SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

SECTOR WATCH SEARCH RESULTS ( 1 - 10 from 15 )

Report

Climate killer plastic?

2 July 2019

It is beyond clear that we need to address climate change at a global scale. Many have criticized that the transition to a circular economy requires large amounts of energy – the emissions of which cancel out environmental gains of reducing resource consumption and waste. Are waste reduction and the fight against the climate crisis competing goals – or maybe even best allies?

Landfilling and open dumping of solid household waste are associated with the highest amount of GHG emissions due to anaerobic digestion of organic material. This methane released is one of the most potent climate greenhouse gasses and reducing it is paramount to fighting GHG emissions in the waste sector. For this reason, many countries have or will phase out landfilling entirely.

With organic matter a well-known culprit, what about other sources of waste? The adverse impacts of plastic pollution have been discussed at length and public awareness about the issue is rising together with some tangible action from politics and the economy. The effect of plastic on the climate is far less obvious to many.

A recent study by scholar from UC Santa Barbara on plastic’s carbon footprint has shed light on this question.  All in all, the emissions from plastics in 2015 were equivalent to nearly 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2. Over half of the CO2 emissions in the plastic life cycle are related to emission during production. A total switch to renewable energy sources during the entire production process would result in a 51% reduction of GHG emissions in the plastic production chain.

When looking forward, global waste is expected to grow to 3.40 billion tonnes by 2050, more than double population growth over the same period. Daily per capita waste generation in high-income countries is projected to increase by 19 percent by 2050, compared to low- and middle-income countries where it is expected to increase by approximately 40% or more. With these numbers in mind, it is clear that waste generation needs to be tackled at the source, but GHG emission need to become a priority along the entire value chain, with recycling posing only a suboptimal solution in terms of GHG emissions.

Report

World's first zero waste town: Cappanori

6 June 2019

“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”, according to Zero Waste Europe. With waste overflowing and dumps full after years of mismanagement by the local mafia and with little mention of the environmental impacts and small fraction of the energy incineration managed to capture, the town was virtually convinced by the “incinerator crazed” Northern European model. Until a schoolteacher turned waste management leader, Rossano Ercolini came in. Bringing a trash bag with him to show how the content could be used again, he corralled residents at town hall meetings to discuss alternative ways to deal with their waste. With the help of Dr Paul Connett, a world expert on incineration and Zero Waste, he 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. Having since managed to reduce landfill by 40% and recycle some 82% of the rest to reach a residual 55kg household waste per capita per annum, they are not far off.


The way to go: pay as you throw

After scrapping the initial incineration plan, the town put Ercolini in charge of ASCIT, the local waste collection corporation. 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%.


Economically and socially sustainable

Key to Capannori’s success was early and active consultation of residents. Meetings were held in public places so as to ensure openness, transparency and citizens’ involvement. Volunteers delivered sorting kits including bins, bags and information in person, thus ensuring their understanding and improving sorting rates. Savings from expensive landfill and recycling earnings not only made the system self sufficient but actually saved the council over €2 million in 2009 to be reinvested into waste reduction infrastructure.       

Compost spreading success

One of the most successful elements was the composting element of the scheme, which encouraged participants with a reduced tariff for residual waste. Waste management company ASCIT carried 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. These local collective composting machines are planned to be distributed to residents, reducing the cost of collecting, transporting and treating organic waste by between 30 and 70%.


World without waste

In 2010 Capannori set up the first Zero Waste Research Centre in Europe, composed of an operative team with industrial designers charged with the task of proposing changes to the design of poorly designed products. These proposals are then sent to the producers responsible for manufacturing toxic and/or non-recyclable and/or non-biodegradable products in order to provide sustainable alternatives. The centre also has a Scientific Committee composed of waste experts, university professors and other technical people to consult. On the experts’ analysis, coffee capsules and conventional plastic nappies dominate the residual  (non-recyclable) waste, leading to a collaboration with coffee companies to work on biodegradable or recyclable alternatives and a subsidised reusable nappy scheme.


Procurement and political nudges

Other initiatives include a campaign to increase consumption of tap water (Italians are Europe’s biggest consumers of bottled mineral water), swapping disposable cutlery and tableware in public buildings for reusables, distributing cloth shopping bags to all 17,800 households and 5,000 to businesses and stocking sanitary products, in addition to reusable nappies in municipal pharmacies. Just a few examples where political nudges in the right direction have lead to increased awareness amongst residents, empowering them to implement virtuous consumption habits.


Changing culture

Record levels of second hand items for reuse at nearby Lammari’s Ecology Island prove that "it is an ethical and ecological principle, a goal and a vision, but above all a culture and a way of engaging communities and spreading information. The aim is to prevent waste by recovering, fixing and lengthening the life of an object. Recycling only comes in when all other options have been exhausted," as Ercoloni asserts.


Setting an example for a circular future

Collaboration and incentivisation were key to the incredible turnaround that in 2013 saw Ercolini win the Goldman prize, the world's foremost environmental award. Going beyond just boosting recycling rates, with local policy makers looking at ways to reduce waste generation at source, and collaborating with experts at their pioneering Zero Waste Research Centre, Capannori reduced from 340 kg per capita per year in 2006 to 146 kg in 2011, a drop of 57%, to reach their current 55kg. Despite its limited resources, compared for instance to a country such as Denmark who stands at 409 kg unseparated waste per capita per year (2011) or perhaps indeed due in large part to its grassroots, community orientated approach, Capannori sets an example to follow for any municipality who wants to shun incineration and advance towards Zero Waste.

 

 

Report

How will Zero Waste Scotland step up to the landfill ban?

4 June 2019

It was the first country to declare a climate emergency. And one of its cities plans to become one of the first to reach zero waste status. But with many councils unprepared for its upcoming landfill ban, can Scotland “change the behaviour of people and organisations across Scotland to create a fundamental shift towards a more resource efficient and circular economy.”, as Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) the expert body that delivers the country’s circular economy plan, says will be needed.


The Scottish strategy

According to their first (2016) circular strategy, Making Things Last, two key elements will bring together all sectors and individuals, to work together towards a more circular economy. Producer responsibility - ensuring that end-of-life impacts are fully taken into consideration when goods are placed on the market - “and a food waste reduction target of 33% by 2025, the first such target in Europe, will act as a catalyst for action along the whole supply chain, from farm to plate.”


Landfill no longer

Up until now the “most practical” way to manage the majority of the million tonnes of waste the country produces, the upcoming landfill ban could prove very costly in the short term for councils due to lack of alternative waste management methods. Treatment capacity could be short by between 1.01- 1.28 million tonnes. However, cost impacts could be reduced if waste is minimised and recycling targets of 70% of all waste by 2025 are met, sending no more than 5% to landfill and instead embracing the potential billion Euro opportunity in circular economy.


Procurement possibilities are endless

The Making Things Last strategy identifies four focus areas: manufacturing, construction, energy infrastructure, and food and drink and the wider bioeconomy. An overall emphasis on repair, refurbishment and re-use of devices is set to exploit the potential £130m benefit from processing recyclable materials that would otherwise be exported. The Scottish Materials Brokerage was set up to tackle the fragmented recycled materials market, and provide increased market stability for recycled materials, provide economies of scale by allowing local authorities to pool materials. Amongst the detailed guidance on procuring for Repair, Re-use and Remanufacturing, the Revolve project provides a reuse quality standard for second hand goods. Within food, drink and bioeconomy, the public sector are also trying to phase out the purchasing of non-renewable biological materials, such as peat, which will serve to protect peatlands and help stimulate demand for renewable fertilizer and soil conditioner products from anaerobic digestion and in vessel composting. And the beer, whisky and fish industries also have many circular opportunities to explore including waste and by-products being recycled into animal feed and products like beer made from surplus bread thanks to startups supported by ZWS.


Mentoring and training

ZWS’ procurement work to date has focused on upskilling public and private sector procurement professionals, by raising awareness of sustainable alternatives and enabling measures to embed these into procurement practice. Training, guidance encouraging procurement on lease, re-use or remanufactured basis, and mentoring e.g. relating to contract management, for instance regarding life cycle impact mapping, have proven to be key. An E-learning module by the Scottish Government in collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland helps spread this knowledge.


Excelling in the domestic furniture department

Scotland Excel’s Furniture Framework demonstrates a 360° approach to sustainable procurement. Developed to support furnishing requirements for temporary accommodation, to meet new obligations arising from the Social Welfare Fund (SWF), the framework has unexpectedly become a benchmark for sustainable procurement. And helped councils maximise funding, minimise their administrative costs, and provide a more convenient service to vulnerable members of their communities who require essential domestic goods. Instead of cash payments, goods are supplied, delivered and installed by one company, resulting in a shorter timescale, easier co-ordination and more efficient logistics i.e. a lower carbon footprint. 150 tonnes of waste were also diverted from landfill through recycling initiatives with third sector partners. Winning the Sustainability/Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative of the Year Award at the  at the National Government Opportunities (GO) UK Public Procurement Excellence Awards, Judge Peter Smith, said: “Not many procurement projects can claim to have positive corporate social responsibility effects in terms of everything from job creation to carbon reduction, from supporting [employing] disadvantaged people to reducing waste.”


ICT for circularity

The Scottish Procurement Team’s 2015 frameworks for the supply of ICT client devices used by public sector organisations are a great example of performance-based procurement along circular economy principles. Scottish Procurement prescribed contractors to extend the useful life of workstations and computers. As a result, contractors offered products with modular product design that enabled the reuse of these products, or their components. Contractors were required to include take-back-schemes so that devices or their parts could be re-used and not end up as waste. They were also requested to minimise packaging waste generation, with minimum specifications for recycled content and returnable, reusable options. However, a recent 360° review (framework developers, suppliers and users) undertaken by ZWS, demonstrated that ICT was, still largely being procured in a linear way and the take-back, repair and refurbishment services of the suppliers were underused by public authorities. Cited barriers include limitations of the hardware processing speed of older models & data cleansing requirements.


Incinerating vs. zero wasting

The move to a value-focused, circular society requires a complete cultural shift. One that, Scotland’s zero waste strategy states, puts people first. And avoids “sleepwalking away from recycling and down the incineration route” as local resident and former BBC Scotland environment correspondent, Louise Batchelor, put it and other parts of Europe have succumbed to, despite the strong opposition of campaigners: “We are about to be locked into decades of having to feed incinerators instead of doing something more sensible with our resources,” says Dr Richard Dixon of Friends of the Earth, instead of embracing the potential billion Euro circular economy opportunity.

Report

Concrete jungle: sustainable procurement in construction

27 May 2019

The latest "Global Resource Outlook 2019. Natural resources for the future we want” presents a potential future circular economy plan that fits within planetary boundaries. The report states that 50% of total emissions is related to material use: mining, transport, production of goods and waste disposal. 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress are caused by resource extraction and processing. From 2000 to 2015, climate change and health impacts from extraction and production of metals doubled. The most used material by far, second to water, concrete has far reaching environmental impacts. In fact, if it were a country the industry would be the third largest carbon emitter after the US and China. Various safety and quality rules in EU and national legislation apply to buildings. Yet the number of EU initiatives that address sustainability issues in this sector are much more limited.


Closed material loops

The built environment consumes 40% of natural resources globally and produces 40% of global waste and 33% of emissions; construction and demolition waste (CDW) making up up to 30% EU waste. But reuse and recycling of material so as to improve circularity can be done in many innovative ways. The efficient use of room space and multi-purpose buildings provide opportunities for new multifunctional furniture and fixtures, and reduces the need for more buildings. New market opportunities related to recycled material-based products also arise in the field of building components. For example, ecological wood stone – a stone made of recycled fibres (Destaclean, 2016), biocomposite products for outdoor construction and cladding (UPM Profi, 2016) or other similar products could also be utilised in public buildings and spaces. Techniques such as recycling materials like ash and soil from nearby construction sites into roads and tarmac in Finland as well as roofing felt waste into asphalt make use of materials while minimising transportation. Currently recycling of doors, windows or frames does not take place at large scale, which could also be explored.


Concrete example: Paris’ recycled public works materials

The City of Paris carries out public works by obtaining local recycled materials. All the finest materials (flagstones, sandstone or granite borders) are recovered from building sites, and once treated, are re-used for refitting or maintenance operations instead of new materials. This demand is formalized in the public procurement contract. Pursuant to Paris public works regulations, penalties are incurred if suppliers fail to deliver natural stone materials to be recycled. In addition to the financial gain, this practice prevents natural quarry mining and the transportation of materials over several kilometers.


Building construction in Berlin

In 2013, the City-State of Berlin launched a pilot project with the aim of encouraging greater reuse of recycled concrete in building construction. A total volume of around 5,400m3 of certified ‘circular economy’ recycled concrete was used in the construction of a slurry wall and building shell of the new life science laboratory building at the Humboldt University. In comparison with concrete made from primary aggregates, the recycled concrete alternative saved 880m2 of virgin gravel, 66% of the energy required for production and transport, and 7% of the associated CO2 emissions. If a product cannot be reused then designing for recycling is the next alternative in making it circular. This means ensuring that the product purchased contains materials that can be easily and effectively recycled into a new product. Alternatively, or in addition to the previous point, the product could be made from recycled content and thus further contribute to resource efficiency.


Zurich: A pioneer is sustainable building material

The City of Zurich is a pioneer in concrete recycling. As part of the European project UrbanWINS, a study trip was organised for practitioners from across Europe  to learn about Zurich’s experiences. The European expert group exchanged about how to handle construction and demolition waste, how to procure public buildings that contain recycled concrete and how to involve architects and builders in the process.  More information about Zurich’s concrete recycling experience and the study trip can be found here.

Report

Plastic - friend or foe in the fight against food waste

8 May 2019

It’s the oft-recited estimate: one third of all food is wasted across the world. Not to mention the farmers’ work, fertilisers, pesticides and fuel used to grow it, the energy to transport it and, finally, the impacts of its disposal too. In Europe, 88 million tonnes, 95-115kg per capita per year is lost, costing €143 billion (European Commission) and comprising 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (FAO). Yet for every Euro invested in Food Waste reduction, a city saves €8. From plastic packaging to participation, what is the best way to implement a sustainable food waste strategy? Our case studies include the city of Bruges, Belgium, who implemented a radical strategy to slash their waste to reach zero food waste status.


From food waste fiasco to fun opportunity    

Facing the food waste challenge plays a significant role in attaining climate goals globally. Indeed, as stated in the comprehensive study Drawdown, reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective solution to reduce GHG emissions, even before solar farms and plant-rich diets. “It is also an easy and fun topic to work on [...] Citizens even contact me because they have too many courgettes and want to make sure they get eaten. This would have never happened 6 years ago.” says Mieke Hoste, Bruges’ alderwoman of environment.


Awareness first

Whether using a method as simple as disposing of organic waste in separate clear bags or a high tech intelligent camera that identifies the exact type, amount and cost of food being wasted, diagnosing the problem is the vital first step to fight food waste. As stated by food waste organisation FoodWIN, knowledge leads to action. Initially not included in their urban food strategy, after talking to food waste expert and activist Tristram Stuart, Bruges used Foodwin’s food waste calculator and was convinced by the “huge” costs - equivalent financially to investing in solar panels. Restaurants, citizens, retail and healthcare were found to create the most waste.


The (zero) waste hierarchy

Organic waste can be used as a source of bioenergy. However, the susustainability of this type of energy is contested. Zero Waste Europe best practise states a reduction of organic waste should be prioritised through improved labelling, portioning, awareness and educational campaigns around food waste and home composting. Unavoidable (excess) edible food should be targeted at human consumption first i.e. donated to social organisations, as done by Bruges, or otherwise for animal feed. Non-edible organic waste can be composted and used as fertiliser for agriculture, soil restoration and carbon sequestration; garden trimmings, discarded food and food-soiled paper in low-tech small-scale process sites whenever possible. In larger areas, composting could be centralised with more technologically advanced systems. Alternatively, depending on local circumstances and nitrogen levels in the soil, non-edible organic waste should be used to produce biogas through Anaerobic Digestion, a truly renewable source of energy and soil enhancer. If there is any organic waste within the residual waste stream, Material Recovery – Biological Treatment (MRBT) allows for the recovery of dry materials for further recycling and stabilizes the organic fraction prior to landfilling, with a composting-like process. Landfill and incineration are the least preferable, last resort option.


Participation and cocreation

In Bruges, a participatory approach increased awareness and ensured the involvement of citizens, e.g. via the creation of Bruges Food Lab - a local stakeholder council on sustainable food which includes organisations like social grocery stores and restaurants that redistribute surplus food, and via a crowdsourcing day to shape the urban food strategy, organise redistribution and reduction of surplus in public organisations. Bruges is the first city in Belgium taking the commitment to only use sustainable food at events. An annual food festival also “fed the 5000” with food waste; further boosting awareness.  


Collaboration and communication of organisations

From 2017, Bruges started to focus on different sectors such as hospitals, resulting in food waste reductions of up to 43%. Communication between the different services of an elderly home or hospital for example was crucial to cocreate a system to serve food right away to ensure freshness. Too Good to Go is an app that allows shops and supermarkets to sell surplus food for a significantly reduced price, and the city is planning to launch a logistical platform to help it reach social projects via car or bike. UrbanWINS’ pilot project in Cremona similarly saw surplus food distributed by bike to families in need, an app created advertising end of day discounts at eateries, and a second hand/vintage market.


Fighting food waste: is plastic packaging a help or a hindrance?

The linked challenges of food waste and plastic packaging waste must be tackled together, as stated in the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) Report UNWRAPPED. Aside from health and unknown chemical migration risks associated, they found plastic packaging to increase food waste overall. Practises such as trimming to fit packaging and multipacks for example were found to cancel out the benefits of preservation of foods. They also present solutions such as laser marking goods, which produces 1% carbon emissions of a typical plastic sticker.


Conclusion

Ultimately, energy policies for a low-carbon economy should progressively move away from extracting as much energy as possible from waste - such as energy from biomass - and instead increase measures to preserve the embedded energy in products, a far more efficient and sustainable approach to resource use. In Bruges, all government departments now work within a sustainable food framework, setting the foundation for zero food waste overall. Going forward, they plan to focus more on citizens and restaurants who have the biggest impact.

Report

Changing the (product-service) system

27 April 2019

“The future is not in low cost production. In making things with finite components. The future is in providing services that then materialise in products, instead of the other way round. Products that are used and reused time and time again.” These are the words of First Vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmerman, at one of the “defining moments” in the development of a circular economy in the EU. While the EU has made progress with Green Public Procurement (GPP), the adoption of circular economy business models has been slow, despite proven performance. But product-service systems (PSS) or product as a service (PaaS) could be key to the transition to a service-based economy and public procurement can play a key role as enabler of this transition.


The ‘performance economy’,

Was developed by Walter Stahel in the 1970s, who insisted on the importance of selling services rather than products. Via his method, “manufacturers can retain greater control over the items they produce and the embodied energy and materials, thus enabling better maintenance, reconditioning and recovery. Customers benefit too, as they only pay for the service they require and use, and often receive a better service as the manufacturer has a greater interest in providing a product that lasts.”


New business models

To ensure circularity will require cooperation of product life-extension, recovery and recycling and product-as-a-service business models. Although not by definition sustainable, by leasing or paying for a service instead of paying for the product outright, customers can pay per use, while ownership and life cycle costs of a product remain with the producer, setting incentives for resource efficiency along the complete life cycle. The energy embedded in the products at production is retained at the highest possible level.


WEEE and PaaS

Incorporating PaaS, e.g. for lighting, into the public procurement framework holds great potential for minimising waste, especially E-waste. Where eco-design and circular economy directive requirements can be costly in terms of collection and regulation for producers, Danish research suggests that Product-as-a-Service and Product Life-Extension are particularly relevant concepts to improve value chain performance, resource efficiency and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive compliance while at the same time offering an attractive commercial potential. They can, at least in part, support ecodesign, WEEE prevention, re-use and help official collection systems to better compete with the unregistered WEEE collection channels.


IoT to maximise efficiency

The company Bundles employs Internet of things (IoT) to turn use of appliances into a service, reusing materials to make new appliances to avoid creating waste. Starting with washing machines, they supply a plug measuring energy use which gives feedback on how to use it more efficiently. “What is actually innovative and really new to this economic model is the way different people, parties and institutes collaborate to deliver a whole different experience to the consumer which much less impact on the future of our planet.” says Marcel Peters, CEO.


Lighting as a service

A collaboration between Philips and Turntoo is a showcase for the pioneering ‘pay-per-lux’ model. Philips created a purpose built minimalist LED light plan that maximised use of a building’s natural sunlight while minimising costs. With a combined sensor and controller system dimming or brightening lighting in response to motion or daylight, the bespoke, intelligent lighting system can supposedly cut energy bills by 30-40%. Furthermore, by moving to a model in which the light provider maintains ownership of the materials, the client benefits from maintenance and service, as well as the option to adapt or upgrade the setup, with the manufacturer able to recover the materials when necessary.


Designing for disassembly

Brummen town hall in The Netherlands was looking for a temporary construction with a consistent use of reusable and renewable high-quality construction materials. “The first building in the world conceptualised as a raw materials depot”, their contractual approach guarantees circularity at the end of the intended use period. Minimal concrete and prefabricated wooden components mean over 90% of the materials can be easily dismantled and reused. Price and sustainability were placed on par during the procurement process.


Considerations and conclusions

Along with a clear vision/ objectives, inserting life cycle costing, extensive dialogue during tendering process and training on performance based (functional) specifications, a  UNEP report, co-authored by ICLEI Local Governements for Sustainability, suggests payment in terms to ensure service performance. PaaS is new, and may need more research, but holds much potential to decouple consumption from economic growth, by meeting needs with lower material and energy requirements.

 

Report

Ban the bag: the most effective way to beat plastic pollution?

10 April 2019

The UN has labelled it among the “most effective” ways to beat pollution. Over 112 countries, states and cities worldwide have already imposed bans on various single-use plastic goods. Of these measures, 57 are national and 25 are in Africa. And they’re on the rise. Frontrunner Kenya has set the bar for drastic change after banning plastic bags. After the recent EU-wide ban on single-use items from 2021, the UN Environment Conference in March 2019 pledged a somewhat softer “significant reduction” in single-use. Much to the protests of environmental groups, given that current plastic production levels (300 million tonnes per annum) are set to double in the next 20 years, according to industry experts. Especially with oil giants like ExxonMobile and Shell investing billions in petrochemicals.

Stop sucking

With China’s refusal of waste calling overdue attention to the global glut of waste, and the collect-sort-export model no longer possible, why stop at straws and not ban single-use altogether? Moreover, how can the challenges in sourcing alternatives be addressed, and are they actually more sustainable?

Labels and loopholes

The EU recently banned the ten single-use plastics most often found on Europe's beaches and seas: cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, lightweight plastic bags, polystyrene food and drink containers, and ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic products, which will all have to be made from more sustainable materials instead. It has been argued however that their proposed definition of ‘single-use’ plastic items is too narrow, and could lead to producers easily avoiding bans by marketing disposable goods as reusable. The replacement of lightweight plastic bags with thicker ones also has its downfalls.

Benefits of the ban

UNEP estimated that good management of plastic could save consumer goods companies up to €3.5bn per year. Progressive systems designed to avoid or manage beverage packaging and take-away food, such as deposit and return systems and reusable coffee cups create more jobs than their single-use equivalents, and also incentivise alternatives.

Case study: Kenya

Local sellers have struggled due to the expense and inconvenience of using compostable bags or bowls made of renewable materials. Yet Kenya, who now imposes stiff punishments on violators, including jail time and fines of up to €34,000, “have achieved more in six months than in the previous five years,” said Samuel Matonda of the Kenyan manufacturers association, placing the country especially well to take a lead at the U.N. General Assembly in calling for talks on stemming the tide of plastic pollution.

Progress to abate the plastic plague

With the EU Plastics Strategy adopted in January 2018 a new model of the plastic supply chain system is sorely needed. And as much public consultation as possible to ensure a smooth transition through any ban to implementation, ideally aligned with international agreements.

The UrbanWINS project, a three year EU funded project, showcases how the public can be involved in these crucial decisions. The project piloted the concept of ‘Urban Agoras’, a series of physical gatherings of local citizens designed to reach a consensus on what needs to happen to fight waste. Seven European cities have developed three pilot actions each in the framework of these agoras. They are citizen driven initiatives, that support each city in reaching a circular economy.  

Banning plastic bags is a big win, but it’s just the beginning. Coming up next, we’ll take a deeper dive into feasible alternatives that will help turn off the plastic tap.

Report

Tokyo Trash Bar: designed to make people think as they drink

29 March 2019

Welcome to the Gomi-Pit bar. Based at Musashino Clean Center, a waste treatment facility located in the City of Musashino, Tokyo Metropolis (Japan), this is a place where you can taste local delicacies —  beer and cocktails made using honey-soaked mushrooms or locally harvested vegetables — while taking in the sight of waste being sorted and prepared for incineration.

Combining entertainment and education

It’s a process that resembles an elaborate dance, with cranes dumping, crushing and eventually burning trash to transform the waste into ash used for cement and tiles. Through this strange experience, the waste management facility aims to entertain, while raising awareness and creating a community around conscious consumption.   

“It’s surprising how much garbage is thrown away just in Musashino… It makes me think I need to do more to reduce trash at home” said local nursery school teacher Miki Takara.

In 2017, the Clean Center burned some 2.81 million tons of waste. Having resolved to make a dent in the amount of waste the city of Musashino produces, a large proportion of waste, with the exception of cans, glass and plastic bottles, is since collected for a fee. Like other areas of Japan, residents and firms in the city must also purchase special bags in which they dispose of garbage to have it collected.

Connecting the world to their waste

In an industry where strong NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard) sentiment has reigned whereby waste and heavy industry have faced strong opposition in local residential areas, it is symbolic that people agreed to the Clean Center being located right in town. Due in part to its social value and transparency, in the years since its opening in 2017, some 23,000 people visited the plant, and were shocked at what they saw:

“That garbage must be piled up somewhere, which means that for them it’s a kind of negative legacy from our generation” said Ayana Seki, an official with the local environmental department.

Witnessing the intricacies of the waste separation process incites empathy: “if we throw something away mistakenly, it may not get collected,” Ryota Kishii, an employee whose business has take up strict regulation, said. “When you watch how the garbage is processed, you get a better awareness of how waste is divided up, and watching those who work there makes you realize that you cause them trouble” if you incorrectly dispose of waste.       

Scaling up

Former adviser to the Environment Ministry of Japan Suzuki said that Musashino, which has already proven successful in engaging the public about the issue of waste management, could serve as a model for other waste disposal site operators. He also emphasised the importance of reaching out to the public through more frequently visited places such as medical institutions and schools.

Musashino may be a niche example, but underlines the importance of a holistic way of thinking, honesty and transparency that call into question our legacy, educate the population and include the next generation.

See more here and here.

Report

Circular secrets from one of the world’s most sustainable cities, Copenhagen.

22 March 2019

Copenhagen plans to become the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2025. But though seen to be so "green”, as a country Denmark happens to be first in Europe for producing household waste, with an increase in municipal waste in the last decade. In the face of ever more ambitious European legislation to reduce waste, what progress has the city made?


Ambitious aims

With a purchasing power of €1.5bn each year, the city of Copenhagen is part of Danish national and European wide initiatives on Sustainable public procurement. The Danish “Forum for Sustainable Procurement” and “Partnership on Green Public Procurement” promote a circular production and consumption paradigm, aligning with the UN Global Compact, OECD guidelines and SDGs. Not least Objective 12: responsible consumption and production to achieve CO₂ neutral status by 2025, but also zero waste status by 2050. On a European scale, the city is a participant in the European Procura+ Network for Sustainable Procurement. All under the umbrella of co-creating a liveable city.


Waste as a resource

Since the 90s, the gradual development of a comprehensive Danish regulatory framework for waste handling has reframed waste to harness its potential as a resource. Increased international involvement, especially from the EU have helped achieve high recycling rates and minimise landfill, mainly by increasing separation of household organic waste, now at 72%, to be turned into biogas or fertiliser. Repair cafes and Fablabs also offer a way to reuse goods.


The building and construction industry, which makes up 35% waste overall and over one third of the city’s CO2 emissions, has some of the largest circular economy potential. Solutions include (an open platform for) reusing materials in building, recycled roofing to make roads (the “roof to road” project) and other materials recycling stations, with obligatory waste handling plans before any construction project commences. Meanwhile designing for disassembly creates highly flexible buildings that are faster to construct and optimise operation and maintenance.


Regulation and communication

The city of Copenhagen wants to put its purchasing power to good use. To encourage circular procurement, considerations of total cost of ownership including disposal and potential future use ensure more resource-efficient products and financial savings in the long run. Within regulation, including the EU directives on public procurement criteria promoting efficiency of use also exist, for instance suggesting that the procurer ask how the supplier promotes the reuse of devices (e.g. for ICT). In addition, a requirement that guidance will be given on the efficient usage and disposal of goods is suggested for many product groups. To ensure close cooperation between the person responsible for the procurement and an employee with environmental expertise during the tendering process, an environmental expert is a compulsory member of any working group in the city of Copenhagen.


Public-private Partnerships

Digitising purchasing processes and using e-commerce to improve efficiency, transparency and collaboration are key. Alongside partnerships with other municipalities, important public-private partnerships have included packaging deposit-return schemes - at Tivoli theme park - set to spread to events across the city. 30 different partnerships since 2014 have secured new data on air pollution, traffic patterns and waste, for instance. Copenhagen Solutions Lab for instance, with Cisco, is a live test area for various types of smart city solutions, serving to share data and drive further innovation.


Progress is promising. But change needs to happen fast if the city of Copenhagen wants to be not only a CO2 reduction but also a zero waste champion.

Report

Product Stewardship to rethink recycling of e-waste

14 March 2019

The United Nations have called it a tsunami. Others have highlighted its value, which exceeds the annual GDP of over 120 countries. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals were even made from it. Now at 50 million tonnes each year, left unchecked this ever growing pile of global e-waste could more than double to 120 million tonnes by 2050.


One man’s trash; another man’s treasure                   

Whilst there is great value to be obtained from e-waste, not to mention substantially lower CO2 emissions from mining raw materials/ rare minerals, currently only 20% is recycled. The cost and knowhow remain a challenge.


The solution to pollution: collaboration

A circular economy for electronics could reduce the costs for consumers by 7% by 2030 and 14% by 2040 (Ellen MacArthur). As always, collaboration is key, which is why researchers and SDU life-cycle centre in Denmark are building a knowledge platform for the circular economy and the management of end-of-life electrical and electronics products called the E-circle network. All interested parties will be able to obtain help and inspiration about recycling and reusing electronic devices, from “manufacturers’ drawings and data about the materials to companies that buy up discarded electrical goods to take them apart for recycling who could be informed what materials were valuable,” The platform will also enable designers and manufacturers to learn how they could change their designs to make them more recyclable when they no longer work.


Rethink recycling: product stewardship

In addition to shared knowledge and increased transparency, assigning responsibility to producers is key. China State Council has established the Producer Responsibility Extension System Implementation Program ("PRE Program") which sets ambitious targets including sourcing 20% of materials for new electronic products from recycled content and recycling 50% of all e-waste by 2025, moving towards a circular e-economy.

Such stewardships systems mean goods producers are given responsibility for the end life of the product. Australia, for example, currently operates under a mandatory product stewardship scheme and electronics businesses must contribute to recycling infrastructure to ensure that 90% of all e-waste is recycled. Victoria announced a $16.5m scheme to develop 130 electronic waste collection sites, ahead of a ban on e-waste in landfill in 2018. The funding includes $1.5m for a consumer education program to reduce e-waste or avoid it altogether.

With such schemes, 2019 could and should cause a shift to realise their potential.