SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

SECTOR WATCH SEARCH RESULTS ( 1 - 1 from 1 )

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.