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Waste Management

Danish surplus-food stores show way for Hong Kong to cut food waste

Wasteful Hong Kong, which consigns more than 25,000 tonnes of food to landfills every week, could learn a lesson from Denmark, where a supermarket selling surplus food has been so popular it recently opened a second store.

After launching in Copenhagen’s gritty inner city district of Amager earlier this year, the Wefood project this month attracted long queues as it opened a second branch in Norrebro, a trendy neighbourhood popular with left-leaning academics and immigrants.

Hipsters rubbed shoulders with working-class mums as a cooking school founded by Claus Meyer – a co-founder of Copenhagen’s celebrated Noma restaurant – handed out cauliflower soup and bread made from surplus ingredients.

“It’s awesome that instead of throwing things out they are choosing to sell it for money. You support a good cause,” says Signe Skovgaard Sorensen, a student, after picking up a bottle of upscale olive oil for 20 kroner (HK$22).

“Isn’t it great?” pensioner Olga Fruerlund says, holding up a jar of sweets that she planned to give to her grandchildren for Christmas. The sweets “can last for a hundred years because there is sugar in them”, she adds.

Selling expired food is legal in Denmark as long as it is clearly advertised and there is no immediate danger to consuming it. “We look, we smell, we feel the product and see if it’s still consumable,” project leader Bassel Hmeidan says.

All products are donated by producers, import and export companies and local supermarkets, and are collected by Wefood’s staff, all of whom are volunteers. The store’s profit goes to charity.

Prices are around half of what they would be elsewhere, but even its biggest fans would struggle to do their weekly shop here. The products available depend on what is available from donors, resulting in an eclectic mix that changes from day to day.

One weekday afternoon, Wefood customers were greeted by a mountain of Disney and Star Wars-branded popcorn, while the fresh fruit section had been reduced to a handful of rotting apples.

In Hong Kong, food banks solicit food past its sell-by date from supermarkets and other stores, but the response has not been encouraging.

“Managers always like to tell of how some stores used to donate until they got sued. This is particularly true since strict liability is imposed on food products,” Wendell Chan, project officer at Friends of the Earth (HK), recently wrote in the South China Morning Post.

“We estimate that businesses throw out HK$60 million worth of food yearly when almost half of low-income families lack reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food,” he wrote.

Writing ahead of World Food Day on October 16, Chan said Hong Kong throws out more than 3,600 tonnes of food as waste every day.

Food waste has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years, with initiatives ranging from a French ban last year on destroying unsold food products, to a global network of cafes serving dishes with food destined for the scrap heap.

British-based The Real Junk Food Project also opened the country’s first food waste supermarket in a warehouse near the northern city of Leeds in September. With a greater focus than its Danish peer on feeding the poor, the British project urges customers to simply “pay as they feel”.

A United Nations panel said earlier this month that supermarkets’ preference for perfect looking produce and the use of arbitrary “best before” labels cause massive food waste that, if reversed, could feed the world’s hungry.

Nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every year, more than enough to sustain the one billion people suffering from hunger globally, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Denmark has managed to reduce its food waste by 25 per cent over the past five years, partly due to the influential “Stop Wasting Food” group founded by Russian-born activist Selina Juul in 2008.

Juul grew up in the 1980s Soviet Union and says she was shocked by the amount of food being thrown away in Denmark when she moved there as a 13-year-old in 1993.

“Surplus food has become very popular,” she says of one of the measures advocated by the group: offering heavy discounts on items that are about to expire, which is now done by most Danish supermarkets.

Inspired by Juul, one of Denmark’s biggest discount chains, Rema 1000, has become an unlikely champion in the battle against food waste. Two of its main initiatives are about reducing waste after the product has been sold: the company stopped offering bulk discounts in 2008 so that single-person households would not buy more than they could eat.

Last year it reduced the size and price of some of its bread loaves for the same reason.

“The biggest problem with food waste is among the customers,” says John Wagner, the chief executive of the Danish Grocers’ Association. Regular supermarkets are becoming better at forecasting demand for different products, but they need to do more to inform their customers that a lot of food is edible beyond its expiry date.

Wefood next year plans to open in Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, but Wagner says the brand is unlikely to become a major chain.

“The problem should be solved before we get to the point where we have to give the products to a store like Wefood,” he says.

Additional reporting by Mark Sharp
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Auditor finds massive increase in illegal dumping of construction waste in Hong Kong

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling

The Environmental Protection Department lost HK$4 billion in foregone revenue over the last decade due to “significant under-recovery” of costs in providing disposal and sorting facilities for construction waste, according to the government auditor.

The department was slammed for lax enforcement over the illegal dumping of construction and demolition (C&D) waste, with the number of reported cases across the city tripling from 1,500 in 2005 to 6,500 last year.

The report from the Audit Commission came a week after the Office of the Ombudsman announced it would launch a probe [1] into the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments handling of illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

“In 2014-15, only 33 per cent, 44 per cent and 63 per cent of the costs of providing disposal services at sorting facilities, public fill banks and landfills were respectively recovered from the charges,” the auditor stressed. “From 2006-07 to 2014-15, the estimated unrecovered cost totalled HK$3.81 billion.”

The auditor stressed that charge rates under the existing scheme had not been revised or reviewed since 2006, despite nearly 10 years of repeated requests by the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau. It has only recently agreed to do so based on a “user-pay principle”.

“The lack of revisions to the charge rates in the past years to recover the costs incurred had reduced the effectiveness of the charging scheme on providing economic incentives for producers of abandoned C&D materials to reduce generation … practise waste sorting,” it said.

The Civil Engineering and Development Department (CEDD) currently charges HK$27 per tonne at public fill banks, HK$100 at sorting facilities and HK$125 at landfills.

The auditor urged the EPD to work with the CEDD to take measures to ensure fees and charges were “revised in a timely manner,” having regard to full-cost recovery principles, environmental implications and the impact on trade.

The EPD was also held to account for inadequacies in enforcing cases of illegal dumping.

It cited a trial scheme involving the installation of camera systems last year, in which 170 cases of illegal dumping of C&D materials was caught on tape. As of July 2016, the EPD had only taken prosecution action on 46 cases, the auditor said.

The slow progress was blamed on letters to vehicle owners being returned unclaimed, drivers or vehicle owners not providing details of cases and drivers claiming the dumping was carried out “under instruction”.

Both the directors of environmental protection and civil engineering and development said they agreed with the auditor’s report, pledging to strengthen actions to detect and prevent illegal dumping of waste and acknowledging that charging scheme needed to be adjusted.

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Hong Kong landfills overflow as household waste rises for fifth year running

The amount of waste dumped in the city’s overflowing landfills has risen for the fifth year in row with the bulk of it still coming from households, new data has shown.

Two-thirds, or 3.7 million tonnes, of the 5.5 million tonnes of solid waste discarded last year was comprised of municipal solid waste – rubbish generated domestically from homes, and commercial or industrial activities – most of it food, paper and plastics. The remaining 1.8 million tonnes was mainly comprised of waste from the construction sector.

The city discarded 3.57 million tonnes of municipal waste in 2014, 3.48 million tonnes in 2013, 3.4 million tonnes in 2012, 3.28 million in 2011 and 3.3 million in 2010.

Environmental authorities in 2014 implemented a blueprint to cut per capita municipal solid waste disposal by 20 per cent by 2017 and 40 per cent by 2022.

“Between 2010 and 2015, the amount increased at an average rate of 1.9 per cent per year, outpacing population growth of 0.8 per cent but slower than economic growth of 2.9 per cent,” according to a research brief by the Legislative Council secretariat.

A full set of official 2015 waste data will be released by the government before the end of the year.

Recycling rates for municipal waste dropped 23 per cent in the same period, driven by a sharp decline in plastic recycling caused by fluctuations in waste import and exports.

While household waste remained the lion’s share of the mix of municipal solid waste, the brief pointed out that this proportion was shrinking. The share from the commercial and industrial sector rose from 27 per cent in 2010 to 36 per cent last year.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, who heads environmental advocacy for The Green Earth was “not optimistic” that the government would meet either target if waste charging was not legislated soon.

“At stake will be whether or not the government can get a bills committee formed for the waste charging bill before the end of the first quarter next year,” he said. “The volume of waste disposal is still increasing and whatever they’re doing now, it’s not stopping the bleeding.”

The Environment Bureau hopes to prepare the necessary legislative proposals for the implementation within the legislative term.

It has hinted at the need to introduce mandatory source separation for food waste to ensure diversion of food waste from landfills and to maximise the recycling potential of food waste.
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Ombudsman to probe Hong Kong government’s handling of illegal waste dumping cases on private land

Watchdog seeks public views and information on government’s control over landfilling and fly-tipping activities

The Ombudsman will launch a direct investigation into possible inadequacies of the environmental protection, planning and conservation departments in handling illegal landfilling and fly-tipping cases on private land.

The self-initiated probe by the government watchdog comes amid an increased frequency of such activities in the New Territories and on Lantau Island, where loopholes in planning and waste disposal regulations often fail to curb destructive activities.

“Even though actions were taken by the departments concerned, those actions were criticised as futile and ineffective by different sectors of the community,” the office of the watchdog said on Wednesday.

Ombudsman Connie Lau Yin-hing said the three government departments fell within the ambit of the investigation and that the focus of the probe would be on powers, responsibilities, mechanisms and procedures in regard to the control of such illegal landfilling and waste dumping. This would include their enforcement action and its outcomes.

“The aim is to identify inadequacies in the current legal framework, system and enforcement regime,” Lau’s office said.

In a bid to make the investigation “more comprehensive”, the watchdog is seeking views from the public and those affected from now until December 16.

Green groups have long raised concerns about private land – often old agricultural lots near or within ecologically sensitive sites such as country parks – being filled or dumped on in what they describe as “destroy first, develop later” tactics.

A massive “waste hill” in Tin Shui Wai drew public outcry earlier this year and exposed a thicket of government red tape and entangled bureaucracy in response and enforcement.

Meanwhile, a court fight with the government continues over private land dumping in Lantau’s Pui O coastal protection area.

Roy Ng Hei-man of the Conservancy Association welcomed the Ombudsman’s initiative and urged it to pitch real policy and regulatory changes.

“It’s a systematic problem. We have long held the view that amendments are needed in the waste disposal and town planning ordinances,” Ng said. “Those involved can still take advantage of many legal loopholes.”

One example, he said, was the waste disposal ordinance, which he stressed could not regulate illegal dumping on private land even in light of the environmental impact.

Ng also questioned why the Lands Department was left out of the investigation.

The departments said they would cooperate fully when the probe begins.

How many earths do we need, if the rest of the world consumed as much as Hong Kong?

Hongkongers consume so much that if everyone else in the world lived like us, we would need almost four Planet Earths to sustain us.

Hong Kong’s ecological footprint per capita, or the area required to sustain a person’s use of natural resources, has reached a historic high, according to a study by conservation body WWF, released last week. The city’s footprint is the second largest in Asia, behind Singapore, and 17thin the world.

About 3.9 earths would be needed to sustain humanity’s lifestyle if everyone consumed at the same rate as Hongkongers, the report said.


The city’s footprint grew to 6.7 global hectares (gha) per person this year from 5.4 gha in 2014, when we would have needed three Planet Earths if everyone in the world lived like Hongkongers. Global hectares measure the average productivity of land and sea areas.

Worldwide, the average footprint per capita is 2.8 gha and we would need 1.6 earths to support this rate, the study showed.

Allen To Wai-lun, assistant manager of WWF-Hong Kong’s Footprint Programme, said although there were minor changes to the study’s methodology, the results clearly show a trend of unsustainable consumption.

Daily consumption by individuals, households and businesses are responsible for 76 per cent of Hong Kong’s footprint – 57 per cent of which comprises consumption involving personal transport, food, clothing, electricity, gas and other fuels.

The largest portion is made up of local carbon dioxide emissions and the carbon embodied in the products we use, many of which are imported.

“We buy too much stuff. We don’t have a sense of connecting our consumption to the deteriorating environment,” To said. “Changing the lifestyles of people is not easy.

But to alleviate [this problem] we need to consume less, and consume wisely.”

According to To, the city’s growing footprint can be attributed to fast fashion trends and meat consumption. The trend of readily available clothing at cheaper prices increased our cotton consumption, causing us to use more cropland, he said.

Added to that, increased meat consumption, particularly beef, has also led to more greenhouse gas emissions and contributed to climate change. The city also imports seafood from over 170 territories worldwide, ranking second in Asia and seventh globally in terms of per capita seafood consumption.

Ng Cho-nam, associate professor of geography at the University of Hong Kong, said cities usually had lower productivity due to lack of natural resources, and a high rate of consumption. This impacts their ecological footprint. Although countries like Australia consume lots of resources, their net deficit is small because they also produce a lot, according to Ng.

“When comparing a city with a country, then the city will have a bigger deficit as cities are the biggest places for consumption,” Ng said.

“We rely heavily on consuming imported goods. We enjoy cheap stuff, and then we export the pollution. We also have a huge number of tourists, [which] are top consumers,” Ng added.

In recent years, overexploitation, pollution, habitat loss and other consequences of unsustainable consumption has led to the deterioration of wildlife, fisheries and natural environments, as well as increased carbon accumulation in the atmosphere, WWF said.

Global wildlife populations could decline by more than two-thirds by 2020 compared to 1970 levels, WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016 showed. Between 1970 and 2012, populations of fish, mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians decreased by 58 per cent.

Local wildlife populations have also deteriorated. Numbers of the Hong Kong grouper have declined by 63 per cent in two decades, and the fish is now an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List – an inventory of the conservation status of species. Another fish, the golden threadfin bream, has decreased by 30 per cent in 10 years, while the three-striped box turtle is now critically endangered.

“Hong Kong certainly plays a role in wildlife trading through legal and illegal means [through the] consumption of shark fins, some coral reef fish, pets, reptiles, corals and more,” Ng said. “There are lots of wild birds being traded in Hong Kong, as well as animals whose body parts are used for traditional Chinese medicine like tigers and rhinos.”

In February, the Consumer Council released a report showing that 75 per cent of Hongkongers are prepared to pay more for sustainable products. But the government had yet to take adequate action, activist groups said. Now, the city’s Council for Sustainable Development is also conducting a public consultation that ends on November 15, seeking views on how to make our consumption more sustainable.

According to Ng, since the government is one of Hong Kong’s biggest consumers, it should include more products such as building materials under its green purchasing policy, to ensure that it takes the lead in sustainable consumption. More stringent labelling systems for green products would also allow consumers to make informed decisions, he added.

Allen To from WWF-Hong Kong said the government should provide incentives for consumers and businesses to trade and consume in a more sustainable manner. The city could take up green credit systems that are now being used in countries like South Korea, where consumers can receive points and other rewards when buying green products. They can then use the rewards to purchase other sustainable items or take public transport, he said.

Edwin Lau Che-fung, executive director of eco-friendly charity Green Earth, echoed the sentiments and urged the government to implement legislation to increase sustainability and reduce waste levels – such as more producer responsibility schemes requiring manufacturers, distributors and retailers to share the duty of collecting, recycling, treating and disposing products.

“There is still a lot of room for our government to take aggressive action towards lowering the ecological footprint for the whole of Hong Kong,” Lau said. “We are currently using the resources that we are borrowing from our future generations.”


The ecological footprint refers to the total area required to sustain a person or community’s use of natural resources and shows their impact on the environment.


• Cropland for producing food and fibre, including oil crops and rubber
• Grazing land for raising livestock
• Fishing grounds for marine and inland water ecosystems to generate primary production, which supports seafood catch and aquaculture
• Forest for providing fuel wood, timber products and pulp
• Built-up land or biologically productive areas for infrastructure
• Forests as primary ecosystems for long-term storage or sequestration of carbon to slow or reverse the build-up of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere


• Daily consumption of seafood and meat
• Daily consumption of timber and paper products
• Carbon dioxide emissions including those resulting from the trade of goods

Source: WWF-Hong Kong



On average, some monitored animal species declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012 as a result of unsustainable agriculture, mining, fisheries and other human activities. The population sizes of vertebrate species dropped by more than half in just over 40 years, with an average annual decline of 2 per cent.


As of 2000, 45.8 per cent of the world’s temperate grasslands and 48.5 per cent of the world’s tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forest habitats have been converted for human use.


Freshwater habitats have been damaged by pollution, dams, invasive aquatic species and unsustainable water extractions. Freshwater accounts for only 0.01 per cent of the world’s water, but it is home to nearly 10 per cent of the world’s known species.


Between 1970 and 2012, marine life experienced an overall decline of 36 per cent. Overfishing is the most common threat to fish populations, and 31 per cent of global fish stocks are overfished.


Three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs are now threatened and facing large-scale extinction as a result of mass bleaching and acidification. Although reefs cover less than 0.1 per cent of the ocean, they support over 25 per cent of all marine fish species. Threats to reefs include greenhouse gases, pollution, overfishing and coastal development.


Changes in temperature can confound signals for seasonal events such as reproduction and migration, causing them to occur at the wrong time. Some species will also have to adapt by shifting their migration range in search of suitable climate.

Source: Living Planet Report 2016 by WWF-Hong Kong in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and Global Footprint Network

Grand Hyatt Singapore’s effort in reducing waste production in Singapore

Grand Hyatt Singapore implements organic food waste management system, reducing waste production of the hotel and converts the waste into useable fertiliser.

The hotel received a grant of S$250,000 through the 3R (Reduce, Reuse & Recycle) Fund for the installation and implementation of the system. The grant is calculated based on key outcomes such as the actual quantity of waste reduced or recycled.

The 3R Fund, created by the National Environmental Agency, is a co-funding scheme to encourage organisations to undertake waste minimisation and recycling projects.

This new organic food waste management system touches on the first and the third of the three focus points in Hyatt’s 2020 sustainability plans.

The installation and implementation system uses two individual systems that operate in sequence:

• an integrated food waste disposal system which extracts water, grinds and compacts food waste from the restaurants and event kitchens
• a ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ which then converts compacted food waste into pathogen-free organic fertiliser.

The ‘Rapid Thermophilic Digestion System’ subsequently recycles the compacted food waste into organic fertiliser and this will be used only for the hotel’s landscaping purposes.

This innovative system enables the hotel to keep 100% of its organic food waste out of the city’s landfills – drastically reducing the property’s overall waste production and will be good for environment of the city.

The hotel said that this will also boost productivity and hygiene levels, as food waste will be transferred into the integrated in-feed stations located at various dishwashing and food preparation areas, and transported via the vacuum system into the centralised grinder and dewatering unit.

As a result, manpower is no longer required to physically move food waste into the waste compacters. About 55,000 trash bags will be saved each year, and this further contributes to the green efforts of this project which has an estimated payback period of less than 3 years.

This new waste recycling infrastructure saves Grand Hyatt Singapore approximately S$100,000 a year in food waste haulage fees and operational expenses. By eliminating the need for food waste haulage, the hotel will further reduce its carbon footprint.

Spearheaded by Executive Chef Lucas Glanville, this milestone achievement would also not have been possible without the dedication of Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Business Analyst Darrell Tan, Director of Engineering Ivan Leong, Stewarding Manager Vijay Sivarajah and the secretarial support of Anita Lukman.

Food waste is created in Singapore every single day from our food cycle – production, distribution, retail to consumption – and the wastage is huge and still looming to become a problem for the country.

According to the National Environment Agency, Singapore wasted approximately 790,000 tonnes of food in 2014 and it’s still looming to become a problem to the country.

Typically, food waste would go to a landfill where it would decompose, or it would go to an incinerator.

“The issue with landfills obviously is the emissions of landfill gas, which is basically methane. This is a very bad greenhouse gas – it is 23 times worse than carbon dioxide,” said Mr Edwin Khew, chairman of the Association of Sustainable Energy (SEAS)

At the present, burning food waste is Singapore’s primary method of waste disposal which uses enormous amounts of energy to do.

Singapore has only one landfill left – Semakau Landfill – and it is expected to run out of space if habits do not change.

It has been reported that Singapore’s landfill will run out of space between 2035 and 2045, if the nation continues to dispose of more than three million tonnes of rubbish a year.

The Curse of Sachets in Asia: why western companies should be held accountable

Written by Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Delphine Lévi Alvarès after experiencing the incredible amount of plastic waste on beaches in the Philippines.

On the morning of Saturday 16th of July some of Zero Waste Europe’s staff took part in their first Philippines beach cleanup. It was only 8am, and a swarm of volunteers were already in action on Freedom Island’s beach, armed with bags and gloves to clear the sand from layers and layers of garbage carried downstream into the Manila bay from all the small canals and rivers crossing the megalopolis.

Our first impression when we arrived at the beach was shocking. It was almost uniformly covered by little used sachets of shampoo, detergent, and instant coffee… an ocean of colours and brands among which many were recognised by the sharp eye of a western consumer. Nescafé, Maggi, Ariel, Palmolive, Colgate, Head & Shoulders, Mentos and many others, directly coming for the marketing brains of American and European multinationals such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.

Why such a flow of single use sachets in this region of the world, to package the same products that we have in bigger containers in Europe and the US, and how do they end up in the rivers and the ocean? Speaking with our colleagues from South East Asia, we understood that behind the false affordability (the so-called ‘pro-poor’) argument made by the companies manufacturing these products (i.e. that for people with low income it is cheaper to buy these products on a daily basis than buying larger quantities despite the fact that the total cost they will end up paying is higher) there is a more significant marketing argument. Hence the appealing colours and glossy packaging. And even if it’s not part of their strategy, the absence of sound waste collection and management systems in most of the places where people use these sachets leads to massive littering both on land and in waterways increasing their brand’s visibility even more than the market stalls.

Yet the solutions to replace these sachets exist and many Zero Waste groups have been promoting them in front of these brand’s corporate leaders. In low-income areas they should be replaced by dispensers from which people could get one pump of their required product (oil, shampoo, detergent, etc.) in small returnable and reusable containers. It would be even cheaper to buy on a daily basis, because a large part of the product’s price is in the cost of the packaging itself. Improving the waste management systems in these areas is of course of high priority, but in regardless case it’s better to prevent than manage waste, and even more so because these sachets, made of multilayered material, are not recyclable.

The response of the brands to this proposal has been a resounding ”no”.

It is necessary for the producers to take responsibility for the products they put in the market and if they are sold in places where the means to manage this waste are not available they should -at the very least- shoulder the costs of collecting and treating this waste. If they do it in Europe, why can’t they do it in Asia?

Zero Waste strategy takes form in Barcelona

On the July 14th, civil society organisations, schools, companies in the waste sector and public institutions met to initiate a ‘Strategy for Barcelona to go towards Zero Waste’. The main challenges of waste management in Barcelona were presented as starting point.

The Fundació per a la Preveció de Residus i Consum, a Zero Waste Europe member, participates actively in the design of the new strategy.

Food bridge (against food waste)

The Food Bridge project promoted by the Fundació per a la Prevenció de Residus and the Fundació Banc de Recursos intends to make an impact on food waste reduction through a campaign based on solidarity and the re-use of natural resources. This project is addressed to catering companies, restaurants and food distribution companies willing to reduce food wastage at their shops or restaurant and donate the excess food to social entities.

In a year, the project has managed to re-use 1722 meals of cooked food and 656kg of fresh food that would have been otherwise wasted.

The Zero Waste Festival, the place to be for zero waste advocates

Zero Waste Europe Policy Officer, Ferran Rosa covers his experience of the Zero Waste Festival in Paris.

From 30th June to 2nd July the first Zero Waste Festival took place in Paris. Organised by Zero Waste France, the festival brought 5,000 participants together in a unique event where policy-makers, entrepreneurs, innovators, waste managers, individuals living a zero waste lifestyle and civil society organisations shared a forum.

The Festival successfully managed to provide a holistic vision around waste, from management and institutional solutions, to consumption patterns and sustainable lifestyles. More than a congress on zero waste, it was truly a Festival, with workshops, conferences, debates, seminars and lots of space to discuss and learn from different experiences, all accompanied with an excellent atmosphere of good music and veggie food.

Zero Waste France was made the case for the need to transition towards Zero Waste from many different angles including: individual consumption and waste generation patterns, municipal waste management, requirements for design, industrial responsibility, and more. In this regards, a wide range of solutions enabling a phase out of the take-make-dispose model were presented, from collective action (Capannori, Parma or San Francisco) to individual engagement to transition (Roubaix, Bea Johnson or Famille Zero Déchet).

Among these solutions, Zero Waste Europe launched its latest campaign, the People’s Design Lab, a collaborative tool allowing citizens to nominate wasteful products that will eventually be, redesigned in design workshops partnering with consumers, producers and designers. On top of that, Zero Waste Europe presented the network of Zero Waste municipalities and the importance of building a network of change-makers at the European level so that municipalities can learn from each other.

The attendance of 5,000 people at the Festival is testament to the success of Zero Waste France’s initiative and that there are plenty of people willing to make the transition happen in France and abroad, and that this number is indeed growing. The Festival didn’t only inspire individuals to finally live a zero waste lifestyle, but also local councillors to re-think their waste management systems and individuals to create a local Zero Waste groups.

Youth group highlight waste at the climate talks: the YOUNGO Zero Waste Working Group

This blog is a guest post from the Zero Waste Working Group within the YOUNGO (the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC). They were present in Paris during the COP21 Climate Negotiations and have committed to advocating for zero waste as a climate change solution. You can get in touch with them by contacting Zero Waste Europe, or through their Facebook group.

It is argued that the “Waste” sector accounts only for a limited part of the GHG (greenhouse gases) emissions on a global level, yet it can be easily verified that the potential contribution of waste prevention and management to climate change mitigation could be much more remarkable than initially expected. In addition, considering the principles of circular economy, it is clear that resources should be continually cycling through the system, allowing us to build an exit strategy from landfills and incineration. In the light of these conclusions, a group of committed young people decided to be the voice of the Zero Waste movement at the UNFCCC climate talks by creating a Zero Waste Working Group within YOUNGO, the Youth NGO constituency under the UNFCCC, which includes youth organisations acting on climate from all over the world.

The YOUNGO Zero Waste working group was born at COP21 in Paris, and it is composed of young people living in three continents (Europe, America, Oceania) who share the same drive for spreading the good practices for a zero waste world. The purpose of our group is to create a global network of young people who believe that Zero Waste is not only possible, but necessary. Therefore, we are looking to spread this message and simultaneously working on projects, policy and research that lead us towards a Zero Waste planet. Furthermore, we want to act as a platform where young people can share knowledge and expertise on the connection between climate change and waste management and how it can be used as a mitigation tool in accordance with the outcome of the Paris Agreement.

Before the COP21, the vast majority of Parties had sent their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to the UNFCCC Secretariat. INDCs include the mitigation efforts which countries want to focus on in order to decrease their GHG emissions. As a first step, we drafted a policy statement to be handed over to Delegates. It summarises our policy recommendations:

Include waste management as an integral part of climate mitigation policy
Waste policies should manage waste in the higher tiers of the waste management hierarchy (i.e. recycling or above)
Discontinue support for all forms of “renewable” energy generated from residual waste
Implement circular economy and product stewardship incentives
Recognize the numerous and significant co-benefits of a zero waste policy

In fact, our work is mainly focused on individual countries (possibly through INDCs, industry and government lobbying) and Delegates. We want to highlight the positive correlation between Zero Waste and the emissions reduction through waste minimisation, making it really tangible. Currently, we are working on diverse strategies, and the support of Zero Waste Europe, as well as of GAIA, would be an asset for us. We have the potential to build up a wide youth network in all of these regards, working on actionable and unifying initiatives.

Our first next steps will be to search through INDCs for specific mentions of waste/Zero Waste as climate change mitigation tool to create a list of countries who are moving forward on this issue. Moreover, a table divided into different categories will be created (Zero Waste as most preferred – waste-to-energy/landfill as least preferred) with a sort of rank for countries. The final idea would be to approach these countries at COP22 in Marrakech (Morocco) or at intercessionals accordingly to their “performance”. Another point is the running of campaigns that may include some focus on incineration and cradle-to-cradle ideas. We will also continue to use the YOUNGO Zero Waste Facebook group to keep ourselves posted as we nail down our plans and to share information. Lastly, it is utmost important proposing to the UN to make conferences like COP zero waste – perhaps through lobbying activities with either the Secretariat or the COP22 Moroccan Presidency; it is noteworthy, however, that efforts in this direction have already been made previously for the organisation of the COP21 in Paris and at the last intersessional in Bonn which both incorporated zero waste aspects into their events (APA1/SB44).

There will be space to get in direct contact with the COY12 (Conference of Youth, 12th edition) organisers to probe their willingness in this regard, as we will be likely to attend in mid-July the Mediterranean Youth Climate Forum in Tangier, Morocco. Making the COY12 a zero waste event will give continuity to what has been done in Paris for the COY11, which was the first COY to adopt a zero waste plan, with the collaboration of Zero Waste France.

In conclusion, the Zero Waste working group is eager to increase its network within the climate and waste community, trying to create new avenues that would not have otherwise accomplished. We welcome any contribution and would be keen to set up collaborations with other associations or simply individuals who share this common cause with the same drive and motivation.

You know where to find us and we are looking forward to hearing from all of you!