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Law must make drinks firms pay for bottle waste, new Hong Kong green group says

The Green Earth is urging authorities to revisit an old pledge to introduce legislation on a ‘polluter pays’ scheme for plastic bottles

The city’s newest green group is urging authorities to revisit an old pledge to introduce legislation on a “polluter pays” scheme for plastic bottles.

The Green Earth said further delays to producer responsibility legislation would mean 132 tonnes, or five million PET plastic bottles, will continue to be disposed of every single day. The figure has nearly doubled from a decade ago.

“The previous administration set a road map for a PET plastic bottle producer responsibility scheme in place by 2008 but there’s been no news since,” said the group’s executive director Edwin Lau Che-feng. “If nothing is done now, the crisis will continue.”

The failure to implement such a scheme has meant about 12 billion bottles would have been disposed of since 2008 which Lau calculated would be “enough to circle the earth 58 times”. PET bottles take hundreds of years to fully decompose.

Lau urged the government to commence preliminary work on draft legislation such as business impact assessments to analyse how a charge on PET would affect or disrupt enterprises.

“[Beverage] producers have a corporate responsibility to bear some of the cost of all this waste given the profits they make,” said Lau. On the consumer side, he said the government could be doing more to promote plastic bottle recycling or adding more public water fountains.

A deposit scheme where consumers can get money back for returning bottles could also be worth considering.

A producer responsibility scheme requires manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers to share the responsibility for the collection, recycling, treatment and disposal of products to reduce environmental impact at the post-consumer stage.

Producer responsibility legislation is in place for plastic bags, certain waste electrical appliances and is under way for glass beverage containers.

The Environmental Protection Department said it would continue to examine whether it was necessary or appropriate to implement the scheme.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1937439/law-must-make-drinks-firms-pay-bottle-waste-new?edition=international

San Francisco, ‘the Silicon Valley of Recycling’

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/science/san-francisco-the-silicon-valley-of-recycling.html?_r=0

SAN FRANCISCO — Robert Reed, who is enjoying a surprising career turn as a busy tour guide at the latest hot spot here, stood smiling one recent sunny morning before 10 foreign dignitaries and journalists. They included the mayor of Genoa, Italy, and the general consuls from Italy, Canada and Switzerland.

Each visitor wore a sport coat and tie, and a yellow safety vest to ensure they wouldn’t be run down by garbage trucks.

“It’s always nice to meet new friends from around the world,” Mr. Reed said in his introduction, beaming. “In fact, we’ve had visitors from 58 countries.” Behind him stood a warehouse filled with a 630-ton mountain of refuse being pecked by sea gulls. “Come on,” Mr. Reed continued, “I’ll show you the bottles, cans and paper.”

You won’t find San Francisco’s Pier 96 in any travel guidebook but it has become a must-see destination for visitors from Afghanistan to Vietnam. They’ve come to explore Recology — Mr. Reed is a spokesman — one of the world’s most advanced recycling plants, a deafening, Rube Goldberg system of conveyor belts and sorters that, with the help of human hands, untangles a 30-foot hill of debris collected by trucks every day from across the city.

“It’s like a modern art installation,” marveled Mauro Battocchi, the Italian consul general here. “So fabulous — the people and machines and objects of our lives all working together.”

Foreign officials and others come here to pick up tips on how to handle their own mushrooming piles of garbage back home. As the world’s population grows, people are consuming more, creating more trash, and countries are looking for ways to deal with it that put less stress on the environment.

Many are part of a growing movement sometimes called Zero Waste or the Circular Economy. It entails trying to eliminate tough-to-recycle items like flimsy plastic bags and also pioneering new ways to recycle or compost everything else.
Often, cities around the world have led the way, including Portland, Ore.; Seattle; and Milan, as well as the Basque region in Spain. That has given rise to a trash tourism circuit.

Recycling sites “don’t have to market themselves,” said Jessica Morrison, an environmental policy analyst for the Fraser Valley Regional District in British Columbia, who helped organize a tour in 2014 for a dozen officials to visit a recycling plant in Montgomery, Ala. “People like us are knocking down the doors.”

And the interest remains despite strained recycling economics caused by falling oil prices. That has driven down the cost of new commodities, like plastic, and, in turn, the price of recycled materials sorted and sold by companies like Recology.

More broadly, skeptics contend that the energy and other resource costs required to recycle some items are not worth the investment. But the visitors to Recology tend to be among the converted, who believe that incineration and landfilling carry their own devastating, long-term ecological costs.

Recology, a private company, gets most of its operating budget from the monthly fee of $35.18 it charges each household for residential trash, recycling and compost.

Mr. Reed says the Recology operation is cost effective, at least by one measure: San Franciscans pay the same amount or less than residents of other Bay Area big cities do for curbside pickup, but they compost or recycle a greater percentage of their garbage.

This success is partly why San Francisco’s plant has achieved something approaching celebrity status, with numerous write-ups, including a big spread in France’s Le Monde newspaper; visits from some 50 film crews, mostly for television; and roles in two major movies: the 2012 documentary “Trashed,” featuring the British actor Jeremy Irons, and the popular new French documentary “Demain,” about solutions to global problems.

San Francisco has become a recycling model for some cities, including Paris. The city’s deputy mayor, Mao Peninou, visited in October 2014 and said Recology’s composting now serves as a proof-of-concept for new Parisian efforts along the same lines.

Recology continues to draw visitors even though it is “not state of the art,” said Jack Macy, the Zero Waste coordinator for San Francisco. He acknowledged that other places have pulled ahead with newer technology, and noted that San Francisco itself originally drew inspiration from Germany, which was recycling and beginning to compost in the 1980s.

Today, San Francisco diverts around 80 percent of waste away from landfills, putting it among the elite recycling cities. (And Recology plans to spend US$11 million to upgrade its facility in the next year to deal with more packaging from online shopping.)

San Francisco also has a world-class reputation for its composting processes, which turns food waste into fine, coffee-like grounds that is sent to farms as fertilizer.

The Recology tour starts at Pier 96, an industrial hub at the city’s southern edge, inside the doors of a cavernous, 200,000-square-foot warehouse.

The first step is the separation of all recyclable garbage, with tractors scooping up piles and pouring them onto five conveyor belts. It travels up to the first culling level, where human “classifiers” wearing masks, gloves and aprons pull out the biggest pieces of cardboard and drop them down chutes where they are baled.

A few feet later, everything else bustles up a fast-moving moving ladder that carries the lighter paper to the top, while heavier cans and bottles fall back down. The bottles and cans are then divided.

Farther along, an optical sorter uses a beam of light to determine which plastic bottles are clear and which ones are colored. The clear ones are flipped off the belt by puffs of air.

“It’s Willy Wonka’s everything-you-can-imagine recycling place,” Mr. Reed said during the recent tour. The former freelance reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle loves talking about recycling and composting so much that it is as enjoyable “as a woman asking if she can give me a back rub.” he says.

Where Does Your Recycling Go? | Bay Curious, KQED News Video by KQED News

Mr. Reed likes to explain that Recology is a private, employee-owned company that has created around 210 jobs, most of them drawn from Bayview-Hunters Point, one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where the plant is.

“It’s the Silicon Valley of recycling,” said Christian Forthomme, chief executive of RealChange, a Bay Area-based consulting firm that brings foreign executives and officials to visit Silicon Valley, including four delegations to Recology in the past six years.

One group included Bruno Hug de Larauze, president of the Chamber of Commerce in Brittany, France, who likens Recology to an Uber or Airbnb for waste that shows how technology and capitalism can change the world. Plus, the place is just impressive, Mr. de Larauze said.

“It was the wow effect. It was incredible,” he said of his first visit (he’s been twice), and added with a laugh, “It smelled, let me be frank.”

After the tour with Genoa’s mayor and the consuls general, Mr. Reed organized a lunch of salad with French and Italian cheeses. As they sat down to eat, Mr. Reed raised the possibility of another destination for the group.

“I hope you’ll get a chance to visit our composting facility,” he told the dignitaries. “But we probably don’t want to talk about that while you’re eating.”

Likewise: know anyone who resides in Santa Monica ?

Consumers are crucial to protect the environment

http://www.ejinsight.com/20160312-consumers-are-crucial-to-protect-the-environment/

Most consumers know waste recycling, but many are not willing to sort out their garbage because it’s "inconvenient” to do so. Photo: CNSA

Most consumers know waste recycling, but many are not willing to sort out their garbage because it’s “inconvenient” to do so. Photo: CNSA

The Consumer Council has released a study on sustainable consumption.

Most of the respondents in the survey have high recognition of sustainable consumption. However, there’s a big gap between recognition and behavior.

Although the respondents said they agree with the concept of sustainable consumption, most of them are willing to put it into practice only if it doesn’t involve extra effort or costs.

For example, most respondents understand the concept of waste recycling, but many are not willing to sort out their garbage because it’s “inconvenient” to do so.

When we talk about environmental protection and sustainable development, we often think of enterprises and producers. We believe they should bear the biggest responsibility.

That’s true, but the role of consumers is also crucial.

France dumps nearly 7.1 million tons of food every year. Of this amount, 67 percent comes from consumers, 15 percent comes from restaurants while shops contribute 11 percent.

If consumers turn their support for sustainable consumption into practice, we can substantially reduce waste.

Hong Kong has been promoting waste treatment programs for years, but the programs or regulatory rules are hardly about consumers.

Education for the consumers about “responsible consumption” is an indispensable chain.

The government and business owners may consider providing more economic benefits to encourage consumers to prefer reusable products, sort their waste, and practice responsible consumption.

To promote sustainable development, the government, enterprises, consumers and other stakeholders should all get involved.

The renowned fashion designer Vivienne Westwood once said: “Buy less, choose well, make it last.”

Buy smart, consumers.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Mar. 8.

Translation by Myssie You

Users likely to take recycling hit

Broken-down air-conditioners, television sets and computers can all be recycled into valuable resources by next year, but the cost is likely to be passed on to customers.

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=165479&story_id=45957655&con_type=1&d_str=20160122

Broken-down air-conditioners, television sets and computers can all be recycled into valuable resources by next year, but the cost is likely to be passed on to customers.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing made the somber prediction yesterday at the start of construction of the HK$530 million Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Treatment and Recycling Facility at the EcoPark in Tuen Mun.

The facility, which is expected to be completed in mid-2017, will be able to handle 30,000 tonnes of electronic waste per year less than half of the 70,000 tonnes thrown away by Hong Kong households and companies.

Eight types of home electrical appliances would be taken to the facility for inspection. They will be repaired if found useful and donated to charities while those beyond repair will be broken down into small parts and recycled after removing harmful substances.

Other usable components and materials will be recovered for reuse and recycling.

Wong said the project is a significant step in the implementation of the producer responsibility scheme, which will require suppliers of these products to follow the “polluter pays” principle and pay an extra recycling fee for the electrical equipment they sell.

Manufacturers and importers of eight kinds of e-products air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, computers, printers, scanners and monitors will also need to arrange a free removal service for consumers to deliver the old equipment to a competent recycler.

Wong is aware that the new cost could make it more expensive for Hong Kong citizens.

“The extra cost, if incurred, will be somehow shared among the related stakeholders that means the manufacturers, the retailers and the consumers. So it is not solely borne by the manufacturers, but throughout the process. There will be a commercial process that will somehow distribute the additional cost among them,” he said.

The government is looking to fully implement the scheme next year if the bill can be passed by the Legislative Council.

Wong said the Environmental Protection Department enhanced the mobile collection vehicle service last October to collect computers, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent lamps and fluorescent tubes in all 18 districts.

The new generation of Buenos Aires trash pickers reenergizing recycling in the capital

The cartoneros of Buenos Aires are finally cashing in on the city’s newfound love of recycling. But the Argentinian capital still has a long way to go

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jan/20/buenos-aires-litter-pickers-cartoneros-recycling-argentina-environment

Cecilia works a five-block strip along Calle Paraguay in Palermo, a hip district in downtown Buenos Aires. Opening a flap door at the bottom of a lime-green bin the size of an industrial fridge, her gloved hands reach in to fish out the contents inside. Plastic bottles, discarded cardboard, newspapers, a discarded cheque book and a set of bookends: all the items disappear into a large, heavy plastic sack that she ties up and leaves by the roadside.

“After we’ve finished, a truck from the cooperative comes and picks up the sacks and takes them back to the plant for sorting,” says the 34-year-old, who has been in the job for three years after a long stint of unemployment.

Dressed in a uniform of grey T-shirt and dark slacks with a reflective ribbon, she’s one of an emerging number of urban litter pickers being drawn into the formal labor system in the Argentine capital over recent years.

Under the city government’s Ciudad Verde (Green City) plan, over 5,000 people now collect a base salary from the state for emptying the bell-shaped recycling bins that began appearing on the street about 18 months ago. The plan is an attempt to ease a landfill crisis that reached its peak in 2012, when provinces around Buenos Aires began rejecting the city’s trash.

“People are recycling a lot more now, although we still find all sorts of stuff in the bins. I had a friend who found a tablet computer once. But, at the same time, some folks chuck in food and diapers too,” says Cecilia.

As she’s speaking, the janitor from a nearby apartment building hands her a bag of recyclable trash. “They know our routine, so they put the recycling aside for us most days now,” she says.

From litter pickers to recyclers

The transformation is remarkable. A decade ago, downtown Buenos Aires teemed with thousands of litter pickers (known locally as cartoneros), their numbers swelled by Argentina’s catastrophic economic collapse at the end of 2001.

Men, women and children would flock in from the poor suburbs of this city of some 13 million people, rifling through the garbage on street corners and doorsteps, before heading back to the suburbs with carts loaded with recyclables to sell to dealers at rock-bottom prices. The Tren Blanco, a former passenger train used by the waste pickers, became emblematic of the country’s straightened circumstances.

One of the principal protagonists in the fight to improve the rights of the city’scartoneros is Sergio Sánchez, president of the Argentine Federation of Litter Pickers and Recyclers, which represents the dozen or so recycling cooperatives that operate in central Buenos Aires. The federation is linked to the left wing Movement of Excluded Workers.“The first big change came in 2002 when Buenos Aires withdrew a long-standing law that made litter picking illegal,” says Santiago Sorroche, an anthropologist at the University of Buenos Aires. “The second came with the Zero Garbage law [in 2005], which aims to gradually reduce the solid waste going to landfill.”

A political mover and shaker, Sánchez is known as the “cartonero friend of the Pope”. Above his desk hangs a recent photograph of him in Rome with the Argentine-born pontiff, shortly after the latter baptized Sánchez’s infant son.

As part of a deal that Sánchez helped strike with the city government, registered litter pickers like Cecilia now collect a set salary of 5,200 pesos ($383) per month to empty the downtown recycling bins once a day. With the arrangement comes a minimal social security package and a small pension.

“The big difference today is that we’re treated as workers providing a public service for the city,” says Sánchez. “Before, people would look down on us and say we created a mess, plus the police would always hassle us.”

The entrenched prejudice towards litter pickers is well illustrated by a Buenos Aires judge, who once threw out a damages case brought by a cartonero who had been hit by a car. Worse, the judge proceeded to penalize the victim for breaking the city’s transport norms. He stood charged with pulling his cart on the road without lights.

Growing pains

Recent efforts to formalize their trade is broadly welcomed by cartoneros, but it remains far from perfect. For one, the new lime-green recycling bins are predominantly limited to the city’s richer neighborhoods. Even then, they are far outnumbered by similarly-sized bins for non-recyclable trash.

Residents’ attitudes are changing far too slowly as well. Although most of the recycling cooperatives run educational outreach initiatives, awareness of why and how to recycle remains minimal. “If the non-recycled garbage bins are full, people will just chuck their trash in the recycle bins,” says Sánchez.

The other main shortfall is state support. By attempting to recognize the litter pickers, the city government is essentially recognizing that the cartoneros are providing a public service. Yet the recycling cooperatives say they only receive a fraction of the funds provided to private operators contracted to manage the city’s domestic and commercial waste.

Cristina Lescano, head of the El Ceibo Cooperative to which Cecilia belongs, cites the example of the government’s new plastics recycling plant, which it inaugurated in December and whose management is outsourced to a private contractor. “We have to send our plastic to them, and then they send it back to us to sell as high quality pellets. Why don’t they just give us the machinery to do it ourselves?”

By the same token, Lescano argues that the city government should pay the recycling cooperatives a market rate for their work rather than the current subsidy. El Ceibo, which has 345 members and operates a sorting plant immediately behind a smart downtown shopping centre, has only 10 collection trucks. “With 10 more we could double the recyclable material we collect, but the government would prefer to invest in private companies – not a social business like ours,” she says.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace also argues that investment in recycling infrastructure remains woefully inadequate. It took seven years after the Zero Garbage law was passed for recycling bins to begin appearing in the city, according to campaign director Soledad Sede, and the government is reluctant to invest any more money.

Few hold out hope that Argentina’s new pro-business president Mauricio Macri, until recently mayor of Buenos Aires City, will push to extend the employment of litter pickers beyond the swanky downtown districts. Even if he wished to, responsibility for waste management is devolved to municipal governments, where public funding is tighter and litter picking less lucrative.

The biggest losers

Without doubt, those outside the formalization process occupy are in the worst shape. At a conservative estimate, cartonero groups calculate that at least 15,000 people in Buenos Aires depend on litter picking for their livelihood. Only about one third of those collect a subsidy, of whom only around half receive the full 5,200 pesos ($284). The other half receive 2,700 pesos ($199) per month. To make up the shortfall, they sell their pickings privately rather than have it collected by a cooperative.

In La Cárcova, a slum in the San Martín municipality of Greater Buenos Aires, the impact of the recent changes is being felt. Bordering one of the city’s main dumps, La Cárcova is home to generations of litter pickers. According to the slum’s residents, however, collection rates have dropped considerably for those outside the formal system. Not only do registered collectors have first dibs on the recycling bins, but the new street bins for unsorted garbage are often sealed.

“There’s less for us to recycle now because Macri and his coops have it all wrapped up,” says 35-year-old La Cárcova resident Silvina, a single mother of four. “The rubbish trucks pass all the time so there’s less and less for us to take.

Her neighbour Emilze, also a mother of four, is one of the lucky ones. She recently got a job at the privately-run recycling plant at the city dump, where she gets paid 200 pesos ($14.75) per day. Her mother, aged 62, who has worked as a litter picker all her life, now receives the 2,700-peso subsidy ($199) and is bused into the centre of the city every day in government-funded transport.

Asked if any of her children will become cartoneros, she shakes her head. They are all going to complete school, she insists. It’s true that for those in the system, litter picking is better than it was, she says.

“But at the end of the day, it’s still a dirty job.”

Lack of accountability stinks

Letters to the editor, January 11, 2016

As if the report by the [1] Audit Commission [2] on the Environmental Protection Department is not embarrassing enough (“Hong Kong’s waste problem: a stinking trail of missed targets, data errors and misdirected efforts [3]”, December 1), the Legislative Council’s Public Accounts Committee’s two hearings last month on food waste reduction and recycling will enshrine the department in perpetuity in the Hall of Shame in Mismanagement.

We learned that the department handled the growing problem of food waste, which accounts for 38 per cent of municipal solid waste in Hong Kong, in a piecemeal, disjointed manner. We learned that the department has no idea on how each programme quantitatively contributes to the reduction of food waste, which has increased by 13 per cent from 3,227 tonnes per day in 2004 to 3,648 tonnes in 2013. We learned that targets are either non-existent or not met if they’d been posted. We learned that officials are not accountable for their mistake, and the same consultant who partnered with the department in the mistake continues to advise the department on a bigger project.

After spending HK$150 million and HK$50 million to reduce food waste in schools and private housing estates respectively, the department cannot explain how much food waste was reduced as a result of those programmes. The same goes for the HK$18.7 million spent during 2013 and 2015 in advertising, marketing, and education programmes to promote the department’s signature Food Wise campaign.

Only 26 out of 1,027 business entities provided data on their efforts to reduce food waste on a voluntary basis. No data was provided by the 294 schools who signed onto the Green Lunch Charter on the result of their effort.

Phase one of the Organic Waste Treatment Facilities that was priced at HK$489 million in 2010, with the help of a consultant company which earned HK$8.8 million for its advice, turned out to cost HK$1.53 billion. The Audit Commission pointed out that essential components were underestimated in the initial estimate.

Despite clear evidence in the commission’s report showing mistake in professional judgment, Mr Elvis Au, assistant director of the department, insisted that rising cost and lack of reference price of the facilities were the causes of the cost overrun. Mr Au and the same consulting company have since moved on to manage one of the most expensive project in the department’s history – building an incinerator at Shek Kwu Chau.

Is there accountability in Hong Kong?

Tom Yam, Lantau

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/1899934/letters-editor-january-11-2016

See the ‘real’ landfill life numbers if we remove the food waste content

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Waste management in Hong Kong/business opportunities

CTA: The Dutch Government recognises Hong Kong ENB failures:

  • – Large quantities of waste are produced and not recycled
  • – Lacking of right incentives and regulation to reduce waste substantially
  • – Landfills will be soon exhausted
  • – Lack of space hampers extension or new landfills
  • – Insufficient infrastructure to handle waste efficiently ??
  • – Public opposition against planned incinerator, public distrust
  • – Not sufficient awareness in HK among residents and business that waste is a problem and solving it will cost money

Framework

What HK needs is a comprehensive legislation, regulation, a tax and incentive framework to tackle the waste problem comprehensively. As of yet there are some voluntary schemes which will probably be insufficient. Furthermore, on short notice, HK needs alternative disposal options for its landfills. The end goal should not be just to deal with waste, but also produce less of it at the source and make businesses and consumers active and responsible stakeholders.

CTA: It seems the Dutch were also suckered by the ENB landfill exhaustion  figures

  • – Large quantities of waste are produced and not recycled
  • – Lacking of right incentives and regulation to reduce waste substantially
  • – Landfills will be soon exhausted
  • – Lack of space hampers extension or new landfills
  • – Insufficient infrastructure to handle waste efficiently ??
  • – Public opposition against planned incinerator, public distrust
  • – Not sufficient awareness in HK among residents and business that waste is a problem and solving it will cost money

Overview and data of the market

  • – HK produces around 13500 tons of waste daily, which is mostly disposed of at landfills since there are no large-scale modern waste treatment facilities.
  • – HK’s daily generation and disposal of waste per kg/person rate is high compared to other major Asian cities such as Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei. (CTA: where they have source separation of waste and recycling legislation in place already !)
  • Projections are that the first of the three major landfills will be full in 2014/2015, and the other two by 2018. Therefore, alternatives for landfills are necessary, since HK lacks space to keep extending these on the long term.

CTA: well this borders on misconduct in public office

  1. Recycling Waste EPD figures show that only 1 percent of recycling occurs in HK, the rest of waste for recycling is exported to mainland China. There is virtually no recycling industry in HK. As the government encourages more recycling business, a high demand on advanced recycling technologies or equipment in HK exists.

EPD website states:

http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/pub_consult/landfill_backgr_r01.html

However, even if we could achieve these waste reduction targets, there would still be a significant amount of waste left that requires disposal. In the most optimistic scenario, that is, with low waste growth, waste reduction targets achieved and public filling areas continue to be available, the three landfills will be full between 2012 and 2018. On the other hand, in the worst scenario, the three landfills will be exhausted between 2005 and 2008 .

http://feedinghk.org/food-waste-stats/

hkwaste

In Hong Kong: Food accounts for a third of all solid waste in Hong Kong

  • 3,200 tonnes of food are sent to landfill every day
  • The volume of food waste has doubled in the last 5 years
  • The remaining capacities of Hong Kong’s three landfills will be exhausted in 2014, 2016 and 2018

Source: Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department (2011-2012)

http://www.epd.gov.hk/epd/english/environmentinhk/waste/waste_maincontent.html

Outlook   Last Revision Date:17 July 2015

The continued growth in wasteloads means Hong Kong is running out of landfill space far earlier than expected, and the existing landfills will be exhausted one by one by 2020 if waste levels continue to increase at current levels.

Unless solutions are identified immediately, we could face a crisis in the next decade of having nowhere to put the thousands of tonnes of waste thrown away each day.

Waste management in Hong Kong/business opportunities

Author: Netherlands Consulate General in HK

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EU Adopts Circular Economy Package, But Is It Good Enough?

http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/next_economy/hannah_furlong/eu_adopts_circular_economy_package_it_good_enough

eu-circular-package_635

Stakeholders are yet again criticizing the European Commission’s new Circular Economy Package. The original policy, released in December of last year, was denounced as insufficiently ambitious, resulting in its dismissal and a review process over the course of 2015. The Commission adopted the revised package on December 2nd, but some claim the new policy is even weaker than the original.

The rationale for circular economy legislation is clear. In the words of the European Commission’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development: “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them. The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works. By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs.”

Timmermans went on to say the new Circular Economy Package “sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation.”

Unfortunately, there has already been some debate on the validity of those claims. Charitable organization Friends of the Earth said the new Circular Economy Package “is worse than the old one,” “notably weaker than its predecessor,” and “falls short in many areas.”

The organization acknowledged the policy will be an improvement over the status quo, but notes that the target for reuse and recycling of municipal waste was reduced from 70 percent to 65 percent by 2030, and two other targets — a target to reduce food waste by 30 percent between 2017 and 2025; and a target for an overall reduction in the total amount of resources used — were removed altogether. Friends of the Earth added that the Commission did not follow through on recommendations to incorporate a plan to measure land, water, carbon, and raw material footprints.

“The Commission’s proposal is a disappointment in that it doesn’t nearly go far enough. It is now on the Parliament and Member States to ensure that high recycling targets are maintained, and that binding obligations to reduce absolute resource consumption are included in the final package,” said Samuel Lowe, Resource Use Campaigner for Friends of the Earth.

The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) also criticized the policy, suggesting it could do more for encouraging innovation in materials and waste.

“Just increasing the individual recycling targets for key materials like paper, plastics and aluminum will not be sufficient to match innovation,” said Bertil Heerink, director general of ACE. “Measures must be taken that strengthen existing recycling solutions, foster innovation in new recyclable materials and recycling techniques, resulting in a further increase in recycling of beverage cartons across Europe.”

The EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy targets are:

A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030;
A common EU target for recycling 75% of packaging waste by 2030;
A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030;
A ban on landfilling of separately collected waste;
Promotion of economic instruments to discourage landfilling;
Simplified and improved definitions and harmonised calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU;
Concrete measures to promote re-use and stimulate industrial symbiosis – turning one industry’s by-product into another industry’s raw material; and
Economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes (e.g. for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment, vehicles).
Several proposed directives on waste and fact sheets were also released. The European Commission expects the proposals to create energy bill savings of €465 per year per household by 2020, and over 170,000 jobs by 2035 through waste management efforts. Over 500 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions reductions are expected between 2015 and 2035.

The circular economy action plan will be funded by over €650 million from the Horizon 2020 EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management, and investments in the circular economy at the national level.