joint statement together with other European NGOs, calling for the European Union to implement 10 steps necessary to lead to a resource efficient Europe.
The 10 steps in full are:
Set a binding EU material reduction target based on the Total Material Consumption indicator
Set a zero residual waste target (the waste that is not reused or recycled) by 2025
Introduce binding waste prevention targets for municipal, commercial and industrial waste at the European and national levels
Set preparation for reuse targets for municipal solid waste and packaging, with targets for – at a minimum – textiles and furniture, based on the weight of material per capita put back on the market by approved reuse centres. The targets must not be combined with recycling
Increase recycling targets to at least 70 per cent of municipal solid waste, using only one harmonised methodology for all Member States to report on, based on the recycling output. Set an overall packaging recycling target at 80 per cent and boost plastic packaging recycling to at least 75 per cent
Set a binding quantitative marine litter reduction target of 50 per cent with an explicit definition of litter included in waste legislation, in recognition of the serious negative impacts on the marine environment
Introduce obligatory separate collection of waste by 2020, in particular for biowaste from homes and the hospitality sector as well as separate collection for materials including paper, cardboard, metals and textiles
Promote economic instruments that support the full implementation of the waste hierarchy, such as extended producer responsibility, pay-as-you-throw schemes and the taxation of resources where appropriate
Design out single-use, non-recyclable products and toxic materials such as microplastics and oxo-fragementable plastics
Ban landfill and incineration by 2020 for all recyclable and compostable waste. Ban the financing of incinerators and landfills via structural and cohesion funds.
Waste is contributing to climate change but it can also be part of the solution if true Zero Waste principles are implemented. Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on mitigation of climate change, an attempt to provide a state-of-the-art on strategies and technologies available to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. What did the IPCC say about waste?
As the Zero Waste Europe team has been able to confirm, the report has turned up with shocking controversies.
On the one hand, the report does confirm once more the 101 bases on waste and climate change – basically, that waste reduction, reuse and recycling are the most effective options for emission reduction in the waste sector.
It also acknowledges that zero waste strategies do exist and offer visionary development for waste reduction strategies. But apart from these, the report devotes little attention to elaborate on the current state of the best practices on upstream solutions and focuses mostly on downstream industrial options.
Following this narrow-focused vision, the report includes the misleading consideration of burning waste as replacement of fossil fuels in combustion plants, i.e. cement plants, as a climate mitigation strategy for the waste sector –considering that burning waste is better than disposing it in landfills and that this is the best option we can aspire to. This perspective is out of touch with reality. Zero Waste towns prove on an everyday basis that prevention, reuse and recycling are better options and can be implemented rather quickly.
In the Summary for Policy Makers, the specific text argues that replacing fossil fuels with waste may be a significant mitigation option since ‘reuse and recycling levels are still very low’ at the global level. Again, this appreciation ignores the daily experience of Zero Waste municipalities and regions that are achieving recycling targets above 80% and that have substantially reduced their waste generation. Moreover, since waste management is a dimension of public policy generally dealt with at the local level, why should a global rate be taken as the key reference? This seems to be just inappropriate reasoning. The point is further referenced in the full report (Ch. 10.14, Ch. 10.4).
Interestingly enough, some of the claims are quoted to authors such as Holcim or CEMBUREAU (Ch.10, p. 26), which, as cement producing companies, should be considered very invested parties and thus biased. Other authors that have contributed directly to the report are publicly known for promoting waste as fuel and incineration technologies in general, which also raises questions about whether the IPCC has or should have a conflict of interest policy to its own authorship.
GAIA– Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has responded with this letter to such misleading claims and it has urged the IPCC to correct and amend this language.
“We feel compelled to urge the WGIII to amend its support for using waste as a fuel to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. This is not a sustainable climate mitigation strategy, but a highly controversial and ultimately misleading suggestion. If we are to change our energy system and decarbonise our electricity supply, waste cannot be taken as the new coal“, said Mariel Vilella, Climate Policy Campaigner with GAIA.
Precisely, the IPCC fails to report on the most innovative approaches to waste reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery through composting and anaerobic digestion within zero waste strategies that are taking place all over the world, which do not necessarily or exclusively come from the industrial sector but from the redesign of our resource management systems.
Furthermore, it is important to realise that in the US, for example, 42% of emissions come from resource management – that is, considering all the life-cycle of products in their extraction – production – distribution – consumption – and disposal stages of stuff. This reality requires social innovation to stop waste reaching the landfills and incinerators in the first place. Limiting our vision to industrial options on how to deal with landfill emissions it is not a useful approach; even worse, it will only accentuate the tendency to allocate the least resources and effort to waste prevention, which is found at the top of the Waste Hierarchy.
It is not too late for the IPCC to amend the report before the final publication in October 2014. If the IPCC is committed to fight climate change it is vital that it looks into solutions that really reduce emissions and starts working with unbiased experts.
At the end of the day, the relevance of the IPPC depends on its usefulness to fight climate change and currently, in the waste sector, it seems to be more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.
One more step towards the reduction of single-use plastic bags in Europe! On April 16 the plenary of the European Parliament voted in favour of the draft European Directive on carrier bags presented by the Commission on November 4, 2013.
As a result of the vote, the European Parliament agreed to reduce the consumption of lightweight plastic carrier bags (50% reduction by 2017 and 80% by 2019, compared with 2010 figures).
Member States will be able to restrict the use of plastic bags by using a derogation from article 18 of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.
The EP also proposed to phase-out bags that fragment and do not biodegrade and ban harmful substances in plastic bags. Therefore, the use of oxodegradable plastics is not considered a viable option.
The draft law allows countries that have implemented a ban, like Italy, to keep that legislation in place. Italy has already achieved a 50% reduction in single-use bags, and successfully linked an exemption for certified compostable bags to its organic waste diversion goals.
It also permits countries that have implemented a tax, like Ireland, to have reusable bags not sold for less than the tax. Ireland has achieved an 80% reduction in the use of single-use bags with its 22-cent tax, and this ensures reusable bags cannot be sold for less (which would lead to an increase in the total number of bags used).
However, the struggle is not over yet. After this decision in the Parliament, the draft law now will seek approval by the Council (EU’s higher chamber). The EU Environmental Ministers will meet on 12 June to discuss this issue among others..
In the meantime we invite you to watch this very cool video about plastic pollution by Seas At Risk:
In Berlin, Biosphäre is a social, non-profit organic shop, which started offering cleaning products without packaging in 2013 and bulk food products this month – both with excellent results. During the usual learning period, paper bags are used to fill dry food products from large dispensers (“bulk bins”), though more and more customers are starting to purchase reusable cotton pouches and to bring their own containers to the shop. Thus the amount of disposable packaging is steadily decreasing.
The shop is located in Berlin’s Neukölln district, and the goods have two prices: the cheaper one reserved for customers with low incomes. All products in the shop are high quality and organic, and priority is given to the small producers in the region.
Hence it is a shop that generates sustainable jobs inside and outside the business, it has a low ecological footprint because most of the products have not travelled long distances, doesn’t leave waste behind and it is also a good opportunity for the locals to eat local and healthy food without having to pay more than in other shops. The concept for Biosphäre’s packaging-free food section was developed by the new company, unverpackt-einkaufen, (“shop unpackaged”), which aims to integrate packaging-free alternatives within existing grocery businesses in Germany.
During 2014 new shops selling in bulk will be opening in Berlin and elsewhere, stay tuned for the good news!
According to Eurostat statistics published last week the best performing countries in Europe when it comes to waste avoidance and recycling are Estonia, Slovenia and Belgium.
Indeed, there are countries such as Germany who do very well in recycling (65%) but generate lots of waste (611kg). Then there are those who don’t generate much waste (324kg) but don’t recycle much such as Slovakia (13% recycling).
If one looks at how much waste is sent to landfill or incineration after recycling, it is possible to get an idea of the waste management performance of that country. (See the red column in the table at the bottom)
Estonia, Slovenia and Belgium combine a low level of municipal waste generation with an acceptable level of recycling and composting, which make them the countries that send less kg. per person to landfills and incinerators.
Estonia, the best EU performer, generates 279kg per person, and recycles 40% of it leaving 167kg to be disposed of.
That is less than 0,5kg per person per day. 2 times less than a Dane, 3 times less than a Greek and 4 times less than a Maltese…
These statistics are published annually and reflect how many kg. of municipal solid waste Europeans produce and how it is treated. In average every European generated 492kg per person, recycled 42% and landfilled or incinerated 58%. A slight progress from 2011, when waste generation was 503kg (11kg more than 2012) and a 2% shift from disposal into recycling.
“Lies, damned lies and statistics”, Mark Twain once said
All statistics need to be taken with a pinch of salt and particularly those that benchmark waste treatment in the EU.
Firstly because the information is provided by the environment ministries from the EU capitals without much capacity from the European Commission to double-check its consistency.
Secondly because there is not yet a single homogeneous method to calculate what is recycled, composted or landfilled or what waste is included as municipal solid waste. For instance, waste exports and backfilling are considered recycling in some countries but not in all of EU. Or some countries such as France allow the output from MBT plants to be called compost when this is forbidden in others.
Finally, caution is required because the differentiation between the treatment categories is not useful to understand where the waste actually ends up. For example, incineration is a pre-treatment operation because after the combustion it will still have a residue of 20 to 30% of toxic ashes that need to be landfilled, yet they don’t appear in the landfill column.
This explains that countries such as Germany show zero landfill rates when in reality it they are landfilling more than the French (30 million tones for the former vs 24 for the latter). What the “0” landfill means is that no waste is landfilled without pre-treatment…
All in all, although one must acknowledge that the Eurostat manages to present the most homogeneous supranational data on waste treatment in the world, the degree of heterogeneity should be taken into account for the comparisons.
In the meantime what data so far does show is that the borders between Western and Eastern Europe have fallen when it comes to waste management. As a whole, old EU member states such as Spain or France perform significantly worst in recycling than new member states such as Estonia or Slovenia.
At the same time whereas traditional “advanced” member states such as Sweden, Denmark or Germany are stuck in the incineration trap, we might be seeing new waste champions arising in those places where there is flexibility to continue reducing waste generation and increasing recycling.
Denmark is perceived to be one of the world’s greenest countries. But is it really? Besides the Danish windmills and bike lanes there is a not-so-well-hidden secret of this otherwise rather environmentally friendly country; their passion for burning garbage!
This burning passion has received widespread and often misleading coverage by international media such as the New York Times or the National Geographic who didn’t bother to dig too much into the details and instead succumbed to the charms of well-designed green washing.
Objective facts about Denmark are that is one of EU countries that generate more waste per capita, and is world leader in incineration of household waste, burning 80% of it. For comparison this means that after discounting recycling Denmark burns more waste than what is generated in countries such as Czech Republic, Estonia, Bulgaria or Poland. How green is that?
Contrary to best practices in the sector, in Denmark most household waste is not separately collected this means that recycling rates are as low as 22%. Most organic waste, which is 90% water, ends up in the oven.
More waste is good, less waste is bad
It might look like a contradiction but in Denmark the system is set up in a way that the worst thing you can do is reduce the size of your waste bin. Why? Well, every city in Denmark has its own incinerator and they are mostly publicly owned. This means that the citizens are actually the owners of the burners and hence if less waste is sent for burning -because it is being avoided, reused or recycled- the incinerator will function under full capacity, lowering the efficiency to generate heat and power. Yet the incinerator has to meet the capital and operating costs with less income which will result in an increase in the waste management fees. I.e. the more waste you generate, the better for your pocket.
With the current system of incentives in Denmark getting to Zero Waste would be a financial catastrophe. It is therefore unsurprising that the country that burns the most also generates more waste than any other. Denmark is the perfect example of the linkage between waste burning and waste generation.
But burning waste is good to heat and power the Danish homes!
This has been the mantra in Denmark and in some other northern-European countries. Scandinavian long dark cold winters of course justify higher intake of heat and power and this has been the main reason why generation of energy from waste has been pioneered in these countries. However waste burning in Denmark is a 19th century practice which is clearly unfit for the 21st. Not only because burning waste is extremely inefficient way to generate energy but rather because there are already other carbon neutral technologies that are put on stand-by for as long as the incineration capacity is in place.
In other words, incineration is one of the main obstacles in the path of Denmark towards becoming a carbon neutral country. Indeed, 20% of heat production and 5% of electricity in Denmark are generated from waste incineration but this heat and power could be replaced with a combination of geothermal, wind and biogas from separately collected bio waste, all mature and available technologies. Moreover, EU law dictates that as from 2020 all new buildings will need to be carbon neutral radically reducing the need for energy input. Last but not least, there is a clear overcapacity of installed power between the waste incineration and large combustion plants which causes that in the coldest months of the year the windmills are stopped despite the strong winds, only to give priority to the thermal installations due to the need of heat.
The case of incinerator with the ski slope. Why not building a sauna instead?
Have you heard of the latest Danish contribution to waste management? It is about merging garbage and sports by skiing on piles of garbage burning under immaculate synthetic white… and in order to remind skiers of the real purpose of the plant, each time a metric tonne of CO2 is released the smokestack will puff out a 30m wide ring into the sky. This is the project of the Amager Bakke incinerator, the jewel of the crown of Danish incineration.
As usual the too-good-to-be-true things are actually not that good at all. This half a million tonnes burner is the latest attempt to sell this technology to the world. As long as you keep people entertained talking about the ski slope they will not think about avoiding or recycling this waste instead. Why is it that Danish composting plants don’t try to use the heat generated in the organic decomposition of food waste to sell fancy saunas? Well, firstly because they don’t need this kind of marketing to operate and lastly because there aren’t many composting plants in a country where most organic waste is not recycled but burned.
The truth is that the construction of the Amager Bakke incinerator has sparked lots of debate in the country. Danish citizens and politicians are more and more aware that they are recycling too little and burning too much, and that the incineration overcapacity of the country is not something to be proud of. For this reason, the ministry of environment led by Ms Ida Auken opposed the construction of this incinerator and in the end it was only because of the pressure from the finances minister, Mr Bjarne Corydon, that this project got the green light. If you wonder what does the minister of finance have to do with waste incineration it will help understand that he is elected in Esbjerg, the city where happens to be the headquarters of the company which will build the incinerator.
This conflict of interest that in southern Europe would be quickly associated with corruption did spark some public debate in Denmark but didn’t stop the process. Actually just after the decision to stop the incinerator was changed through secret negotiations the director of the supplier company wrote an article in the national business paper thanking the finance minister for good lobby work in the case of Amager incinerator. It has also been implied that the interest from Chinese companies to order a good number of burners from the Danish company has played a decisive role in rubberstamping this unnecessary and expensive infrastructure.
Two more interesting facts are the uneasiness of the neighbours who will have to pay for this piece of design and above all the fact that for the moment no company is interested to run the famous ski slope. As explained, household waste incinerators in Denmark are publicly owned but this doesn’t apply to ski resorts. In other words, for the moment the ski slope doesn’t have an operator and the neighbours have said that one thing is to have to pay for the incinerator and another thing is shouldering the costs of running the ski slope. Stay tuned because the saga of the Amager Bakke is far from over.
Denmark is leaving behind the incineration age
Leaving behind these isolated desperate attempts to make incineration fashionable in order to sell the technology to Asia, the truth is that Denmark is planning to embark in a very challenging journey. The country aims at becoming independent from fossil fuel by 2050 and this will mean having to close down all polluting power plants by then, including of course the waste-to-energy incinerators.
This will not be an easy task because as already explained the link between waste and energy in Denmark is very strong. This has an impact on waste management, creating perverse incentives which are contrary to waste reduction, reuse and recycling and it also has an impact on energy policy, effectively blocking cleaner technologies from taking over. Moving away from incineration allows hitting two targets with one shot and the Danish ministry of Environment knows it.
This is why the new waste management plan that minister Auken presented in November 2013 is called ”Denmark without waste – Recycle More, Incinerate less”. In her own words: ”in Denmark we have been incinerating almost 80 % of our household waste. Even though this has made an important contribution to green energy production, materials and resources have been lost which could otherwise have been recycled. Now, we are going to change this.”
Some measures envisaged by the plan consist in replacing incineration with separately collected garden and food waste to produce biogas and compost, with the recycling of plastic and paper that are now being burned or to landfill toxic materials such as PVC instead of releasing them into the air through combustion. It also implies the privatisation in the ownership of the incinerators so those that are not profitable will have to close. All in all it aims at reducing the waste sent for burning in 820,000 tons by 2022.
It looks like the showcase for incineration in the world will be changing business. This will be good for the Danish recycling industry which might see a rebirth after having turned to ashes by decades of burning fever. It will also be good for the Danes for the decrease in incineration will reduce the pollution and associated health impacts and the increase of recycling will generate jobs and a more self-sustainable economy. And finally it will be good for the rest of the world which finally will be able to import good waste practices from Denmark.
This change of paradigm will not happen overnight but considering the determination and efficiency of the Danes once they set their minds into something it is to be expected that they will be as good in moving towards zero waste as they have been in championing incineration.
Great action organised by the new Zero Waste group in Brussels in the frame of the Waste Reduction Week. You can follow them at: zerowastebrussels.blogspot.be/
and twitter @ZeroWasteBxl
(texte en français en bas)
Zero Waste Brussels’ inaugural campaign came to an end this weekend in a whirlwind of stickers, tutus and silly poses. Designed to coincide with the European Week of Waste Reduction 2013, our aim was to get the message across to shoppers at Brussels’ many markets that reusing plastic containers is one way to save thousands of kilos of plastic trash from the white bag.
During the week we visited six markets – St Gilles, Châtelain, Boondael, Chasseurs Ardennais, Flagey and Jourdan, talking to stallholders and customers and stickering over 500 lids of (non-recyclable) plastic tubs with the message ‘Je La Ramène!’. The stickers were to let customers know that they could wash the tubs, bring them back to the market stall and reuse them the following week to shop for olives, feta, lasagne or any other delicacies usually sold in plastic pots.
The Saturday morning market in Place Flagey saw us and volunteers unleash our plastic bag tutus on the world and pose ‘Je La Ramène’ style with shoppers and market stallholders. Let’s just say we turned a few heads. A representative of Bruxelles Environnement, who coordinated all EWWR actions in Brussels, turned up to take photos and find out more.
Everyone we spoke to agreed that plastic pollution is a real problem, especially as many forms of plastic can’t be recycled in Brussels. Reuse is a great solution – easy for shoppers and economical for vendors. Next time you go to a market, take a plastic pot or tupperware in your canvas tote, the stallholders are happy to fill it up for you. And you can show off that you saved valuable resources from being incinerated!
La campagne inaugurale de Zero Waste Bruxelles, ‘Je La Ramène!’ a fini en beauté ce weekend dans un tourbillon d’autocollants, tutus et poses ridicules. La campagne était conçue pour coincider avec la Semaine Européenne de la Réduction des Déchets 2013, et pour passer le message aux clients des marchés de la ville que le réemploi des raviers en plastique est une façon d’éviter que des milliers de tonnes de déchets en plastique finissent dans le sac blanc.
Au courant de la semaine on s’est rendu à six marchés de Bruxelles – St Gilles, Châtelain, Boondael, Chasseurs Ardennais, Flagey et Jourdan, pour parler aux marchands et aux clients et pour apposer plus de 500 autocollants ‘Je La Ramène!’ sur les couvercles des raviers en plastique (qui, pour rappel, ne peuvent pas se recycler!). Ceux-ci rappelaient aux clients qu’ils peuvent laver, ramener et réutiliser ces raviers la semaine d’après, pour faire leurs emplettes d’olives, feta ou lasagnes.
Le samedi matin à la Place Flagey, c’était le moment du début des tutus en plastique! On se l’est ramenée avec les clients et les marchands qui soutenaient notre effort… et on n’est surtout pas passé inaperçu! Une représentante de Bruxelles Environnement (coordinateur régionale de la SERD) est également venue nous prendre en photo.
Tous étaient d’accord – le plastique jetable est un véritable problème pour Bruxelles, et que le réemploi y est une excellente solution pour consommateurs et marchands. À votre prochaine sortie à un marché, pourquoi ne pas y amener un récipient en plastique réutilisable pour que les marchands d’olives ou de fruits secs le remplissent? Ils s’y feront un plaisir et vous pourrez la ramener, puisque vous aurez évité un déchet en plastique!
Instead of tossing out leftovers from last night’s dinner, transform them into a totally new dish. If you get creative enough, the family may not even realize that they are eating the same thing! Plus, it’s a huge money saver to cook once and serve twice, thrice or more! Over the weekend, when things aren’t so rushed, bake a whole turkey or prepare a roast. Portion out the leftovers, then package them up so you can use them throughout the rest of the week. Freeze anything extra for the following week. Here are 27 blog entries to give you some creative ideas for turning those leftovers into a whole new meal.
Dinner to Breakfast
When it comes to leftovers, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t using them for breakfast the next day. But it should be! For a twist on the traditional breakfast scramble, reheat the leftovers in a pan mixed with some beaten eggs. This technique will also work for a frittata, but it tends to be finished in the oven. Something as simple as spreading ricotta cheese and honey on some of the bread that’s been toasted from the night before can also be a way to use up leftovers. These nine blog passages will give you a place to start, so you can get creative with whatever leftovers are available.
Taking leftovers for lunch the next day is a relatively common thing to do. Not only does it save money, but it’s quick to grab on the way out the door in the morning. However, once leftovers have gone to work as lunch one day, it’s not much fun taking them again the next day. Wouldn’t it be nice if dinner leftovers could get made over into something totally different? Steak from dinner last night can be turned into a steak and cheese hoagie or sliced and put on top of a salad. Other types of leftovers can get a new life wrapped in a tortilla with some lettuce and cheese. For more ideas like this, take a look at these nine blog posts.
Healthy dinners make for healthy leftover remakes as well. Any grain served for dinner can be turned into a salad with veggies for the next day’s lunch or as a side dish for dinner. Beans are very versatile, and morph well into several meals from burritos to salad to soup. Roasting a whole turkey may sound odd at any time besides Thanksgiving, but it’s a healthy lean meat that can be made into so many different dishes. To learn how to transform leftovers into healthy dinners check out these nine blog entries.
Have you heard of the 3R, Reduce, Reuse Recycle? This was the first waste hierarchy that was popularised. Even Jack Johnson wrote a song about it, see:
It is true that recycling should be the last step in the waste hierarchy but unfortunately in Europe still 60% of the waste goes to landfill (37%) and incineration (23). And it has been like this since quite some years now. Also, the current EU legislation and incentives don’t seem to be working to move waste up the hierarchy and for this reason many directives will be revised in the next years.
The board of the Zero Waste International Alliance (in which Zero Waste Europe participates) met in March 2013 to define the steps of a more detailed and effective waste hierarchy which focuses on designing waste out of the system instead of trying to perfect bad ideas such as incinerators or landfills.
Following this hierarchy allows to effectively phase out waste, save energy, create new jobs and sustainable business opportunities. The experiences of Zero Waste municipalities around the world are a living prove of it.
Zero Waste Hierarchy of Highest and Best Use (1)
From Highest and Best Use to Lowest/Worst Use
Reduce and conserve materials Refuse – Encourage producers to provide products or packaging that limit waste or emissions. Return – Set up systems that require producers to take back products and packaging that create wastes or emissions. Reduce toxics use – Eliminate toxic chemicals use; replace them with less toxic or non-toxic alternatives. Design out wasting – Identify why materials are discarded and redesign the system to be more efficient and no longer discard those materials. Reduce consumption and packaging – Use less; buy less and with less packaging; avoid disposables; bring your own.
Encourage cyclical use of resources and shift incentives to stop wasting
Shift government funds or financial incentives (at any and all levels) from supporting harvesting and use of virgin natural resources to support the circular economy.
Government and businesses should implement sustainable purchasing that support social and environmental objectives.
Ensure incentives are in place for cyclical use of materials and disincentives in place for wasting (policies, research funds, regulations, etc)
Set up systems to encourage local economies.(for example. use of proximity principle, marketing support, policies, incentives, social and environmental purchasing practices, information exchanges, etc.)
Manufacturers design products for sustainability and takeback
Design to be durable, to be repairable, to be reusable, to be disassembled, to be fully recyclable, from reused, recycled or sustainably-harvested
renewable materials designed for easy disassembly.
Label products to identify who has made it and what it is made of
Minimize volume and toxicity of materials used in production.
Lease services and products rather than just sell products to customers.
Take products and packaging back after they are used, and reuse, or recycle them back into the economy or nature.
Reuse (retain value and function)
Repurpose products for alternative uses (e.g. old doors made into walls; old photos and scrap metal into art).
Repair to retain value and usefulness.
Remanufacture with disassembled parts.
Dismantle to obtain parts for repairing and maintaining products still in use.
Encourage thrift stores, used building materials store, garage sales, flea markets, and charity collections.
Encourage or allow licensed recovery of reusable goods from tipping areas of discards collection and processing facilities.
Provide incentives to takeout customers to bring their own containers, coffee cups and bags.
Organize household hazardous waste swap meets. Recycle discards safely, efficiently and locally: A) Inorganics (little or no carbon)
Build only “Clean” Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) and sort source separated materials at such MRFs.
Recycle all inorganic materials (e.g., soils, metals, glass and ceramics).
Downcycling is lower priority (e.g., recycling single-use products into 1 time uses or making mixed glass into sand).
Develop local markets and uses for all recovered materials, including Resource Recovery Parks, Residual Research Centers, and business clusters to reuse, recycle or compost products and
packaging for highest value and efficiency.
Use existing “Dirty” MRFs only to pre-process mixed discards before burying in landfills, as Dirty MRFS do not benefit generators & produce lower quality materials. B) Organics (carbon-based)
Edible food to people first; animal feed second; compost or digest the rest, back to land as compost or digest for fuel depending on where nitrogen is needed most locally.
Promote on-site composting by homes and businesses.
Use lower tipping fees to create clean flows of plant debris, unpainted wood, other compost feedstocks.
Compost yard trimmings, discarded food and food-soiled paper in aerobic windrows and place organics back in soil.
Use in-vessel systems for organics in built-up urban areas.
Maintain source separation for highest and best use of organics.
Combine source separated organics with bio-solids only if biosolids have been tested to ensure they will not contaminate end products and they are not applied on food crops.
Regulate disposal, dispersal, or destruction of resources Ban materials or products that are toxic or that cannot be safely reused, recycled or composted.
Recover Energy/Bio-fuels only using systems that operate at biological temperature and pressure, such as sustainable biodiesel from used vegetable oils or biologically or chemically producing ethanol from urban wood, biosolids, manures or food scraps. Landfilling is the last step.
Materials sorting for recyclables and research for design purposes.
Biological stabilization before burial
Require insurance to cover post-post-closure repairs.
Plan systems to be flexible to be adjusted towards Zero Waste with changes in waste stream as waste is reduced. Not Acceptable Don’t support bioreactor landfills Don’t burn mixed solid waste, tires, wood from mixed construction and demolition debris, or biosolids. High temperature systems volatilize heavy metals and produce dioxins and furans. Avoid: Mass Burn, Fluidized Bed, Gasification, Plasma Arc, and Pyrolysis.
Don’t give recycling credit for Alternative Daily Cover (ADC) or “beneficial use” of processing residues to build landfills.
Don’t allow recycling toxic or radioactive wastes into consumer products or building materials.
(1) Prepared by Gary Liss, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.garyliss.com, with input from International Dialog in Berkeley, CA and adopted by ZWIA Board on 3/20/13.
It is a fact that since the approval of the new Waste Framework Directive in 2008 recycling has not gone up in the EU. One must take into account that transposition of EU law to national laws delayed the implementation but it is also true that in most countries not much has changed with the new law. Despite the binding waste hierarchy, the recycling targets, waste prevention plans, etc the market incentives don’t seem to work to steer waste to recycling plants. Incineration in Europe increased and so did export of valuable waste such as WEEE…
Secondly it should start promoting legal and economic incentives such as landfill bans, bans on incineration of recyclable waste, obligation to separately collect bio-waste, pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxation on toxic or less sustainable waste (low durability, repairability, recyclability, biodegradability, etc).
Thirdly, adopt clear and ambitious waste reduction, reuse and recycling targets by concrete waste streams with policy instruments to make them possible.
Finally, lay the necessary ground for innovation in the use of resources and materials so that toxics are minimised and the technical cycle (recycling) is separated from the biological cycle (composting).
By 2020, waste is managed as a resource. Waste generated per capita is in absolute decline. Recycling and re-use of waste are economically attractive options for public and private actors due to widespread separate collection and the development of functional markets for secondary raw materials. More materials, including materials having a significant impact on the environment and critical raw materials, are recycled. Waste legislation is fully implemented. Illegal shipments of waste have been eradicated. Energy recovery is limited to non recyclable materials, landfilling is virtually eliminated and high quality recycling is ensured.
The Resource Efficiency Roadmap is very much inline with our view of a Zero Waste Europe but we must remember that 2020 is in 7 years time and if the EU doesn’t radically change its waste & resource policy in 2014-2015 the resource efficiency objectives can not be met. And we Europeans cannot afford to send to waste all the potential job creation, economic activity and financial savings associated to a Zero Waste Europe.
Granel (which means in bulk in Catalan and Castillian) opened the first shop in Vic only a year ago and in the space of only 12 months it has opened a new shop in Barcelona and in Eivissa in the Balearic Islands and there is lots of interests to open many others elsewhere.
In Granel one can buy any kind of cereal, dry fruit, spice, pasta, rice, honey, soap, oil, etc mostly in bulk. The only thing they don’t sell yet is fresh fruits, meat, fish and vegetables which in any case is better to buy directly from the market that one finds only 20m from the shop.
Freedom is also about being able to buy the amount you need
As you can see in the pictures the concept of the shop is very simple: just buy what you need not what they want you to buy (minimum amount of 5gr). You choose if you want 20gr, 200gr or 2 kg according to what you plan to cook and what you can afford. In a normal market one can only choose between two or three sizes. Contrary to what many think the choice when buying in bulk is unlimited.
The customers of this shop range from environmentaly aware people who want to eat healthy and with little packaging to victims of the economic crisis in Spain with little resources that with this flexible system can buy more variety of things. I.e. for the price of 1kg of rice in a traditional supermarket, in Granel they can buy 250gr of rice, some herbs, a bit of olive oil, some dried tomatos and mushrooms, 250gr of muesli for breakfasts and somedry fruits such as locally sourced almonds…
Coming to Zero Waste the waste generation with this system is really low or zero: firstly by buying only what one needs this system saves lots of food wastage through better planning which is actually the main source of foodwaste (60% of food waste is caused by bad planning when shopping). Secondly the optional packaging offered by Granel is minimal and fully recyclable or compostable and one can bring along its own packaging to do proper Zero Waste shopping.
The vast majority of products are sourced locally and respecting the seasons. There are products such as pepper and other spicies that need to come from abroad because they are not produced in Spain but the majority come from less than 80km around the shop.
When leaving the shop I heard a couple of children who had bought a handful of dry plums –lot healthier than sweets- and with a happy face they exclamated “this is so cheap!”. And they are right! This way it is cheap to eat quality! Normally one is obliged to buy a bag of 125gr or more, which is more expensive and is likely not to be finished. Like this everybody wins; the child gets what he wants at a good price and the local producer sells.
In times of deep economic crisis such as it is the case in Spain Zero Waste shopping makes double sense! One saves money, supports local economy and reduces impact on the planet.
Patagonia is a clothing and gear company that takes Zero Waste seriously. In these days of persistent corporate greenwashing it is a good example of how a company takes full responsibility for the products that it puts in the market.
First of all, in the production process Patagonia applies a system of transparency and traceability that takes into account social and environmental justice and as such works with organic cotton and wool and recycled PET bottles to produce the polyester and fleeces. In fact it has been using recycled materials since the 90s.
Most amazingly they offer a lifetime guarantee for their products which is a sign that they will not be selling stuff designed-for-the-dump with planned obsolescence like most do. Then when it comes the time to deal with the impact of the products at the end of their life look at what they do:
REDUCE: Don’t buy form us what you don’t need or can’t really use
This is the message from Patagonia to reduce waste generation. They acknowledge that everything anyone makes costs the planet more than it gives back and as such they don’t try to convince you to buy their clothes. Actually Patagonia has been running anti-consumerist campaigns in the most consumerist days in the calendar. For instance in the US consumption day, called Black Friday they paid a campaign to not buy their items. (See pic)
With the lifetime guarantee Patagonia also offers the possibility to get your stuff repaired for free, you just have to pay the transport costs.
The company encourages customers to donate the garments when they no longer want to wear them. In the US it even opened a platform in E-bay to help the second hand market of its own products. When most fashion companies send to landfill the stocks that they don’t manage to sell Patagonia donates its unsold goods to people who lose their belongings in disasters.
“Recycling is what we do when we’re out of options to avoid, repair, or reuse the product first” says StoryOfStuff guru Annie Leonard. Indeed, recycling should be the last option but even then Patagonia offers a very interesting takeback program in which customers can bring back their old Patagonia clothes and gear to the shops that sell them. Like this Patagonia took back 45 tons of waste and produced 34 tons of new clothes.
All in all Patagonia is a very good example of how to bring the Zero Waste philosophy into practice and a good hint as to what real sustainability is about.
Nappy Ever After is a company in London that offers a service to wash cotton nappies. This system is perfect for those parents who want to change from single-use to reusable nappies but don’t have the time or the energy to wash them.
The benefits of using washable cloth nappies are well-known;
– for the baby: gains in comfort and freshness, reduces the temperature in the genital area and the skin-problems and leave the use of nappies before than with single-use.
– for the parents; don’t need to go nappy-shopping and it can mean savings in comparison to single-use nappies,
– for the environment and the common good: every baby generates yearly more than half a ton of waste in single-use nappies –874kg in the UK-. It takes 500 years for a single-use nappy to degrade. If you calculate the nr of new-borns in your country times 1000-1500 kgs of waste each you will see how much can the local auhtorities save in landfill or incineration costs.
The functioning of the system is easy; nappies are delivered and picked up once a week to individual customers and nurseries. The customers decide how many nappies they want to receive –normally around 50 per week -. All the system is run at small-scale and local level, generating local jobs and sustainability.
Something observed in nurseries where this has been applied –also in individual cases- is that with reusable nappies the children feel when they are wet and they start to control themselves a lot before than others. So it has an important education component for the babies.
This laundry service for nappies is not unique, this system is wide-spread in the US and Australia with several succesful examples and there are similar experiences in The Netherlands or Italy.
Other laundry services in the UK: www.numberonefornappies.co.uk http://www.nappybliss.co.uk/ http://www.yummybums.co.uk/
Waste and art have always gone hand in hand. It was the fantastic artist Leonardo Da Vinci who 500 years ago wrote “there is no such thing as waste” and he knew what he was talking about! Artists have long been using second-hand materials, waste and reused objects to shape their creations.
In this post we want to render hommage to the relationship between artists and waste in yet another demonstration that it doesn’t make sense to burn or bury those materials that still can serve a purpose.
The Zero Wasters in the UK are celebrating their 5th year of Zero Waste weeks in which many brits pledge to improve their recycling skills and renewe their commitment for a world without waste. So far this this is a solely UK initiative but it would be great to have it in other EU countries. If you are interested in running these kinds of actions elsewhere in Europe contact us and we can help you coordinate!
For the moment feel free to join the initiative from our friends from the UK, happy Zero Waste week!
National Zero Waste Week takes place week beginning 3rd September 2012.
This year’s theme is ‘One More Thing‘ which reminds us that the collective impact of taking baby steps can add up to significant change.
How can I join in?
This year we’re focusing on improving our recycling habits because if every household in the UK recycled ‘one more thing’, the total amount collected for recycling could increase by more than three quarters of a million tonnes.
So decide on your activity and leave a comment below telling us what you pledge to do, then come back during National Zero Waste Week and let us know how you are getting on.
Be sure to bookmark this page! If you have a blog or webpage, please help spread the word by writing about National Zero Waste week – you can grab one of our images below!
If you’re on twitter or facebook, encourage your friends and family to join in too.
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Banning bottled water is simply a step in a broader acknowledgment that water is a basic human right, rather than a commodity. Rejecting the commodification of water by refusing to purchase and sell bottled water is a first, and important step. Putting the focus on clean, safe, healthy public water encourages our decision makers to invest strongly in public water infrastructure, and also pushes governments in Canada to extend that infrastructure to Northern communities. As students, we are in a unique situation within our institutions where there is a pool of critical minds, willing to take initiative and leadership on campus. We hope that other campuses across Canada will be willing to takethe same initiative, and push back against water as a commodity.
In contrast to tap water, which is delivered through an energy-efficient infrastructure, bottled water is an incredibly wasteful product. It is usually packaged in single-serving plastic bottles made with fossil fuels. Indeed, milions and milions of tones of European plastic waste are the being disposed of every year. According to the European plastic industry in 2009 45% of the EU plastic was landfilled and 31% was incinerated which means that only a 22% was actually recycled. Increasing the recycling rates it’s important but in the case of bottled water it only makes sense to work on the prevention side. There is a great potential to reduce waste at source by just shifting from bottled to tab water.
There are examples of administrations and schools that have replaced bottled water, even in the European Parliament a group of MEPs demanded to stop the nonsense of providing bottled water in meetings –which causes 160tn of CO2 emissions per year-. However so far no European University has made the step. Any volunteers to follow the north-amercan example? What about the European institutions?
The public consultation was intended to explore options to reduce the use of plastic bags and options to improve the requirements of biodegradability under EU law.
Over 15,500 responses were gathered by the Commission with just over 15,000 replies from EU citizens.
The results of the consultation show that over 70% of respondents agree that a ban on plastic bags across the EU is needed with only 12% agreeing that current requirements on compostability and biodegradability in the Packaging Directive were appropriate.
Chris Carroll of Seas At Risk said: “Plastic bags are a menace to the marine environment and this consultation has shown that European citizens have had enough of them. The Commission must listen to this resounding support for a ban and implement one across Europe as soon as possible. The Commission must also now look at how to reduce the use of other single use and disposable products and packaging that often end up as waste in the marine environment.”
Stephane Arditi of the European Environment Bureau said: “With more than two thirds of respondents supporting a ban of single use plastic bags, a clear signal is being sent to European institutions: it’s time for longer lasting products and for effective legal instruments supporting waste prevention.“
Food waste is many times a waste; it is a waste of resources and money, it is a waste that creates methane if landfilled and CO2 if incinerated, it is a waste when in the world one child is dying of hunger every 5 seconds … The current food wastage in Europe does highlight the contradictions of the world we live in but it also underlines the need for a Zero Waste policy, not only in the food sector but also in other sectors.
Indeed, the current economic crisis is keeping 23 million Europeans out of the job market whereas 60% of all municipal waste in the EU is landfilled or incinerated. The employment opportunities in the design, production, repairing, reusing, collection, recycling and composting sector are very substantial if only we change the waste market in order to divert waste from incinerators and landfills.
But these are very convenient dates to tackle food waste because of the holiday season that involves lots of investment in food and a good deal of cooking at home. According to WRAP every British family is wasting 60 euros a month in food that will not be eaten.
It is because of this wastage that the EU and some member states are taking measures to try to reduce this waste.
The European Commission is also addressing consumers on the issue of food waste in a recently launched campaign on resource efficiency called ‘generation awake’ . It gives tips on making the right choices when we buy and consume – including foodstuffs.
To sum up, waste prevention is paramount and it makes lots of sense that the EU is gearing up in this issue especially in the current days of growing resources scarcity. However, let’s not forget that these days most food discards in Europe still end up landfilled or incinerated causing lots of harmful emissions. Moreover, to this date the EU doesn’t require the separate collection of organics which means that the use of food scraps as soil improver after compost is not yet happening at considerable scale. Let’s not forget that organic waste is the biggest waste stream -30 to 50%- and as such it continues to be the pending issue in EU waste legislation.
Few years ago paper and cardboard recycling was regarded as a big step in closing the loop of materials, yet what back then was a big improvement now it has the potential of going further. Paper recycling is a no-brainer now but there are new alternatives that are a lot more enviromentally friendly.
Therefore it would be necessary to work out a system that minimises water and chemicals use and emissions. And this is what the company Gaiakraft has done.
Gaiakraft has developped a system that should leave trees alone for a while and save good deal of water, emissions and chemicals. GaiaKraft bags and packaging is made from paper that comes from mineral powder (calcium carbonate) meaning it is tree-free! This tree-free paper differs from traditional paper in that it is made from a high percentage of mineral powder and a small percentage of non-toxic resin. What’s more is that the process used to make the paper uses no water or bleach like traditional wood pulp paper.
GaiaKraft is water-resistant and being a tree-free paper and essentially fibreless, it does not absorb ink and therefore prints with 20-30% less ink as compared to traditional wood-pulp paper.
GaiaKraft is degradable and due to its high mineral content safely degrades when left out in nature over a period of 6 to 9 months.
Less deforestation, no water or bleach use, no toxins released, degradable, recyclable, less emissions, water resistant, uses less ink… Gaiakraft paper looks like a step forward for the future of our forests and rivers but also for the implementation of Zero Waste strategies!
Primary school students of Capannori, Italy, set up the Museum of Bad Industrial Design (Piccolo Museo degli orroridi progettazione). A museum of packaging and products that cannot be reused, repaired, recycled or composted and hence have to end up in the dump.
This experience allowed the students to observe their everyday life and pick those things that were not sustainable. The experience was enlightening for the students but also for the grown-ups; how can we allow products to enter the market when even children can see that they are designed for the dump?
In order to enlighten the industrial designers of the big wealthy companies producing these goods the pupils wrote letters to them asking to please think about the future and produce products that could be recycled or composted at the end of their lives. As with the case of the coffee-capsules some of them replied with thank you notes and confirming their commitment to improve the design in the future.
Here is a good experience to involve children in waste prevention. The less non-reusable/repairable/recyclable stuff in the market the closer we are to Zero Waste!