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!
As a guy who has a passion for sustainability and eco alternatives, Chris naturally came upon the Zero Waste revolution back in 2014. To Chris, Zero Waste not only fuelled his desire to shape a world without waste, but also opened him up to a lifestyle based on harmony through simplification and purpose. Today, Chris continues his journey and seeks to inspire those through written word to put an end to waste by taking action.
About Rome and Zero Waste – Rossano Ercolini and Zero Waste Italy meet the government of the municipality of Rome.
On the 6th of June, a delegation from Zero Waste Italy and Zero Waste Europe president, and Goldman Prize winner Rossano Ercolini held a positive meeting with Pinuccia Montanari, the councillor for the environment of the municipality of Rome, her staff and the president of AMA (the municipal waste management company for Rome), Lorenzo Bagnacani.
The group focused on the fundamental steps Rome should take in order to begin the zero waste path, taking into consideration the important role of civil society, industries and political leadership.
“The plan is to transform the MBT [mechanical biological treatment] plants in “material factories”, removing all interests related to incineration as way to treat waste, and moving towards door-to-door separate collection of waste with the consequent reduction of residual waste. Home-composting, the selling of light-packaging products and reuse/repair practices should be encouraged also in terms of job opportunity.” Montanari and Ercolini explained.
Rome, a world leader?
Rome could become an example for the world, showing how even a complex and highly populated city could work towards the zero waste solution, when strongly supported by the political leadership. For this reason, the local town hall has started the process to make Rome a zero waste community, formalising the zero waste observatory (called Osservatorio Capitolino), composed of the most important national environmentalist associations.
In order to facilitate this process from an international perspective, it has been decided that an international task force will be created, as proposed by Zero Waste Italy. This team of experts should be composed of representatives from Zero Waste Italy, Zero Waste Europe, individual experts such as Prof. Paul Connett, Jack Macy from the municipality of San Francisco and Jeffrey Morris, an expert in circular economy.
The task force would also have the task of stressing the importance of “Rome towards zero waste” as an international example, leading the Italian capital city to the “zero waste by 2021” goal.
This is a challenge that will need the cooperation of all civil civil society, the environmentalist associations and the political leadership.
By Erika Oblak, Ekologi brez meja / Zero Waste Slovenia
The municipality of Bled (with a population of 8,171 people) is one of the most famous and popular Slovenian tourist destinations, both nationally and internationally. The town is located in the foothills of the Julian Alps, on the picturesque shores of Lake Bled. At the beginning of 2015 Bled became the 7th Slovenian municipality on the road to Zero Waste. As a part of the recognition process we analysed their waste management data, and noticed a steep increase in municipal waste and residual waste generation during the summer months, starting at the beginning of June and lasting until the end of September when the data plummeted again. When we linked the data to tourist arrivals and overnight stays, and it matched perfectly.
When I started researching tourism it became obvious that waste is one of its major environmental impacts. Hotels, restaurants and other facilities use a huge amounts of products, very often delivered and packed in personal single use plastic packaging. For example, small plastic shampoo and soap bottles in hotel rooms. Or personal packaging for marmalade, honey and butter served at breakfast. Multiplied by the number of hotel beds and the number of overnight stays, it gives a rough picture of the magnitude of the problem. Data I came across claimed that as tourists we use more water, electricity and create more waste than when we live our ordinary everyday lives.
Looking for a solution, I was surprised how little literature is available on waste management in the tourism industry. The majority of those I could find mainly discussed strategies and recommendations, but in most cases lacked the data showing the effects of carrying them out. Zero Waste tourism soon became a focus of the Zero Waste Slovenia team. We set up a project aimed at finding waste minimisation and recycling solutions for events, hotels and restaurants.
The events turned out to be the easier part. There is a fair amount of literature with solutions and examples from different countries, including detailed guidelines. We integrated those which correspond best to our solid municipal waste management systems and legislation, and included the Zero Waste International Alliance recognition requirements for businesses. Again, Zero Waste Europe member organisations and staff turn out to be a priceless source of information: with their help we came across some inspirational stories like Boom festival in Portugal or Ecofesta Puglia in Italy. Armed with Zero Waste Events Guidelines, tailor-made for Slovenian circumstances, we organised several workshops around the country, which were eagerly accepted by event organisers.
Workshop for event organizers in Maribor (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)
Hotels were a harder nut to crack. First we checked the requirements of various green certificates, which mainly require waste separation and some basic prevention measures. The WRAP program is a good source for the ideas on how to minimise food waste in restaurants and hotel kitchens. The share of biodegradable waste in all waste generated in an average hotel is between 40% and 60%. After a while we started believing hotels might be too big a challenge for a small team as ours.
That was until Zero Waste Europe’s Enzo Favoino came to our rescue (again). He connected us with Antonino Esposito, who started introducing Zero Waste principles to hotels in famous Italian tourist destination, Sorrento. Antonino kindly accepted our invitation to join the project and we slowly began to understand why we couldn’t find much literature. Every hotel is its own story. They are diverse in size, services they offer, stars categories they need to comply with, some have already adopted green policies, others have not, etc. Reaching Zero Waste goals requires a complete change of the hotel’s culture, including employees, guests and suppliers. Such changes are only successful if they are developed slowly.
While Antonino trained and equipped our team with his Zero Waste tips and tricks, we were eager to find a pilot hotel ready to embark on a Zero Waste adventure. It turned out the concept fit perfectly into the vision of Hotel Ribno in Bled. At the moment our team – with Antonino’s support – is drafting proposed actions towards Zero Waste goals.
The co-funding by the Ministry of Environment ended at the end of February with the closing event at Astoria Hotel in Bled, a learning centre for catering and tourism. Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini (Ecofesta Puglia) presented their work to a number of hotels, event organisers, municipalities, NGOs, waste management companies and representatives of the Slovenian Tourist Organization. Since several hotels and event organisers expressed their interest in Zero Waste, we are convinced Zero Waste tourism will become one of our success stories.
Antonino Esposito and Roberto Paladini presenting their work in Bled (Photo: Ekologi brez meja)
Globally, tourism is one of the fastest growing industries, with Europe contributing half of international arrivals and about the same in income. More tourists equals more waste, and more waste inevitably translates into a larger environmental footprint. It is not just a problem in the areas where establishing an efficient waste management system is challenging, like small islands or remote, sparsely populated areas. Bananas or pineapples travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers to end up at the breakfast buffet of a Northwest town in Slovenian Alps, using energy and adding GHG emissions. Waste, especially plastic, became a huge problem also in terms of the decreased value of tourist destinations. Solid waste minimisation should therefore become an important task for tourism sector. Not only to manage its own waste, but also to support and participate in setting up efficient waste management of tourist destinations. After all: who’d want to lie on a beach covered by plastic trash or stay in a mountain camp with waste rotting nearby?
The tireless work of Zero Waste Romania, recently won many victories, here they share some of their achievements. To find our more get in contact via their Facebook page or email them directly. In the coming weeks we will be looking at other stories of zero waste practices in Central & Eastern Europe.
Iasi, the first big municipality in Romania to adopt the zero waste strategy
The city of Iasi has joined the “Zero Waste Municipality” international network and become the biggest city in Romania, with a population of over 350 000 inhabitants, that engaged to adopt the zero waste methodology with proven impact in other over 350 cities across Europe, in facilitating the transition towards circular economy.
The affiliation process started in September 2016, when Mihai Chirica, the mayor of Iasi, signed a formal engagement letter and organized a task force group with all the main actors involved in the waste management at local level from the waste operator, local Police and NGOs to the Ministry of Environment.
The first solutions which are to be adopted in local legislation are the following:
separate collection at source of three types of waste: recyclables, compostable/biowaste and residual waste. The source collection will be programmed on different days for each type of waste category and the biowaste will be composted or converted in biogas;
introduction of the “Pay as you Throw” system;
Funding is also being sought for the extension of the existing Municipal Waste Collection Center with a repair and resale center for furniture, textiles, electronics and construction waste, a pioneering initiative in Romania.
The “zero waste” methodology has been adopted by 40 other small communities and cities including Targu Lapus, the first Romanian city to adopt the strategy in 2014.
PAYT legislation in Romania
In October 2016, Romania included in the waste framework legislation the “Pay as you Throw” instrument to be implemented at national level, whenever it is technically and economically viable following the 2008/98/EC recommended language. Even if not mandatory, this event marks a historical milestone in the battle for an improved waste management system still based mostly on landfilling and opened the door to municipalities to adopt the instrument in local legislation and modify their commercial contract with the waste operator. The first city in progress to adopt PAYT is Iasi (+350 000 inhabitants), followed by Oradea (+250 000 inhabitants) which will be announced in April 2017.
The study tour started with an event organised by Zero Waste Europe and the University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) in Vitoria-Gasteiz on 28 November. It consisted of an international conference focused on the reduction of costs in waste management for municipalities through the optimisation of separate collection, the reduction of residual waste and the transformation of these fraction into market products. Javier Garaizar, Vice-rector of the Campus of Álava of UPV/EHU opened the conference, followed by Ainhoa Etxeandia, Director of Environment of Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council. Their interventions were followed by Joan Marc Simon, Ferran Rosa, Enzo Favoino, Marco Mattiello, Kevin Curran, Nekane Artola and Ainhoa Arrozpide.
48 participants attended the conference, among which we found civil servants, representatives from companies and environmental consultancies, policy-makers, professors and students of the university, etc. The presentations can be found here.
The afternoon was used to get to know the situation regarding waste management in Vitoria-Gasteiz, thanks to the Zero Waste group Gasteiz Zero Zabor.
The 29 and 30 November were devoted to the tour of good practices of waste management and circular economy. The tour allowed visiting municipalities and counties that have experienced a significant improvement in their separate collection systems. Among these experiences, the tour visited small villages like Leintz Gatzaga or Elburgo that collect and treat bio-waste in the same municipality. The participants also visited the counties of Debagoiena and Sasieta to better know about their waste collection systems (door-to-door, roadside containers with chip or mixed systems) that have made the municipalities in these counties reach 70% and 80% separate collection or more.
On top of the good practices of waste management, the tour visited good practices on circular economy. In this sense, several companies were visited in sectors like gastronomy, fashion or remanufacturing.
At the Restaurant Azurmendi of Eneko Atxa, with a three-Michelin-stars Basque chef, the participants learned about the philosophy of the project and visited the facilities. After this visit, an excellent meal was provided and the participants could learn about the way they manage the bio-waste at the restaurants. Gurpide Elkartea, an association working for the municipality of Larrabetzuko, manages the bio-waste of Azurmendi and of the neighbours of the municipality. In Larrabetzuko they follow the ‘Austrian system’ of composting that involves local farmers in the treatment of bio-waste in decentralised composting sites. This reduces the cost for the municipality, while allow the local farmer to obtain an extra income and have access to good quality compost.
Not far from there, in Zamundio, Cristina Cendoya and Mikel Feijoo of Skunkfunk presented the philosophy of the company and the design of the collection Capsule Zero Waste. After that, the tour went to a facility of the social economy company Koopera where they sort 18,000 tn a year of clothes.
In a totally different sector, the tour also visited Rebattery, a company located in Bergara that remanufactures and recovers batteries. Rebattery manages to give a new life to 60-75% of the batteries they receive and place them again in the market.
The three-day study tour was not only interesting, but the living proof of the current initiatives of circular economy in the Basque Country and the potential for these activities to keep growing. The tour managed to successfully illustrate best practices through all the economic cycle.
Today Zero Waste Europe has released their latest case study. Demonstrating how the town of Roubaix in Northern France has been able to make significant steps towards a circular economy. The case study highlights the community projects and schemes which have tackled waste at the source, even where the town lacks competences on waste management.
This case study shows that it is vital to involve all stakeholders to change consumption patterns as well as waste generation habits for a successful implementation of a circular economy. The project was so successful that 25% of participating households were able to reduce their waste generation by over 80% and 70% reduced their waste by 50%.
In previous case studies Zero Waste Europe has demonstrated that high recycling rates combined with low generation of waste and low waste management costs are entirely feasible. Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study, highlights how a comprehensive approach has paved the way for zero waste in Roubaix. By integrating families, institutions, businesses, schools and associations Roubaix is creating a new circular system which aims to cut down waste at source and create a new culture of waste.
The case of Roubaix also showcases also the limitations faced by some municipalities in Europe. Roubaix, like other municipalities in France, lacks direct control of waste collection and management policies, meaning that all changes need to be approved by a consortium of municipalities that, in this case, has been reluctant to approve progressive policies. As a result of this the town decided to take an alternative approach reaching out to various stakeholders in Roubaix to minimise waste at its source.
Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe’s Policy Officer said: “Where there is a will there is a way. By challenging households to directly cut down their waste, Roubaix has proven that we can all adjust our lifestyles to more sustainable patterns and make economic savings at the same time”.
Roubaix, which is considered to be the poorest town in France, illustrates that political will and citizen involvement can drive significant change in any situation, even when the competences and resources are lacking.
With the aim of successfully shifting towards a zero waste society and a circular economy, Zero Waste Europe illustrates best practices and supports local transition. Zero Waste Europe’s new campaign ‘Make your city zero waste!’ calls for public support in reaching more municipalities in 2017, and sharing zero waste best practices.
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
On the 22nd June, 2016, Zero Waste Europe held the closing conference of the project “Town to town, people to people – Building a European Culture of Zero Waste” in Brussels. The project aimed at bringing together European municipalities and environmental organisations in the construction of a new zero waste culture.
After the Budapest, Ljubljana and Capannori conferences in November April and May, the final one took place in Brussels on 22nd June. Besides identifying good practices at the local level and helping diffuse them across Europe, this last conference also intended to bring the conclusions of the project to European policy makers.
The conference served to present Zero Waste Europe’s latest case study on the city of Parma. Gabriele Folli, Environment Councillor from the city of Parma, presented their transition towards Zero Waste, explaining how they have managed to move from 45% recycling to 73% in only 4 years and notably reduced their residual waste by 59%. The city is the vivid example that ambitious targets for the circular economy aren’t only feasible but bring environmental, social and economic benefits.
In addition to the presentation from Parma, the closing conference of the project counted on the presence of Annemie Andries, Senior Policy Advisor of OVAM, the Flemish Agency of Waste, who presented the new targets on residual waste that are being envisaged in Flanders. These accompany recycling targets and other measures and aim at pushing for a reduction of the non-reusable and non-recyclable waste.
After her, Alexandre Garcin, Deputy Mayor of Roubaix, presented the transition towards Zero Waste of this city in the North of France. In their case, the city doesn’t have the power to implement separate collection, but is directly working with households, companies, schools and civil society to minimise waste generation and to ensure separate collection of the waste that is produced. Roubaix showed that political will can overcome legal constraints.
Finally, Caroline van der Steen, Director of Stadsecoloog of Bruges, presented their Food Smart City project and the work they are doing to prevent food waste and to find alternative and innovative ways of making the most of food surpluses.
The project and the conference has allowed cities and civil society to exchange good practices on waste prevention, separate collection and other sectorial specific measures. Besides, it has boosted the exchanges and the relations among cities across the EU, truly permitting to build a culture of zero waste that has lead even to the twinning of two cities thanks to their efforts to go zero waste.
Waste management in Majorca has been for long associated with the incineration of waste. With the biggest waste-to-energy incineration plant in Southern Europe, the system has been shaped and impacted by this mega-infrastructure: with average separate collection at 15% and having reached the point of importing waste from Ireland and Italy to feed the facility.
However, after a change of government on the island, the region and most of the cities, a new and more environmentally friendly model of waste management is starting to take shape. Fortunately waste is no longer imported to be burned and cities, towns and villages of the island are starting to wake up and transition towards a new model.
Among the discussions for this new model, the city of Palma (the capital of the island with 400,000 inhabitants) chose the World Environment Day to organise a conference on waste management to learn about good practices that will help them designing a new model for the city. The conference presented good examples of waste management on the island, with the prominent cases of Porreres or Artà, that have recently joined the limited but growing group of towns above 70% separate collection on the island and are introducing an ambitious pay-as-you-throw scheme.
In addition to this, the conference focused on the role of economic incentives to help improve waste management, with examples like the bonus/malus tax on waste disposal existing in Catalonia, or the inclusion of pay-as-you-throw schemes in the tourist sector.
The conference was closed by Zero Waste Europe who presented their holistic vision of waste management and to provide good examples from the Network of Zero Waste Cities and from zero waste entrepreneurs. These examples were complemented with specific advice on how to bring Palma closer to Zero Waste.
The city representatives took note of these proposals, and advanced the introduction of compulsory bio-waste collection and door-to-door collection for some neighbourhoods, along with work on waste prevention.
All in all, the conference showed that there are alternatives to traditional waste management and that even for an island with the largest incineration plant, it is possible to start shifting.
This case study confirms that ZWE’s proposals for the Circular Economy package can be achieved in very little time
Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) has published today a new case study on the city of Parma, Italy, which highlights how with political will and citizen involvement it is possible to radically reduce residual waste, create jobs and save the taxpayers money.
Parma, with 190,284 inhabitants, had separate collection stagnated around 45% for some years. However a citizens-led initiative to move away from waste disposal managed in 2012 to transform waste policies and brought a zero waste plan for Parma.
The new plan copied and improved what is already working well in other towns of the zero waste network; intensive kerbside collection and pay-as-you-throw systems together with lots of education and keeping the system flexible to accomodate further improvements.
The indicator that the town used to measure success was the reduction of residual waste (what is sent for landfilling and/or WtE incineration) per capita which was reduced by a staggering 59%, from 283kg to 117kg, in only 4 years. By 2015 the separate collection was raised to 72% and the quality of the materials separated for recycling had also increased.
The new system of collection is more labour intensive which has meant that the number of waste collectors has increased from 77 to 121 with a number of other indirect jobs being created whilst the city has saved €453,736 in comparison with the former system.
But the transition is far from over. By end of 2016 Parma will be generating less than 100kg of residual waste per person and have achieved 80% separate collection and plans are to continue on the path to zero waste.
Joan Marc Simon, Director of ZWE said “Some spend their time finding excuses not to deliver in 2030, others like the city of Parma prove that a target of 70% recycling and 100kg residual waste per capita is achievable in less than 5 years”.
Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.
This is the most recent of 7 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia), Contarina (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Gipuzkoa (Spanish Basque Country) and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.
On May 20th, 21st and 22nd the first Zero Waste European city, Capannori (Italy) hosted a meeting of the Network of Zero Waste Cities. The event intended to bring together local authorities and civil society organisations so as to exchange good practices on waste management.
The meeting started on Friday the 20th with the welcoming words of the mayor of Capannori, Luca Menesini, and Rossano Ercolini, President of Zero Waste Italy, which were followed by the presentation of four cases of cities working towards zero waste: Capannori and Parma (Italy), Hernani (Basque Country) and Miramas (France).
The presentation served to showcase how zero waste can be implemented and be the driver of waste management policies in different legal realities in which municipalities have a different range of competences. In all these cases, political will along with the engagement of civil society has been the key driver for transition.
Next, Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe and Enzo Favoino, Coordinator of the Scientific Committee of Zero Waste Europe, presented the ‘network of Zero Waste cities’ and the steps for a city to become a zero waste municipality.
In the afternoon, a study visit was organised to the reuse centre Daccapo, to the Technological Pole of Lucca and to the Zero Waste Research Centre of Capannori.
On the 21st the participants learned about the specificities of the separate collection system in Capannori and the Mamme No Inceneritore movement that is fighting for Zero Waste and against incineration in Florence was presented and who helped organise the 20,000 strong demonstration in Florence on May 14th. This was followed by a conference was devoted to the citizen-led legislative initiative on Zero Waste that is under discussion at the Italian Parliament. Three specific workshops on ‘supporting and controlling Zero Waste cities’, ‘waste collection companies and Zero Waste’ and ‘innovation and Circular Economy’ were organised. After that, a visit to the Zero Waste shop Efecorta was organised.
The meeting concluded on the 22nd with an award ceremony to Italian companies committed to Zero Waste or innovating to reduce waste.
On Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd Ljubljana, the 2016 European Green Capital, and first Zero Waste European Capital, played host to municipal representatives, entrepreneurs, zero waste campaigners and experts as part of the Network of Zero Waste Towns Meeting.
The conference was opened by an introduction to the history of Ljubljana and the implementation of zero waste policies in the city, from Erika Oblak of Ekologi Brez Meja. From the early struggle against the construction of an incinerator and the subsequent referendum, with overwhelming opposition in 1999 to just a few years later, having the neighbouring town of Vrhnika already leading the way with recycling rates as high as 50% as early as 2003.
This was followed by Zero Waste Europe, Director, Joan Marc Simon expressing how amazing it was that such significant progress had been made by the city in only 2 ½ years.
The first discussion panel focused on reusable nappies, featuring Elizabeta Zust, from a nursery in Vhrnika that only uses cloth nappies and Hilary Vick, from Nappy Ever After, a nappy laundry service in London. The panel also included Joan Crous from the Eta Beta/Lavanda cooperative in Bologna, Italy, where 1,100 to 1,800 nappies are washed and delivered every day.
The panel covered the environmental and social benefits of reusable nappies as well as technical and commercial difficulties and issues surrounding the issue. This provided highly informative, inspirational and technical discussion by the participants.
Tourism was the focus of the next panel discussion. With Nina Kosin from the Ljubljana Tourism Board opened with a focus on the significance of the Green Capital award for the city, as well as the introduction of reusable crockery at the Christmas market with a deposit scheme in place.
The afternoon of the first day covered the topic of food waste. Involving food waste entrepreneur Joris Depouillon from the Food Waste Entrepreneur Network, Laura Chatel, from Zero Waste France, and Albin Keuc, from Food Waste Reduction a Slovenian initiative which has provided 16 DIY tools for food waste reduction.
The participants emphasised the importance of differentiating between ‘food waste’ and ‘food surplus’ with the larger portion remaining fit for human consumption, the highest level of the ‘food waste hierarchy’.
The second day was opened by Zero Waste Europe’s President, from Capannori, Italy – Rossano Ercolini. Before hearing speeches from Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana, and Irena Majcen, the Slovenian Minister for the Environment and Spatial Planning, offering their insights on Ljubljana’s success as a environmental leader across Europe.
The keynote speaks for the day was from Paul Connett, internationally renowned campaigner on zero waste, with over 30 years of experience in working on incineration and waste issues. Dr. Connett used his time to speak on zero waste as stepping stone to sustainability. His speech presented an inspiring vision of citizen action for the creation of a world without waste, a sustainable future and a better planet.
This was followed by a discussion of policies on a local level, with Tihana Jelacic, from Prekom, the Croatian waste management company for Prelog and the surrounding municipalities, who have recently adopted a Zero Waste Strategy, and are working to implement zero waste policies and practices. Stojan Jakin, from Vrhnika, the first Zero Waste Town in Slovenia spoke about how ranking towns by the recycling rates can be misleading when towns like Vrhnika are reducing the amount of residual waste year-on-year despite a less dramatic increase in recycling rates.
Matteo Francesconi, the Deputy Mayor of Capanorri spoke about how Capannori was first launched on the road to zero waste by the anti-incineration fight led by Rossano Ercolini, and now has a holistic approach to waste, with a system that adapts to the local reality and, therefore, integrates local people at every level.
In the afternoon. Mitja Praznik, from Snaga, the waste management company in Ljubljana went into great detail and depth on exactly how Ljubljana has become the best performing capital in waste management in Europe
This was followed by Mariel Vilella, Associate Director of Zero Waste Europe explaining the immense impact which waste management has on climate change, and how current accounting methods downplay this impact. Emphasising that it is time that we harvested this ‘low-hanging-fruit’ when it comes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
David Franquesa, then took to the stage to present eReuse, an open source reuse platform for electronic waste, which can be used to dramatically extend the use life of electronic products, as well as ensuring the traceability of the items from reuse through to recycling.
The final speaker at the conference was from the ECO-PULPLAST project which works with the paper industry in Northern Italy to recycle pulper waste from the recycling of paper to make ‘eco-sustainable plastic pallets’. This project has significant support from key players in the paper recycling industry where it forms a major alternative to waste incineration and offers a way to reduce costs.
The conference incorporated a wide range of expertise and experience. With inspiring and informative talks from politicians, industry representatives, social entrepreneurs, activists, and innovator. The focus on local action towards zero waste presented a number of concrete actions which can be taken by different municipalities in following the path to zero waste.
The Waste Management Plan for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) for Vitoria-Gasteiz from 2008 to 2016 will soon finish and it is time to assess it. Some will certainly say that things are going perfectly because streets are clean. Others will make use of the big numbers, saying that “this year we’ve prevented 40,000 trees from being cut down”, when we don’t really know if that’s a lot or not. Gasteiz Zero Zabor has produced a report objectively assessing the results of this plan cross-checked with the announced objectives . The main conclusion is clear: the plan has not even met a quarter of its objectives, it’s a total failure. It’s a failure of all of us, but it’s even a bigger failure for the Vitoria-Gasteiz City Council who are implementing it. At the same time, given that a new plan is being drafted, Gasteiz Zero Zabor wants to raise some proposals that will help Vitoria-Gasteiz to meet EU and Basque targets on waste recycling. Our report can be found here.
In the coming weeks Gasteiz Zero Zabor will hold a series of meetings with all political parties so as to assess their commitment to our waste proposals. The overarching goal for any new plan should be Zero Waste, this might seem a utopian vision, but many cities are already working in this direction and getting closer and closer. The examples of San Francisco (USA), Treviso (Italy) or Ljubljana (Slovenia) show that it is possible to go Zero Waste and revert the situation in 10 years. What about Vitoria? Nothing new: we’re stuck at 24% separate collection, a terrible figure for a European Green Capital! It’s even more terrible, knowing that there’s a EU target of 50% recycling rate to be met in 2020. The remaining waste of Vitoria is being landfilled, wasting resources and creating toxic leachates and greenhouse gases, some plastics will also fly South in the stomachs of the storks of Gasteiz.
Europe brings new airs with the circular economy package by which waste will stop being that sticky and messy mixture to become resources. Waste if properly separated is a resource, saves money, creates jobs and can preserve the planet. By composting all the kitchen waste of the city, the Alavese plain could be organically fertilized . Wouldn’t it be nice to close down the landfill and bring organic food to plates at the same time? It is time to close the loop and reverse this situation through societal participation. It is viable and possible, it is just a matter of will.
Let’s do it then: let’s make sure that waste is prevented, reused or recycled!
Our short message to the political parties of the Council is: now that you’re creating the new Waste Management Plan, believe in citizens and civil society, don’t be afraid, it will be worth it!
Zero Waste is on the agenda at the region of Madrid. Despite the negative situation, positive changes are expected.
Last Friday 18th March, the Assembly of Madrid hosted a conference on Zero Waste. The aim was to present the initiatives already taking place in the Region of Madrid, across Spain and in Europe and to define proposals for the upcoming Waste Management Plan for the Region of Madrid.
The event was crowded with representatives of more than 15 cities and towns of the regions, among which included the cities of Madrid and Alcalá de Henares. Zero Waste Europe presented the situation of waste management across the EU and the main proposals emerging to turn the current situation upside down: institutional initiatives such as the Circular Economy Package and civil society ones like the network of Zero Waste municipalities.
The event was split into two sessions. The morning served to present the Zero Waste Madrid Platform, composed of a wide range of civil society organisations, from environmental NGOs to trade unions and neighbourhood associations, and to expose the major challenges of the current system of the region. The session addressed the main policy alternatives for the region and what the new Waste Management Plan could include to reverse their very negative situation. Among the panellists, there was broad consensus on the importance of collecting separately organic waste and addressing it specifically, and on the need to make use of fiscal instruments to incentivise the upper steps of the waste hierarchy, such as a tax on landfill and incineration. Other concerns were related to the limited existing infrastructure, and the need to shift investments away from big and rigid end-of-pipe infrastructures, such as landfills, incinerators or MBT plants, redirecting resources to those at the top of waste hierarchy, such as composting plants.
The afternoon session was mostly devoted to initiatives taking place at the local level and main plans for the municipalities of the regions. Although the session intended primarily to present changes taking place in the Region of Madrid, it also enjoyed the presence of Michele Giavini, a representative of the city of Milan, who illustrated the case of door-to-door separate collection of bio-waste in a city of 1,5 million inhabitants. Additionally, the session counted on the local councillors for the Environment of Madrid, Alcalá de Henares and Soto del Real. The three cities, along with other municipalities represented in the room committed to introducing separate collection of bio-waste and to set up a mid- and long-term strategy to become zero waste.
Despite the very negative situation of the Region of Madrid, very poor separate collection, lack of infrastructures at the top of the hierarchy, abuse of end-of-pipe solutions, landfills on the verge to close down, etc., local powers proved their commitment to redress the situation and their intention to push the regional government for an ambitious Waste Management Plan that accompanies and facilitates their transition.
According to Eurostat statistics on waste released on 22/03/16, each European generated 475 kg of waste in 2014, only 44% of this is being recycled or composted. The remaining 56% ended up landfilled (28%) or incinerated (27%).
Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) notes that two continuing trends in these statistics:
Little improvement in terms of waste generation
Waste is being diverted from landfills into incinerators (up 1.1%) and to a lesser extent to recycling (up 1%)
In general terms, the countries which are performing well in waste treatment seem to be unable to reduce their waste generation, while the most efficient ones in terms of waste generation tend to be unable to reintroduce materials into the economy through recycling and composting.
In view of these facts and in order to advance towards a circular economy ZWE calls for the adoption of targets for residual wastei of 100kg per capita as a more effective tool to increase recycling in countries with low waste generation and reduce waste generation in those countries with advanced recycling programs.
Zero Waste Europe’s Executive Director, Joan Marc Simon said “A residual waste target of 100kg per capita for 2030 is a good indicator of resource efficiency and resource use, as it works on the top levels of the waste hierarchy, effectively combining prevention, reuse and recycling policies”.
When looking at 2014 statistics from a residual waste per capita perspective one can see that, besides Malta and Cyprus (both islands) and Denmark, there is already considerable convergence between EU member states with the EU average being at 259kg per capita, hence a target of 100kg for 2030 is a feasible target.
The situation is, however, very diverse across the EU, both in terms of waste generation and waste treatment. Some Member States like Romania, Poland or Latvia are well under the average EU waste generation with less than 300 kg per inhabitant, while some others like Denmark, Cyprus and Germany generate substantially more than EU average, being over 600 kg per inhabitant and even over 750 kg, as it is for Denmark.
ZWE also notes that Slovenia, a relatively new member state, is today the best EU country implementing waste hierarchy management practices with stable waste generation well below EU average and a high recycling rate. This makes of Slovenia the best performing EU country with the lowest amount of residual waste, just 102 kg per capita in 2014.
Mr Simon added that “The Circular Economy in Europe means reducing waste generation and increasing recycling rates and Slovenia is a good example of how to both things can take place simultaneously”.
Since 2006 the seven municipalities of the lower Međimurje (The City of Prelog and the municipalities of Kotoriba, Donja Dubrava, Donji Vidovec, Sveta Marija, Goričan and Donji Kraljevec) have been developing a joint waste management system. Organised by the municipally owned company Pre-Kom, waste has been separately collected in the region since 2007. With the region currently ranked top in terms of separate collection within Croatia, it seemed the next logical step was the creation of a society without waste, or the implementation of a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’.
Zero Waste 2020 commitments
By the adoption of a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’ the municipalities of the region have committed to meeting the following waste management conditions by 2020:
70% of useful waste to be extracted, processed and recovered (recycling, composting, anaerobic processing, or other acceptable means of useful waste recovery) through separate waste collection.
The amount of bulky waste and combined waste will be reduced from the current (2015) level of 98.8 kilograms per capita per year to 50 kilograms per capita per year by 2020.
The priorities in the field of waste management (prevention of waste, reuse and recycling) will be reinforced to the fullest extent, waste incineration will be avoided, the amount of waste deposited on landfills will be reduced to the lowest possible level.
An analysis of useless waste will be conducted yearly, and an operative strategy and campaigns for further improvement in waste management will be defined based on the results of the analysis.
In addition to the initiated activities in waste management, and according to Waste management plans of municipalities of lower Međimurje, the municipalities commit to start and take part in the following activities:
Organising educational sessions related to sustainable development and waste management and to promote the zero waste development strategy.
Work on projects related to reuse of the collected waste (clothing, shoes, etc.).
Promote separate waste collection of biodegradable communal waste and the composting of it.
Promote the use of compost given back to users.
Promote increasing the amount of households included in the waste management system.
Introduce a billing system based on the volume of collected waste.
Start projects on all levels of development, or public and private initiatives in order to secure improvement of living standards and sustainable development in their areas.
Encourage green construction using environmentally friendly materials.
Take part in sustainable mobility (car sharing, walking, bus transport, etc.).
Promote new lifestyles (tourism, catering, Fair trade commerce, etc.).
In order to track their progress, the municipalities have formed the ‘Council for Waste Management in Lower Međimurje’ which will track the fulfilment of the goals of the international strategy for “Zero waste”, this council will consist of:
The president of the Council is a Director of PRE-KOM, and the council will meet at least once every six months.
In adopting a ‘Zero Waste Strategy’ the region of Lower Međimurje will join an international community of municipalities moving towards zero waste. This community includes; New Zealand (the first country in the world to include the Strategy in its national legislation), New Scotia, British Columbia in Canada, Buenos Aires in Argentina, San Francisco in California, Canberra in Australia and many other local communities, regions and cities across the EU.
The municipalities of lower Međimurje are becoming a key example of good practice in waste management, and an exemplary model for other local communities in Croatia and around the world in the struggle towards a zero waste society.
Current waste management practices & infrastructure
In the area of lower Mešimurje, mixed communal waste is collected in black containers, biodegradable communal waste is collected in brown containers, bulky waste is collected after a phone call, paper and carton are collected in blue containers or bags, plastics in yellow containers or bags and metal and glass are collected in free bags. Aside from the gathering infrastructure, Pre-Kom. manages a composting plant, a sorting plant and a recycling yard.
Amounts of bulky and mixed communal waste disposed on a landfill per household:
2011 2,888 t — 424 kilograms per household (128.5 kg per capita)
2012 2,801 t — 409 kilograms per household (123.9 kg per capita)
2013 2,794 t — 407 kilograms per household (123.9 kg per capita)
2014 2,862 t — 412 kilograms per household (124.8 kg per capita)
2015 2,299 t — 326 kilograms per household (98.9 kg per capita)
Amount of separately collected, processed and recovered waste:
2011 16.93 %
2012 19.04 %
2013 19.63 %
2014 22.39 %
2015 49.58 %
By completion of the separate waste collection system and by introducing containers for biodegradable waste, Pre-Kom. has already significantly increased the amount of separately collected waste in 2015, compared to 2014. Analysis show an increase in other materials collected separately door-to-door. In 2015, 49,58% of waste has been collected and processed separately, which is a better than EU average of 43%. The results weren’t achieved quickly, they were achieved by continual investments and upgrades to the waste management system.
Considering what has already been achieved, municipalities of lower Međimurje aspire to demonstrate some of the best waste management practices in the world and to lead the way a zero waste society.
On Wednesday 24 February, representatives of the city of Prelog and six surrounding municipalities signed the European “Zero Waste 2020” strategy at a conference in Prelog organised by NGO Zelena akcija / Friends of the Earth Croatia and the communal waste company PRE-KOM. In signing the strategy, the local authorities – which are already leaders in sustainable waste management in Croatia – have committed to meet the ambitious goal of 70% separately collected waste by 2020.
Attendees at the conference included Minister of Environmental and Nature Protection Slaven Dobrović, Assistant Minister Lidija Runko Luttenberger, head of the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund Sven Muller, the Assistant Minister for Enterprise and Trade, the Head of Međimurje County, relevant Mayors, Heads of Districts, communal companies and representative of Zero Waste Europe. 18 NGOs from the Zero Waste Croatia* network were also present. After the conference the NGOs met with Assistant Minister Luttenberger on the topic of advancing sustainable waste management in Croatia.
The seven local authorities in Lower Međimurje for whom Zelena akcija / FoE Croatia drew up recommendations (the city of Prelog, and the districts of Goričan, Donji Kraljevec, Sveta Marija, Donji Vidovec, Donja Dubrava and Kotoriba, with altogether more than 25 000 inhabitants) managed to separately collect more than 50% of waste in 2015. As this moved them to the top of the league tables for separate waste collection and recycling in Croatia, signing on to the international Zero Waste 2020 strategy was a logical next step.
Siniša Radiković, Director of PRE-KOM commented:
“Our wish, by accepting this strategy and implementing Zelena akcija’s recommendations, is to separately collect and treat 70% of useful waste by 2020, landfill less than 30%, and reduce the amount of landfilled waste to less than 50 kg per inhabitant per year, which is in the range of the most successful cities and districts in the world”.
Slaven Dobrović, Minister of Environment and Nature Protection said:
“Thank you for making our task easier, and that is to continue changing waste management policy in the Republic of Croatia. Until now the policy has been to mix and burn waste – thank you because you have shown that another way is possible”.
Erika Oblak, representative of the Zero Waste Europe network and Zero Waste Slovenia co-ordinator emphasized that:
“According to the experience of many zero waste communities in the world, three ingredients are needed for success: political support, good management and commitment to meeting ever higher targets. The town of Prelog and the surrounding districts have shown that they have all these ingredients. I hope that other communities in Croatia will soon join them, to the benefit of their inhabitants and the environment.”
Bernard Ivčić, president of Zelena akcija (Friends of the Earth Croatia) said:
“Lower Međimurje has shown that in a relatively short period of time it is possible to create a good quality waste management system and become a good example for others. I’m proud that Zelena akcija contributed to this success with its analysis. This shows that NGOs have relevant knowledge and that when the authorities are ready to listen to well-argued recommendations, significant results can be achieved”.
In order to enable the commitments in the Strategy, the Lower Međimurje Waste Management Council was formed, which will include the local waste management companies along with Zelena akcija. Together with Zero Waste Europe, Zelena akcija will monitor progress towards the targets and assist with implementation of the measures to prevent, re-use and recycle waste.
At the meeting of the Zero Waste Croatia network with Assistant Minister, Marko Košak, Waste Managament Programme coordinator in Zelena akcija and Zero Waste Croatia network presented the current situation with waste management in Croatia. Erika Oblak from Zero Waste Europe presented the Zero Waste Europe network and successes by particular cities and districts. Ms Luttenberger presented the priorities of the Ministry for Environment and Nature Protection with regard to implementing a good quality waste management system. The NGOs provided comments on problems with the system and suggestions for the planned new national Waste Management Plan for the period until 2021.
The main message from the NGOs was that the new plan needs to ensure a long-awaited shift from mixing and burning waste to reducing, re-using, separating and recycling waste, as done by Prelog and neighbouring districts. The Assistant Minister clearly stated that the Ministry will ensure that the system is changed for the benefit of people and the environment, and that environmental organizations will have an important role in this process. A similar sentiment was expressed by Minister Dobrović during the conference “The problem in Croatia is large and I therefore welcome NGOs which actively work on the promotion of the zero waste concept. We all have a common task and even if it has not been like that until now, from now on problems will be resolved by sitting together around the table and all suggestions will be examined.”
Zelena akcija believes that the city of Prelog will achieve its ambitious targets by 2020 with the implementation of the proposed measures. We hope that other communal waste companies, with expert assistance from NGOs and support from the Ministry and Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency, will also advance their waste management systems according to Lower Međimurje’s example and satisfy the needs of both residents and the environment.
Further information on their strategy and commitments for 2020 can be found here.
This mapping exercise aims to increase the visibility and the accountability of those towns that have dared to step away from the outdated ‘recycle, burn and bury’ paradigm and into the new zero waste paradigm of ‘rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle’.
The first European municipality to adopt the zero waste goal was Capannori back in 2008, since then more than 300 municipalities from 7 countries have joined the network and many more are expected to join in the coming years.
During the conference Zero Waste Europe recognised the towns of San Francisco (USA), Alapuza (India), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Treviso (Italy) for their outstanding results in implementing the zero waste strategy and it welcomed the interest of the cities of Paris and the unions SIRDOMDI and SMTC to follow suit.
“The network of European zero waste municipalities embodies the ambition that we miss in the Circular Economy proposal from the European Commission; some towns are already above 80% recycling and many others know they want to get there in less than 10 years. We look forward to welcoming new cities to the network” said Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe.
“Commissioner Timmermans said that ambition means realism to justify lower recycling targets. These examples show that his decision has more to do with lack of political ambition than realistic technical feasibility” added Mr Simon.
Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director – Zero Waste Europe +32 486 83 25 76
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
Between the 4th and the 9th of October a team of Zero Waste experts toured the Italian peninsula prior to attending the World Resources Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The “Zero Waste Dream Team” was composed of leading experts in the field of Zero Waste and circular flows of resources.
The “Zero Waste Dream Team”:
Captain Charles Moore, Scientist and discoverer of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”
Dr. Paul Connett, Professor of environmental chemistry, international proponent of the ’10 steps to Zero Waste’ strategy
Rick Anthony, President of Zero Waste International Alliance
Ruth Abbe, President of Zero Waste USA
Tom Wright, Packaging expert and founder of Responsible-Packaging.org
Rossano Ercolini, President of Zero Waste Europe
Enzo Favoino, Chair of Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee
This panel offered a unique possibility for the exchange of ideas and sharing of best practices between European Zero Waste efforts and the pioneering efforts taking place in the USA stemming from the state of California, which have now spread across the country all the way to New York City.
The Italian “Zero Waste Dream Team Tour” included talks in a number of different cities across Italy, many of which having particular significance for the issue of zero waste.
In Parma, the administration of the city have taken on a ‘zero waste strategy’ which includes curbside collection, resulting in reduced residual waste effectively reducing the available fuel for the IREN waste-to-energy incinerator.
The tour also visited Turin, Vercelli and Rome, before ending in Capannori, the first municipality to adhere to a Zero Waste policy in Europe. Discussions took place in front of lively crowds of students, volunteer organizations, environmental associations, local members of council and actively engaged citizens.
Key messages from the panel included the importance for community responsibility to meet industrial responsibility, allowing for the convergence of both downstream recovery and prevention further upstream. The panel emphasized the characteristic value of the Zero Waste movement as “a politics of yes”, which requires collaboration between local politicians and local activists against incineration and in favour of prevention, re-use, recycling and ultimately re-design.
The audience was able to see how Zero Waste concepts are intricately tied with the notion of the circular economy, advocated for at the European and international level. This emphasised how Zero Waste seeks to emulate nature through cradle to cradle resource flows, and in so doing minimizing environmental impact through a “no burn, no bury, no toxins” policy.
The panel emphasized how Zero Waste does not require technologically complex machines, but better organization, education and industrial design. While the responsibility of industrial designers was called upon to design products for circular resource flows, the key message for the public revolved around the importance of individuals separating materials at source. The Zero Waste Dream Team reiterated throughout their tour how reaching Zero Waste requires only the existing forms of technology, and using our brains and hands in segregating materials. Panellists emphasized how more so than physical infrastructure for Zero Waste, social infrastructure is vital in bringing about culture and behaviour change in the development of new habits.
In this respect, the footage and relics shared by Captain Charles Moore from his many journeys to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre offered unequivocal evidence of the global impact of waste. His presentation particularly highlighted the importance of the simple gesture of disposing of plastic waste.
“I come to you as an ambassador of an area which has no constituents. I am in a state of desperation. All I can do is measure it and tell you the amount. Represent it. As a scientist I am looking for a political movement that can make something happen. The only political movement I can find to ally myself with is the Zero Waste movement.”
– Captain Charles Moore
Throughout the tour the resonating message has been one of hope yet urgency. There is no “away” to throw our rubbish, no end of life and because there is no end of life there is a next life. Zero Waste is ultimately not the end. It is the beginning. The beginning of the ‘politics of yes’. The question the Zero Waste Dream Team will be taking to Davos at the World Resources Forum will be the same as that of their Italian tour:
“if you’re not for Zero Waste how much waste are you for?”.
In this article we hear about how the Indian town of Alappuzha, made drastic improvements in organic waste management, through the installation and community management of aerobic compost bins across the town. A move which will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of landfilled organic waste. Whilst Alappuzha might be an exceptional case in India, it is hoped the model can be expanded to other towns and cities across the country. With the potential to revolutionise waste management as a climate solution in India.
Zero Waste Town – Alappuzha
Excerpts from Dr. T. M. Thomas Issac’s article on Alappuzha, an elected representative from the constituency of Alappuzha in Kerala. Edited by Zero Waste Europe & GAIA
No other Indian State has been able to revolutionise municipal solid waste management in the same way as Kerala. Kerala has historically enjoyed social advantages such as total literacy, better healthcare, effective land reform and decent housing for almost everyone. This may not be the situation in most parts of our country. Nevertheless, there are significant lessons to be learned from Alappuzha.
Alappuzha – A historic town
Alappuzha is a sleepy old town situated between the great Vembanad lake and the sea, nearly 60 kilometres south of Kochi. The port town, established by the king of Travancore in the late 18th century, had grown along the two trunk canals connecting the port to the great lake. The web of canals in the city and its surroundings earned Alappuzha the name, “Venice of the East”. It became the major port and industrial town in southern Kerala. But by the 1970s, it began to resemble a ghost town, as its port was eclipsed by Kochi’s and the coir industry moved out. This decline continued till the late 1990s, when backwater tourism gave it a new lease of life. But by then, the canals had got silted and become garbage pits. The town also began to rapidly lose its architectural heritage, a process that has been marvellously documented by Laurie Baker through his inimitable sketches and comments in Alleppey — Venice of the East (1991).
The insanitary conditions made the town an abode of ill health. In the state with the longest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality, we had a paradox of high morbidity, dominated by environment-related traditional diseases. Alappuzha became notorious as one of the most unclean towns in Kerala, seriously jeopardising its future as a tourism centre. Things came to a head in 2001, when the transport of solid waste from the town to its central processing plant in the neighbouring Panchayat was disrupted. Though called a processing plant, it was really a dumping yard and an environmental hazard. The local population rightfully protested and blocked the movement of waste. The streets of the town were littered with garbage. Finally, an agreement was brokered with the protesters, reducing waste movement from 50 tonnes a day to five tonnes. The municipality pursued an aggressive policy of landfilling within the town, an evidently unsustainable policy.
With centralised processing ruled out, at least for the time being, what was to be done? Scavenger’s Son (1947), the first novel of the Jnanpith award winner, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, an illustrious son of Alappuzha, held a clue. The novel, narrating the story of three generations of scavengers of the town, created such a social stir that it put an end to the century-old institution of manual scavenging in Alappuzha. The human excreta dumping yard in Sarvodayapuram was used for other solid waste from the town. The human excreta depot shifted to latrines within the town itself. Almost all the houses in the town now have latrines that are either inbuilt or in the compound. This raised a simple question. If human excreta could be processed in our own houses, why not the little bit of kitchen waste? The town folk usually lumped together all sorts of waste into a plastic kit and demanded that the municipal corporation collect and process the garbage. It was the duty of the present generation of sanitation workers in the municipality to segregate the waste. A new edition of Scavenger’s Son was in order.
Processing at Source
That was how a people’s campaign for processing waste at the source was born. A change in mindset was required. Normally, all government programmes consider sanitation to be merely an issue of technological choice. This was our major point of departure. Our pilot project for 12 wards was funded by the sanitation mission of the government of Kerala. But then it was converted into a popular campaign for better sanitation.
The approach was simple. Every household was to install a biogas plant or pipe compost to process its organic waste. Three wards have already achieved this. If, for some reason, a household was not able to process its waste, it should not be littering the street. Anybody caught doing so would be fined. The organic waste was to be brought to the collection points set up by the municipal corporation, which would compost it in aerobic compost bins installed in various parts of the city. The aerobic composting system in Alappuzha is an innovation by the Kerala Agricultural University where layers of organic waste and dry leaves are laid in a bin with sufficient ventilation. Inoculum cultured from cow dung is sprayed on dry leaves before a layer of organic waste is deposited over it. Each bin can process two tonnes of waste and in three months, high quality compost is ready. Instead of being garbage collectors and segregators, municipal workers now manage community compost bins.
Initially, wherever we attempted to put the compost bin, there was stiff local opposition and the plans had to be shelved. So we chose the worst garbage dumping areas in the town to set up our compost bins. Nobody objected. Nothing could be worse than the existing situation. These sites were cleared and the sheds housing the bins decorated with plants and murals. The artists of Kochi Biennale lent their support in setting up the largest community compost centre, WATSAN Park. All meetings of the sanitation campaign are normally held at this park. Visitors and curious onlookers are amazed that there is no smell. The place truly has been converted into a park, with a vertical garden, poly house and flower pots. Thus, we broke the backbone of the opposition to community compost bins.
There are two innovations worthy of mention in our biogas plant and pipe compost campaign. Heavily subsidised programmes have generally failed in Kerala and other parts of the country. There are two reasons for this. One, sufficient attention is not paid to user education. The service provider installs the plant, pockets the service charge and moves on. Even if user meetings are held, they are normally attended by the men who do not handle the waste processing. Because of faulty handling, most plants break down after some time. Second, there is no local maintenance team that could respond quickly to plant breakdowns. Sooner or later, the biogas plants and pipe composts are discarded and can become another hazard. Our campaign involves intense, targeted awareness programmes and also a maintenance team of two or three trained women in every ward.
Commercial establishments are to segregate their waste and either process the organic refuse themselves or enter into a contract with a service provider to remove it. Most of the waste is further segregated as feed for fish, chicken or pigs. The rest is composted. Just through systematic segregation, most of the organic waste can be transformed into inputs for agriculture. The plastic waste is periodically collected and given to contractors for recycling. We intend to collect the e-waste and store it till the government establishes a centralised processing plant.
The resident associations and the neighbourhood women’s groups of Kudumbashree are the main organisational support for the campaign. There is also a band of committed local resource persons, many of whom are experts with technical competency. Schoolchildren organised in WATSAN clubs are the main sanitation messengers to households. Every second Saturday, student leaders meet to chalk out certain simple activities that can be undertaken. Songs, street plays, exhibitions, marches and so on are effectively utilised for environment creation.
Currently, efforts are being made to scale up the Alappuzha experience to the rest of Kerala.
We cannot claim that we have achieved total sanitation in Alappuzha. But the difference between the situation two years back and the present is too marked for anybody to miss. Today, the transport of waste to the centralised processing plant has completely stopped. But the city is clean.
This case study proves that a fast transition to meet EU recycling targets is possible in less than 5 years
Zero Waste Europe publishes a new case study and video showing the transition of Gipuzkoa towards zero waste. This province located in the Spanish Basque Country has almost doubled recycling rates in five years and made investing in an incineration plant obsolete.
In 2011, the Province of Gipuzkoa decided to scrap the plans to build an oversized incineration plant and took steps towards Zero Waste, arguing that the plant was highly resource-consuming and it heavily endangered the circularity of resources. On top of saving € 250 million, Gipuzkoa has managed to meet EU targets 5 years earlier than expected.
Today, the province separately collects 51% of its municipal waste and plans to meet 70% by 2020. These improvements are even more significant when considering that only one fifth of Gipuzkoa’s population live in municipalities that have followed a transition, which prove that the results of these municipalities are outstanding, some of them above 80 or even 90% of separate collection.
Executive Director of ZWE, Joan-Marc Simon said “the transition we are seeing in Gipuzkoa proves that reaching the EU target of 50% recycling is completely feasible in only 5 years. Therefore, with enough political it should be possible for laggards to meet the targets for 2020 and aim at more ambitious targets for 2030.”
The drivers behind this change have been: political will, citizens mobilisation and participation, prioritisation of biowaste collection, intensive separate collection at source and not having built incineration capacity which would hijack prevention, reuse and recycling.
In less than five years, Gipuzkoa has moved from pushing for an outdated finalist treatments for waste to become Spain’s leading province in recycling, being above EU’s 2020 targets, and 12 points above Spanish average. Gipuzkoan towns have also proved that kerbside collection remains cheaper than roadside containers, while creating jobs and local economic activity.
Today, these case studies show that, in contrast with the outdated idea of burning or burying our waste, preventing, reusing and recycling it create jobs and resilience, save money, and protect the environment and public health.
Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.
This is the last of 6 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia), Contarina (Italy) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.
This case study proves that high recycling targets are not only feasible, they also save money and create jobs
Zero Waste Europe publishes today a new case study showing the impressive transition of Ljubljana towards zero waste. The Slovenian capital is the first capital in Europe to declare the Zero Waste goal and today separately collects 61% of its municipal waste. It should be recalled that Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 and before then it didn’t have proper waste separate collection in place.
Executive Director of ZWE, Joan-Marc Simon said “The case study of Ljubljana proves that it is possible for newest member states to reach most ambitius recycling targets in only a decade whilst keeping record low waste generation and costs. There is no reason for other Eu capitals or for the EU policy-makers to aim at less than what this experience proves as being possible and desirable.”
Snaga is the public company managing waste in Ljubljana and in 9 suburban municipalities serving around 380.000 residents. In average they have reached levels of source separation of 61% whilst generating only 121kg of non-recyclable waste per inhabitant and year. In contrast, the EU average level of source separation is 42% and a 285kg per inhabitant and year of residual waste.
In less than ten years, Ljubljana has become a frontrunner and is now 20% above the EU’s recycling rate and 10 points above EU’s 2020 targets. Furthermore, Ljubljana is committed to halving the amount of residuals and increasing separate collection to 78% by 2025.
Ljubljana has avoided incineration, while proving that going towards zero waste is completely feasible in a very short time. At the same time, it has made once again evident that effective door-to-door separate collection don’t only fall in the realm of small villages, but also work in large cities. Ljubljana has, therefore, managed to become the best performing EU capital, keeping one of the lowest waste management cost in Europe.
Today, these case studies show that, in contrast with the outdated idea of burning or burying our waste, preventing, reusing and recycling it create jobs and resilience, save money, and protect the environment and public health.
Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.
This is the last of 5 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia) and Contarina (Italy), and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.
The Zero Waste (ZW) fair, celebrated in the context of the Zero Waste Month proclaimed by President Benigno Aquino III, was the first ever exhibition on waste, workshops on and trading of discards, and exchange of ideas and practices on waste in ways and forms that were accessible to everyone. Its aim was to multiply the pursuers of zero waste, and grow the benefits exponentially!
The workshops on recycling, composting, repurposing, and the proper handling of electronic waste were one key activity in the Fair. Most importantly, it was a gathering of people who wanted to learn from each other.
The diverse booths showcasing products made from recycled materials were particularly inspiring. Junk Not shared her stories of how most of plastic reused for her creations was found in a scrapyard and was going to be burnt. All her products were effectively (and beautifully) diverted from landfills and incinerators.
People could walk around exhibits; listen, discuss with others; participate in checking out propositions; even repair or repurpose their discards right on the fair site; and engage and trade online and carry it forward during the fair.
Interestingly, the ZW Fair counted with the participation of an international delegation of ‘zero-wasters’ that presented a perspective of Zero Waste experiences around the world. Nalini Shenkar from Hasiru Dala in Bangalore introduced the audience to the experience of organizing a cooperative of grassroots recyclers, which has involved the creation of 500 jobs in 2 years. Shibu K Nair from the Kerala-based organization Thanal talked about Zero Waste Himalayas, a network of more than 30 groups created in 2010 that promotes better resource use and recovery practices in the region of the Himalayas, particularly strategic since it holds the source of water for half of humanity in the planet. From the Global North, Monica Wilson, Recycler of the Year 2012 and GAIA‘s US and Canada Coordinator, explained the specific steps in the implementation of the Zero Waste program in San Francisco, a city that has been continually reducing its waste generation and it’s committed to a zero waste goal by 2020. Similarly, Mariel Vilella Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, introduced some of the European zero waste best practices.
These experiences reinforced a zero waste vision for Philippines, where the debate around waste management is currently hot and contentious. The National Solid Waste Management Commission is a designated group by the government to assess new waste management technologies and revise the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Act, which could potentially lower the current targets for air pollution and allow incinerators back in the country. The incinerator moratoria in Philippines has been a world-wide example to ensure a toxic-free environment, and its eventual cancellation is seen as a global threat.
Precisely, the Zero Waste Fair showed several municipalities that are already taking steps towards implementing zero waste programs. Nueva Vizcaya was one of the highlighted places that is actively working towards zero waste goals, with several initiatives on education, training, livelihoods, and planning.
Moreover, Mother Earth Foundation organized a visit to the local Barangay of Fort Bonifacio, Taguig (the native Filipino term to refer to the smallest administrative division in the Philippines, ie. a village, district or ward) that has transformed a former illegal landfill into a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), along with a source separation system that has currently reached 95% compliance. The separate collection scheme and management of materials in the MRF has formalized the work of 12 waste pickers and 5 MRF staff members, with a considerable raise in their monthly earnings and livelihood stability.
As a closing event, the Zero Waste Fair gave the Zero Waste Awards, as a salute to ZW heroes and pioneers, and a celebration of how far we’ve come on the road to Zero Waste.
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.
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.
Many people ask us to describe what are the guidelines, the must-have of a Zero Waste strategy in Europe. Here is the answer you were looking for. The main principles any ZW strategy should follow!
Every community has its own characteristics and will need to adapt the philosophy to the local conditions, there is no one-size fits all Zero Waste system. However we have tried to summarise the main principles and components of a Zero Waste strategy for the European context in a brochure.
Generally speaking what these principles transmit is that Zero Waste is more a path than a destination and what matters most is the commitment to continuously reduce the residual waste to zero; i.e. phase out disposal options of landfilling and incineration, whilst continuing to improve sustainability, economic resilience and social cohesion.
Great news! The best-performing districts in Italy and probably Europe just joined the Zero Waste Europe network!
The districts of “Priula” and “Treviso Tre” (TV Tre) -grouped into a larger company called Contarina– bring together 49 municipalities, or 849,000 habitants, in what is known as ‘the European San Francisco’ for its high recycling rates. These numbers add to the 209 existing Zero Waste municipalities around Europe, together representing over 4 million citizens.
In total 83% of the waste is collected separately and average waste generation is only between 336 and 350kg/person/year; countries such as Denmark generate more than twice as much, 718kg.
They are not only pioneers in source separation, they have developed impressive waste prevention policies, meaning that the total amount of waste to be disposed of is of only 56 to 58kg/year/person -7 times less than what is disposed of in Denmark.
Beyond that, they are also adopting strategies for further material recovery from residual waste in order to minimise waste disposal. They use a system of mechanical biological treatment to recover metals and stabilise dirty organics prior to landfilling.
It also recovers papers and plastics for downcycling via densification/extrusion, instead of sending it in the form of Refuse-Derived Fuel for the worst environmental and economic use, incineration.
And this fantastic outcome doesn’t cost more, in fact it is well below the Italian average.
Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste Italy welcome the districts of Priula and Treviso to the network and thank them for their contributions, in best practice and inspiration, to the path that began in Capannori in 2007, with the first Zero Waste declaration in Europe.
Hernani is one of the first towns in Gipuzkoa to have declared Zero Waste. As a result, since 2009 waste recycling has almost quadrupled whereas waste generation has been substantially decreased.
This is their story:
In 2002, the regional waste management consortium in Spain’s Gipuzkoa Province, faced with a nearly full landfill, proposed building two new incinerators. Citizens strongly opposed the incinerators and prevented one from being built and the new party elected in 2011 stopped the second one. Hernani and two other small cities in the region established an ambitious program of door-to-door collection of source-separated waste, including organics. The amount of waste going to the landfill in places where the Zero Waste strategy has been embraced has been reduced by 80 percent. With new political leadership opposed to incineration, door-to-door collection is expanding throughout the region.
Practices vs. Technology
Hernani is a city of over 19,000 residents in the Basque Country of Spain. Together with nine other municipalities, it is part of the San Marko mancomunidad (a free association of municipalities), created to manage solid waste jointly. At the provincial level, all the mancomunidades plus the provincial government comprise a consortium that promotes and manages the Gipuzkoa Integrated Waste Management Plan. Hernani’s former municipal waste management system strongly relied on waste disposal complemented by a limited recycling system. While citizens could voluntarily dispose of recyclables in the four large containers placed on the streets, most of the city’s waste went to the landfill.
In 2002, when the San Marko landfill was nearly full, the provincial government presented a controversial plan: the addition of another container for the voluntary recycling of organic materials and the construction of two new incinerators. Citizen opposition to incineration was immediate. Since then, the region has been immersed in a tenacious dispute between those who want to build the incinerators and those who promote waste prevention policies and better source separation strategies.
Joining the citizens’ opposition, some municipalities decided not only to reject the plan to build new incinerators but also to implement an alternative to burying or burning. Usurbil was the first municipality to do so. This town of 6,000 people established a door-to-door collection system of source-separated waste streams, including organic materials. In just 6 weeks, the amount of collected waste destined for landfills dropped by 80%. The resource recovery rate registered in the first year was 82%. In 2008, before door-to-door collection started, Usurbil was taking 175 tons per month to the landfill. One year later, the amount had dropped to 25 tons.
In May 2010, after two months of dialogue with the citizens to explain and solicit input on the new system, Hernani followed the model of Usurbil. The municipality distributed two small bins per household, placed hooks to hang the bins and bags at the front of houses and buildings, removed the large containers from the streets, established waste segregation as mandatory, and launched door-to-door collection. Citizens began to place separated organics, light packaging, paper and cardboard, and residuals in front of their houses.
Each stream has a designated pick-up day: organics on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays; light packaging on Mondays and Thursdays; paper and cardboard on Tuesdays; and residuals on Saturdays. Light packaging is placed in bags, and the government sells reusable bags for this purpose. Paper and cardboard are tied in bundles or placed in boxes or bags. Organics are placed in the bins provided by the government, and the residuals are disposed of in bags. The collection is done by a public company called Garbitania, created by the governments of Hernani, Usurbil, and Oiartzun. Collection is done at night, with a complementary shift during the morning. Each bin and each hook have a code that identifies the household that uses them. This allows the government to monitor separation in each household. If the collector identifies a stream that does not correspond to that collection day, s/he puts a sticker with a red cross on the bin and does not collect that waste. The information is given to the administration office, and the household receives a notice explaining why the waste was not collected.
For glass, the system of large containers on the streets was maintained, and door-to-door collection is done only in the old part of the city. A non-profit association created by producers, packers, bottlers, and recyclers handles this stream. The association is funded by contributions the packaging companies pay for each product they put on the market.
If someone misses the door-to-door collection, there are four emergency centers to drop off waste. There is also a drop-off site that takes bulky waste, electric and electronic devices, and other waste not covered by the door-to-door collection free of charge. For businesses, the collection schedule is the same as for households, with an extra day of collection for residuals. In rural areas, home composting is mandatory, and other streams are either collected door-to-door or taken to drop-off centers.
Under the new system, Hernani promotes home composting throughout the municipality. People can sign up for a composting class, request a home composting manual, and receive a compost bin for free. There is a phone line to get composting advice, and there are compost specialists who can visit households in need of assistance. People who sign up to compost at home receive a 40% discount on the municipal waste management fee. The fee for businesses varies according to the collection frequency and the amount of waste produced, using pay as you throw criteria.
The San Marko mancomunidad operates a materials recovery facility where light packaging is sorted for sale. Paper and cardboard are sold to a recycling company nearby. Organic materials must be taken 50 km away to a compost plant, operated by the provincial consortium. Source separation is reflected in the material that Hernani takes to the compost plant, which consists of—on average—only 1.5% impurities (non-organics and other pollutants).
In the first full month of the door-to-door collection, the residuals dropped by 80%, and the total waste managed decreased by 27%.In 2010, the municipality landfilled 53.8% less waste than in 2009 (5,219 tons in 2009 and 2,412 tons in 2010), and door-to-door collection had only begun in May.
“Our state-of-the-art technology is the neighbors.”
Communication and community participation have been key to the success of the program. The conviction that the use of incinerators was the worst option and that door-to-door collection was feasible and the best solution for Hernani supported the change. In the two months prior to the implementation of the new collection system, the government organized meetings to explain and revise the new system. As the mayor declared, “Our state-of-the-art technology is the neighbors. If the neighbors separate well, there is no need to build an incinerator.”
The governments that have implemented door-to-door collection programs have promoted the creation of citizens´ committees to monitor their implementation. Moreover, local Zero Zabor(Zero Waste) groups have emerged in these cities, building on earlier anti-incinerator movements. The different local groups are working together in Gipuzkoa Zero Zabor. In a few years, these volunteer activists have advanced the conversation from opposing incinerators to promoting an authentic Zero Waste strategy that focuses on preventing waste—through changes in design, production, and consumption—and recovering all materials discarded in a safe and sustainable manner.
Hernani joined other municipalities and groups opposing the incinerators and promoting the extension of door-to-door collection to the entire Gipuzkoa province. Many municipalities in the region are reticent to opt for Zero Waste strategies, and this threatens to undermine the progress being made in cities that use these strategies. However, since the municipal elections in July 2011, the political scenario has changed.
Waste Production in Hernani – Before and After Door-to-Door Collection
In 2010, Hernani produced an average of 500 tons of municipal solid waste per month, and had a per capita generation of 0.86 kg per day, compared to 1.1 kg the year before. The recent economic crisis in Spain has resulted in a general reduction in waste production in the country. The implementation of the new door-to-door collection system and the communication campaign about waste may have raised people’s awareness about waste, leading to changes in buying behavior. Finally, the former system of large bins probably made it easier for people to put non-residential waste in the bins (for instance, construction and demolition waste), and the current system of individual bins makes it more difficult to do that.
The following tables show the evolution of the composition of residential waste in Hernani before and after adoption of the door-to-door collection system. Table 3 provides the specific amounts for each waste stream.
The table below shows that Usurbil, Hernani, and Oiartzun have reduced the residual waste per capita in a very short time, while in other municipalities the figure remains constant. The fourth municipality to adopt door-to-door separated waste collection, Antzuola, has reported that 90% of the discards collected are separated for recovery, and residuals represent only 10% of the total collected there.
The government of Hernani compared the costs of the door-to-door collection system with the previous one that used four large containers, as shown below.
Usurbil has collected enough data to compare the actual expenses of both collection systems for a full year. The results show that the door-to-door collection system is actually less expensive than the container system, mostly due to the income generated from the sale of recyclable materials.
Table 6. Cost Comparison of the Door-to-Door and Container Collection in Usurbil
Containers & Door-to-door (as of March) 2009
Net cost (€)
Source: Informe de Gastos e ingresos de la recogida de residuos 2006-2010. Ayuntamiento de Usurbil
Skeptics of source separation maintain that the costs increase prohibitively when moving from one-stream collection to a differentiated collection system. Although collection expenses do tend to increase in most cases, that is not the whole story: the differentiated collection increases resource recovery, which offsets disposal costs and creates a source of income through the sale of recyclables (and organics, in other cities). As shown above, in Usurbil the new system was less expensive than the previous one. In the case of Hernani, the slightly higher costs for the door-to-door collection were due at least in part to the need to transport the organics to a distant plant.More importantly Hernani has to pay the same fee to the mancomunidad as before the system change despite having decreased the use of landfill. Once the system is changed so that the municipalities pay proportionally to the amount of waste they dispose of Hernani will have a clearly positive economic balance.
It is also important to note that the door-to-door collection and recycling system has the additional benefit of creating more jobs than waste management strategies based on massive burying or burning; the extra money required to support the system provides a significant boost to the local economy. In total, 16 jobs were created in Hernani by door-to-door collection.
Today more and more municipalities in Gipuzkoa are implementing door-to-door collection of source separated waste, all with great results. Both governments and community groups are showing the positive changes produced by these strategies in terms of sustainable materials management, education, pollution prevention, and local economy. Moreover, what they are showing is that a community-based waste management system can bring impressive results in a short period, if only governments dare to lead the way and count on their citizens.