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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


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:

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 .


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)

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

Download (PDF, 124KB)

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


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.

EU Circular Economy Package Arrives

After months of deliberation following the axing of the previously agreed Circular Economy Package, the European Commission adopted a new package that will set a common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030.

In addition, the package see a common EU target of 75% for recycling packaging waste by 2030 and a binding target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030.

According to the Commission the package will stimulate Europe’s transition towards a circular economy which will boost global competitiveness, foster sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs. To help facilitate this transition the Commission accompanied the CE Package with its Action Plan on the Circular Economy which sets out measures to “close the loop” and tackle all phases in the lifecycle of a product, from manufacture to disposal.

The plan also includes a number of actions that the Commission said will target market barriers in specific sectors or material streams, such as plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, biomass and bio-based products, as well as horizontal measures in areas such as innovation and investment.

The Commission added that the aim of the plan is to focus on issues where EU level action brings real added value and is capable of making a difference on the ground.

Unsurprisingly for such a highly anticipated announcement, many in the industry were voice their opinion on the package, which was broadly welcomed with some reservations.

“I welcome the new proposed Directive on waste from the Commission,” ISWA president, David Newman, told WMW.

“I am very glad they have taken into account many of the comments made by ISWA in our meetings with them. In particular the need for harmonised data and reporting comes out clearly. The move towards restricting landfilling of biowaste is very important as is the overall 10% landfill target for 2030. Derogations for some member countries are common sense,” he said.

However, Newman also cautioned that the the package needed to be firmer on the collection of biowaste.

“The wording needs strengthening to ensure compliance, because ‘should’ and ‘shall’ are different concepts. It is a severe weakness of the proposal that such collection is conditioned by feasability questions as revised article 22 indicates.”

That was a view echoed by the Resource Association’s Ray Georgeson.

“Proposals on food waste and separate collection appear to be weaker than many of us had hoped for, and the introduction of TEEF as a successor (for biowaste) to TEEP may not prove to be the Commission’s finest moment,” he said.

HK’s recycling rate inflated for years

An Audit report has found that the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has over-estimated the amount of waste recycled in Hong Kong for years, which it says can drastically diminish the effectiveness of the government’s waste management program.

In a report released on Wednesday, the Audit Commission said the department’s estimate that 52 percent of the city’s garbage was recycled in 2010, was likely overstated by more than a third, because the figure included recyclables that had been imported into Hong Kong for processing and export.

The Auditor said this practice had distorted the effectiveness of the government’s efforts in waste management. It said the department should get more accurate data to better gauge its performance.

The report also criticised the EPD for taking “piecemeal actions” in the past few years to reduce the amount of food waste in the city.

The government aims to reduce food waste disposal at landfills by 40 percent by 2022. But the watchdog found that some correctional services institutions and public hospitals are generating large amounts of food waste.

The Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, acknowledged the problems and said the government will do what it takes to address the issue. For example, he said the first food waste recycling facility will be completed in 2017.

Wong added that the EPD will consider adopting a new method for estimating Hong Kong’s recycling rate.

Overflowing landfills, unwanted humans, and a new anthropology of waste

Why has the largest man-made structure on earth, until recently, been a landfill? Are waste pickers environmental heroes, or is their work first and foremost inhuman? Do we treat some humans the same way we treat waste?

Researchers from three continents met at Overheating’s recent workshop in Oslo to discuss what new insights can be gained about the state of the world by looking at what we throw away or deem superfluous. Their goal is to develop a new anthropology of waste.

“Archaeologists have always used trash to reconstruct the past, but in social and cultural anthropology, waste has not figured prominently. It is ubiquitous, growing and symbolically and materially significant, but remains an understudied subject”, saidThomas Hylland Eriksen, the director of the Overheating project.

A growing amount of waste is one of the many overheating symptoms of planet Earth. “Since 1992”, Hylland Eriksen said, “the amount of waste produced by households in Norway has doubled. Fresh Kills, a landfill in the US, was the largest man-made structure in the world when it was closed in 2001. In the Pacific, there are ‘floating islands’ of bits of plastic that cover the area of Texas”, he stressed.

“The world is too full”

“The overflowing landfills, polluted rivers, and filthy beaches may be the most visible and visceral expression of the Anthropocene—the era of total human domination on the planet. They indicate that ‘the world is too full’”, he said.

Waste, according to anthropologists, is not just made up of discarded material. Thomas Hylland Eriksen, who wrote a book on rubbish (“Søppel”, in Norwegian only) four years ago, prefers to view waste in a very broad way:

“Waste, to me, is also a huge unintentional consequence of modernity. You want information and you get confusion and distractions; you want individual freedom, and you get counterreactions like identity politics; you want affluence, and what you get is a ruined environment. So waste can, in fact, be seen as a key aspect of overheating. It also reproduces and strengthens global inequalities when the waste of the rich is dumped on the worlds of the poor.”

For him, there are also links to the current so-called refugee crisis:

“There is a logic of exclusion and expulsion to the way we handle waste, which is paralleled in the way people are being treated: redundant humans, sometimes spoken of as ‘human waste’, people who were not meant to be, who are ‘warehoused’ in refugee camps, slums or prisons, who are superfluous, poor consumers, and inefficient producers. European discourse about the current refugee crisis in the Mediterraneanhas a whiff of this attitude”, he said.

This broad perspective on waste dominated the presentations during the two-day workshop.

Humans as waste?

The issue of humans who are treated as “waste” to be ridden of was discussed by several participants.

Cathrine Thorleifsson and Ronald Stade addressed the racist way Roma migrants often have been treated in Norway and Sweden. In the eyes of the authorities, Roma are “unwanted bodies” that with their “dirty camps” “pollute our surroundings” and therefore have to be “tossed over the fence”.

The Oralman (“repatriates”) in Kazakhstan have not received a much warmer welcome, although they “share an ethnicity with the people who reject them”, explained Catherine Alexander. The Oralman left Kazakhstan as a result of Stalinist oppression, and returned in large numbers after they were welcomed back by the Kazakh government in the early 1990s. But most people there did not recognize them as “one of us”, and, instead, treated them as unwanted and odd strangers, or as elements of “excess” or “spillover”.

Many workers within today’s capitalistic system, Elisabeth Schober said, do not feel valued either. At her fieldsite, workers are treated as “disposable human material that could be hired, fired and replaced with great ease”. Schober has been on fieldwork at a shipyard in a booming area in the Philippines, where the costs of labour are among the lowest in all of Southeast Asia.

Learning from waste pickers

People who deal directly with waste are also often placed in this category. Their role in cleaning up the city is in many parts of the world disregarded. Cairo’s informal waste collectors, the Zabaleen, have been prosecuted by authorities for decades. They are seen as a major source of the city’s waste problem, rather than contributors to its solution, Jamie Furniss stressed.

Furniss is one of several anthropologists at the workshop who has been on fieldwork among waste pickers, waste collectors, and scrap workers.

Their research, among others, questioned popular images of these people, and opened the invitation for rethinking attitudes to waste and waste management.

One of the questions their research raised was: What is the meaning of waste when Cairo’s Zabaleen are able to recycle more than 80% of the material people throw away?

Are waste pickers a reliable symbol of poverty when, as Caroline Knowles learned during her fieldwork, women who collect plastic bottles on a landfill in Ethiopia earn in a day what a waitress earns in a month?

Aren’t some of the informal waste pickers and waste workers in reality entrepreneurs? Shouldn’t waste picking be called “labor”?

After his fieldwork in an Indian scrap yard, Andrew Sanchez found it necessary to rethink theories of labor. He met several scrap workers who—despite harsh conditions and the social stigma attached to it—expressed satisfaction in the work process itself. The reason for this, Sanchez suggested, is that their work is transformative. An important part of their work is to find new uses for objects whose value has expired.

The fresher the waste, the more precious it is

The situation of waste pickers and workers, of course, depends on their ethnographic context. Some are better off than others whose work can be quite dangerous.

In his fieldwork, Freek Colombijn found an interesting pattern among waste pickers in Indonesia who collect waste from door to door and sort it in temporary garbage dumps: the fresher the waste, the more precious it is; therefore, the income is higher and the people are more satisfied and wish for no other work. Conversely, the closer to the final destination (landfill) where people work, the more monotonous their work is, and people seem to work with less diligence and joy.

So, does waste actually exist? For waste pickers in poorer countries, waste is first and foremost a precious resource that can be traded in a market. From the perspective of Warao indigenous people in Venezuela, Christian Sørhaug said, garbage heaps are even regarded as sites of abundance. He compared landfills with forests: “Materials in the wastelands (bikes, cassettes with salsa music, toys for kids, metals, etc.) afford a range of possibilities, much the same way that lianas, trees, and animals in the wetlands do”, he said.

“It is not really garbage as long as it still has value,” said one of the waste pickers Elisabeth Schober met in the Philippines. In her fieldsite, the growing number of people who try to make a living from this valuable, discarded material on the landfill are often viewed as a problem. Penny Harvey observed the same tendency among planners in Peru where she studied the development of a new waste management system. Waste has been transformed, and instead of asking how to dispose of it, one now asks how to extract its monetary value.

Turning abandoned buildings into precious mines

Also in the USA, people have become more interested in transforming so-called waste into something useful. In places that struggle with depopulation, abandoned houses have been turned into “mines” for revalued building materials like wood, slate tiles, and bricks.

“This might be turned into high-end restaurant tables”, said Catherine Fennell, while she showed a picture with material that was gathered from an abandoned gym in Detroit, Michigan.

In Detroit, reclaimed materials have become ubiquitous in everything from pizzerias, and airport juice bars, to yoga studios.

“Material recovery and reuse has been prevalent throughout human history”, the anthropologist explained. “Yet as practiced in the U.S. over the past several decades, it is seen as an ecological response to the fact that construction and demolition debris makes up half of all material in U.S. landfills. This movement is closely associated with triple bottom line thinking, a business philosophy that seeks to generate social and environmental benefits alongside economic ones.”

This transformation of materials from waste to something useful—or the other way around—has been of interest to anthropologist Michael Thompson since he first wrote about it in 1969 in the magazine New Society and then ten years later in his classic, “Rubbish Theory”.

Recycling and re-evaluation

It was not only recycling that he was writing about, but re-evaluation. Objects that were considered rubbish can regain value as antiques or historic homes.

“When you recycle a building”, he explained at the workshop, “the building itself disappears. Re-evaluation is something that happens in our heads, and the building itself stays the same. It’s our attitude to the building that changes. Once we see an old decaying building as sadly neglected glorious heritage rather than as awful rat-infested slum, our behavior towards it changes.”

These attitudes to what constitutes rubbish, and what is ascribed value and what not have been changing with the times for different reasons.

Anthropologist Ola Gunhildrud Berta told about changes on the Marshall Islands after it had become part of global capitalism.

The transition from homegrown to storebased food, a process that was started by the Japanese colonial administration, led to more and different waste. “A few generations ago, most of the disposable household waste came from biodegradable materials (palm leaf plates and cutleries, coconut cups, etc.)”, he said. “Now it is mainly plastic and hermetic.”

Tommy Ose sees the large amount of food waste as a sign of households being alienated from the larger food cycle; first, by encountering it on the supermarket shelves, then discarding the residue in our bins so that other people make it disappear.

“Rather than being remembered for its potential use value as human nutrition, the necessity for life—without which there would be no life—food now often becomes a mean to other ends: a fit body; gourmet taste; or lifestyle displays of competence”, Ose said who is researching food waste in Northern Norway.

“The current around-the-clock availability of all kinds of food, regardless of seasons of the year, in seemingly endless amounts, makes us look at food in a more short-time perspective, as disposable. We value food less, more of it gets wasted as we prioritize spending our time on other things than food management and care,” the anthropologist explained.

For a new anthropology of waste

Nearly 50 years ago Mary Douglas wrote “Purity in Danger”, a book which famously defined waste as “matter out of place”. Thomas Hylland Eriksen hopes a publication that is based on the workshop presentations will be able to develop a new anthropology of waste.

“‘Purity and Danger’ was one of the most important anthropology books of the mid–20th century, but we need to graft Douglas’ perspectives on societal cohesion and the boundaries of the body onto a historical and global anthropology able to say something not only about timeless questions, but also about the rapid changes of the present world”, the anthropologist said.

“I certainly hope we can achieve this with our planned publication. The workshop was a thrilling experience for several of us, with many very powerful presentations”, he added.

Elisabeth Schober, who had the idea for this workshop, was also very happy about the outcome.

“It was a high-risk workshop. No one in Overheating is working on waste as a central theme, but we had many stories about waste and wondered how to make sense of them”, she said.

“Every anthropologist probably has some notes on waste. But unfortunately these notes are often in danger of being discarded by us. I think”, she concluded, “we should make waste one of the central issues that we study and not let it be something that we just discard.”


As it is, Hong Kong’s waste reduction plan is a waste of money

Your report, “Waste targets ‘set to be missed'” (October 31), on new data showing that more rubbish was dumped in Hong Kong’s landfills last year, came as no surprise. The latest figures from the Environmental Protection Department show per-capita waste disposed daily rose to 1.35kg last year from 1.33kg in 2013, while waste recovered remained at 37 per cent.

This is the second highest amount of waste disposed and the lowest proportion of waste recovered in the past 10 years.

This worsening trend – that is, more waste generated and less waste recovered – confirms my observation that the Environment Bureau’s target of reducing per-capita waste disposed daily by 40 per cent to 0.8kg, and increasing the waste recovery rate to 55 per cent by 2022, is pure fantasy (“Realm of fantasy”, May 19). With no mandatory separation of waste at source and no vibrant local industry making products from recyclable waste, the bureau fantasises about copying the success of South Korea and Taipei by simply imposing waste-charging. It can’t understand that it has to both decrease the waste generated (through waste-charging) and increase the waste recovered to achieve such success.

The fact is that the bureau’s every measure to increase waste recovered and recycled has had negligible effect. No trial waste-separation programme in public housing estates has ever led to city-wide implementation. The three-colour recycling bins, introduced in 1998, have never collected more than 900 tonnes of recyclable waste per year, a mere 0.02 per cent of waste generated.

Likewise, the HK$1 billion fund to support the recycling industry will not increase the waste recovered. Hong Kong’s waste recovery industry comprises small operators whose biggest costs are property rental and collecting/sorting/transporting recovered waste. Yet they can use the fund only to buy or upgrade capital equipment.

Moreover, their profitability, and hence incentive to increase waste recovery, depends on the international market price for recovered waste because 98 per cent of it is exported, mainly to mainland China. With the price of used paper falling by 20 per cent this year, and plastic and scrap metal by 50 per cent, no recycling fund will increase the amount of waste recovered.

The bureau’s efforts to recover and recycle waste are inconsequential, other than giving the impression of activity by its overpaid bureaucrats. With the unabated increase in waste generated and no increase in waste recovery, taxpayers’ money may as well be saved for the inevitable construction of a second incinerator.

Tom Yam, Mui Wo

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Recycling in Germany

CTA was in Germany last week

The local environment people actually promote recycling there unlike Hong Kong

Street level recycling containers for Green Glass and White glass are actively used and collected daily for recycling by the Administration



‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’ in action!

Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid is successfully paving the way for Zero Waste Municipalities in the area of Madrid, in Spain.

Since this summer, thanks to the progressive political turn in many municipalities in the area, the network has been able to ally with alternative political parties and pass a motion in at least 4 municipalities calling for zero waste. Moreover, the network has been able to create and develop working groups for the implementation of Zero Waste in various municipalities, as an alternative to the waste management model of municipal waste.
Pile of bottles collected for recycling plant, Netherlands

The four municipalities that have already approved the motion are Loeches, Mejorada del Campo, Torres de la Alameda and Velilla de San Antonio. All of them are small municipalities no more than 44km2 and with no more than 23,000 inhabitants. However, they have a lot of environmental problems such as plants for the treatment of sludge from toxic materials, wastewater treatment, the deposit of industrial and dangerous waste, illegal landfills, incinerators and cement kilns burning waste.

The approval of the motion brings positive news and hope to the current waste management situation in Madrid. It is a presents a step in the right direction on the way to a Zero Waste reality.

The motion in detail

The motion recognises the urgent need to stop relying on false solutions, such as landfills and incinerators. This model effects the environment and the health of the people of neighbouring and nearby municipalities. We therefore need a paradigm shift, and in the motion we ask for:

The creation of a working committee to implement a zero waste model with the participation of local political and civil society groups.

The council to be formally required to create a ‘regional waste strategy 2016-2026′ for the City of Madrid. This would replace the current and outdated strategy and set the objective of ‘Zero Waste’ waste management in our region..

An awareness raising campaign should be carried out with citizens participation, where people are informed about the current waste management practice, its impacts, the alternatives, and benefits involved such alternatives.
The municipal waste collection should be evaluated and be run by the municipality and not by external companies. This would include:

A study of current and future costs of waste management if it were to be run by the municipality should be conducted. This study should assess its viability and implementation.

A review of current waste management contracts and whether they can be modified, to allow a gradual implementation of a zero waste selective collection project.

Control and monitoring of the current waste collection to ensure that contracts are enforced, so we would able to confirm that they are not mixing municipal waste and other types of waste (packaging) etc. in its collection.

‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’

This Zero Waste Europe member is a network of neighborhood associations, environmental groups, Popular assemblies of 15M, collectives of organic gardens, organisations formed to fight facilities and harmful waste plans, “No Macro-Landfill, Yes Zero Waste” campaign, representatives of political groups and individual zero waste campaigners. Their common goal is the fight against the creation of hazardous waste, against harmful waste facilities and planned facilities primarily located in the Eastern region of Madrid.

Over the years this network has been a focal point of resistance to environmental damage in the area. It works to submit refutations to waste projects, environmental damage reports, conducting lobbying and organising trainings, rallies and demonstrations aiming to show the popular opposition against these projects.

While challenging these facilities, the network has developed, and now promotes an alternative Zero Waste policy to the current waste treatment plans. This should be implemented in all municipalities of the City of Madrid. In this way, Zero Waste Madrid also wants to reach the institutions through the current ‘popular unity’ candidates who are much more open to this project through motions in the municipalities where they are in office.

In conclusion, thanks for the wonderful work of ‘Incineradoras No, Zero Waste Madrid’, zero waste is really happening in Madrid!

Director of Audit’s letter to the President of the Legislative Council

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Report: Waste Sector GHG Emissions Significantly Underestimated

The waste sector has a key role to play in the development of a low carbon economy and the reduction of greenhouse gases, according to a report published by Zero Waste Europe today.

The report, The potential contribution of waste management to a low carbon economy, was commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+ and prepared by Eunomia Research & Consulting’s Ann Ballinger and Dominic Hogg.

It’s key finding is that the role waste prevention and improved waste management can play in reducing GHG emissions and the development of a low carbon economy has previously been significantly understated.

ZWE noted that in December, delegates from across the world will gather in Paris to negotiate a new climate agreement aimed at replacing the Kyoto Protocol. The parties to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are progressively publishing their pledges in terms of GHG reductions which are supposed to limit global warming to under 2°C.

Among the many possible climate change mitigation solutions that are emphasised, according to the report’s authors, one that is consistently underestimated is the significance of waste management strategies.

One reason for this is said to be that the ‘waste’ section of the national inventories to the UNFCCC does not take into account most of the emissions from this sector. Emissions reported under this section mainly concern methane emissions from landfills. All the emissions related to the transport of waste and incineration with energy recovery are respectively reported under the transport and energy sections.

According to Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), the report also provides an accurate examination of the true impact of waste management on climate change and carbon emissions. It confirms that actions at the top of the waste hierarchy – including waste prevention initiatives, reuse and recycling – have considerable scope to reduce climate change emissions.

It is stated in the report that: “A climate friendly strategy, as regards materials and waste, will be one in which materials are continually cycling through the economy, and where the leakage of materials into residual waste treatments is minimised”. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging can be a saving of 500 kg CO2 eq, whereas using one tonne less plastic packaging results in avoiding 6 times more emissions (3 tonnes CO2 eq).

The authors make 11 key recommendations, calling for waste policies to be redesigned in order to prioritise the higher level options of the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ (waste prevention, reuse and recycling) and immediately reallocate climate finance subsidies which are currently supporting energy generation from waste. These recommendations put a strong focus on correcting methodological issues that are currently preventing Member states and the European union from implementing waste policies that are efficient in terms of GHG emissions.

The report said that in the decarbonising economy required to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, technologies such as incineration will become less attractive options and ultimately present an obstacle to a low carbon economy.


Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s associate director:
“For far too long the climate impact of waste management has been overlooked. Now it’s clear that waste prevention, reuse and recycling are climate change solutions that need to be fully integrated into a low carbon economy. Both at the EU and international level, it is time to shift climate finance support to these climate-friendly options instead of waste incineration, which in fact contributes to climate change and displaces livelihoods of recyclers worldwide.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste France’s advocacy officer:
“With France hosting the COP21 in December, it is a real opportunity to raise decision makers’ awareness about the real impact of waste management on climate change and the extent to which Zero Waste strategies have to be put on the agenda of solutions to climate mitigation supported by the French government.”

Françoise Bonnet, Secretary general of ACR+:
“Efficiency and smart waste management is key for a low carbon economy. Still, it is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective”.

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