Environmental organisations from all around the Mediterranean are launching the Break Free From Plastic Movement in the region, to save the cradle of human civilisation from a plastic pollution crisis. At their first meeting in Barcelona last June, they agreed on a manifesto calling for systemic change along the whole plastic value chain to prevent plastic pollution at source.
The Mediterranean sea is affected by one of the highest concentrations of plastics in the world. Plastic litter accumulates from the sea surface to the seafloor, on the shorelines of even the most remote islands, and in the deep sea. It conveys non-indigenous and potentially harmful organisms, transfer toxic chemicals and fragment into microplastics, that can subsequently be ingested and may end up poisoning the food chain. Plastic pollution in the Mediterranean must be stopped before it’s too late.
Most of the plastic pollution in the Mediterranean comes from land-based activities. Far from being a purely marine issue, it is rooted in our unsustainable production and consumption patterns, ranging from bad product design and consumption habits, to inappropriate solid waste management practices at all stages on land and at sea, to discharges of inappropriately treated or untreated municipal sewage and industrial waste. This is why end-of-pipe solutions such as marine litter cleanups are not enough: as pointed out by Delphine Lévi Alvarès, European coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic Movement, “to prevent the Mediterranean sea from turning into a ‘plastic soup’, we need to adopt a holistic approach which focuses primarily on prevention rather than cure.”
In October 2017, the European Commission will host the Our Ocean conference in Malta, which will also touch upon the future of the Mediterranean. At the same time, the Commission is working on a Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy. This conference is a tremendous opportunity to take ambitious commitments to break free from plastic pollution in the Mediterranean, and the EU Strategy for Plastics must reflect these commitments: the time to act is now!
The Break Free From Plastic Movement was created in September 2016 by 90 organisations from all over the world willing to tackle together the issue of plastic pollution. The movement has developed regional cooperation dynamics across Africa, America, Asia and Europe, and within just a few months it has been joined by 800 organisations. Find out more, and join the movement!
Over the years, the island of Sardinia has served as model for Zero Waste thanks to their incredible recycling efforts and local initiatives. By challenging our perception of what we can achieve by working together, Sardinia has shown us that Zero Waste is possible on islands too.
Comprised of nearly 2000 kilometers of white sandy beaches, crystal clear turquoise hued waters and vast mountains touting peaks as high as 1 800 meters, on the surface Sardinia has all the paradisiacal characteristics to make for a breathtaking getaway. From that perspective, it might seem like Sardinia is simply an island of superficial beauty, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. What lies behind those spectacular sights is just as extraordinary.
Through active collaboration between the people and the government, Sardinia has taken major steps in tackling waste head on. It’s an impressive feat, especially when we consider the fact that the island faces some of the largest roadblocks in terms of setting up zero waste initiatives, those being their remote location away from the mainland and the large volumes of tourists passing through at any given time.
Their efforts make Sardinia one of the brightest examples of municipal Zero Waste management for high density touristic locales. Yes, it can be done.
Backed and pushed by Zero Waste Sardinia and Zero Waste Italy, Sardinia has implemented a door-to-door separate collection system where the municipalities themselves are held accountable and are either punished or rewarded for the amount of waste they bear. Through this initiative, Sardinia was able to achieve a regional recycling rate of 56% back in 2015. The 2015 report on Sardinian Urban Waste Management shows that, out of 377 municipalities, a staggering 206 have achieved a recycling rate above 65% while 47 hold a rate above 75%. It’s clear that because of these efforts, Sardinia’s overall amount of waste sent for disposal is decreasing. But by how much?
Track record of the production of municipal waste in Sardinia (figures expressed in tonnes/year)
Incredibly, Sardinia has reduced waste generation by 16% (143 724 tonnes) over a span of just 9 years. If that’s not worth shouting from the mountaintops, I don’t know what is!
When delving into the specifics of the 56% from the 717.242 tonnes that have been separately collected, we can see that Sardinia displays considerable growth in collection efforts on almost all fronts.
Comparison of the amount of material separately collected in 2015 and 2014 (tons / year)
Each year, through greater municipal effort and increased community involvement, more Zero Waste learning opportunities are available in schools, more locally organized meetings centered around waste are popping up, and more information about Zero Waste is being shared between Sardinians, ultimately leading to their success in continually reducing their overall MSW.
Sardinia has shown the world that no matter the insularity or the tourist pressure, achieving Zero Waste starts at the local level. They’ve shown us that by incentivizing local governments to tackle waste, a country’s Zero Waste goals become more ‘tangible’ for the people as they’re able to feel a direct connection with what’s happening in their very own community and in turn, are more motivated to make the extra effort.
This is a wakeup call for many countries in Europe that are spending large sums on waste management but still underachieving when it comes to recycling. It just goes to show that it’s not about the money you spend, rather, it’s about the message you spread and the people you empower. Sardinia proves that there’s truth in that.
Let’s join them!
On October 4-6 2017, Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste France invite you to join a study tour to explore Sardinia’s best practices in terms of waste management. The study tour will take place in French and Italian. Find out more and get inspired!
Roberta is Zero Waste Europe’s Communications Officer covering EU policy, zero waste cities, and the #BreakFreeFromPlastic campaign. She has a background in development cooperation, international affairs and human rights, and a strong commitment to making the world a better place. An Italian in Brussels, she loves travels, gastronomy and intercultural experiences – a plus when combined!
A future without waste in Europe is now closer to reality, after today, the European Parliament approved the Bonafè report. In a clear signal to both the Commission and the Council, the European Parliament has confirmed the increased ambition of the Environment Committee on four legislative proposals on waste. Now a common text needs to be agreed with the Council before it becomes law.
The Italian MEP Simona Bonafè has managed to raise the level of ambition of the Commission proposal by setting a 70% recycling target for all waste (5% to be prepared for reuse), 80% for packaging waste and by making separate collection truly compulsory, further extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste-oils. In addition, the text generalises the use of economic instruments, such as pay-as-you-throw schemes and taxes or levies on landfilling and incineration.
Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Zero Waste cities across Europe have already been successfully implementing the measures that were approved today. If the European Parliament decision becomes law they will become the mainstream”
The text adopted at the European Parliament today includes proposals to close the loop the call to review the Eco-design Directive with a broader scope and the emphasis on eco-design-guided Extended Producer Responsibility schemes to bring sustainable products.
Additionally, the report calls on the Commission to bring in new legislative proposals, such as a EU-wide waste prevention target in kg per capita along with new legislation and targets for construction, commercial and industrial waste. The role of prevention has also been improved with three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and a decoupling of waste generation with economic growth) but remains far from being top priority.
Zero Waste Europe’s Rosa added: “The Parliament has raised the stakes for the circular economy. It’s time for the Member States to make it happen.” In this sense, Vice-President Timmermans when addressing the Parliament this morning acknowledged the emphasis on prevention and said he would do his best to make the final text be the closest to the one of the Parliament.
Zero Waste Europe congratulates the European Parliament and the team of rapporteurs and calls on the Council to accept these proposals. ENDS
On 24th January the Environment Committee of the European Parliament adopted the legislative report for the four waste directives under discussion. With this, the legislative process goes a step further in the path to full adoption and will be voted at the Plenary in March. In the meantime, the Council is still negotiating its own position, so the final text will probably have to wait until Autumn.
Although the text approved on the 24th isn’t a final document, it certainly gives a clear direction on how to move towards a circular economy and zero waste. The MEPs and the rapporteur Simona Bonafè delivered the ambition the European Commission had forgotten and included brave measures to drive Europe towards a sustainable use of natural resources.
Among the amendments approved to the Commission’s proposal, the MEPs included an increase of the recycling targets for 2030 for municipal waste and for packaging to 70% and 80% respectively. Within the recycling target, it is particularly interesting to see that, at least, 5% of it should be prepared for reuse. For packaging, a target of 10% of reusable packaging by 2030 was inserted. Besides, the maximum target is reduced to 5% of all municipal waste. Zero Waste Europe welcomes the increased ambition, but regrets the lack of specific accompanying measures to the landfilling target. In this sense, Zero Waste Europe warns that the reduction of landfilling and progressive phase out shouldn’t mean an increase of incineration capacities, but rather a shift towards prevention, reuse and recycling.
In order to meet these objectives, MEPs took note of the success stories across Europe and proposed making separate collection truly compulsory for paper, glass, metals, plastic and extending it to bio-waste, textiles and waste oils. MEPs approved getting rid of current loopholes that allow Member States not to roll out separate collection. In addition to separate collection, MEPs proposed making extensive use of economic incentives, such as landfill and incineration taxes or pay-as-you-throw schemes.
The Environment Committee of the Parliament also approved bolder minimum requirements for Producer Responsibility Schemes that will have to cover now the whole cost of waste management of the products they put in the market and will have to modulate their fees to drive eco-design. Another important amendments approved is the push on Member States to support the uptake of secondary raw materials.
Despite these strong messages, the most significant problem with the report adopted at ENVI Committee is the role of prevention. Although it sets three aspirational targets (50% food waste reduction, 30% marine litter reduction and decoupling of waste generation from GDP growth), these remain non-binding and prevention is still far from being the cornerstone of waste policies. However, MEPs called on the Commission to set up a EU-wide waste prevention target, which is very much welcomed by Zero Waste Europe. ZWE also call on Member States to truly aim at achieving these targets.
Although this is only the first step in the legislative process, Zero Waste Europe overall welcomes the report adopted at ENVI Committee and urges on national governments to step up their level of ambition and make sure waste directives are properly implemented.
To tackle this situation the Italian Parliament, has recently approved a law against food waste (19 August 2016, n.166), following the example of France. The main aims of the law are:
Promoting the recovery and donation of food surpluses for charitable purposes, using firstly for human consumption, secondly for animal consumption and finally for composting (or composting with aerobic digestion). It, thus, introduces an implicit food waste hierarchy.
Minimising the negative impacts on the environment and on natural resources, reducing waste generation, encouraging reuse and recycle, extending products life.
The operators of the food sector – both public and private, profit orientated or non-profit– now are able to give away for free their food surplus to the donors, which can then be directed first to people in need, reducing bureaucracy. This is a major step from former legislation that basically “forced” them to throw their surpluses in the garbage.
In addition to food surplus, it is possible to give up also medicine and unused pharmaceutical products, foodstuffs and bakery products (which otherwise, if remain unsold have to be thrown away after 24 h from the production).
Unlike France, Italy aims in toto for incentives, no penalties are provided for those who does not conform to it. Tax benefits are also provided. In fact, to encourage this practice the municipalities may apply a reduction on the TARI, the Italian waste charge, proportional with the quantity, duly certified, of goods and products withdrawn from sale and donated.
Beyond the noble charitable aims of this law, fight against food waste is also really important from the environmental point of view. It is an issue of high importance because of its high environmental impacts, above all related with energy and water consumption, climate change, availability of natural resources, land use and, eventually, waste management. Indeed, if food waste was a country, it has been calculated that it would be the third largest “emitter” of CO2 worldwide, just behind the USA and China! Moreover, 1/4 of Italian forests serve just to absorb carbon dioxide produced as a result of food waste, in Italy alone.
In this, Italy is going in the right direction… encouraging best practices, highlighting again the difference between “best before” and “use by” and reaffirming that all food discarded by the food supply chain for commercial or aesthetic reasons (like few packaging flaws), or proximity to the expiry date, are not waste but good food that can be safely consumed!
The winning “recipe”, that would be worthy of a 3 stars Michelin restaurant, consists of improving the food chain efficiency, promoting different models of production and, above all, sustainable consumption. This would allow not only a reduction in the cost of food, increasing the possibility of access for lower-income people, but also a significantly lower environmental and economic impact of this wastage!
An analysis of the new EC proposal on Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD)
Joan Marc Simon – Director of Zero Waste Europe
On December 2nd the European Commission (EC) presented the new legislative proposal aiming to amend waste directives and move the EU towards a Circular Economy. However if one analyses the text of the proposal on Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) in detail one wonders whether this proposal is legislating for 2030 or for 2010.
Effective action in the field of packaging is as important as it is urgent. There are many reasons for this;
packaging is growing in absolute terms both in volume and in weight. Between 2000 and 2015 the share of plastic packaging has grown 5% annually and is now 25% of the market,
once it becomes waste most packaging (notably plastic but not exclusively) is generally disposed of, not recycled,
marine litter is global problem and 80% of it is made of plastic packaging and by 2050 there may be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Moreover current packaging recycling schemes in Europe are generally inefficient. In a study we published in 2015 we demonstrated that in Europe 70% of the municipal waste is product waste, i.e. not biowaste, 45% of which is not covered by Extended Producer Responsibility schemes which only succeed to separately collect 18% of it. Hence the recycling system is not performing very well and leads to most product waste ending up in the environment, in landfills or in incinerators.
With this in mind the European Commission presented a proposal in December 2015 aiming to create an “economy that preserves the value added in products for as long as possible and virtually eliminates waste. It retains the resources within the economy when a product has reached the end of its life, so that they remain in productive use and create further value”.
Hence, one would expect that the aim of the amended Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) is to go in the direction of increasingly preserving this value that we seem to be so inefficient at maintaining.
If we look into the current proposal from the EC to amend the PPWD we will see that it mainly proposes two things;
Firstly, it suggests that preparing for reuse rates can be counted as contribution to recycling efforts. One can understand the political reasons behind this move, help those countries which will see their recycling rates shrink with the new suggested methodology to account for the targets, but technically it is an objectively bad idea because it mixes apples with pears and will not help bring clarity and legal security to neither the recycling industry nor public authorities. If the EC wants to increase reuse of packaging it is a lot better to set separate preparation for reuse targets altogether.
Secondly, it reduces the targets of preparation for reuse and recycling by an order of 5 to 15 points from the 2014 proposal, although the targets proposed will remain above those of the PPWD directive of 1994. All in all this is to be welcomed but if preparation for reuse is to be counted together with recycling it might well be that many countries will be already meeting the recycling targets today.
However, before ranking the level of ambition of the EC proposal we need to zoom out and ask ourselves a simple but important question; if the aim of this legislation is to contribute to the creation of a Circular Economy which preserves the value added in products as long as possible… are the measures presented the appropriate ones?
Unfortunately the answer is a resounding no. The current proposal would have been appropriate for the discussions we had 10 years ago during the revision of the waste framework directive in which the aim was to “turn the EU into a recycling society” but not in 2016 in the framework of Circular Economy discussions.
Many stakeholders including the EC itself recognise that the real added value of products and resources is in prevention and reuse operations. A very simple example; if we recycle a mobile phone the value of the materials we will extract will not be above €2 whereas if we repair and resell it we have the possibility of getting several hundred euros. In this sense the proposals to amend the PPWD are not legislating for the future but rather for a situation which belongs to the past. Where are the proposals to reduce packaging waste? What about increasing packaging reuse? And deposit schemes? By focusing primarily on recycling the EC commits the same mistake of previous decades; work at the bottom of the hierarchy and ignore the biggest potential benefit which lies at the top.
Another sign that the proposal is legislating for the past is the fact that it does not address current market developments. The fastest growing packaging waste streams are composite packaging (multilayer packaging, pouch-ups, etc) growing at double digits rate yearly. They are difficult to collect and even more difficult to recycle yet completely absent in the directive. On the other hand we see the rise of online shopping which involves a lot of packaging which producers like Amazon put in to the EU market but for which they don’t take any responsibility… on top of evading most taxes these companies get another competitive advantage by passing the responsibility of managing their packaging waste to the public authorities. Where is the action from the EC on this front?
And what about coffee-capsules? They are a problem today which will continue to grow in the coming years and legally speaking they are not even considered to be packaging! We need a proposal that legislates not for the past but for the Europe we will have in 2025 and 2030.
Essential components to make the PPWD fit for the Circular Economy
If the objective is to build a Circular Economy which preserves the added value in the economy there are at least four instruments that the EC should be considering:
Prevention targets for plastic packaging
We need to stop the growth of packaging waste in Europe. This means that there should be prevention targets which in my opinion do not need address the totality of packaging waste but rather specific waste streams and at the very least have prevention targets for plastic packaging. There are three reasons for this; plastic packaging is the stream with lowest recyclability and the one with lowest recycling rates, it is the fastest growing packaging waste stream and it is a major problem for marine environment and hence human health. Moreover, because of its light weight it is hard to compare with metals, paper and glass and the EC is working on a strategy on plastics which needs to address plastic packaging. Why not start here?
The current PPWD directive already includes prevention targets for single use carrier bags which focus in reducing the units of plastic bags instead of addressing the stream by weight. A similar approach can be used to set prevention targets for plastic packaging.
2. Separate targets for preparation for reuse
If there are targets for recycling, there could also be separate targets for preparation for reuse or any other commitment to have refillables return to Europe. Otherwise there is the paradox that by trying to meet recycling targets by weight member states might decide to dismantle existing packaging reuse schemes. Over the past few decades the market for refillable and reusable packaging in Europe has been inexorably shrinking and without a clear sign and guidance from the EU level nothing encourages governments thinking this process could be reversed or even stopped. The current PPWD already includes good wording on packaging reuse but still lacks the teeth and targets to make it possible.
3. Modulate EPR fees according to ‘circularity’ of products
There should be a clear feedback mechanism that connects waste with product and process design. In a circular economy, waste and inefficient resource use anywhere along the value chain should translate into direct costs for business. In other words, less durable, reusable or recyclable products should be more expensive for the producer and for the consumer than the circular ones. A way to do this is by using modulate fees in the extended producer responsibility schemes as it is being used in some cases such as for paper in France. Luckily the current proposal to amend the Waste Framework Directive already dwells on this option but we need stronger legislation in order to give clear signs and legal security to producers.
4. More and better recycling, but as a last option
Recycling is very important as last stage of a circular economy but it cannot do the job alone. Yes, we need more recycling, yes we need separate targets for recycling, yes we need to have separate recycling targets for composite packaging and yes we need more directly enforceable legal formulations but recycling alone cannot bring about a Circular Economy.
To conclude, the effectiveness of the new PPWD will be judged according to two parameters; on one hand the measures to tackle plastic packaging and on the other one the measures to support reusable and refillable packaging. Both currently missing and which will need to be introduced during the co-decision process.
Disruptive legislation in this field will not be easy because of the economic interests that lay behind single-use packaging but if Europe is serious about becoming a circular economy and fighting marine pollution it will need to stop looking at the past and start legislating for the future.
This speech was delivered at Packaging & Sustainability Forum, 2/3/16.
On October 4, in Usurbil, Gipuzkoa, the annual celebration of Basque schools ‘Ikastolas’ took place, and this is the first year that the organisation have considered taking a zero waste approach.
This is already a traditional meeting point for over 10,000 people who come together to support the Basque language “Euskara”, and this year it was also used to showcase how it is possible to radically reduce waste and increase recycling rates. This event was particularly useful to highlight how wrong and unnecessary is to build the incinerator of Zubieta which the regional government wants to build next to the town of Usurbil in the Basque country.
The event implemented three steps to be a zero waste event:
Prevention: the promotion of tap water to avoid the use of disposable plastic bottles.
Reuse: drinks were mostly served in reusable cups,
Separate collection; over 90% of the waste was separately collected.
Prevention: promote the drinking of tap water!
For the first time, and thanks to adopting the zero waste approach, it was possible to provide tap water to the participants. The organisation of the event partnered with the municipality to promote the tap water from the municipality as being healthy free.
The results were incredible! In past editions around 15,000 disposable plastic bottles were bought during this day and thanks to this measure the number went down to only 3,548 bottles. This will be the mark to beat for future years!
Reuse: Reusable cups
The celebration planned to move away from single use glasses and therefore heavily promoted the use of reusable glasses. 49,350 glasses were rented and 85.89% of them were recovered and washed for future use. Prior to adopting the zero waste approach the same festival was getting back 66% of the glasses.
Thanks to an innovative separate collection system and the involvement of more than 110 volunteers, 7,750 kg of segregated waste was collected during the day of the celebration.
More concretely the organisation and volunteers managed to separately collect:
1,160kg of packaging
1,180kg of paper
1,140kg of biowaste
106ltr of oil
380kg of special plastics
720kg residual waste
This totals a separate collection rate of 90.19% leaving only 9.81% (760kg) of residual waste.
In addition to the successes in waste management the zero waste strategy managed to produce many positive spin-offs such as promoting sustainable mobility with use of bicycles, chemical free cleaning products and toilets, etc.
As a result of this successful experience, the local Zero Waste Europe member, Zero Zabor, will be helping to produce guidelines to host similar events elsewhere. Watch this space for more!
All in all, it was an incredibly successful experience considering it was the first time it was organised and Zero Zabor is already looking forward improving the results in 2016!
Want to see what this event looked like? Watch this 5 minute video:
Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid is successfully paving the way for Zero Waste Municipalities in the area of Madrid, in Spain.
Since this summer, thanks to the progressive political turn in many municipalities in the area, the network has been able to ally with alternative political parties and pass a motion in at least 4 municipalities calling for zero waste. Moreover, the network has been able to create and develop working groups for the implementation of Zero Waste in various municipalities, as an alternative to the waste management model of municipal waste.
The four municipalities that have already approved the motion are Loeches, Mejorada del Campo, Torres de la Alameda and Velilla de San Antonio. All of them are small municipalities no more than 44km2 and with no more than 23,000 inhabitants. However, they have a lot of environmental problems such as plants for the treatment of sludge from toxic materials, wastewater treatment, the deposit of industrial and dangerous waste, illegal landfills, incinerators and cement kilns burning waste.
The approval of the motion brings positive news and hope to the current waste management situation in Madrid. It is a presents a step in the right direction on the way to a Zero Waste reality.
The motion in detail
The motion recognises the urgent need to stop relying on false solutions, such as lanfills and incinerators. This model effects the environment and the health of the people of neighbouring and nearby municipalities. We therefore need a paradigm shift, and in the motion we ask for:
The creation of a working committee to implement a zero waste model with the participation of local political and civil society groups.
The council to be formally required to create a ‘regional waste strategy 2016-2026’ for the City of Madrid. This would replace the current and outdated strategy and set the objective of ‘Zero Waste’ waste management in our region..
An awareness raising campaign should be carried out with citizens participation, where people are informed about the current waste management practice, its impacts, the alternatives, and benefits involved such alternatives.
The municipal waste collection should be evaluated and be run by the municipality and not by external companies. This would include:
A study of current and future costs of waste management if it were to be run by the municipality should be conducted. This study should assess its viability and implementation.
A review of current waste management contracts and whether they can be modified, to allow a gradual implementation of a zero waste selective collection project.
Control and monitoring of the current waste collection to ensure that contracts are enforced, so we would able to confirm that they are not mixing municipal waste and other types of waste (packaging) etc. in its collection.
‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’
This Zero Waste Europe member is a network of neighborhood associations, environmental groups, Popular assemblies of 15M, collectives of organic gardens, organisations formed to fight facilities and harmful waste plans, “No Macro-Landfill, Yes Zero Waste” campaign, representatives of political groups and individual zero waste campaigners. Their common goal is the fight against the creation of hazardous waste, against harmful waste facilities and planned facilities primarily located in the Eastern region of Madrid.
Over the years this network has been a focal point of resistance to environmental damage in the area. It works to submit refutations to waste projects, environmental damage reports, conducting lobbying and organising trainings, rallies and demonstrations aiming to show the popular opposition against these projects.
While challenging these facilities, the network has developed, and now promotes an alternative Zero Waste policy to the current waste treatment plans. This should be implemented in all municipalities of the City of Madrid. In this way, Zero Waste Madrid also wants to reach the institutions through the current ‘popular unity’ candidates who are much more open to this project through motions in the municipalities where they are in office.
In conclusion, thanks for the wonderful work of ‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’, zero waste is really happening in Madrid!
The report was commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+. The report finds that the role of waste prevention and improved waste management can play in reducing GHG emissions and the development of a low carbon economy has previously been significantly understated, partly due to the structure of the national inventories of the UNFCCC.
The report further provides an accurate examination of the true impact of waste management on climate change and carbon emissions. It confirms that actions at the top of the waste hierarchy – including waste prevention initiatives, reuse and recycling – have considerable scope to reduce climate change emissions.
As the report states “A climate friendly strategy, as regards materials and waste, will be one in which materials are continually cycling through the economy, and where the leakage of materials into residual waste treatments is minimised”. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging can be a saving of 500 kg CO2 eq, whereas using one tonne less plastic packaging results in avoiding 6 times more emissions (3 tonnes CO2 eq).
In the report 11 key recommendations are made, calling for waste policies to be redesigned in order to prioritise the higher level options of the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ (waste prevention, reuse and recycling) and immediately reallocate climate finance subsidies which are currently supporting energy generation from waste. These recommendations put a strong focus on correcting methodological issues that are currently preventing Member states and the European union from implementing waste policies that are efficient in terms of GHG emissions.
The report shows that in the decarbonising economy required to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, technologies such as incineration will become less attractive options and ultimately present an obstacle to a low carbon economy.
Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director said “For far too long the climate impact of waste management has been overlooked. Now it’s clear that waste prevention, reuse and recycling are climate change solutions that need to be fully integrated into a low carbon economy. Both at the EU and international level, it is time to shift climate finance support to these climate-friendly options instead of waste incineration, which in fact contributes to climate change and displaces livelihoods of recyclers worldwide.”
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste France’s Advocacy Officer,said: “With France hosting the COP21 in December, it is a real opportunity to raise decision makers’ awareness about the real impact of waste management on climate change and the extent to which Zero Waste strategies have to be put on the agenda of solutions to climate mitigation supported by the French government.”
Françoise Bonnet, Secretary general of ACR+ said: “Efficiency and smart waste management is key for a low carbon economy. Still, it is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective”.
Zero Waste Europe – Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
Zero Waste France – Zero Waste France (formerly Cniid – Centre national d’information indépendante sur les déchets) was founded in 1997. As an independently funded NGO and a member of Zero Waste Europe, it has been advocating for waste reduction since then, talking to local and national public officials as well as citizens groups or businesses. In 2014 the organization changed its name to Zero Waste France to emphasize its ambition but also the links with the other groups involved in this issue worldwide. Zero Waste France works closely with local stakeholders – among them its 2,000 members (individuals and groups) to encourage and implement Zero Waste strategies at the local level. www.zerowastefrance.org
ACR+ – The Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+) is an international network promoting sustainable resource management through prevention at source, reuse and recycling. Through its activities, ACR+ strives to develop the expertise and skills of public authorities in effective waste-product-resource policies. Building on a 20 year experience, ACR+ launched in November 2014, the Circular Europe Network, a multi-stakeholder platform aiming at supporting local and regional authorities in adopting aspiring circular economy strategies. www.acrplus.org
The study published today  analyses the waste composition of 15 European cities showing that 70% of municipal solid waste is product waste, and therefore not food or garden waste, and as such could be included under an EPR scheme. However, on average, only 45% of this product waste (by weight) is currently covered by producer responsibility schemes. This means that, on average, EPR schemes only cover 32.5% of total municipal waste, with coverage varying from 14.9% in Copenhagen to 47.6% in Paris. Furthermore, only 18% of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of ZWE said “The current interpretation of EPR was useful to increase recycling rates in Europe over last 20 years but it will need updating for it to help move us towards a circular economy. We call on the European Commission to use the upcoming waste package to include incentives to redesign systems and products in order to drive prevention and reuse, foster a serviced-based economy, put recycling as last option and progressively phase out disposal.”
The report makes a series of recommendations to the European Commission. Among these it calls for a broader definition and a more comprehensive approach to producer responsibility which includes the use of economic instruments. The introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements as well as better EPR schemes with full-cost coverage, individualisation, targets for separate collection and considering expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products and incentivise reuse.
The study also finds that existing EPR schemes have been ineffective in driving eco-design, both because of its limited coverage of product waste and the lack of modulation of EPR fees based on eco-design. Zero Waste Europe urges the European Commission to develop minimum European-wide individualisation criteria based on eco-design.
1. Zero Waste Europe– Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
This year saw a significant growth for Zero Waste Week, held between 7th – 13th of September. What has previously been a national UK based week expanded internationally drawing participants from across the world. The theme for this years Zero Waste Week, was that of ‘Reuse’. One of the ‘3 R’s’, reuse is an essential aspect of any zero waste strategy, and is near the top as one of the ‘most favoured options in the ‘Waste Hierarchy Pyramid’.
Kornelia from Warsaw, Poland said “I started the Zero Waste project in my family in July 2015 and I try to respect all 5 rules of Zero Waste. I write about it on my blog”
Hana from Tunisia said “I pledge to make my own reusable bags”
In the UK, Zero Waste Week was celebrated in Parliament in an Early Day Motion recognising the hard work carried out by founder Rachelle Strauss, and the wide reach and success of the week. The week was further referenced by Kerry McCarthy MP who introduced a bill proposing a reduction on the ‘obscene amounts of food needlessly wasted through the food industry supply chains’, and making this waste available to charities and people in poverty.
Klaus from Munich, Germany pledged to “Buy no plastic packaging [and] recycle waste for different uses”
The increasing reach of Zero Waste Week stands as an exemplary model for moving towards a zero waste world. With participants in all levels of society, and increasing recognition from national legislative bodies, it seems that zero waste ideas are becoming popularised.
Valerie from Paris, France, pledged to “Avoid every kind of packaging”
Many more exciting events such as ‘repair cafés, smoothie bikes, roadshows, meals made from ‘waste’, swap events, and art projects’ also took place during the week, with a huge response on twitter under the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek
With the EU currently in the process of preparing a the circular economy package, these efforts should demonstrate the potential and energy for waste reduction in our economy from across Europe, as well as the recognition of the importance of waste within our supply chains.
Our compost video competition is now closed. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a video entry. We have now passed the videos on to our panel of judges and will be announcing a winners shortly. – The Zero Waste Europe team
What is so great about compost?
Compost is an incredibly powerful tool in the zero waste tool box. Organic waste is often one of the most challenging waste streams in urban areas, as it’s usually the largest waste stream of household waste and the most problematic in environmental terms. With separation at source and proper treatment through composting however, it can be an amazing opportunity to help create a genuinely circular economy. Composting organic waste can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and avoid hazardous disposal systems such as landfilling and incineration. As a natural soil improver, it replaces the need for chemical-based fertilisers (contributors to climate change), and it has amazing rejuvenating qualities for soil, increasing the capacity of the land to act as a ‘carbon sink’ and reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere.
Across Europe millions of people are involved in composting, both on an individual level and as part of neighbourhood or community schemes. These actions are preventing vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, and providing vital nutrients for soils. We want to hear your composting stories, and learn more about the inspirational ways that you and your communities are taking action to reduce organic waste.
That is why we have decided to launch a competition to celebrate composting, with some fantastic rewards.
Are you part of a fantastic composting project that doesn’t get enough attention? Do you need some added funds to expand your community composting scheme? Or are you just passionate about composting and want to promote your own creative organic waste solution? We want to know about it!
We have 3 huge prizes up for grabs, in our composting video competition, and all you have to do is submit a video or animation showing off your composting project, explaining why composting is so great, or highlighting a creative solution. We are particularly encouraging home-made and amateur video contributions, so remember the content is more important than the camera quality, and get out your smart-phones, and video-cameras and get stuck into a bit of compost.
The competition is divided into three categories, with different criteria and prizes, and will be judged by our panel of experts including experts from the European Compost Network (ECN), The Organic Stream, and Zero Waste Europe so if you want to participate, make sure you take a look at the different categories. You don’t have to specify which category your video comes under during the application process, so don’t worry if you aren’t sure, or feel that your video might fit more than one category, as our judges will assess which award the video would be most suited for.
Community Solutions Award — Prize 500eur
In this category we are looking for the best community solution, so if you are part of a neighbourhood composting project or work with other local composters to collect all that food-waste, or just want to talk about community solutions make sure that you send us a video.
Creative Composter Award — Prize 500eur
This category will choose the most creative composting solution, we want to see your innovative and unusual composting efforts, as well as any creative attempts to promote composting of organic waste.
Compost Education Award — Prize 500eur
In the final category we are looking for the most effective and inspiring educational video about compost. This could be about the benefits of compost, or how to start your own compost project, or anything else really, so long as it is educational and espouses composting!
Tips & hints
We know that not everyone out there is a master in creating videos, there may not even be a direct correlation between video-editors and composters at all! But there is no need to worry, as we have put together some simple tips and hints to make sure your video is in with the best chance of winning!
Keep your video relatively short and to the point. We would expect videos to be around the 1.5 minute mark, and if videos are longer than 3 minutes we will not be able to include them in our competition.
If you are filming on a smartphone make sure to have your phone rotated in landscape (we find that makes a much better film!)
Try and move the camera as smoothly as possible to help avoid a film which could be difficult to watch
If your computer doesn’t come with any, there are plenty of free video editing and animation software options available, which you should be able to find with a quick internet search.
If video isn’t your thing, then you are also free to submit animations or other ‘video’ forms. Be creative, and surprise us!
All entries must be received by midnight (GMT) on the 1st of November.
Entries should be uploaded to Youtube and set as unlisted, the link should then be sent to: COMPETITION NOW CLOSED
The judges will be looking for the best projects, ideas and composting solutions, not the most polished, professional videos.
The video should reflect the benefits of compost as explained above and the core values of Zero Waste Europe.
We are afraid that we will not be able to accept videos which are not either in English, or have English subtitles.
All entries must consist of original or previously unreleased content, by entering the competition you give Zero Waste Europe the right to host your video on our Youtube channel, and share it through social media.
This study provides clear evidence that Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes in Europe are insufficient. In the Executive Summary, released on Wednesday 15, July, it has been found that despite 70% of municipal solid waste being product waste, only 45% of this product waste is currently covered by an EPR scheme and only 18% of the product waste is collected with existing EPR schemes.
In the full study to be released in October, there will be included a number of detailed and clear recommendations to the European Commission on improving the current EPR mechanisms and implementing truly effective EPR scheme with a broader definition which as the ‘father of extended producer responsibility’ Thomas Lindhqvist stated, would serve as “an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact from a product”2.
For EPR thinking to fit into the circular economy, the study claims that it is necessary to connect waste managers with producers using economic instruments as well as the introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements that allow for better process and product design.
This study comes at important time for the European Commission who are currently conducting a review of waste policy and legislation. The aim of which is to “help turn Europe into a circular economy, boost recycling, secure access to raw materials and create jobs and economic growth”3. All ambitious targets which will need to incorporate strong EPR protocols to have achieve the desired goals, and move Europe towards a zero waste circular economy.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of Zero Waste Europe said “This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”. It is clear that whilst EPR schemes across Europe do not manage to reach most producers there is real potential in the current review for their reform, and it is hoped that if the European Commission takes these findings into account. That would be a real step forwards for the circular economy and another step towards a zero waste Europe.
2Thomas Lindhqvist, “Mot ett förlängt producentansvar — analys av erfarenheter samt förslag” (“Towards an Extended Producer Responsibility — analysis of experiences and proposals,” in Swedish), 30 April 1992, published by the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources ini “Varor som faror — Underlagsrapporter” (“Products as Hazardous — background documents,” in Swedish), Ds 1992:82. The definition was published in English for the first time in: Thomas Lindhqvist, “Extended Producer Responsibility,” in the proceedings of an invitational seminar at Trolleholm Castle, 4-5 May 1992: “Extended Responsibility as a Strategy to Promote Cleaner Products,” edited by Thomas Lindhqvist, Department of Industrial Environmental Economics, Lund, June 1992.
Key findings from the new study covering 15 European cities have been published today , in advance of the publication of the full study in September. The study shows that 70% of municipal solid waste is product waste (waste that is not food or garden waste) and as such could be included under an EPR scheme. However currently only 45% of this product waste (by weight) is covered by the producer responsibility scheme. Furthermore, only 18% of product waste is collected separately through an EPR scheme.
The full study to be released in September will make a series of recommendations to the European Commission. Among these it will call for a broader definition and a more comprehensive approach to EPR which includes the use of economic instruments. The introduction of legally binding eco-design requirements as well as better EPR schemes with full-cost coverage, individualisation, targets for separate collection and the expansion of the current EPR scope to include more products.
Zero Waste Europe encourages the European Commission to take these findings into account in the up-coming proposal on the waste package which will be presented before the end of the year.
Joan-Marc Simon, director of ZWE said “This study provides new evidence about the potential for improving EPR schemes in Europe and the need to use the upcoming waste package proposal to ensure that producers really take responsibility whilst providing the appropriate incentives to redesign systems and products”
1. Zero Waste Europe– Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system. www.zerowasteeurope.eu
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.
Have you heard of Disco Soup? You may, as this event is spreading out throughout Europe as a celebration of taking food waste out of the bins and filling lots of bellies instead. What is used to be known as skip diving, urban gleaning, salvaging, or just recycling perfectly edible food that happened to be in the bins, is now an organized effort that brings together hundreds of volunteers to collect food waste, cook it collectively and eat it to the sound of funky music, positive vibes and a conscious awareness that food waste has no place on a finite planet.
In Manchester, Disco Soup was a ground-breaking event organized by the Real Junk Food Project Manchester, that brought together more than a hundred volunteers last Saturday June 20th for a day of healthy, nutritious meals for anyone and everyone, on a pay-as-you-feel donation basis. Only for this event, they saved about 700 Kg of food that would otherwise gone to waste from supermarkets, restaurants and a number of other sources that collaborated with the event.
Corin Bell, Director of the Real Junk Food Project Manchester said “we are absolutely thrilled of the response of people in Manchester today and we are hoping to open a Café that will open 3 days a week following the same Disco Soup recipe”. Bell explained that most of food waste had been collected in collaboration with FairShare Greater Manchester, an organization that fights hunger and re-distributes surplus food to charities, food banks and schools in the region
The popularity of food waste related type of events has only been increasing in the last years, as more and more people is taking action to respond and end the wastage of perfectly edible food. Campaigns and events such as Disco Soup, FairShare Greater Manchester, the Feedback campaign, which includes the Gleaning Network amongst others, are definitely playing a key role not only in increasing awareness, but in actually reducing food waste as a matter of fact.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation pointed out in its Global Food Losses and Food Waste report that “roughly one-third of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted globally, which is about 1.3 billion ton per year.”
Moreover, the contribution of food waste to climate change is outstanding, manly from two sources: the GHG emissions related to the production of food and the GHG emissions related to their waste disposal.
To have an idea of how many tons of GHG emissions are related to food production that is never eaten, Tristram Stuart offers an eye-opening figure in Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal (2009): assuming that wastage levels by consumers is of around a quarter of all food is representative – as found by WRAP’s study in the UK and by the Department of Agriculture in the US – it can be said 10 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in these countries come from producing, transporting, storing and preparing food that is never eaten.
Moreover, the resources devoted to produce food are very significant: every year, according to the FAO, the production of food uses up to 1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area. Similarly, the blue water footprint for the agricultural production of total food waste in 2007 was of about 250km3, which is more than 38 times the blue water footprint of USA households.
If not used for feeding purposes, the alternatives to food waste disposal have been widely explored in Zero Waste Europe’s training on organic waste and various materials, making strong recommendations for composting and anaerobic digestion.
Good news is that awareness is increasing and food waste is decreasing as a matter of fact at least in the UK: since 2007 there has been a 21% reduction according to WRAP. Still British households waste around 22 per cent of all the food they buy. Hopefully the downward trend will continue speedily.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the 10th and 11th of May, tens of thousands of volunteers from communities all around the Mediterranean Sea and from three continents gathered to participate in simultaneous Clean-Up Events that took place in 15 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, becoming the most widespread civic-led event ever organised in this area.
With this project, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean aimed to draw attention to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea and motivate communities to work together to change the situation. Studies show that the contamination of the Mediterranean Sea is very high and the level of plastic waste is beyond critical. In certain places the volume of micro plastic in the water exceeds that of plankton.
Faisal Sadegh, the project coordinator of Let’s Do It! Mediterranean emphasized that the impact of marine litter and waste in general goes beyond national boundaries. “Pollution does not stop at a country’s border, and the problems are spreading to affect the Mediterranean region in more direct ways than ever before,” Sadegh said.
Eva Truuverk, Head of Partners and Finance with Let’s Do It! World explained further; “for example, huge landfills can be found on Lebanese beaches, and trash is carried into the sea by winds and due to the currents reach the shores of other countries”, she said.
Precisely, Sadegh pointed out that this is exactly the reason why Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited the whole region to participate and clean up together.
“There have been separate cleanup actions, but the scale and scope of this project is unprecedented. We need to work together for the environment we all share.” Indeed, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited everyone to participate with their families, neighbors, colleagues, and make this event a truly community empowering experience. “It simply works better and is much more fun together,” encouraged Sadegh.
Moreover, actions were supported by fishermen, schools, local people, tourist groups, and most importantly by diving organisations. One of the coordinating organisation for underwater actions, the Greek diving club Samos Divers, has the experience of removing trash from even 40 meters deep.
“Living on an island, the sea has been my ‘playground’ for four decades. I have been scuba diving for 20 years. The comparison of my childhood memories of the sea and its current state often saddens me. The truth about marine debris is that just because we often cannot see it, does not mean it’s not there,” said the leader of Samos Divers, Alexandros Malagaris.
“My deepest motive for getting seriously involved with underwater cleanups is so that my son Philippos, age 6, and my daughter Olympia, age 3, will be able to enjoy the wonders of the sea the way I did as a little boy. Abundant sea life in crystal clear waters, with the absence of tires, boat batteries, bottles, cans and plastics,” expressed Malagaris.
In Croatia, more than 5000 people took part in 30 Clean-Up Actions on the Mediterranean coast. During the Clean-Up action in Split, on the Croatian coast, more than 40 Estonian volunteers joined 300 local people, including 100 divers and marines, and together cleaned up the sea bottom from waste. As a result of this cooperation, four tones of waste were collected from the sea and beach in Split. Other actions took place in Egypt, Montenegro, Estonia, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia and many other countries, as reported by Let’s Do It! Mediterranean.
The Let’s Do It! Mediterranean campaign is run and organised by volunteers, and the team plans to organise massive actions in concentrated periods until 2018. The “Let’s Do It!” movement started in Estonia in 2008, when a country with a population slightly over 1 million brought together 50,000 people to clean up the entire country in just five hours. By today, almost 10 million people and over 100 countries have joined the Let’s Do It! network. Find out more about Let’s Do It World and join in!
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.
This week we celebrate the International Compost Awareness Week, an initiative of the US Compost Council that invites everyone to organize activities to promote compost around the world as the sustainable solution to soil and water.
Yes indeed, we love compost! Closing the loop through composting our organic waste and returning the nutrients to soil has extremely important benefits for the sustainability of our environment, our food supply, and our zero waste strategies. Interestingly, the latest report from the World Bank on waste issues at the global level, provides its own version of the Waste Hierarchy, with composting and anaerobic digestion being the only two organic treatment techniques included in the Recovery category. As shown in the figure below, incineration is then placed further down with the rest of waste disposal options.
There are so many reasons to do composting, but here’s a selection of some good ones:
1. Composting turns waste into a resource. It was organic waste in your kitchen but once in the compost bin, it turns into a treasure! This is not to say that wasting food is OK as long as we compost it. Absolutely not. Reducing food waste is still our very first priority in a Zero Waste strategy – check out these inspiring initiatives to reduce our food waste.
2. Composting diverts waste from landfills and incinerators. Sadly, most of food waste in the EU still ends up in landfills or incinerators. Organic waste in landfills contaminates our soil, our groundwater water and creates methane, a greenhouse gas with 25 times more heat trapping potential than CO2, hence a major contributor to climate change. In its turn, incinerating food waste it’s just a waste of resources. The key to end these contradictions is as easy as doing source separation of organic waste and do not ever mix it with any other waste stream. Once you have clean food waste, composting can be just the right next step.
3. Composting saves GHG emissions. Composting does not only save GHG emissions by diverting waste from landfills and incinerators. Putting compost in arable soils acts as a temporary carbon sink in itself, as the soil sequestrates the carbon that if burned would otherwise be immediately emitted to the atmosphere. Members of the Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee wrote this paper about the great potential role of compost in reducing green house gas emissions.
4. Composting replaces chemical fertilizers. Compost provides key nutrients to the soil in a way that makes chemical fertilizers unnecessary. In this way, composting saves the GHG emissions associated with the production of chemical fertilizers and avoids their toxic contribution to our soils and food chain. Moreover, farmers can save the money!
5. Composting reduces the use of pesticides. Compost makes plants healthier and stronger to face biodiversity imbalances and combat pests, hence reducing the need to apply chemical pesticides. Once again, this saves the GHG emissions associated to the production of pesticides and avoids their toxicity in our food supply. It’s important to note that pesticides have been linked to severe health problems in children, and may act as carcinogens or damage the endocrine system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
6. Composting builds topsoil and tilth. Compost makes good soil in itself and contributes to stopping soil erosion and degradation. Using compost improves the soil structure, moisture content, degree of aeration, rate of water infiltration, and drainage, making land better prepared to grow healthy food in a sustainable way.
7. Composting helps retaining water in the soil. Water is a precious resource and using compost helps soil keeping it underground. Healthy plants and their roots retain water close to them, preventing water from running off.
8. Composting is cheap, easy and time-effective. Once the essential structure is in place, composting is inexpensive, only requiring your eyes and hands to separate waste at source and place it in the correct bin. Once the organic waste is in the compost bin, you can forget about it for a few weeks, so the process itself requires very low-maintenance dedication, and the returns are extremely valuable. In brief, little effort for a major gain.
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.
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!
Need a crash course on managing organic waste? Compostory offers you the possibility to learn the basics so that you can skip first steps and jump straight into the implementation of Zero Waste strategy.
Compostory.org is a non-profit platform featuring online video courses dedicated to source separation of organics, composting and anaerobic digestion, accessible at no cost and on-demand.
Camille Duran is the Executive Director of Compostory and we have interviewed him so that he can tell us more about the details of this fascinating training tool.
Camille, what is the story of Compostory.org?
Earlier this year, I gained an interest in the circular economy and more particularly in the way communities adapt their waste management practices to move towards Zero Waste. At the time, I was setting up our social enterprise Green White Space and was looking to contribute to the Zero Waste story that I find fascinating. I teamed up with Linnea Hulten (who was also involved in investigative activities on the topic) and we started researching why so many communities on our planet are still landfilling (or burning) organic waste. Two conclusions were particularly interesting:
As you know, more an more communities can show great results on source separation, and proper treatment of organic waste via composting or anaerobic digestion. There are success stories on six continents and a lot of research has already been done on the various aspects of source separation and the opportunities it represents for our communities and environment. But like in many other sectors, there is a strong disproportion between the efforts put into research and those put into making results actionable and widely available.
It actually costs time and money to build a vision! Many influencers of waste management systems on our planet such as a local governments, farm managers etc. are still at the early stage of their journey. They are facing a large amount of information which they need to aggregate, sort out and evaluate. It is very difficult for them to be proactive in this context and the ones who can afford expertise and guidance need to invest time and money before even having a clear roadmap and understanding of potential gains.
I guess we were looking for a platform which would give us a well-structured, easy-to-digest overview of all we need to know in order to build a vision on source-separation of organics. And at no cost. We didn’t find it and this is where everything started. We knew we could make a difference by democratizing beginner knowledge on a large scale. I have personally been involved for a while with online media and education and I am still fascinated by how the digital age is disrupting knowledge platforms and improving access to information, data and networks. We need to be better at leveraging the tools available today – and not only in the field of organics recycling!
Who is Compostory.org targeting?
Basically any influencer of waste management systems.
Today we need to focus our distribution efforts so we are mostly targeting local governments. But we are starting to look at the agricultural sector and we will engage with any major producer of organic waste. The course we offer is designed for a beginner-level so it is also very well suited for students or any individual with an interest in the topic.
According to Eurostat, in Europe today only 15% of all municipal solid waste is composted and most of it is still being landfilled or incinerated. Why do you think the treatment of organics has not yet taken off in Europe?
I would defer to the experts on the regulatory context, the incentives in place, and some other forces preventing communities from moving faster. I will just add that change management is driven by the vision.
This is true for change in a multinational company, a football team, or a government. I think we need to be better at communicating a vision. Getting communities excited about source separation, composting or biogas generation is key and in my view, there are still massive efforts to be made on brand building in these areas. This role cannot be played by everyone and it is a complex issue of course. There is currently a lot of noise around waste management but things are definitely moving and we need to acknowledge the tremendous work that many organizations like yours are doing in the field. I am very optimistic on what will happen in the coming years.
How does Compostory.org help to build a Zero Waste Europe?
The recovery of organic material is a topic of high interest nowadays and many communities in Europe are still following “the old models of managing waste”. This year, we are focusing on delivering a turnkey learning program that communities can follow for free and on-demand. It’s been only four months since we have released the first lesson on compostory.org – and we still have a lot of work to achieve – but the platform is already generating strong interest in 26 countries. It is encouraging to see that the course is followed by all kinds of communities in Europe; whether it is City of London or a small community in the South of France, everyone seems to care. We work very hard on access and distribution of the content we produce, on reaching new communities every day to create large scale communication channels. We will be releasing new languages shortly to be even more inclusive.
Compostory.org just launched a database of companies who can support communities with their resource recovery programs. What is the thinking behind this tool and how do you see the resource recovery sector evolving?
The tool was created to help our audience find support with their resource recovery projects. We are receiving a lot of questions and need to be able to help on a large scale. This industry directory will develop overtime into a more advanced platform but is already a very good way for consulting firms and equipment companies to showcase their products and expertise. Also, it allows us to stay independant from industry in the way we help our audience which is very important for our brand equity.
The so-called “resource recovery sector” will be interesting to watch in the coming years. Many are still talking about “waste management” services but as communities start to understand what true resource recovery is, the old fashioned waste management companies will adjust their offerings and message overtime. Like with any industry disruption, the transition will take some time and some companies will get stuck on the side of the road if they don’t start adapting soon.
What is success for Compostory.org?
Helping our societies design for the future is a beautiful mission. I think this is what keeps the team so committed. If we can truly influence what is happening on the field and keep pushing the boundaries, then I guess we would call it success. It‘s a marathon, not a sprint, but fortunately there are a lot of small victories along the way. I want to thank the team and all the people involved with the project in some way. We are having a lot of fun building this platform and have a lot of exciting news coming up. Stay tuned!
Thousands of public events such as concerts, sports events or festivals print t-shirts for that occasion and after being worn only once they are relegated to the closet. Imagine the amounts of water required for the production of those millions of t-shirts!
Thanks to new up-cycling design and production methods it is now possible to organise the mass production of a t-shirt with a 80% smaller environmental footprint. How?
The thing is, factory made t-shirts yield up to 40% wastage. That means 40% of that cotton is grown in vain and huge amounts of water and earth resources are wasted, not to mention spinning the yarn, transporting the fabric, factory labour … you get the idea.
It’s taken years of hard work and research but Upmade came up with a design and production model to mass produce t-shirts using that leftover 40%. They believe that if they can show the world that mass up-cycling works, they could really change how the fashion industry impacts the environment.
Reet Aus is a fashion designer and environmentalist. She has been up-cycling her own fashion collections for many years, as well as designing costumes (also upcycled) for theatre and film.
Recently Reet completed her PhD in sustainable fashion design. Her research took her to Bangladesh, where she began working with a factory called Beximco. Beximco make garments for many well known brands, and in the process accumulate a LOT of waste fabrics. But Reet didn’t see a mountain of garbage, she saw treasure! And she set to work.
Reet gathered her team of experts, and together we took cutting leftovers (8-30%), roll ends (1-10%) and over production (3-5%) and got creative. The result is the up-shirt.
Nowhere is the phrase “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” truer than in the small town of Capannori, Italy, where a small but determined movement to stop the construction of an incinerator led to an Italy-wide grassroots Zero Waste movement. The area has one of the highest municipal recycling rates in Europe and is an example of strong policy decisions and community participation achieving groundbreaking results.
Battle of the Burners
Capannori, a town of 46,700 inhabitants near Lucca in Tuscany, was set to be just another step in the relentless march of waste incineration in Italy. The northern European model of burning waste to avoid the environmental and social problems associated with landfill and to produce energy was gaining traction in Italy, a country beset with a dramatic and urgent waste management problem. Local medical organisations and even environmental NGOs put up little resistance, seeing incineration as the least-bad solution to a seemingly impossible dilemma. Business interests and pressure from northern Europe contributed to a rush to incineration that seemed unstoppable.
Those who should have mounted the most strenuous defence against the encroachment of incinerators were lacking. The public debate did not discuss the fact that incineration encourages waste generation, competes with recycling, aggravates the sustainability challenge, sparks corruption and releases toxic emissions while capturing just a tiny bit of the energy stored in waste.
Communities such as Capannori were left to fight the construction of incinerators on their own. In 1997 primary schoolteacher Rossano Ercolini recognised the potentially damaging effects the planned local incinerator would have on the health of residents and on the surrounding landscape. With the help of Dr Paul Connett, a world expert on incineration and Zero Waste, he set about convincing local residents of the potential danger of erecting an incinerator in their community. The movement was successful in blocking construction and soon spread to three other communities threatened with incineration in the region.
What’s the alternative?
Tasked with implementing an alternative to incineration, Ercolini decided that the only approach was that of waste reduction. He took over the running of the local waste collection corporation, ASCIT, to create a door-to-door waste collection pilot scheme. After a year he stepped down from his role and went back to campaigning against incineration around Italy. Ercolini managed to persuade the town council of Capannori to be the first in Europe to sign up to the Zero Waste Strategy in 2007, committing to sending zero waste to landfill by 2020.
Door-to-door collection was introduced in stages across the municipality between 2005 and 2010, starting with small villages, where any mistakes could be identified and corrected early on, then extended to cover the entire municipal area in 2010. By that time, 82% of municipal waste was separated at source, leaving just 18% of residual waste to go to landfill. In 2012 a number of villages in the municipality became subject to a new ‘Pay As You Throw’ waste tariff, where the frequency of collection per household is measured using microchips in stickers on residual waste bags, scanned by a reader on the collection vehicle. In those areas the new tariff incentivized better separation and prevention, driving local source separation rates up to 90%.
Transparency and consultation
Local politicians recognize that the key to their success with the door-to-door collection scheme and other zero waste measures was the early and active consultation of residents. Meetings were held in public places to gather input and ideas and involve the local population in the Zero Waste Strategy. Printed information was sent to every address. A few weeks before door-to-door collection was introduced in a given area, volunteers distributed free waste separation kits to all homes, including the various bins and bags required and further printed information. Volunteers were trained to answer residents’ questions about the new scheme, all of which meant that participation was smooth, immediate and effective.
A study carried out by La Sapienza University in Rome, comparing door-to-door collection in three communities in Italy (Capannori, Rome, Salerno) found that in Capannori participation (99% of inhabitants sort waste) and satisfaction (94%) were higher than in the other two communities. This correlates to the high percentage of Capannori residents who received literature about the changes (98.6%), attended meetings about changes in collection (46%) and know where to go to ask for information about waste collection (91%).
Economically viable solution
The savings from no longer sending most waste to expensive landfill sites, and earnings from the sale of materials to recycling plants mean the scheme is economically self-sufficient, even saving the council over €2m in 2009. These savings are ploughed back into investments in waste reduction infrastructure, and reducing fixed waste tariffs for residents by 20%. It has also funded the recruitment of 50 ASCIT employees, boosting employment in the region.
One of the most successful elements of the new collection system has been the diversion of the organic waste stream. Not only does ASCIT carry out frequent door-to-door collection of organic waste, which is sent to a composting plant in the province, in 2010 public canteens in Capannori were supplied with Joraform composting machines. In the future these local collective composting machines could be extended to cover groups of residents, which can help to reduce the cost of collecting, transporting and treating organic waste by between 30 and 70%.
Residents have been encouraged to take up home composting, with 2,200 households picking up free composters and receiving training on composting techniques. Those households that home compost are given a 10% discount on their waste tariff as an incentive, and spot checks have shown that 96% of households are still using their composters correctly. A biogas plant for the area is in the planning and consultation stage.
Designing waste out of the system
In 2010 Capannori set up the first Zero Waste Research Centre in Europe, where waste experts identify what is still being thrown in the grey residual waste bags and come up with solutions to get that 18% figure down even further. Finding that items such as coffee capsules were among the most commonly discarded items, the Research Centre held meetings with coffee manufacturers such as Nespresso and Illy to work on biodegradable or recyclable alternatives.
The high volume of disposable nappies in residual waste led the municipality to offer subsidized washable nappies to local parents. Taking a collaborative rather than combative approach has meant that manufacturers have responded positively, with coffee manufacturers initiating research into alternatives to capsules.
One man’s trash is another’s treasure
Not only has work been done to improve recycling rates – emphasis has also been placed on reuse. The municipality opened its own Reuse Centre in the village of Lammari in 2011, where items such as clothes, footwear, toys, electrical appliances and furniture that are no longer needed but still in good condition can be repaired where necessary and sold to those in need, thereby diverting them from landfill and serving a vital social function. The centre is steadily expanding its activity- in 2012, 93 tonnes of objects were dropped at the centre and in 2013 those figures look set to rise.
According to Rossano Ercolini, “The record figures from the Lammari ‘Ecology Island’ (drop-off point for bulky waste and reusable items, ed.) show that our culture is changing, partly due to the municipality’s policies. Whereas before people threw everything away, now they realize that recovering things not only benefits the environment, but also those who can buy them at affordable prices”.
The centre also provides training in upcycling skills such as sewing, upholstery and woodwork, so as to spread the values and practice of reuse as far as possible.
Waste prevention pioneers
Where Capannori is truly leading the field is in the area of waste prevention – between 2004 and 2012 the overall volume of waste generated per person dropped by 39% (from 1,92kg to 1,18 kg/person/year) and it is foreseen that it will continue to go down thanks to the extension of pay-as-you-throw scheme to all the municipality. More impressively, the rate of unseparated –or residual- waste per capita was reduced from 340 kg per year in 2006 to 146 kg in 2011, a drop of 57%. Compare this to the figures for Denmark, 409 kg unseparated waste per capita per year (2011), and you can appreciate the scale of the achievement.
This means that beyond just boosting recycling rates, local policymakers have looked at ways to reduce waste generation at source. As part of their Zero Waste Strategy, they have identified 11 areas for action. Perhaps the most visible of these is the sale of products loose or on tap – the municipal council provided tax incentives to local small businesses to stock products that could be refilled with customers’ own containers, such as liquid detergents. A grocery shop, Effecorta sprang up in Capannori in 2009 selling over 250 locally sourced food and drink products in bulk. Local residents can buy pasta, wine, oil and many other necessities without having to throw away any packaging.
The Short Chain – a boon for local agriculture
Two self-service refill stations for milk were opened, introducing a model of food distribution called ‘the short chain’ –the stations are supplied directly by a local farmers’ cooperative and consumers buy without the intermediary of a packaging plant or retailer, so that they pay lower prices and farmers make more on each litre.
It has been enormously successful, with 200L a day sold through the stations and 91% of customers refilling their own containers, thereby cutting about 90,000 bottles out of the waste system.
Other initiatives have included a campaign to increase consumption of tap water rather than bottled (Italians are Europe’s biggest consumers of bottled mineral water), doing away with disposable cutlery and flatware in public buildings including schools, distributing cloth shopping bags to all 17,800 households and 5,000 to businesses and stocking reusable nappies and sanitary products in municipal pharmacies. All of these initiatives are a result of proactive political nudges in the right direction, leading to residents becoming aware of and able to implement virtuous consumption habits.
A flagship community
Taking a proactive, holistic approach and involving residents in all stages of policy development are the key elements that have led Capannori to top the European waste prevention leagues and, through its position as the Zero Waste Network’s Flagship Municipality, inspire other communities to aim higher than just fulfilling recycling targets. Its committed, visionary leaders have seen opportunities rather than problems, and through transparent engagement with the population have made this the achievement of an entire community.
Waste is one of the main world ecociders. Indeed, waste fulfills all the criteria of an ecocide; it causes environmental destruction, it damages ecosystems, it threatens any sort of life and it ignores the rights of future generations. Waste is the living proof of the degree of selfishness and stupidity of the most intelligent generation of human beings this planet has seen.
Nature creates no waste; it is a genuine human invention. In nature nothing and nobody goes to waste because the definition of an ecosystem is a system of cooperative and symbiotic relationships; the discards of a process are the input for another one. Everything is upcycled into the system so that the system is sustainable and resilient. In an ecosystem all energy used is renewable and non-polluting and all resources are obtained in the vicinity using non-extractive, low-energy-intensive techniques. Processes take place at normal local temperatures and pressures and combustion is not an option. The current linear throwaway society is the opposite of sustainability; resources are extracted, transported, manufactured, sold, used and discarded, committing ecocide at almost each and every step of the process.
Following the example of nature, Zero Waste is a philosophy, a strategy and a goal aiming at emulating sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water, or air that may be a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
But beyond definitions, Zero Waste is a movement of people around the world, working every day not to better manage waste, but to rather phase it out of the system. Zero Waste people and communities work at different levels of the production and consumption chain in order to minimise environmental impact and close the cycles.
For instance the network of Zero Waste municipalities –more than 200 in Europe alone- commit to sending zero waste to landfills or incinerators as soon as possible. Many of these municipalities are already separately collecting more than 80% of their waste, which means that they provide good feedstock for composters and biogas plants, producing renewable energy and organic matter to improve soil and avoid desertification. They allow for high-quality recycling of paper, plastic, glass and metals, which saves cutting new forests or opening new mines to extract new resources. And they allow for the closing of incinerators and landfills which destroy the environment and cause the whole process of extraction to start again.
But Zero Waste is not only about recycling more and better; it is also about reducing waste generation in the first place. In Zero Waste communities plastic packaging generation has been radically decreased thanks to the opening of public fountains, bulk liquid dispensers for milk, honey or detergents, bans on bottled water or single-use plastic bags, the implementation of green procurement, policies to stop spillage of food waste and many others. For instance, whereas in Denmark, the top waste producer per capita in Europe, almost 400kg of waste per person and year were sent to polluting incinerators, in Zero Waste communities the annual waste sent for disposal per person is below 100kg and some of them are even close to 50kg. This means not only that the environmental impact of Zero Waste citizens is less than 4 times less than that of the average Dane it also means that the need to extract new resources is much lower.
Because Zero Waste is based on the proximity principle, most discards are treated as close as possible to where they are generated. This means that sustainable and good jobs are created to collect and recycle the waste, that innovation thrives in order to create products that are not toxic and easy to recycle and that the total costs for the community but also for the new generations are also reduced. Moreover, there are many other positive externalities associated with a Zero Waste strategy. For instance, Capannori, the first European town to declare itself Zero Waste, despite recycling almost 90% of waste and generating new jobs in waste collection, has also generated new jobs in associated sectors. Thanks to the zero waste policy new shops such as Effecorta have opened to sell local, packaging-free products, while a reuse centre was created for residents to donate used stuff. There, it is given a second life, reducing waste and benefitting the local economy. A company supplying reusable nappies –Ecobimbi- is also thriving thanks to the opportunity provided by the Zero Waste strategy. One of the consequences of such an array of virtuous initiatives is that nobody now remembers that one day a company wanted to build an incinerator in the town, which would have polluted the air and destroyed this source of a renewable and resilient economy, now a reality. As we can see, the more Zero Waste is implemented the less ecocide there will be.
But zero waste is also much more. It is about environmental justice, so that pollution and waste treatment facilities are not concentrated in poor and disenfranchised communities. It is about inclusion, so that the millions of people worldwide who make a living by collecting and selling discarded materials (aka waste pickers, catadores, grassroots recyclers) are able to live with dignity. It’s about putting money into real solutions, and combatting corruption. It’s about community organising, education, and democracy, so that all citizens can participate in local resource management plans, funding is fairly distributed, and all businesses and manufacturers understand and fulfill their roles in minimising waste and designing products for the future.
In places where incinerators or landfills are built there is a clear democratic problem, triggered by corruption or incompetency –or both. These are places in which the citizens suffer ecocide for the sake of economic profit or in order to allow some other richer communities elsewhere to continue to live in their illusion of a planet without limits. We can’t continue to run a throwaway economy in a finite planet; waste is today a global issue. There is no place called “away”. Millions and millions of tons of plastic waste now lie on the seabed or float in our oceans, breaking into small pieces that are entering the food chain, exterminating fauna and affecting us all –rich and poor. Throwaway society is consuming more energy than ever to extract resources that are becoming more difficult to reach – all of this, to produce a short-lived designed-for-the-dump product that we will use for a few minutes before we send it to the landfill, the incinerator or nature.
Waste has no future; waste is, in itself, ecocide. Zero Waste is a very simple way to fight ecocide starting from our everyday life; it allows us to build up actions with friends, neighbours and communities to change the world, one community at a time.
Clearly there are many existing ways for us to manage our society without committing ecocide. You can also do your bit by giving it legal power at www.endecocide.eu
Plastic bags have been in the spotlight a lot this year. From bans in Los Angeles and Manila to tax levies in Scotland, it seems that the tide is turning on disposable, single-use plastic bags. On the 4th International Plastic Bag Free Day, observed in different locations between the 3rd and the 10th of July 2013, individuals and groups from around the world held events and made statements in support of a move away from disposable plastic.
The purpose of the day, which was organised jointly by GAIA, Zero Waste Europe, and Fundació Prevenció Residus i Consum, was to emphasise the alternatives to single-use plastic bags and the dangers they present to marine and land ecosystems. The campaign received expressions of support from many prominent figures from around the world, including Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program; Nohra Padilla (winner of the Goldman Prize for Latin America 2013); Annie Leonard, author of The Story of Stuff; and Jeremy Irons, actor and star of the 2012 film ‘Trashed’.
The campaign used social media to connect individuals and organisations from around the world, reaching more than 20,000 individuals via Facebook and Twitter. The resulting network of supporters will be able to communicate with one another and continue to work on plastic pollution and waste issues throughout the year.
Over the last four years the event has grown in size and in quality, as the effects of single-use plastic on the environment have become increasingly visible to everyone.
With this year’s slogan, ‘Zero Bags – Zero Waste’, people from around the world shout that there is no place for single-use plastic bags on our finite planet!
Time to say enough is enough. As we speak, thousands of single-use plastic carrier bags are entering the environment and there is little prospect that the amount of marine litter will start decreasing anytime soon.
The International Plastic Bag Free Day is a worldwide action that starts on July 3rd and will go on until July 10th. Groups from all continents will be organising actions to restrict the use of single-use plastic bags. This is the 4th year of actions for alternatives to plastic bags.
Although Europeans have overwhelmingly supported a ban on single-use plastic bags for quite some time, the European Commission still hasn’t issued any guidance or rules on how to address this problem. The upcoming review of recycling targets for packaging waste is an opportunity that should not be missed in order to stop this source of pollution and incentive to bad consumption.
The concrete shape of your action is for you to decide, you can organise clean-ups, send letters to decisions makers, record videos… it’s up to you! If you need some inspiration here are some hints:
Take a photo of:
– Plastic bags in nature;
– Handing reusable bags to politicians – mayor, ministers etc;
– Famous local people posing with you and a reusable cloth bag;
– Yourself with a petition or a statement about plastic bags.
– Return plastic bags found in nature to industry (manufacturers, distributors ..);
– Collect plastic bags found in nature and create art pieces exhibited in visible areas of the city- such as car parks or even in a museum – invite politicians, media or any famous people to the opening;
– Return single-use plastic bags found in nature to emblematic buildings (environment ministry etc).
– Workshop of reusable bags;
– Give prizes to people who are not asking for a plastic bag in the shops;
– Customise your reusable bag (painting, sewing, patchworking…);
– Creating the “no plastic bag” logo with plastic bags;
– Giving consumers in shopping centres a reusable bag in exchange for their single-use one;
– Single-use bags can be shown in a big net so that people can see that plastic bags are still very much consumed;
– Smart mob with participants and volunteers in a mall or any commercial area with bags on their heads entering shops normally;
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.
Nobody knows. In fact, marine litter in European waters is not only of European origin, it stems from any other place in the world where trash is dumped into the sea.
What we know is that marine litter is an increasing threat to the health of European and global marine ecosystems, with costly environmental, economic and social consequences. We have all seen the pictures of seabirds, whales, fish, etc with their stomachs full of plastics and other human creations (1). The issue is serious, the gravity of the consequences impossible to know for now.
Plastics account for 50 to 80 per cent of marine litter (2), with macro-debris on the sea floor, floating litter and beach debris, and increasing concern about the accumulation of microscopic pieces of plastic in the environment, potentially down to the nanoparticle scale. Among the most problematic litter is lost or discarded fishing gear, which may continue to fish for years afterwards – a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’ – resulting in the mortality of marine mammals, turtles, birds and fishes.
The impact is not only environmental and health related, it is also socio-economic; studies prove how marine litter deters tourism (3) and costs lots of money to coastal municipalities. More concretely UK municipalities spend €18 million a year removing beach litter, Belgium and Netherlands aprox €10,4 million a year (4).
Where does marine litter come from?
Globally it originates mainly from land-based source (80%) but in areas such as the North Sea the proportion coming from shipping is closer to 40%. Ocean-based sources of marine litter include shipping, recreational boating, the fishing industry, and offshore oil and gas platforms, with litter entering the sea through both accidental and deliberate discharges of things ranging galley waste to cargo containers.
Water flows and doesn’t stop at national borders, so does the litter that comes with it. Hence, marine litter is a global problem that should be treated at global level. There are several pieces of international legislation specifically designed to reduce marine litter and prevent the discharge of waste into the marine environment, namely:
However, it is clear that if we look at the amounts of litter present in our seas all this amazing range of legislation is either insufficient or innefficient. Plastic continues to pollute flora and fauna, enter our food-chain and endanger the future of our children at ever increasing rates…
What can we do?
The first thing, before even tackling the unknown amount of pollution in the seas, is stop the main source of pollution from entering the oceans. That is mainly single-use disposable plastics. Most laws don’t take into account the real environmental and health costs associated to plastic pollution in the oceans, if these costs would be taken into account –and charged to the by the producers- we would probably see a change in they way packaging works today.
So, first thing; if we reduce the consumption of single-use plastics (bottles, plastic-bags…) it will be a major step to improve the situation. This can start at a personal level or collectively by uniting to highlight the problem to the big corporations responsible for single-use packaging. See this action to Ride the Plastic Wave as an idea.
Second thing; implement proper producer responsibility measures so that the real cost of littering is added to the cost of packaging. Plus, optimise waste collection in a way that it is ensured that all waste is properly collected and take-back schemes are in place.
Thirdly, once we have stopped plastic litter we can start cleaning the mess created so far. The Let’sDoIt movement has been organising actions around the world to clean other people’s mess, soon there will be a cleaning day for the mediterranean. This is a good way to highlight a problem but remember that most of the waste is not at the shore but either floating in the ocean of sank on the seabed…
All life in our planet was born in the oceans, the same oceans that we are now polluting with our man-made products. The stress we are inflicting onto sea life is huge and the implications of the consequences unknown.
However, the solution is at hand; the Zero Waste strategy once again makes environmental, social and economic sense for the near future. Re-designing the society is part of our duty and most single-use items should have no place in a Zero Waste sustainable world.
Since the invention of coffee-capsules we have seen how this potentially recyclable item was filling up more and more waste bins. In places where waste separation is at highest levels -particularly some Zero Waste municipalities in Italy. we have seen how coffee-capsules represent a significant amount of the residual waste -what cannot be or is not recycled or composted-.
To know more about the problem of the coffee capsules you can see a previous post here. Since then the Zero Waste Research Center in Capannori has been working to find solutions to this problem and reduce even more the size of the waste bin. In order to have an open debate on the issue it has organised a national meeting in which the most important coffee producers and distributors will gather in Capannori on March 22 and 23 to discuss alternatives.
In this event there will be a coffee tasting of coffee produced with different systems and a round table with Kompresso srl, ETI srl, IMS spa, Goglio spa, COOP Italia and Illy Cafe.
We will publish a report with the results of the meeting.
Dopper decided to give an alternative to the use of millions of single-use plastic bottles that are tossed away every minute. Indeed, the opposite of Zero Waste is using a scarce fossil-fuel based material one single –short period of- time that then ends up in oceans, landfills or incinerators and sometimes recycled –success varying from country to country-. And did you know that every water bottle requires 1 litre of water and a quarter of a litre of oil to produce? We can do better than that.
The sad thing is that in Europe all tap water should be drinkable everywhere if the Drinking Water Directive is properly implemented which means that tons and tons of plastic and pollution could be avoided. Dopper offers a step in the right direction.
Dopper is a Dutch company that produces plastic bottles but very different from the single-use low-recyclable ones that are polluting the land and seas. Instead Dopper has produced a water bottle which is designed in a way that allows for long durability, zero net footprint without any toxic chemicals and which ensures endlesss recycling. Basically, although made of plastic it does and represents the opposite of single-use plastic bottles.
“The bottle is the message” says the founder of Dopper, Merijn Everaarts. And it is. Fresh drinking water is the most sustainable thirst-quencher there is. It quenches your thirst 100% with 0 calories. What’s more, it’s practically free. The requirements set for drinking water are far more stringent than those for mineral water. And to make sure everybody knows it, part of the proceeds of the Dopper are put toward the promotion of this delicious water.
For instance it has developed the Dopper app with which you can find a free tap location near you, anywhere in the world, and it involves you in the change by allowing you to add new free tap water points where you are. Keep asking for drinking water. This will increase the number of tap locations.
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.