Who said that Brussels and the European Institutions are places for cold bureaucracy and economic reasoning only? We met with Paolo, Ieva, Diego, Adrian, Karin and Nico, who prove that the seeds of ecology, sustainability and active citizenship can sprout everywhere – even in the not-so-sunny Brussels’environment.
During their traineeship within the European institutions, they launched the Plastic-Free Plux project to reduce the amount of single use plastic cups going to waste.
Every Thursday evening, some hundreds people, mainly young professionals from the EU bubble, gather in Luxemburg Square (the so-called Plux), right in front of the European Parliament. Some go there for a networking drink, some to celebrate a profitable week some others to forget a bad one. They all get their drinks in single-use plastic cups, and every Thursday a huge amount of plastic cups is thrown away. Paolo and his colleagues report: “after the first Thursday of ‘Plastic-free Plux’ we counted 50 trash bags full of plastic waste”. They know that single-use plastics is a major problem for the environment, since it is hard to recycle and it is used massively and in various forms in our everyday life.
The idea of the organizers of Plastic-Free Plux is to incentivise people coming to Plux to bring their own mug or reusable cup from home: if they do, they enjoy a discount of €0.50 in what they consume, thanks to an agreement with the bar owners.
At the beginning, their goal was to raise awareness about the single-use plastic and alternatives and, subsequently, for the fifth and last edition, of Plastic-Free Plux, they adopted an ambitious target: to attract 50 people with mugs on Plux, one for each of those 50 trash bags they found at the first edition. They reached the remarkable amount of 41 mugs that fifth night.
Besides the awareness-raising initiative, Plastic-Free Plux believes that the best long-term alternative is introducing a deposit scheme for solid, reusable cup system on Plux. Despite of the very short time-frame of the activity (from June to July 2017), they succeeded to communicate with the Mayor of Ixelles and gain the support of some environmental NGOs (Plastic Soup, Kot Planète Terre, Greenpeace Brussels, and of course Zero Waste Europe).
Despite the fact that many public events in Brussels are already eco-friendly, in the sense that they provide reusable cups on adeposit scheme, e.g. Bruxelles Les Bains and Brussels Summer Festival, on the average the city lacks a broader strategy for zero waste events. Thus, the majority of social gatherings, which take place at neighborhood level, characterized by the regularity in time and internalization into the everyday life, are still waste intensive.
The obstacles to change are numerous and fragmented, and therefore difficult to address. This is why the young change-makers’ action from Plastic-Free Plux is even more significant, and it is worth hoping that it will inspire many other people to do the same. The ingredients for a substantial impact are provided by Paolo and his colleagues:
“First, we suggest you start organising the event. One can adjust it and take care of the details in the aftermath. It is something that can be improved step by step, but the initial action is so simple that you do not need to think much about it. In our opinion, for these kinds of actions it is important to be brave and confident and start from somewhere; the rest will follow;
Second, communication is crucial! Spread the word, use all the tools available to you, and be regular and consistent in your communication strategy;
Third, you need to believe in the cause, that what you are doing is something good for the environment and for the people around you, and that it can be a success. If your attitude is positive and your actions show your confidence and your faith in the cause, people will notice it and join you as well. The support we received outweighed the inevitable negativity we sometimes observed”.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
Zero Waste Europe was born due to the desire of grassroots organisations to connect and collaborate in order to make a Europe without waste possible.
We are deeply connected to this origin.
In June 2017, 10 new member organisations join the movement
After new organisations attended Zero Waste Europe’s AGM in Madrid in April and following our onboarding process, we are thrilled to welcome 10 new members to our network. These members come from across Europe and are working on a diverse and exciting range of activities to implement zero waste plans in their countries.
Marco studied International Relations at the University of Bologna, Italy. Few weeks after defending his Master Thesis on the European Commission’s Circular Economy strategy, he started to support the efforts towards Zero Waste by joining Zero Waste Europe's team in Brussels.
Friday 31st of April saw the 150 people gather in the Medialab Prado in Madrid for the Solution: Zero Waste conference. The conference brought together Zero Waste Europe network members, university academics, zero waste activists and municipal representatives to discuss a wide range of zero waste strategies and examples.
The event took place in Medialab Prado, a citizen laboratory of production, research and broadcasting of cultural projects that explore the forms of experimentation and collaborative learning that have emerged from digital networks. The space, provided a great backdrop to an engaging day of talks and discussions. Throughout the day Carlotta Cataldi provided live hand-drawn illustrations of depicting the conversations taking place, producing a lasting visual representation of the conference. Luke Blazejewski also took excellent photos documenting the success of the event.
The event was opened by José Antonio Díaz Lázaro, General Coordinator of the Environment Programme of Madrid City Council, who explained the importance of good waste management for a city such as Madrid. This led into the first session raising the question of ‘Zero Waste at the Local and Global Level: Utopia or Reality?’ which saw Joan Marc Simon, Zero Waste Europe Director highlight the successes and growth of the Zero Waste Municipalities Network whilst Diana Osuna from the Madrid Zero Waste Platform talked about the challenges and opportunities of organising for zero waste in and around the city.
The next session looked at the significance of the collection of organic waste to a zero waste strategy with presentations with speakers presenting progress in a variety of contexts. The case of the large city of Milan (1.3 million people) was presented by Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee Chairman, Enzo Favoino, whilst not a ‘zero waste city’ has made major progress with separate collection of organics. Ainhoa Arrozpide Landa from Zero Zabor in the Basque country talked about the evolution of their campaign in Gipuzkoa. Other talks in the session examined the myriad of ways that organic waste can be managed at the local level, from the goats of El Boalo – Cerceda – Mataelpino municipality in Madrid to the steps being taken in Catalonia and Pontevedra. The session ended with Beatriz Martín from the Compost Network emphasising the importance of decentralised composting at a municipal level.
Session 3 was a glance into the world of repair and reuse with hearing stories from repair shop Millor que Nou in Barcelona, the social and environmental benefits repair and reuse processes and the imperative for reuse in Spanish Waste Legislation.
The fourth session of the day highlighted some of the emerging victories in Deposit Return Systems (DRS). From the exciting initiative happening in Valencia put forward by Julià Álvaro fro to the nascent schemes and progress being made in the UK and Scotland as explained by Samantha Harding of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). The session also looked at the bigger picture for DRS schemes and manufacturers responsibilities.
The final session for the day looked at the challenges and opportunities facing zero waste municipalities and those aspiring to joining the zero waste path. The session was opened by Gabriele Folli from the Environmental Council of Parma, Italy, where a city of 200,000 has just reached a milestone separate collection rate of 80%. The session then looked at issues faced by Madrid as they attempt to overhaul their waste management system. This was followed by stories of grassroots projects in Agro-Composting in Madrid from Franco Llobera and the Vegetable network and local composting by Raúl Urquiaga.
As the day drew to a close, the floor was opened for questions with a number of interesting contributions from the public. Joan Marc Simon then concluded the conference
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 countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have been granted 5.4 billion euro by the European Commission from the Cohesion and European Regional Development Fund to improve waste management systems for the period 2014-2020. The partnership agreements between the Commission and governments had been signed before the circular economy package was issued and established new and more progressive priorities for the management of waste by the Member States. However, while the agreements highlight that the financial support under the cohesion policy should be directed first of all to the development of selective waste collection and construction of infrastructure for recycling, they also allocate over 50 per cent of available money for “thermal treatment, incineration”. This caused CEE authorities to consider constructing over 80 waste incinerators (combined capacity over 5.42 million tonnes/a), and approximately 40 mechanical biological treatment facilities (MBT; combined capacity over 3.29 million tonnes/a). These investments may consume most available funds, and slow down, or maybe even block for years, implementation of a progressive waste reduction and recycling system.
Large scale investments into MBTs, waste incinerators, and other semi-innovative techniques based on unsorted municipal solid waste, have always led to conservation and locking in of systems based on co-mingled waste collection, and low recycling rates. It could be no different in CEE countries where average recycling rates are at 18 per cent and composting at 5 per cent. Slovenia is the only exception, where there has been substantial progress to reach 49 per cent recycling and 12 per cent composting, thanks to the wide implementation of zero waste methodologies.
Most CEE countries still have low or no incineration capacity, which provides a great opportunity to invest into systems that are less costly, and have much less impact on the health of society and the environment. These are systems focused on waste prevention, re-use, separate collection and recycling. The systems must be flexible and ready to accept increasing amounts of recyclables, which will be expected in a future as a result of higher recycling targets set by waste legislation within the Circular Economy package.
This opportunity has been recognized by the European Commission in recent communications:
Public funding should also avoid creating overcapacity for non-recyclable waste treatment such as incinerators. In this respect it should be borne in mind that mixed waste as a feedstock for waste-to-energy processes is expected to fall as a result of separate collection obligations and more ambitious EU recycling targets. For these reasons, Member States are advised to gradually phase-out public support for the recovery of energy from mixed waste.
[…] funding for new facilities for the treatment of residual waste, such as incineration or mechanical biological treatment, will be granted only in limited and well justified cases, where there is no risk of overcapacity and the objectives of the waste hierarchy are fully respected.
Therefore the undersigned organizations call the Central and Eastern European governments as well as European institutions such as the European Investment Bank and JASPERS to not assist and grant projects for the construction of waste incinerators and MBTs from public funds but instead to support investments into prevention, separate waste collection and recycling: a system which is coherent with circular economy priorities and targets.
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.
An article from Zero Waste Tunisia, part of the developing Zero Waste Mediterranean network. If you part of, or want to join a zero waste group in the Mediterranean contact us to find out more.
The beginning of the end for the plastic bag?
It’s created in just a few seconds, serves a purpose for a only few minutes and takes more than 400 years to completely breakdown. It is, of course the plastic bag that Tunisians particularly adore for their shopping. However despite this disastrous love affair recent developments, including an agreement between the supermarkets and the government could herald the beginning of the end for the single-use plastic bag.
Plastic bags are a real scourge. In fact, they are harmful to the environment and kill thousands of animals each year. They are dumped our countryside and beaches releasing their poison everywhere and ending up in the soil.
Tunisians consume one billion plastic bags each year, of which 30% (approximately 315 million of them) come from the large supermarkets. Those 315 million bags are equal to 10,000 tons of plastic waste according to the ministry.
In an effort to phase plastic bags out, the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment has recently signed an agreement with the supermarket union chamber. This agreement, which was effective from the 1st of March, prohibits the distribution of single-use plastic bags.
The alternative is not difficult to find, in fact we could use the traditional Tunisian basket (the Koffa) or other ecological bags.
The minister describes that approach as “gradual” and which in a few months will result in a total ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic bags in Tunisia.
The idea is to encourage the factories to produce, using the same technologies, reusable bags that will be sold for use several times. It is also about changing the behavior of the consumer to control the use of plastic bags and think about alternative solutions.
The ministry has therefore opted for a progressive approach, in several stages instead of a global and radical approach which will not work.
So, will these plastic bags completely be eliminated by the end of the year? Will the environmental police control this issue, especially outside supermarkets? The coming months will provide an answer.
Find out more about the work of Zero Waste Tunisia on their website, and get involved in & find out more about zero waste activities in the Mediterranean via our contact form.
A report of the anti-incineration protests in Gipuzkoa from Basque Zero Waste Europe member Zero Zabor.
In late December, a massive protest took place in city of Gipuzkoa in the Basque country opposing the new Zubieta incinerator project. This comes after the Zubieta incinerator project which stopped in 2013 was relaunched in mid 2015, after the latest municipal and provincial elections. Despite the massive opposition supporters of incineration continue to stubbornly push for the construction of the redundant facility.
The consortium selected to build the new incinerator is led by the company Urbaser and also includes a number of Gipuzkoan companies and the French company Meridiam Investments. The consortium is committed to finish the construction in 26 months, meeting the basic objective of the government of the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Socialists (PSOE). This would mean having the facility fully in place before the end of the political term, making it de facto impossible to move away from incineration in the future.
Massive opposition from the people of Gipuzkoa
Since early 2016 various of protests have taken place, such as a march to the construction site in February, a human chain in May, a gathering in front of the banks and companies involved in the consortium.
The next date on the calendar was December 27, when the result of the allocation of the contract took place. The movement against incineration gathered to protest in front of the Provincial Government of Gipuzkoa, where the assembly of the GHK (Gipuzkoa Consortium for Waste Management) formalised the allocation of the contract.
While the crowd in the streets complained about the project, the assembly of GHK allocated the construction, the management and exploitation of the incinerator to the consortium lead by Urbaser.
The protest was massive, particularly considering that it was on a Tuesday during the Christmas period. The images here below show the impressive response of civil society:
Once again, the opposition and worry this toxic and redundant infrastructure generates became clear. This time, concerns regarding the impact on the environment and health were joined by the economic concerns, given that the contract for the incinerator will burden the Province of Gipuzkoa for 35 years with unsustainable waste management and an high financial cost.
Find here below some of the press coverage of the demonstration of December 27 (in Spanish):
Podemos, Ezker Anitza, Equo and EH Bildu call to stop the incinerator
EH Bildu, Podemos, Ezker Anitza-IU and Equo made public on December 26 a common manifesto reaffirming their compromises of May on a circular economy and zero waste and insisted on their rejection to the incinerator of Zubieta.
Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Ferran Rosa covers his experience of the Zero Waste Festival in Paris.
From 30th June to 2nd July the first Zero Waste Festival took place in Paris. Organised by Zero Waste France, the festival brought 5,000 participants together in a unique event where policy-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, waste managers, individuals living a zero waste lifestyle and civil society organisations shared a forum.
The Festival successfully managed to provide a holistic vision around waste, from management and institutional solutions, to consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles. More than a congress on zero waste, it was truly a Festival, with workshops, conferences, debates, seminars and lots of space to discuss and learn from different experiences, all accompanied with an excellent atmosphere of good music and veggie food.
Zero Waste France was made the case for the need to transition towards Zero Waste from many different angles including: individual consumption and waste generation patterns, municipal waste management, requirements for design, industrial responsibility, and more. In this regards, a wide range of solutions enabling a phase out of the take-make-dispose model were presented, from collective action (Capannori, Parma or San Francisco) to individual engagement to transition (Roubaix, Bea Johnson or Famille Zero Déchet).
Among these solutions, Zero Waste Europe launched its latest campaign, the People’s Design Lab, a collaborative tool allowing citizens to nominate wasteful products that will eventually be, redesigned in design workshops partnering with consumers, producers and designers. On top of that, Zero Waste Europe presented the network of Zero Waste municipalities and the importance of building a network of change-makers at the European level so that municipalities can learn from each other.
The attendance of 5,000 people at the Festival is testament to the success of Zero Waste France’s initiative and that there are plenty of people willing to make the transition happen in France and abroad, and that this number is indeed growing. The Festival didn’t only inspire individuals to finally live a zero waste lifestyle, but also local councillors to re-think their waste management systems and individuals to create a local Zero Waste groups.
On the July 14th, civil society organisations, schools, companies in the waste sector and public institutions met to initiate a ‘Strategy for Barcelona to go towards Zero Waste’. The main challenges of waste management in Barcelona were presented as starting point.
The Food Bridge project promoted by the Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus and the Fundació Banc de Recursos intends to make an impact on food waste reduction through a campaign based on solidarity and the re-use of natural resources. This project is addressed to catering companies, restaurants and food distribution companies willing to reduce food wastage at their shops or restaurant and donate the excess food to social entities.
In a year, the project has managed to re-use 1722 meals of cooked food and 656kg of fresh food that would have been otherwise wasted.
On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of April, Zero Waste Europe held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) with the participation of most of the members of the ZWE network. Held in Ljubljana, Slovenia, the first ‘Zero Waste European Capital’ and the European Green Capital for 2016, the event was co-hosted by Ekologi Brez Meja, the Slovenian member organisation of Zero Waste Europe.
The meeting opened with introductions from the various member organisation of Zero Waste Europe in attendance. The attendees had produced short ‘posters’ giving an overview of the work that their organisations had been doing.
This was followed by presentations from Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe, on the activities and the financial position of the organisation. Then, the Zero Waste Europe staff gave an overview of their work areas and the upcoming events planned for the year ahead.
The plans were then presented in a plenary session to all of the attendees of the AGM, thus closing the first day of the AGM.
On the second day, the meeting began by discussing issues, problems and opportunities surround
‘Zero Waste Municipalities’. This discussion focussed on the regional and national differences in the use of the term, as well as national legislative implications for these variations. The current process was explained in detail and a number of different options for the future were discussed.
The penultimate session was the election of a new member to the Board of Zero Waste Europe. Flore Berlingen Director of Zero Waste France, stood for the position and after a brief deliberation was elected to the Board.
The 2016 AGM brought together the majority of Zero Waste Europe’s members for two days of reflection and strategy discussion as well as the approval of future activities, new members, and the election of a new board member. Across the weekend, members shared inspirational stories and ideas, as well as developing a stronger connection between members, facilitating cross-european work over the coming year.
The full minutes for the meeting will be distributed to members shortly.
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!
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 UN Climate Conference (COP 20) concluded in Lima last 13th December after 12 days and 33 extra hours of negotiations, with a far more disappointing agreement that the more sceptical-minded would have dared guessing. Yet still, this was an important space to bring up our community-led climate justice solutions for the waste sector, which as much as it is often part of the climate problem, it can definitely be turned into a great climate solution.
An agreement with no real teeth
Following-up on previous commitments, countries meeting in Lima were meant to frame the new legal, binding, global agreement that is supposed to be adopted in the next COP 21 in Paris. This new treaty is expected to ensure climate action from 2020 onwards to keep the planet’s temperature rise below 2Cº.
The outcome from Lima, far from bringing countries closer to a legally binding global treaty, delayed all the important and most controversial decisions and produced a shy ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’, a document that puts forward a number of key recommendations, without any real mandate for countries to pursue them.
Apart from the big picture negotiations, the COP20 was a very relevant space to monitor and analyse specific country efforts to implement climate action in the waste sector. Precisely, several experiences have shown that whereas waste is part of the climate problem as a source of GHG emissions, it can definitely be turned into a key climate solution with greatest emission savings and further co-benefits.
Zero Waste – Key Solutions for Climate Justice
“Zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.” (Excerpt of the GAIA Declaration towards the COP20)
As done in previous years, GAIA organized a delegation of representatives of grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners that showed that zero waste is a key strategy for climate justice and to develop a low-carbon economy. Throughout a week of action both inside the COP and also outside at the People’s Summit for Climate Change, the delegation engaged in promoting community-led climate solutions in the waste sector and also challenged the misleading assumptions around waste burning as a clean energy and/or renewable energy source.
Starting the week with a colourful and exciting public action at the heart of the COP, the delegation pointed out at the current lack of environmental criteria in climate finance, most noticeable in the under-construction policies of the Green Climate Fund. This institution, which has received financial pledges from developed countries to up to 10 USD billion during the COP20 and that may be approving project proposals as early as next summer 2015, has refused so far to commit to an ‘exclusion’ list of projects which would ensure that none of this eventual money ends up burning fossil fuels, municipal solid waste, biomass or producing any sort of dirty energy. Several civil society organizations have joined efforts to raise this demand, yet to be considered by the GCF Board.
Specific action was taken to put the Mexico government on the spotlight, as it has recently granted permission to use municipal solid waste as fuel in cement plants all over the country. Doña Venancia Cruz, representative of the Indigenous Community of Santiago de Anaya in México, appealed directly to the government representatives bringing the testimony of her impacted community by this polluting practice.
As mentioned above, the COP20 was an excellent context to show the key achievements of zero waste strategies in reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, providing livelihoods and restoring the soils. A press conference was held to showcase the specific examples.
Dan Moche and Beth Grimberg from the Aliança Resíduo Zero Brazil presented the progress made in Sao Paulo, which as recently implemented source separation of organic waste and domestic composting for 10.000 homes. Compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.
Special attention was given to the contribution of the recyclers community, represented by Denisse Moran from REDLACRE. The recycling sector, with more than two million informal recyclers in developing country cities, offers climate-smart urban solutions to sustain and strengthen livelihood development, improve local environmental health, and strengthen local economies.
Last but not least, representatives from the Coalición Anti-incineración Argentina stressed the need to work at the local and national level and root climate solutions on the basis of communities and national coalitions of civil society organizations.
Monitoring national climate policies in the waste sector.
As mentioned above, the COP20 is a very useful space to monitor and analyse national climate mitigation policy – aka NAMAs, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, in the UNFCCC jargon. As the global agreements have not offered any solid environmental guidance, the current situation shows a wide variety of climate mitigation policies, often in the wrong direction. This is particularly obvious when looking at the waste sector in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Dominican Republic.
Colombia for example, which is known to host one of the most vibrant grassroots recyclers movements recognized internationally, presented a climate mitigation policy that will entail the implementation of an MBT plant in two cities, with the subsequent production of Refuse-Derived Fuel to be burnt in cement plants as an emission reduction strategy. The polluting impacts of waste burning in cement kilns have been thoroughly reported.
Worryingly enough, Dominican Republic also presented a climate mitigation project with the support of GIZ consisting in burning of used tires in cement kilns, arguing that it would not only reduce GHG emissions but it would also benefit the local population via job creation. Likewise, the climate mitigation policy presented by Indonesia also makes a reference to developing 5 waste-to-energy projects in 5 different cities, even thought it’s unclear what kind of technology it will be.
On the other hand, the Dominican Republican also presented a project to apply anaerobic digestion to pig farming, which could indeed contribute to GHG emissions if done appropriately. In this sense, it was made clear that when it comes to climate mitigation policies in the waste sector, the UNFCCC is unable to provide any solid environmental and social criteria and it needs close monitoring to discern the good, the bad and the ugly.
In conclusion, as Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, put it in her presentation about climate policy in the waste sector in the People’s Climate Summit: “Let’s not rely on misleading concepts. Biomass and waste cannot be the “new coal” because they are not clean energy, and they are not renewable. There is a critical need to develop environmental and social criteria for climate action in the waste sector, to ensure that we take advantage from its enormous opportunity to mitigate climate change and reach further co-benefits in air pollution reduction, green jobs, and the empowerment of resilient communities,”
Next steps – toward Paris COP21
The COP21 in Paris will take place next December and the National Climate Coalition 21 is already gearing up to it. International networks had a chance to discuss plans at the People’s Summit in Lima and put forward a calendar of decentralized mobilizations for the whole year. Once again, community-led zero waste solutions will be at the front of the mobilizations, showing the work done throughout the whole year at the local and national contexts.
For a comprehensive analysis of the COP20 outcomes, we recommend the following article by Oscar Reyes, at Institute for Policy Studies, and also this article by Lili Furh, Liane Schalatek and Maureen Santos at Heinrich Boell Foundation.
From December 8th to 12th, Zero Waste Europe welcomed Yimin of Eco Canton, an association based in Guangzhou, South-East of China, member of the China Zero Waste Alliance. Yimin, who has been taking part of a twinning exchange with Zero Waste France for the last weeks, travelled all the way to Spain, in order to learn more about waste management and reduction systems in Barcelona and the Basque Country.
Her trip, supported by GAIA, started in Barcelona, where Yimin met ZWE Director Joan Marc Simon. They visited a Community Compost Site, a Reuse and Recycling Centre and Yimin got useful insights on how waste collection works in Barcelona. Yimin was positively impressed in particular by the color-based waste separation system (brown bins for organic waste, yellow bins for packages, blue bins for paper, green bins for glasses and grey bins for residual waste), as well as by the recycling rate of the city (around 40%). This is of course still far from the Zero Waste goal, but already much higher compared to Guangzhou, where waste is mostly sent to landfill, and sometimes incinerated. Waste picking is a common phenomenon in China and it is also increasing in Barcelona, due to the economic crises and the rise of unemployment: this is surely a common topic for future cooperation between Zero Waste Communities in China and Spain!
Yimin then travelled to the Basque Country, where the local Zero Zabor (Zero Waste in Euskera) association guided her around several villages to discover pro and cons of their different waste collection, separation and compost systems. She learnt in particular about the door-to-door waste collection scheme in Usurbil, the first town to implement such a system in the Basque Country. Usurbil also introduced an innovative Pay-As-You-Throw method (PAYT), providing additional incentives for citizens to reduce, separate and recycle waste. Although the schemes implemented in the Basque villages might not be adapted for Guangzhou, a city of 15 million inhabitants, their experiences are of the utmost interest for the villages in the outskirts the Chinese megalopolis. The following days the visit continued at a compost plant, a landfill, and at a quarry site in Gipuzkoa. The quarry has in fact been identified by GHK, the provincial waste management organization in the Basque country, as a potential dump site for residual waste.
Yimin appreciated GHZ’s commitment to close all landfills and explore innovative ways to deal with residual waste in the future. But what probably struck her the most during her visit, it was the citizens’ awareness of the importance of waste avoidance and separation, and their involvement in community initiatives, being them compost sites, city farms, or reuse centres. Zero Waste Europe looks forward to welcome more foreign visitors in the future, to exchange best practices and create synergies, on the road to Zero Waste!
There is ample scientific evidence warning of the imminent dangers of climate change and inaction – not only the last 5th Assessment Report of the IPCC has been clear on these projections: while the UN Climate Change COP20 negotiations were taking place in Lima, another typhoon called Hagupit hit the Philippines.
In other words, there is no time to waste for climate action, and municipal solid waste sector can be not only a place to reduce GHG emissions, but also to provide clean air, clean water, clean energy, healthy food, healthy people, healthy wildlife, and the availability of resources for future generations.
Precisely, this was the spirit of the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum celebrated in Shanghai last 4-6 December 2014, which brought together Chinese policy-makers, city officials from Shanghai and San Francisco (US), university professors and the members of the China Zero Waste Alliance, amongst other allies, to discuss the specific ways in which Zero Waste Strategies can contribute to this low-carbon future.
Moreover, some of the international speakers took the chance to visit some cities and learn further about the potential of the waste sector in China, which was reported in the media in several articles, such as this.
An International Panel to introduce the Zero Waste vision
The Forum counted with the celebrated interventions of Professor Paul Connett, professor emeritus at St. Lawrence University in New York, and Rossano Ercoloni, Zero Waste Europe President and Goldman Prize winner, both visionary leaders that have inspired the international zero waste movement with their energy and enthusiasm.
Prof. Connett explained how Zero Waste solutions can directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both. “Burning waste feeds a linear system that drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns”, said Prof. Connett. “With zero waste we turn into the circular system”, he added.
Ercoloni presented the main zero waste experiences in Europe, with special emphasis on the organic waste separate collection system in Milan, which is an example of a very high-condensed city that has successfully diverted tones of organic waste from landfill and thus reduce large amounts of GHG gases.
Precisely, the Forum put especial emphasis on the climate benefits from treating organic waste. Calla Ostrander from the Marin Carbon Project, presented their research on the matter, showing that compost avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. Ostrander’s research showed that if compost was applied to just 5 percent of the California state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.
Jack Macy from the San Francisco Zero Waste Program presented the very successful progress made in the city in the last decades since they started with the zero waste strategy. According to Macy, the key elements of their strategy were to establish convenient source separation with processing, conduct extensive outreach and education, provide incentives, and implement producer and consumer responsibility policies.
Moreover, the City believed that its zero waste and climate action goals would not likely be achieved under voluntary participation programs alone, so it develop a city ordinance to make recycling and composting mandatory for everyone in San Francisco.
“Before the Mandatory Ordinance we were collecting about 400 tons of compostables a day, and thanks to the Ordinance since it passed in June 2009 we’ve seen almost an overnight a 25% increase of collecting about 500 tons of compostables a day!”, Macy explained.“Today San Francisco has the goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. We are getting close by being at a current diversion rate of 72%”, he concluded.
The Zero Waste Experience in China
One of the main highlights of the Forum was the opportunity to learn from the local experiences on the ground, places in China that are already making difference by changing the way they handle waste.
One of the most inspiring experiences has been developed in Xiao Er Township in Gong County, Yibing, Sichuan Province. Facing a waste generation peak without proper systems to sort it in 2006, the local government collaborated with the local NGO Partnerships for Community Development (PCD) and undertook a pioneer pilot project on waste separation was launched in 2007. After six years of trial, most people of Xiao Er Township now give greater importance to waste treatment and they are much more aware of the issue than before. Moreover, the volume of greenhouse gas emissions of Xiao Er has gone down which in turn contributes to improving the environment.
Even if these local experiences are illuminating the path towards a Low-Carbon, Toxic-Free development for China, the Forum devoted special attention to the policy obstacles that may be hindering further progress. Mao Da from RREI presented its research about the national renewable energy subsidies given to waste incinerators. The full report is available here, in Chinese.
“Waste incinerators receive benefits for every kilowatt of electricity put on the national grid. In this sense, there is a strong economical interest in burning waste and this is an uneven playing field for policies aiming at waste prevention, reuse and recycling which would offer higher climate benefits”, Mao Da said.
His research, which is planned to be published in early 2015, recommends the cancellation of the renewable energy subsidies for trash incineration, as well as its classification as a low-carbon technology. Moreover, it suggests implementing Pay-As-You-Throw system (see examples such system in Europe here) and shift subsidies towards waste management systems that can be truly low-carbon, such as recycling and composting.
Overall, the Zero Waste and Low Carbon Forum was an excellent opportunity to explore the potential of such development in China, opening up new exciting connections, conversations and projects for the future.
South African Waste Pickers are amongst those organized communities that have turned the tide of their role in the waste management systems. Since the creation of their national organization SAWPA – the South African Waste Pickers Association with the support of groundWork in 2009, their empowerment as the de facto recycling system in South Africa has reached important political milestones and it keeps expanding. Their latest step: undertaking a Zero Waste Tour in Europe to learn about organic waste treatment, visiting the Zero Waste Best Practices in Gipuzkoa (Basque Country, Spain) and sharing their story of collective organizing with the informal recyclers in Barcelona.
Management of organics, a key pillar for zero waste success
The Zero Waste Tour started in Donosti with the International Training Course on Organics Management, which addressed the management of the organic fractions of waste, including collection and treatment. It also included a site-visit to the door-to-door collection system of Hernani and a composting facility plant. As it was pointed out by one of the trainees Enzo Favoino, Chair of the Zero Waste Europe Scientific Committee, specific collection and treatment of biowaste is a must to move towards zero waste.
“With recycling of packaging we only go halfway”, Favoino argued. Biowaste still makes a significant part of the total municipal solid waste and therefore ambitious zero waste plans cannot be reached by collecting and treating only dry waste. “SAWPA supports a zero waste approach as it creates jobs, saves public money, and it combats climate change”, said Simon Mbata, national spokesperson for SAWPA. “Organic waste is a critical waste stream within a zero waste approach but it’s not included in the South Africa’s Waste Act (2008), so coming to this training it’s been really useful to start developing organic waste strategies back home,” he added.
First international meeting of waste pickers in Barcelona
Moving on to Catalonia, one of the most striking activities of the Zero Waste Tour was the meeting with the local waste pickers in Barcelona, most of them involved in the Cal Africa Moving cooperative. This was the first time that an international delegation of waste pickers visited Barcelona and so it was a key opportunity to exchange notes on working conditions and strategies for collective organizing to improve and demand recognition for their valuable work. Together with researchers from Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Research & Degrowth, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA, representatives from SAWPA and Cal Africa Moving joined for a whole day of strategy talks culminating in the public event “Informal recycling: ecological alternatives and socials rights” that opened up the debate in Barcelona about the inclusion of recyclers in the waste management system in the city.
Those conversations stressed the need to recognise the environmental and social contribution of recyclers to resource recovery and job creation. They collect, sort, clean and in some cases, process the recyclables, returning them to industry as an inexpensive and low-carbon raw material. Essentially, their work represents a huge opportunity to save resources and reduce GHG emissions through increased recycling rates, if given the proper recognition and support.
Precisely, one of the obstacles for the expansion of recyclers’ activities that were discussed in the meeting was the role of the intermediate positions in the trade channels of resources (commonly known as the ‘middle men’), which in Barcelona corresponds to some enterprises that maintain a privileged position over the street waste pickers and the scrap market. Moreover, for many recyclers in Barcelona, this obstacle is aggravated by their migrant situation and lack of resident or working permit, running the risk to be detained and deported.
“In South Africa we have received many brothers and sisters from our neighbouring countries and we have welcomed everyone in our organization, which in turn it’s linked to many other waste pickers cooperatives around the world,” said Simon Mbata. “Our Global Alliance of Waste Pickers is a key space to strengthen the international coordination and solidarity amongst waste pickers”, he added.
The public event celebrated in Can Batlló was a chance to bring these conversations on to the open space, giving a chance to bring forward many interested suggestions such as generating a census of recyclers in Barcelona and providing identity cards to enable their formalisation. The Fundació Catalana per a la Prevenció de Residus i Consum pointed out the challenge posed by the recycling of e-waste and the need for quality standards to improve the recyclability of products. Other participants lamented that the administration has implemented an extremely expensive waste management system, considering the low recycling rates in the city, and the consumer misinformation that hinders recycling at source and other good practices. Ultimately, there seemed to be much support to integrate the informal recycling into the formal system and take that as an opportunity to re-evaluate and transform the way of handling waste in Barcelona.
Last but not least, SAWPA met with a Barcelona City Council-led working group that is coordinating the start-up of a cooperative of recyclers in the city. Apart from learning the details of the project, it was a useful chance to exchange experiences and local knowledge. On the basis of their experience in the field, SAWPA warned about the potential division amongst communities of waste pickers if the new cooperative would not involve all of them and suggested the direct inclusion of waste pickers in all the phases of development of the project. On this point, SAWPA and Zero Waste Europe agreed it’s fundamental to create a working group with all the relevant stakeholders that can accompany this process.
All in all, it was a very productive and fruitful week, taking another step forward towards the transformation of our society with more inclusive, sustainable, toxic-free and resource-efficient waste management systems.
On the 10th and 11th of May, tens of thousands of volunteers from communities all around the Mediterranean Sea and from three continents gathered to participate in simultaneous Clean-Up Events that took place in 15 countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, becoming the most widespread civic-led event ever organised in this area.
With this project, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean aimed to draw attention to the pollution of the Mediterranean Sea and motivate communities to work together to change the situation. Studies show that the contamination of the Mediterranean Sea is very high and the level of plastic waste is beyond critical. In certain places the volume of micro plastic in the water exceeds that of plankton.
Faisal Sadegh, the project coordinator of Let’s Do It! Mediterranean emphasized that the impact of marine litter and waste in general goes beyond national boundaries. “Pollution does not stop at a country’s border, and the problems are spreading to affect the Mediterranean region in more direct ways than ever before,” Sadegh said.
Eva Truuverk, Head of Partners and Finance with Let’s Do It! World explained further; “for example, huge landfills can be found on Lebanese beaches, and trash is carried into the sea by winds and due to the currents reach the shores of other countries”, she said.
Precisely, Sadegh pointed out that this is exactly the reason why Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited the whole region to participate and clean up together.
“There have been separate cleanup actions, but the scale and scope of this project is unprecedented. We need to work together for the environment we all share.” Indeed, Let’s Do It! Mediterranean invited everyone to participate with their families, neighbors, colleagues, and make this event a truly community empowering experience. “It simply works better and is much more fun together,” encouraged Sadegh.
Moreover, actions were supported by fishermen, schools, local people, tourist groups, and most importantly by diving organisations. One of the coordinating organisation for underwater actions, the Greek diving club Samos Divers, has the experience of removing trash from even 40 meters deep.
“Living on an island, the sea has been my ‘playground’ for four decades. I have been scuba diving for 20 years. The comparison of my childhood memories of the sea and its current state often saddens me. The truth about marine debris is that just because we often cannot see it, does not mean it’s not there,” said the leader of Samos Divers, Alexandros Malagaris.
“My deepest motive for getting seriously involved with underwater cleanups is so that my son Philippos, age 6, and my daughter Olympia, age 3, will be able to enjoy the wonders of the sea the way I did as a little boy. Abundant sea life in crystal clear waters, with the absence of tires, boat batteries, bottles, cans and plastics,” expressed Malagaris.
In Croatia, more than 5000 people took part in 30 Clean-Up Actions on the Mediterranean coast. During the Clean-Up action in Split, on the Croatian coast, more than 40 Estonian volunteers joined 300 local people, including 100 divers and marines, and together cleaned up the sea bottom from waste. As a result of this cooperation, four tones of waste were collected from the sea and beach in Split. Other actions took place in Egypt, Montenegro, Estonia, Malta, Lebanon, Tunisia and many other countries, as reported by Let’s Do It! Mediterranean.
The Let’s Do It! Mediterranean campaign is run and organised by volunteers, and the team plans to organise massive actions in concentrated periods until 2018. The “Let’s Do It!” movement started in Estonia in 2008, when a country with a population slightly over 1 million brought together 50,000 people to clean up the entire country in just five hours. By today, almost 10 million people and over 100 countries have joined the Let’s Do It! network. Find out more about Let’s Do It World and join in!
600 people turned up to watch the movie Trashed last Monday 21st of October in Ljubljana and many stayed to follow the first round table discussion about Zero Waste and Slovenia. It was a great success and a big attendance to what is the beginning of the Zero Waste movement in Slovenia.
Slovenia is the EU country that has seen most progress in waste management in the last years; without being locked by incineration capacity and by constantly reducing landfilling is currently recycling more than 35% of its waste. Moreover, with the implementation of door-to-door separate collection in cities such as Ljubljana and by spreading the source separation of organic waste we should be seeing composting rates go up in the next years. The town of Vrhinka is the best performer in the country and recycles 80% of its waste!
The cherry on the cake is that Slovenia is managing to keep low rates of waste generation with its capital Ljubljana averaging less than 350kg of waste generated by inhabitant, 200kg under the European average. All in all, if it continues in this virtuous path Slovenia is likely to become the EU’s frontrunner in the next years.
However, the path towards Zero Waste will not be an easy ride. Despite the progress made in the last years partly thanks to the flexibility of not having big infrastructures pushing down recycling there have been threats to build incinerators in the country. Luckily it looks like the EU will not use cohesion funds to co-finance the incinerator which will allow growing recycling and composting rates and innovation in the prevention side.
Also, despite good initiatives in the field of home-composting and separate collection of organic waste since its roll-out in 2012 it remains to be seen how the rates will continue to increase. Finally, the application of Extended Producer Responsibility in the country still poses many challenges because the producers refuse to pay for 100% of the collection of the waste they put in the market. However, seeing the interest and passion of the attendants to the screening and the debate one should trust that these challenges will be overtaken soon.
EU Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik addressed the audience after the movie with a recorded message and opened the debate that followed. In this debate participated Dr. Andrej Kržan, from the National Institute of Chemistry; Janko Kramžar, Director of Snaga, Ljubljana’s municipal waste management company; Uroš Macerl, president of the NGO Eko Krog (Eco Circle) and Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe. In the audience there were many people from civil society but also entrepreneurs and progressive waste and social companies which show that many see the economic opportunities that will open if Slovenia decides to walk the Zero Waste path.
Following the example of Zero Waste initiatives in other parts of Europe the organisers, Ecologists without Borders, will now create a platform where policy makers, civil society, NGOs, green companies and waste management sector can work together to phase waste out of the system.
In order to organise the collection of signatures 14 citizen committees have been created and 6 more are underway. If you want to sign please click here to see where is the closest place.
The proposal for a Zero Waste law aims at a total reform of how the waste is collected and treated in Italy and is based upon; sustainability, environment, health, jobs and participation.
The collection of signatures has started on April 2nd and all political parties have been invited to support a Zero Waste law and expand the success of the growing number of Zero Waste communitties in the country.
In the beautiful island of Mallorca one can find the best and the worst of waste management in southern Europe. On one hand some zero waste municipalities (15% of Mallorca`s population) have implemented ambitious door-to-door source separation schemes which would allow them to recycle more than 75% of the waste. On the other hand the regional government through the company TIRME created to privatise waste management had built an incinerator with the capacity to burn 300,000tn of waste which represented 75% of all the municipal solid waste generated in the island.
After an obscure and dodgy process in 2007 this already overdimensioned burner was enlarged with an extra capacity to burn 432,000tn more. In total, Mallorca generates 542,094 tn and has an incineration capacity of 736,000tn in 2011. The biggest incinerator in southern Europe burns 84% of all municipal waste generated in the island; hence most recyclables and compostables are today incinerated. Madness.
Today in Mallorca the more you recycle the more you pay, the more you burn the cheaper it is.
There are at least three reasons why this is a bad practice of waste and resource management:
– It contradicts the waste hierarchy: Instead of recycling targets Mallorca has incineration targets of 62% of MSW. Before recycling or reuse the first option for waste in Mallorca is incineration. Every ton of waste that is recycled instead of burned increases the fee for the citizen because the contract with the incinerator obliges to feed it during the next 30 years, if a municipality prefers to recycle or reduce waste they will have to pay for the tones that the incinerator will not receive.
– It goes against the European Resource Efficiency Roadmap: because of the contract with the incinerator the incentives are all for burning and not for recycling. According to the Resource Efficiency Strategy by 2020 incineration should be only for what is not recyclable and compostable. In Mallorca according to the contract most recyclables and compostables are and will be burned during next 30 years.
– It goes against the people: the citizens are already paying the highest prices in waste management in Spain to burn waste in an innefficient incinerator that doesn’t even recover the heat. At the same time modern recycling and composting plants partly financed with EU money have to be paid when not being used because waste is being sent to the incinerator.
The case of Mallorca illustrates with all cruelty how incineration –or any kind of disposal- competes with recycling and the upper levels of the hierarchy. Hence, it is unlikely that the targets set by the EU will be accomplished unless the economic and legislative drivers are changed to prioritise recycling.
There are good examples of islands in the mediterranean which have recycling rates above northern European standards (regions in Sardinia are above 60%). Mallorca itself has municipalities such as Esporles or Puigpunyent doing an excellent job (above 70% recycling) despite the adverse legislation and local conditions. With the right legislation and political will Zero Waste is possible in Mallorca, with current conditions sustainability is a mission impossible.
The Zero Waste movement asks the European Commission to intervene to cap the incineration overcapacity in cases like the one of Mallorca when recycling is directly hijacked. The current EU legislation gives all incentives to do the wrong thing and Mallorca is a clear example of it.
The Zero Wasters in the UK are celebrating their 5th year of Zero Waste weeks in which many brits pledge to improve their recycling skills and renewe their commitment for a world without waste. So far this this is a solely UK initiative but it would be great to have it in other EU countries. If you are interested in running these kinds of actions elsewhere in Europe contact us and we can help you coordinate!
For the moment feel free to join the initiative from our friends from the UK, happy Zero Waste week!
National Zero Waste Week takes place week beginning 3rd September 2012.
This year’s theme is ‘One More Thing‘ which reminds us that the collective impact of taking baby steps can add up to significant change.
How can I join in?
This year we’re focusing on improving our recycling habits because if every household in the UK recycled ‘one more thing’, the total amount collected for recycling could increase by more than three quarters of a million tonnes.
So decide on your activity and leave a comment below telling us what you pledge to do, then come back during National Zero Waste Week and let us know how you are getting on.
Be sure to bookmark this page! If you have a blog or webpage, please help spread the word by writing about National Zero Waste week – you can grab one of our images below!
If you’re on twitter or facebook, encourage your friends and family to join in too.
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Currently 72 municipalities -2,2 million inhabitants- have joined the Zero Waste strategy in Italy. All in all, around 4% of the population of the country are now in the road towards Zero Waste!
The Zero Waste strategy in Italy started in 2007 when Capannori declared the Zero Waste goal for 2020, in this declaration Capannori was committing to:
– Increase the separate collection of waste to 75% for 2015,
– Introduce a fee for the non-recyclable waste –Pay-As-You-Throw system-,
– Create at least one repair & reuse centre,
– Phase out incineration and landfill,
– Prioritise waste prevention with special emphasis on the extended producer responsibility.
Since then, Capannori has not only accomplished these goals -82% separate collection in 2011 and inaugurated the repair & reuse centre and a ZW research centre- but has managed to rally more than 70 other municipalities to create what will be the association of Zero Waste Italian communities.
The event was also attended by organisations, activists and experts which highlighted the social and economic benefits of Zero Waste. A couple of examples of how Zero Waste helps the economy, culture and society as much as it helps the environment;
Second experience, the mayor of the municipality of Castelbuono, Sicily, explained about the successful experience of reintroducing donkeys to do the collection in the narrow, steep streets of the old town. Using donkeys is not only cheaper than using trucks, it also helps reintroduce the typical Sicilian endangered breed of Ragusa whose milk –donkey’s milk is the closest to human milk- is known to be beneficial for those who suffer allergy to cow’s milk protein allergy. Because of its energy and its friendly nature these donkeys are also employed in recreational and therapeutic activities as well as traditional events and local feasts.
These kind of best practices were shared during the event in an atmosphere of creativity, cooperation, commitment and inspiration. From now on there will be periodical meetings in order to organise together the better implementation and the expansion of the Zero Waste network in Italy and in Europe.
When something has a negative value there is no incentive to deal with it. It is then left in the environment and we all suffer the consequences. Partly, a Zero Waste strategy consists in creating markets so that the products find a use at the end of their life.
Littering happens when food or beverage containers have a zero or negative value at the end of its use. Hence, the best way to avoid littering is to give waste a value. An empty can or bottle can end up in the bin, in the streets or recycled depending on whether the item has a value or not. Experience in Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark or the Netherlands shows that when the empty packaging is given some value (a deposit of 5 to 25 eurocents) the packaging will be recycled in more than 90% of the cases. Experience in countries without a deposit system shows that recycling happens in less than 50% of the cases. In those cases the waste ends up as liter or in a landfill or incinerator.
Retorna.org is the campaign in Spain to reintroduce a deposit system for beverages. This campaign takes place under the umbrella of the Zero Waste strategy in the country and wants to replace the current system in which the recycling of beverage packaging falls under 40% -due to the lack of incentives for people to do the right thing- to a deposit system that would allow to duplicate the recycling rates -which would reduce emissions-, increase the purity -and hence recyclability- of the materials, create more green jobs, radically reduce littering, reduce costs for municipalities and consumers and enforce the polluter pays principle. This alternative system -which was in use in Spain until the 1980s- and which obtains better results in any European country that has implemented it, it is being fiercely opposed by the industry. It is interesting to observe how the arguments used by the industry today in Spain are the same sort of arguments that were raised also by the industry in countries such as Germany before implementation. These fears proved to be exagrated and the system has been very satisfactory allowing the industry to get back the materials.
In a Zero Waste economy we should deal with any waste that has a negative value and redesign it so that we create positive incentive or change the way we perceive it so that its value starts being positive. For instance, the company Terra Cyle started paying to garbage pickers in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, to collect chip bags -a priory non-recyclable-, suddenly chip bags disappeared from the landscape and chip bags automatically stopped being waste.
Zero Waste is about making waste visible so that we can identify the problem in the design or in the system. Giving waste a positive value so that it can generate markets is a way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill or incineration.
Want to implement a Zero Waste separate collection strategy in your municipality and don’t know how? The “Manual de Recogida Selectiva Puerta a Puerta” is what you need.
The Catalan Association of Door-to-Door Municipalities has published a new version of the Manual of door-to-door separate collection in which the experts in door-to-door separate collection in Catalonia explain how implementing a door-to-door separate collection system:
– can increase the separate collection from 30-40 (road-container collection) to 70-80% (with door-to-door),
– can increase the quality of the recovered materials,
– can reduce the disposal costs by considerably reducing the residual fraction of the waste.
In the book there are practical examples of how a door-to-door separate collection should not cost more than a normal comingled collection yet provide a lot higher material recovery rate.
The book focuses in the reality in Spain and it is written in Spanish but for those who can read Spanish or Catalan (the original version was in Catalan) this is worth a read.
You can download it free of charge here or just by clicking on the picture.
New Zero Waste groups are appearing in the Basque Country. Following the experience of Usurbil, a municipality that has achieved 88% separate collection after only two years of implementation of the door-to-door collection, and after the municipalities of Hernani and Oiartzun have joined this system of separate collection, 7 new groups of citizen-led Zero Zabor (Zero Waste) groups have appeared in the region of Guipuzkoa in the spanish Basque Country.
Usurbil was pioneer in challenging the separate collection by means of road container (which was achieving rates always below 40%) and decided to implement door-to-door system. Hernani (20.000hab) and Oiartzun followed this example a year later and currently the three of them are all above 75% of separate collection.
However the region of Guipuzkoa still insists in building an incinerator and, in view of the success of the Zero Zabor experiences, has speeded-up the works to stop other municipalities from joining the Zero Waste model. Moreover the Guipuzkoa region refuses to increase the current composting capacity of only 2.500tn and the 4.400tn of high quality organic waste that is separately collected can’t be composted –as the European waste hierarchy would request-.
But the Zero Waste philosophy counts with the support not only of some engaged municipalities but also of citizen groups that are tirelessly working to spread the word that reducing waste and increasing recycling is not only necessary but also possible. By replicating the experienced pioneered by Usurbil and followed by Hernani, Oiartzun and others, Guipuzkoa could create more jobs, less pollution and more local economy and save the 400 million euros that the new unnecessary incinerator will cost. In Guipuzkoa a struggle between the past and the future is taking place, between those who want to burn waste and those who want to reuse and recycle resources. The Zero Waste strategy is showing the alternative to end-of-pipe obsolete technologies and with the new groups in the Basque Country and the already existing Catalan Zero Waste network the change is advancing in Spain.
Following the example of Italy and the UK, last Friday 4th of March took place in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, the succesful launch of the Zero Waste catalan strategy!
More than a hundred people representing local organisations, companies, universities and research centers gathered for a whole day to discuss the goals and aims and set up the forum for a Zero Waste strategy in Catalonia. Note that in Spain the waste management is a delegated competence and Catalonia –like any other spanish autonomous region can decide on waste management-.
This initiative was possible thanks to the colaboration of all catalan universities, the association of municipalities for door-to-door collection, municipalities already developing the model of “Residu Mínim” (minimum waste) and the local and international organisations such as GAIA, CAPS, Ecologistes de Catalunya, Cepa and other members of the steering committee.
In the conference we had the chance to learn about the best zero waste practices in the world (such as San Francisco in the US or Kovalam in India) as well as european best practices such as the first European Zero Waste town; Capannori. Rossano Ercolini from the Rete Italiana di Rifiuti Zero and head of the Zero Waste Research Center in Capannori was present to explain the success of the italian experience.
The “Estratègia Catalana pel Residu Zero” (the Catalan Zero Waste Strategy) will organise sinergies between academics, practitioners, policy-makers and civil society to channel the change of paradigm from a recycling society towards a zero waste society. In this sense, the catalan ZW strategy wants to advance in the direction of a more efficient management of resources, more environmental justice and de-carbonisation of the economy.
The Catalan Zero Waste strategy is born in a context of insustainability in the management of municipal, construction and demolition and industrial waste.
Catalonia, despite very good scattered practices of high separate collection in some towns, still sends 70% of its waste to disposal which represents a clear inneficient use of materials, a lot of avoidable GHG emissions and a threat for the health of the citizens.
The solution is not to build new incinerators or burn municipal waste in cement kilns but rather to work on the replication of the best practices of separate collection (in some cases above 80%) in order to increase prevention and recycling.
A change of paradigm is necessary and this is exactly what the citizen driven Catalan Zero Waste strategy pursues.
In the meeting it was discussed that Zero Waste meant:
– Advancing towards a circular economy in which waste can become the raw material of the future,
– Avoid the generation of any waste that can be avoided
– Ban the disposal of any waste that can be reused, recycled or composted
– The redesign and substitution of those wastes which can’t be reused, recycled or composted.
The Catalan Zero Waste strategy proposes to:
1. Invert the tendency and instead of disposing of 70% and recycling 30% reverse the trend and move towards recycling 70% and disposing of 30% for 2020. Zero Waste -less than 10kg of residual waste per capita- for 2030.
2. Set up a network of organisations, institutions, companies and universities to plan and implement this change of paradigm.
3. Promote the best local and international practices of source separation, separate collection, waste prevention, etc so that they can be replicated elsewhere in Catalonia.
4. Promote innovation in the production and legislative process in view of creating the right climate for a zero waste strategy.
5. Create a Zero Waste Research Center in which the residuals can be examined to detect failures in the design which justify a substitution for a newly designed recyclable product.
The most important thing of the event, besides the high attendance and motivation from all sectors of society, was the commitment of the participants and the concreteness on the next steps to take to make it possible to advance towards a Zero Waste future.
Here we have an example of an inclusive Zero Waste initiative which brings together the actors of society to organise the phasing out of waste from our societay. In October 1999, at a public meeting to discuss greener low carbon alternatives to a proposal of a giant waste incinerator, Coventry’s Director of City Development, John Mc Guigan, proposed the challenge of finding a long-term solution for waste which would be both economically and environmentally viable.
Over 2010 the 2020 “Zero Waste Initiative” has begun to take shape. It has drawn people together from the main areas involved or interested in developping “waste” as a resource. Over a hundred people have attended meetings and have come from public bodies such as WRAP and DEFRA, local business and commerce, environment and recycling groups, garden organic, councillors and officers, community groups, professional bodies and academics from the two local universities. There were several meetings over the year and in one of them the “Building Research and Innovation Networks” (BRAIN) Department at Coventry University produced the following 5min video in which Professor Paul Connett describes the basis of a proper Zero Waste strategy.
On August 31st it was constituted a new Zero Waste local group in Sicily.
The Zero Waste Association in Sicily declared its commitment to work for a responsible waste management system in Sicily aiming at increasing waste reduction, reuse and recycling and continuosly reduce the amount of waste send for either landfill or incineration.
The majority of municipal solid waste in Sicily being biowaste the organisation Zero Waste Sicily will focus on promoting separate collection of biowaste, composting and anaerobic digestion of this waste fraction.