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September 26th, 2013:

towards Zero Waste – the town of Capannori Italy

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The story of Capannori – A Zero Waste champion

A message from Zero Waste Europe’s Rossano Ercolini

Dear All, thanks for your wonderful work in name of all my Capannori Municipality!

We are honoured to be treated as flagship of ZW in Europe. We know that in Italy (where you can find the worst but also the best) there are many municipalities reaching over 80% of source separation rate maybe better than in Capannori, my municipality. But our history is a different history from Veneto region (where in many big towns are reaching over 75% of source separation rate) or in the south (where Salerno is reaching over 70%) because here all started with an incineration proposal from Tuscany region government and where all finished with the defeat of all incinerators (including existing ones) and with the first Italian municipality adopting a ZW goal at formal level (by deliberation, the same of local low). Now about 200 municipalities are ZW municipalities involving 4,500,000 inhabitants and many others are ready to come.

Capannori was also the first municipality promoting a ZW Research Center studying residuals promoting and involving Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Just yesterday Arte’ TV from France (but broadcasting in double languages: French and Dutch) was in Capannori for film shots about our ZW Research Center. We are sure that ZWE will be able to involve many European towns in best practice. We know that in addition to Capannori and Italy there are excellent ZW experiences in the Basque country, in Catalunia, in Wales  and in Coventry area and in East Europe where in many countries young ZW movements are started as well as in Romania, in Baltic countries and in other countries.

So I would like to thanks so much Joan Marc Simon because with him since 2006 we had a very tight relationship meanwhile Naples trash crisis was at its maximum level and meanwhile we launched in a strong way with Paul Connett and Gaia International a ZW campaign. Thanks JM and Aimee for your work again from Ambiente Futuro activists and from all my Lucca incinerator-free community. We are available to support every other community in the world fighting incineration and aiming for ZW goals remembering that ZW is not only about waste but also about democracy, justice, solidarity  and for a better world. Hugs to everybody!


Posted on 16 hours ago

Nowhere is the phrase “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” truer than in the small town of Capannori, Italy, where a small but determined movement to stop the construction of […]


Capannori logoNowhere is the phrase “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow” truer than in the small town of Capannori, Italy, where a small but determined movement to stop the construction of an incinerator led to an Italy-wide grassroots Zero Waste movement. The area has one of the highest municipal recycling rates in Europe and is an example of strong policy decisions and community participation achieving groundbreaking results.

Battle of the Burners

Capannori, a town of 46,700 inhabitants near Lucca in Tuscany, was set to be just  another step  in the  relentless  march  of waste  incineration in Italy. The northern European model of burning waste to avoid the environmental and social problems associated with landfill and to produce energy was gaining traction in Italy, a country beset with a dramatic and urgent waste management problem. Local medical organisations and even environmental NGOs put up little resistance, seeing incineration as the least-bad solution to a seemingly impossible dilemma. Business interests and pressure from northern Europe contributed to a rush to incineration that seemed unstoppable.

Those who should have mounted the most strenuous defence against the encroachment of incinerators were lacking. The public debate did not discuss the fact that incineration encourages waste generation, competes with recycling, aggravates the sustainability challenge, sparks corruption and releases toxic emissions while capturing just a tiny bit of the energy stored in waste.

Communities such as Capannori were left to fight the construction of incinerators on their own. In 1997 primary schoolteacher Rossano Ercolini recognised the potentially damaging effects the planned local incinerator would have on the health of residents and on the surrounding landscape. With the help of Dr Paul Connett, a world expert on incineration and Zero Waste, he set about convincing local residents of the potential danger of erecting an incinerator in their community. The movement was successful in blocking construction and soon spread to three other communities threatened with incineration in the region.

What’s the alternative?

Tasked with implementing an alternative to incineration, Ercolini decided that the only approach was that of waste reduction. He took over the running of the local waste collection corporation, ASCIT, to create a door-to-door waste collection pilot scheme. After a year he stepped down from his role and went back to campaigning against incineration around Italy. Ercolini managed to persuade the town council of Capannori to be the first in Europe to sign up to the Zero Waste Strategy in 2007, committing to sending zero waste to landfill by 2020.

Door-to-door collection was introduced in stages across the municipality between 2005 and 2010, starting with small villages, where any mistakes could be identified and corrected early on, then extended to cover the entire municipal area in 2010. By that time, 82% of municipal waste was separated at source, leaving just 18% of residual waste to go to landfill. In 2012 a number of villages in the municipality became subject to a new ‘Pay As You Throw’ waste tariff, where the frequency of collection per household is measured using microchips in stickers on residual waste bags, scanned by a reader on the collection vehicle. In those areas the new tariff incentivized better separation and prevention, driving local source separation rates up to 90%.

graph capannori

Transparency and consultation

Local politicians recognize that the key to their success with the door-to-door collection scheme and other zero waste measures was the early and active consultation of residents. Meetings were held in public places to gather input and ideas and involve the local population in the Zero Waste Strategy.  Printed information was sent to every address. A few weeks before door-to-door collection was introduced in a given area, volunteers distributed free waste separation kits to all homes, including the various bins and bags required and further printed information. Volunteers were trained to answer residents’ questions about the new scheme, all of which meant that participation was smooth, immediate and effective.

A study carried out by La Sapienza University in Rome, comparing door-to-door collection in three communities in Italy (Capannori, Rome, Salerno) found that in Capannori participation (99% of inhabitants sort waste) and satisfaction (94%) were higher than in the other two communities. This correlates to the high percentage of Capannori residents who received literature about the changes (98.6%), attended meetings about changes in collection (46%) and know where to go to ask for information about waste collection (91%).

Economically viable solution

separate collectionThe savings from no longer sending most waste to expensive landfill sites, and earnings from the sale of materials to recycling plants mean the scheme is economically self-sufficient, even saving the council over €2m in 2009. These savings are ploughed back into investments in waste reduction infrastructure, and reducing fixed waste tariffs for residents by 20%. It has also funded the recruitment of 50 ASCIT employees, boosting employment in the region.


One of the most successful elements of the new collection system has been the diversion of the organic waste stream. Not only does ASCIT carry out frequent door-to-door collection of organic waste, which is sent to a composting plant in the province, in 2010 public canteens in Capannori were supplied with Joraform composting machines. In the future these local collective composting machines could be extended to cover groups of residents, which can help to reduce the cost of collecting, transporting and treating organic waste by between 30 and 70%.

Residents have been encouraged to take up home composting, with 2,200 households picking up free composters and receiving training on composting techniques. Those households that home compost are given a 10% discount on their waste tariff as an incentive, and spot checks have shown that 96% of households are still using their composters correctly. A biogas plant for the area is in the planning and consultation stage.

Designing waste out of the system

Centro Ricerca RZIn 2010 Capannori set up the first Zero Waste Research Centre in Europe, where waste experts identify what is still being thrown in the grey residual waste bags and come up  with  solutions  to  get that 18% figure down even further. Finding that items such as coffee capsules were among the most commonly discarded items, the Research Centre held meetings with coffee manufacturers such as Nespresso and Illy to work on biodegradable or recyclable alternatives.

The high volume of disposable nappies in residual waste led the municipality to offer subsidized washable nappies to local parents. Taking a collaborative rather than combative approach has meant that manufacturers have responded positively, with coffee manufacturers initiating research into alternatives to capsules.

One man’s trash is another’s treasure

Not only has work been done to improve recycling rates – emphasis has also been placed on reuse. The municipality opened its own Reuse Centre in the village of Lammari in 2011, where items such as clothes, footwear, toys, electrical appliances and furniture that are no longer needed but still in good condition can be repaired where necessary and sold to those in need, thereby diverting them from landfill and serving a vital social function. The centre is steadily expanding its activity- in 2012, 93 tonnes of objects were dropped at the centre and in 2013 those figures look set to rise.

According to Rossano Ercolini, “The record figures from the Lammari ‘Ecology Island’ (drop-off point for bulky waste and reusable items, ed.) show that our culture is changing, partly due to the municipality’s policies. Whereas before people threw everything away, now they realize that recovering things not only benefits the environment, but also those who can buy them at affordable prices”.

The centre also provides training in upcycling skills such as sewing, upholstery and woodwork, so as to spread the values and practice of reuse as far as possible.

Waste prevention pioneers

children plastic free schoolWhere Capannori is truly leading the field is in the area of waste prevention – between 2004 and 2012 the overall volume of waste generated per person dropped by 39% (from 1,92kg to 1,18 kg/person/year) and it is foreseen that it will continue to go down thanks to the extension of pay-as-you-throw scheme to all the municipality. More impressively, the rate of unseparated –or residual- waste per capita was reduced from 340 kg per year in 2006 to 146 kg in 2011, a drop of 57%. Compare this to the figures for Denmark, 409 kg unseparated waste per capita per year (2011), and you can appreciate the scale of the achievement.

This means that beyond just boosting recycling rates, local policymakers have looked at ways to reduce waste generation at source. As part of their Zero Waste Strategy, they have identified 11 areas for action. Perhaps the most visible of these is the sale of products loose or on tap – the municipal council provided tax incentives to local small businesses to stock products that could be refilled with customers’ own containers, such as liquid detergents. A grocery shop, Effecorta sprang up in Capannori in 2009 selling over 250 locally sourced food and drink products in bulk. Local residents can buy pasta, wine, oil and many other necessities without having to throw away any packaging.

The Short Chain – a boon for local agriculture

bulk detergent

Two self-service refill stations for milk were opened, introducing a model of food distribution called ‘the short chain’ – the stations are supplied directly by a local farmers’ cooperative and consumers buy without the intermediary of a packaging plant or retailer, so that they pay lower prices and farmers make more on each litre. It has been enormously successful, with 200L a day sold through the stations and 91% of customers refilling their own containers, thereby cutting about 90,000 bottles out of the waste system.

Other initiatives have included a campaign to increase consumption of tap water rather than bottled (Italians are Europe’s biggest consumers of bottled mineral water), doing away with disposable cutlery and flatware in public buildings including schools, distributing cloth shopping bags to all 17,800 households and 5,000 to businesses and stocking reusable nappies and sanitary products in municipal pharmacies. All of these initiatives are a result of proactive political nudges in the right direction, leading to residents becoming aware of and able to implement virtuous consumption habits.

effecorta shop

A flagship community

Taking a proactive, holistic approach and involving residents in all stages of policy development are the key elements that have led Capannori to top the European waste prevention leagues and, through its position as the Zero Waste Network’s Flagship Municipality, inspire other communities to aim higher than just fulfilling recycling targets. Its committed, visionary leaders have seen opportunities rather than problems, and through transparent engagement with the population have made this the achievement of an entire community.

Today 100s of European municipalities follow the example of Capannori and Rossano Ercolini has been recognised for his efforts with the prestigious Goldman Prize Award 2013.

Download the case study in PDF here.

Case study written by Aimee Van Vliet for GAIA


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Tseung Kwan O residents sign up for pilot scheme to cut food waste

South China Morning Post

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Home > Tseung Kwan O residents sign up for pilot scheme to cut food waste

Tseung Kwan O residents sign up for pilot scheme to cut food waste

Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Ernest Kao

Pilot programme at a Tseung Kwan O estate sees old vegetable peelings turned into fish feed

Households at a Tseung Kwan O estate have embarked on a two-month mission to help slash one of the biggest contributors to the city’s overflowing landfills – food.

They have signed up to a pilot scheme under which 100-150kg of waste is being sent each day to be made into fish feed.

Mak Chun-keung, chairman of the owners’ committee at the private Oscar by the Sea, said the scheme not only helped the environment but could also serve as a model for estates to reduce disposal costs if the government imposed a solid-waste charge.

Of the 9,000 tonnes of solid waste discarded at each of the city’s three landfills each day, about 40 per cent is food.

“I support a pay-as-you-throw scheme,” Mak said. “I don’t think it’s an issue of persuading people to co-operate, it’s about whether they are willing to take up the social responsibility as Hong Kong citizens.”

The 200 households in the Tseung Kwan O scheme have been issued with one-litre cartons capable of storing 1.5kg of solid-food waste including vegetable ends, expired produce and even shells and bones. The cartons are emptied at a collection point in the estate’s car park where a truck arrives daily to take the waste to a processing plant run by Kowloon Biotechnology in Lau Fau Shan.

Ten tonnes of food waste can make a tonne of fish feed according to the World Green Organisation, the non-profit group that helped to roll out the scheme.

To provide an extra incentive for participating households, each carton of waste earns stamps that can be exchanged for supermarket coupons.

Mak said many residents had been taking their food waste to the collection point voluntarily. “It’s a very meaningful cause,” he said.

WGO policy advocacy manager Angus Wong said logistics constraints and costs limited the programme to 200 of the estate’s 1,900 households. The scheme cost “about HK$100,000”.

Launched in July, the scheme ends next month.

But Mak hopes the government will help other estates to launch similar programmes in the future.

For large middle-class housing estates, the costs of waste disposal could be absorbed easily. But poorer residents such as Mrs Leung, tenant of a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po, said a waste charge would be yet another increase in their daily expenses.

“Vegetables are already so expensive now. A new waste charge would definitely be a burden for us but if it is for the environment, then I would have to just support it,” she said.


Debate begins on waste levy options

South China Morning Post

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Home > Debate begins on waste levy options

Debate begins on waste levy options

Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Imposing a fee on the building would be easier and more efficient, say firms. But green groups say charging individuals would be much fairer

A waste levy model that charges a whole building would be more efficient than one that charged individuals, property management firms believe. groups, however, say charging individual households would be both fairer and greener.

Charging by building – whether by weight or volume – would be “simpler, efficient” and would cause “relatively fewer disputes”, according to Yeung Man-kai, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Association of Property Management Companies.

But Miranda Yip Pui-wah, assistant environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said her group would not support charging by building.

“An equally shared fee to each building occupier might be easier to implement but it would fail in helping reduce waste,” she said.

They were commenting on options laid out in the consultation paper on household waste charging launched by the Council for Sustainable Development yesterday.

Yeung said the building-charge option would have no financial impact on management companies because the whole charge would be passed on to owners.

Under that model, the management company would collect waste and pay the charge to the government, then collect the fee from the households – probably on an equal-share basis.

It would avoid the problem of fly-tipping by households wanting to avoid buying prepaid rubbish bags under an individual charging system.

“We might need to employ more people to patrol to prevent people from throwing out their waste not wrapped in prepaid bags,” he said.

“And if they did, it would still be the property owners who paid for the clean-up.”

He acknowledged, however, that an equal-share system might not be conducive to waste reduction and recycling. “Some owners might complain they are paying the same fee as others who might throw out much more trash than them,” he said.

To address that, Yeung supported the idea of offering incentives to the building owners if they could make a significant reduction in waste.

The World Green Organisation said it favoured charging by household by volume as it was fairer, albeit more complicated, than other models.

According to the consultation paper, about 94 per cent of the city’s 2.3 million households are served by management firms.

The remaining 6 per cent – many of them single or tenement buildings in old districts – might have to employ other means to pay for the waste they dumped, it said.

Lawmaker Frederick Fung Kin-kee said that many buildings in Sham Shui Po did not have property management firms or even owners’ corporations, which would cause great difficulties in collecting the fees.

He said many buildings did not have an incorporated office and it would be difficult for them to distribute designated rubbish bags to the tenants.

“I don’t believe it is time to implement waste charging as it amounts to asking people to pay to dump their waste in landfills. There are other alternatives like recycling,” he said.

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Families could pay HK$74 a month to dump waste, says consultation paper

South China Morning Post

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Home > Families could pay HK$74 a month to dump waste, says consultation paper

Families could pay HK$74 a month to dump waste, says consultation paper

Thursday, 26 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

Consultation considers fees to cut waste and encourage recycling as city drowns in garbage

A family of three could face a waste-disposal charge of HK$30 to HK$74 a month under proposals put forward for public consultation yesterday. Council for Sustainable Development launched the four-month exercise to tackle a mounting rubbish crisis and shrinking landfills.

The consultation asks the public at what level charges should be set to encourage people to cut waste and recycle.

It comes after lawmakers blocked a plan to extend three landfills and the government faces challenges building a HK$15 billion incinerator.

A consultation has found most people support a charge.

The proposed charges are based on the 50 cents per kg used in Taipei. Households might be offered a waiver if they cut their waste below a certain benchmark.

Various charging models are proposed. One is to make households buy pre-paid rubbish bags that would be disposed of at a designated place and time.

Another model is to collect fees from buildings by weight or volume. Property management firms would collect the waste and hand the money to the government. The fee would be shared by occupants.

For buildings that lack management, people might be required to dump waste in pre-paid bags or weigh and pay for waste at refuse collection points.

Professor Nora Tam Fung-yee, the council’s waste charging support group convenor, said Hong Kong could not copy cities like Taipei or Seoul.

“We need to find a model that suits the Hong Kong way and characteristics,” she said. No single model would satisfy everyone and she expected people might opt for different models to suit their needs.

Council chairman Bernard Chan said: “How much do we have to charge? I don’t know. Our primary aim is to change people’s behaviour and we don’t have a pre-set stance.”

He hoped the details would be ready by the end of next year as environment chief Wong Kam-sing has vowed to introduce charging by 2016.

Chan said the city’s waste had grown 80 per cent in three decades, while the population had increased just 36 per cent.