SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

LATEST SECTOR WATCHES

StorylineInterview

Stopping Single Use Plastic: Interview with Zero Waste Europe

23 April 2019

Plastic production is rising. With single use bans and consumer boycotts simultaneously spreading, have increased awareness and action made a dent in the industry’s activities? How can we further reduce its use and ensure replacements alternatives are indeed more sustainable? We speak to Zero Waste Europe to hear their opinion.


Reusable revolution

While affordable alternatives to plastic are vital, the priority must remain to reduce packaging overall. A long term solution is needed to determine an EU-wide target for a minimum share of reusable packaging, along with the promotion of refillable, reusable food containers. Tap water can be 900 times more eco friendly than bottled for example, as capitalised upon by Copenhagen’s multiple mapped drinking fountains.

Zero Waste Europe’s Larissa Copello cites deposit return (DRS) and reusable schemes already in place in Germany - Recup and Freiburg cup rolled out across the entire municipality to slash the 12 million empty cups wasted per year, as well as for takeaway food containers such as ReCircle Switzerland. “These are two models we like to promote. In these areas there is no single use plastic ban, only an obligation to reduce. We don’t want to see certain single use items being replaced by others. We want a system change. New alternative business models. Local reuse schemes are going to keep growing in cities.” As part of the UrbanWINS project, the city of Sabadell similarly piloted a rental scheme for tableware. The city purchased tableware for associations and civil society organisations to rent when organising events. This way, the organisations do not need to buy single use items and avoid having to invest themselves.


Alternative materials

Zero Waste Europe have advocated cardboard as well as mycelium, a mushroom-based material, for necessary packaging. Compostable options include mycofoam and mycoboard grown from agricultural waste. But what about bioplastics? Bio-based approaches are associated with complications and greenwashing, including competition of biobased feedstock with the food supply and difficulty of recycling. Composed from renewable feedstocks such as wood, straw, sugar, maize, cassava, algae or biowaste (‘biomass’ as an umbrella term), biobased and compostable materials present a “partial solution”. Used where necessary, bioplastics like PEF, a biopolymer made from plant-based sugars can have preferable properties to PET (polyester used in plastic bottles) and be recycled together with PET, depending on the recycling infrastructure. Some bioplastics can reportedly be broken down by soil particles or don’t use land or water at all. But most still need specific conditions and facilities and time to break down, further complicating recycling, and can leave behind toxic residue, for example oxo-degradable plastics.

That said, bioplastics may can be relevant for specific applications such as organic waste. A household food waste collection system using compostable bags was introduced in Milan, Italy at the same time as a plastic bag ban. This drastically decreased contamination of non-compostable materials, while organic collection rates tripled from 28 to 95 kg per person, creating more compost for farmers. Elsewhere in Italy, reusable nappies have replaced plastic ones in private and public nurseries in Bologna.

 

Alternatives to the alternatives

Economic incentives like taxing virgin plastic and plastic bag fees tackle the source of the problem, says Copello. The European Commission is creating guidance on EPR¹ (extended producer responsibility) to enable producers to produce more sustainably. “Producers should pay more if comprised of composite materials and/or added chemicals, less if fully recyclable, none if reusable.” she suggests.

Such economic instruments a) reward the uptake of recycled plastics and favour reuse and recycling over landfilling or incineration and b) step up and improve separation and collection of plastics waste. Voluntary commitments also encourage the uptake of recycled plastics, however work must be done to ensure demand meets supply, with an expected supply of over 10 million tonnes (the EC aims) exceeding 6 million tonnes in demand by 2021. Public procurement could greatly fuel this by purchasing recycled plastic goods, and encouraging supply chain/ manufacturers and the public via recycled content labels, while sharing best practises for recycling, the OECD states. Meanwhile, Britain plans to tax manufacturers producing less than 30% recycled plastic packaging. And Norway recently adopted a system in which single-use plastic bottles producers pay an “environmental levy” that declines as the return rate for their products rises. The bottles must be easily recyclable, clear or blue in colour, without toxic additives, and water-soluble labels. While well-designed deposit refund schemes (DRS) and extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies can recover the costs of waste management. However, voluntary agreements may be more effective than obligatory ecodesign regulation.


Is it enough?

Copello points out several European Commission directive objectives that have unfortunately been weakened, and deadlines postponed. For example, 90% separation of bottles was delayed from 2025 to 2029, enforcement of EPR regulation from 2021 to 2024 and labelling of environmental impact of (plastic filters in) tobacco products to 2023: “the single use plastic directive is a good first step but definitely not enough. Plastic pollution is a multi-dimensional problem. Starting with the most visible items is great… but the directive does not address the production, it addresses only some items.” “To ensure effective use of plastics, they need to be reusable. But instead of reducing, we need to stop producing…” Copello concludes.

 

1 Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products. Assigning such responsibility may provide incentives to prevent waste at the source, promote product design for the environment and support the achievement of public recycling and materials management goals. (OECD)

Report

Ban the bag: the most effective way to beat plastic pollution?

10 April 2019

The UN has labelled it among the “most effective” ways to beat pollution. Over 112 countries, states and cities worldwide have already imposed bans on various single-use plastic goods. Of these measures, 57 are national and 25 are in Africa. And they’re on the rise. Frontrunner Kenya has set the bar for drastic change after banning plastic bags. After the recent EU-wide ban on single-use items from 2021, the UN Environment Conference in March 2019 pledged a somewhat softer “significant reduction” in single-use. Much to the protests of environmental groups, given that current plastic production levels (300 million tonnes per annum) are set to double in the next 20 years, according to industry experts. Especially with oil giants like ExxonMobile and Shell investing billions in petrochemicals.

Stop sucking

With China’s refusal of waste calling overdue attention to the global glut of waste, and the collect-sort-export model no longer possible, why stop at straws and not ban single-use altogether? Moreover, how can the challenges in sourcing alternatives be addressed, and are they actually more sustainable?

Labels and loopholes

The EU recently banned the ten single-use plastics most often found on Europe's beaches and seas: cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, lightweight plastic bags, polystyrene food and drink containers, and ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic products, which will all have to be made from more sustainable materials instead. It has been argued however that their proposed definition of ‘single-use’ plastic items is too narrow, and could lead to producers easily avoiding bans by marketing disposable goods as reusable. The replacement of lightweight plastic bags with thicker ones also has its downfalls.

Benefits of the ban

UNEP estimated that good management of plastic could save consumer goods companies up to €3.5bn per year. Progressive systems designed to avoid or manage beverage packaging and take-away food, such as deposit and return systems and reusable coffee cups create more jobs than their single-use equivalents, and also incentivise alternatives.

Case study: Kenya

Local sellers have struggled due to the expense and inconvenience of using compostable bags or bowls made of renewable materials. Yet Kenya, who now imposes stiff punishments on violators, including jail time and fines of up to €34,000, “have achieved more in six months than in the previous five years,” said Samuel Matonda of the Kenyan manufacturers association, placing the country especially well to take a lead at the U.N. General Assembly in calling for talks on stemming the tide of plastic pollution.

Progress to abate the plastic plague

With the EU Plastics Strategy adopted in January 2018 a new model of the plastic supply chain system is sorely needed. And as much public consultation as possible to ensure a smooth transition through any ban to implementation, ideally aligned with international agreements.

The UrbanWINS project, a three year EU funded project, showcases how the public can be involved in these crucial decisions. The project piloted the concept of ‘Urban Agoras’, a series of physical gatherings of local citizens designed to reach a consensus on what needs to happen to fight waste. Seven European cities have developed three pilot actions each in the framework of these agoras. They are citizen driven initiatives, that support each city in reaching a circular economy.  

Banning plastic bags is a big win, but it’s just the beginning. Coming up next, we’ll take a deeper dive into feasible alternatives that will help turn off the plastic tap.

Report

Tokyo Trash Bar: designed to make people think as they drink

29 March 2019

Welcome to the Gomi-Pit bar. Based at Musashino Clean Center, a waste treatment facility located in the City of Musashino, Tokyo Metropolis (Japan), this is a place where you can taste local delicacies —  beer and cocktails made using honey-soaked mushrooms or locally harvested vegetables — while taking in the sight of waste being sorted and prepared for incineration.

Combining entertainment and education

It’s a process that resembles an elaborate dance, with cranes dumping, crushing and eventually burning trash to transform the waste into ash used for cement and tiles. Through this strange experience, the waste management facility aims to entertain, while raising awareness and creating a community around conscious consumption.   

“It’s surprising how much garbage is thrown away just in Musashino… It makes me think I need to do more to reduce trash at home” said local nursery school teacher Miki Takara.

In 2017, the Clean Center burned some 2.81 million tons of waste. Having resolved to make a dent in the amount of waste the city of Musashino produces, a large proportion of waste, with the exception of cans, glass and plastic bottles, is since collected for a fee. Like other areas of Japan, residents and firms in the city must also purchase special bags in which they dispose of garbage to have it collected.

Connecting the world to their waste

In an industry where strong NIMBYism (Not in My Back Yard) sentiment has reigned whereby waste and heavy industry have faced strong opposition in local residential areas, it is symbolic that people agreed to the Clean Center being located right in town. Due in part to its social value and transparency, in the years since its opening in 2017, some 23,000 people visited the plant, and were shocked at what they saw:

“That garbage must be piled up somewhere, which means that for them it’s a kind of negative legacy from our generation” said Ayana Seki, an official with the local environmental department.

Witnessing the intricacies of the waste separation process incites empathy: “if we throw something away mistakenly, it may not get collected,” Ryota Kishii, an employee whose business has take up strict regulation, said. “When you watch how the garbage is processed, you get a better awareness of how waste is divided up, and watching those who work there makes you realize that you cause them trouble” if you incorrectly dispose of waste.       

Scaling up

Former adviser to the Environment Ministry of Japan Suzuki said that Musashino, which has already proven successful in engaging the public about the issue of waste management, could serve as a model for other waste disposal site operators. He also emphasised the importance of reaching out to the public through more frequently visited places such as medical institutions and schools.

Musashino may be a niche example, but underlines the importance of a holistic way of thinking, honesty and transparency that call into question our legacy, educate the population and include the next generation.

See more here and here.

Report

Circular secrets from one of the world’s most sustainable cities, Copenhagen.

22 March 2019

Copenhagen plans to become the world’s first carbon neutral city by 2025. But though seen to be so "green”, as a country Denmark happens to be first in Europe for producing household waste, with an increase in municipal waste in the last decade. In the face of ever more ambitious European legislation to reduce waste, what progress has the city made?


Ambitious aims

With a purchasing power of €1.5bn each year, the city of Copenhagen is part of Danish national and European wide initiatives on Sustainable public procurement. The Danish “Forum for Sustainable Procurement” and “Partnership on Green Public Procurement” promote a circular production and consumption paradigm, aligning with the UN Global Compact, OECD guidelines and SDGs. Not least Objective 12: responsible consumption and production to achieve CO₂ neutral status by 2025, but also zero waste status by 2050. On a European scale, the city is a participant in the European Procura+ Network for Sustainable Procurement. All under the umbrella of co-creating a liveable city.


Waste as a resource

Since the 90s, the gradual development of a comprehensive Danish regulatory framework for waste handling has reframed waste to harness its potential as a resource. Increased international involvement, especially from the EU have helped achieve high recycling rates and minimise landfill, mainly by increasing separation of household organic waste, now at 72%, to be turned into biogas or fertiliser. Repair cafes and Fablabs also offer a way to reuse goods.


The building and construction industry, which makes up 35% waste overall and over one third of the city’s CO2 emissions, has some of the largest circular economy potential. Solutions include (an open platform for) reusing materials in building, recycled roofing to make roads (the “roof to road” project) and other materials recycling stations, with obligatory waste handling plans before any construction project commences. Meanwhile designing for disassembly creates highly flexible buildings that are faster to construct and optimise operation and maintenance.


Regulation and communication

The city of Copenhagen wants to put its purchasing power to good use. To encourage circular procurement, considerations of total cost of ownership including disposal and potential future use ensure more resource-efficient products and financial savings in the long run. Within regulation, including the EU directives on public procurement criteria promoting efficiency of use also exist, for instance suggesting that the procurer ask how the supplier promotes the reuse of devices (e.g. for ICT). In addition, a requirement that guidance will be given on the efficient usage and disposal of goods is suggested for many product groups. To ensure close cooperation between the person responsible for the procurement and an employee with environmental expertise during the tendering process, an environmental expert is a compulsory member of any working group in the city of Copenhagen.


Public-private Partnerships

Digitising purchasing processes and using e-commerce to improve efficiency, transparency and collaboration are key. Alongside partnerships with other municipalities, important public-private partnerships have included packaging deposit-return schemes - at Tivoli theme park - set to spread to events across the city. 30 different partnerships since 2014 have secured new data on air pollution, traffic patterns and waste, for instance. Copenhagen Solutions Lab for instance, with Cisco, is a live test area for various types of smart city solutions, serving to share data and drive further innovation.


Progress is promising. But change needs to happen fast if the city of Copenhagen wants to be not only a CO2 reduction but also a zero waste champion.

Report

Product Stewardship to rethink recycling of e-waste

14 March 2019

The United Nations have called it a tsunami. Others have highlighted its value, which exceeds the annual GDP of over 120 countries. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals were even made from it. Now at 50 million tonnes each year, left unchecked this ever growing pile of global e-waste could more than double to 120 million tonnes by 2050.


One man’s trash; another man’s treasure                   

Whilst there is great value to be obtained from e-waste, not to mention substantially lower CO2 emissions from mining raw materials/ rare minerals, currently only 20% is recycled. The cost and knowhow remain a challenge.


The solution to pollution: collaboration

A circular economy for electronics could reduce the costs for consumers by 7% by 2030 and 14% by 2040 (Ellen MacArthur). As always, collaboration is key, which is why researchers and SDU life-cycle centre in Denmark are building a knowledge platform for the circular economy and the management of end-of-life electrical and electronics products called the E-circle network. All interested parties will be able to obtain help and inspiration about recycling and reusing electronic devices, from “manufacturers’ drawings and data about the materials to companies that buy up discarded electrical goods to take them apart for recycling who could be informed what materials were valuable,” The platform will also enable designers and manufacturers to learn how they could change their designs to make them more recyclable when they no longer work.


Rethink recycling: product stewardship

In addition to shared knowledge and increased transparency, assigning responsibility to producers is key. China State Council has established the Producer Responsibility Extension System Implementation Program ("PRE Program") which sets ambitious targets including sourcing 20% of materials for new electronic products from recycled content and recycling 50% of all e-waste by 2025, moving towards a circular e-economy.

Such stewardships systems mean goods producers are given responsibility for the end life of the product. Australia, for example, currently operates under a mandatory product stewardship scheme and electronics businesses must contribute to recycling infrastructure to ensure that 90% of all e-waste is recycled. Victoria announced a $16.5m scheme to develop 130 electronic waste collection sites, ahead of a ban on e-waste in landfill in 2018. The funding includes $1.5m for a consumer education program to reduce e-waste or avoid it altogether.

With such schemes, 2019 could and should cause a shift to realise their potential.    

Report

Tackling food waste at the urban level

27 February 2019

In the European Union (EU), around 88 million tonnes of food waste are generated annually with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros. According to the FAO, up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it reaches the consumer. This food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain.

Wasted food is not only an ethical problem, but also has negative environmental impacts. Food production is one of the major contributors to climate change, it consumes large amounts of water and contributes to soil depletion. Production of food that never gets eaten exacerbates these issues in vain. On the other end, organic waste makes up about half of municipal waste in the EU. All the while poor households still struggle to afford healthy meals. 

When talking about food waste, we need to distinguish avoidable and unavoidable food waste and losses. Produce that spoiled, or is thrown out due to overproduction or for aesthetic reasons is considered avoidable, whereas waste associated with food production that cannot be used for human consumption, such as husks in grain milling is unavoidable food waste. This category of organic waste can still be used for other purposes such as compost or biogas, but not for human consumption.

It is the avoidable food waste, which makes up about 30% of food waste and loss, that policy makers  need to tackle.  Contrary to common belief, food production and processing industries – not the end consumer – contribute the largest share of avoidable food waste and losses. Cities can play an important role in addressing these stakeholders and effectively reduce food waste.

A public school canteen in Belgium has managed to cut their food waste from about 30% to only 10% of food prepared and served in the canteen. As part of the ambitious programme, the canteen operators weigh the occurring food waste every day and make adjustments to meal plans.

Together with citizens and stakeholders, the UrbanWINS project pilot cities Cremona (Italy), Leiria (Portugal) and Sabadell (Spain) are developing local pilot actions that seek to eliminate food waste. Among the initiatives, Cremona has started a “last minute market” for recovered and donated food surpluses and expiring products, which will also contribute to social solidarity.

The Portuguese city of Leiria is developing a guide for food waste reduction addressing restaurants, canteens, bars, catering services and citizens. And Sabadell has kicked-off a programme of activities to raise awareness on the topic. So far, they have conducted some talks at schools, organised “cooking with leftovers” workshops and are planning a popular “gleaning” – a collection of leftover fruits, vegetables and crops.

Representatives from the three cities will share their experiences in tackling food waste in an upcoming webinar, Tuesday 12 March 11.00-12.30, organised by the UrbanWINS project.

They will also be joined by a speaker from FoodWIN , who will present the networks views on the importance of fighting food waste.

To register to the webinar, click here.

 

Analysis

Modelling the Urban Metabolism for Circular Cities

22 February 2019

Becoming Circular is an important goal for cities worldwide. And it is promising. A circular economy could put an end to resource exploitation without halting global production.

But to get to that place, a deep understanding of current resource flows is necessary. Traceable data about most material stocks and flows is still scarce. This limits policy makers’ leverage to design new policies and hinders industry from reusing materials efficiently.

The UrbanWINS project sees cities as living organisms that eat, digest, and dispose of materials. It seeks to understand the process whereby resources enter, stay, and leave the system.

A key tool to reach this level of understanding is the Urban Metabolism Analyst (UMAn) model. It is a method of material flow accounting that allows decision makers to investigate the relationship between the economy, policies, lifestyles, and flows of resources. It helps to implement more efficient and targeted waste management and prevention tools – eventually transitioning to an advanced circular economy.

For this edition of Sector Watch, we have spoken to researcher Leonardo Rosado of Chalmers University (Gothenburg, Sweden) about the potential of analysing material flows on a city and regional level.

The UMAn model is a powerful tool to support cities and regions in the transition towards a circular economy. It is a holistic model of material stocks and flows that accounts for all product and material categories that enter, stay, and leave the urban system. Its power lays in the comprehensiveness that this overview provides to decision makers.

The model combines analysis of stocks and flows. The flow analysis provides insight into material consumption over time, which allows for comparisons and shows trends in material consumption. The stocks analysis shows which materials remain in the urban system – accumulating and eventually becoming so called waste in the future.

The UMAn model is about more than just waste. It addresses the broader topic of material consumption and therefore allows for active interventions rather than reactive waste management.

This can be achieved by modelling various future scenarios, which show the impacts of different waste management and prevention policies. Combined with environmental impact data on the materials that are tracked in the model, it can reveal hotspots in the environmental impacts of a city, identifying the most problematic product categories.

Results

As part of the UrbanWINS project, the UMAn model is used to research material stocks and flows of several cities. The results point to priority areas for intervention in the region. The analysis of the material flows in for instance the city of Leiria has successfully identified the top product groups and materials in circulation in the city.

Agricultural products such as straws and husks, maize and corn produced in the livestock industry and construction materials are among the biggest consumed products. These product types offer circular opportunities. By-products from straws and husks can be used to improve the nutrient level of the soil. Waste biomass can be converted to energy using the maize waste, and sands and other building materials can be used for new construction works. The City of Zurich is an inspiring example of how the construction and demolition waste can be used in new building material.

Challenges ahead

The UMAn model is designed to account for every conceivable product, which is a strength and a weakness since often the required data is either not available or it is confidential.

The fact that the model examines at the city level is another two sided coin: it allows for precise insight on the one hand, but on the other, the boundaries of a city are not as clear cut, and often it is more useful to look at regions.

Analysing the resource flow of a city with the UMAn model is just a starting point. The results need to be translated into solutions, such as sustainable procurement or urban planning tools and the model in turn can be applied to evaluate their success.

To learn more about the UMAn model and how you can apply it on your city join us at the UrbanWINS final conference in Brussels on April 4, 2019. For more information on this full day conference dedicated to the urban metabolism and local action for a circular economy click here.

Event

Conference on Food Waste Prevention and Management

9 January 2019

Food waste is an important policy issue across Europe, from France to the Czech Republic, policy makers are adopting new laws urging producers and retailers to eliminate and donate unsold food that would otherwise go to waste.

The University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, is now inviting to a conference on the topic of food waste management and prevention. The event tackles one of the most pressing issues when it comes to waste management and prevention.

From a circular economy point of view, it is necessary to reduce and manage food losses occurring along the whole supply chain. More sustainable food systems can be and need to be achieved in order to reach the targets defined by the UN’s development agenda for the 21st century.  

Although there is a lot of research done in the food waste sector there are still fundamental issues that need to be faced first like identifying appropriate methods to monitor the food waste amounts along the food supply chain or identifying how different actors can work together in future. Beyond that it is necessary to cope with slowly changing attitudes and behaviours of actors along the food value chain - therefore possible solutions to transfer knowledge and arouse interest need to be tested. 
 
This conference focuses on new findings as well as new solutions for the prevention and management of food waste along the whole supply chain in the Central Europe region but would love to share and discuss current scientific insights on this issue from all over the world.
 
Several pilot actions of the European project UrbanWINS are targeted at reducing food waste in urban areas. They address different stakeholders along the supply chain of food products, including producers, retailers, restaurants, consumers, and waste management companies.

Introducing a new regulation, the city of Bucharest is developing a waste prevention guide and integrated “zero waste” separate collection system for the food industry (e.g. restaurants, catering).

In the city of Cremona, a ‘Last Minute Market’ for recovered and donated food surpluses and expiring products is created, reducing the amount of food, as well as contributing to social solidarity.

And finally, the city of Leiria is developing a guide for food waste reduction, addressing restaurants, canteens, bars, catering services and the general public. The city will also offer a training program to help implementing measures to prevent, reduce and separate urban residues at the source.

InterviewReport

Circular Procurement in Malmö

12 December 2018

10 million tonnes of furniture are discarded by businesses and consumers in EU Member States each year, the majority of which is destined for either landfill or incineration, finds a report published by the European Environmental Bureau. The report calls on policy makers and officials to focus more efforts on higher-value circular resource flows, such as refurbishment or remanufacturing.

As part of the European project CircularPP, Procura+ Chair city of Malmö is taking action on this issue. The city is looking to award a new framework contract to one or multiple suppliers of used furniture, minimizing the material footprint of its office furniture and contributing to the transition to a circular economy. The CircularPP project is using innovation procurement and capacity building to promote a circular economy.

We spoke to Emma Borjesson, who works at the Environmental Management Department of Malmö City, about the city’s ambitions to become more circular and how this new tender will help with that.

When we found out about the CircularPP project, we decided that we should participate, but we were not sure what kind of procurement we could make circular. It then turned out that the framework contract for our office furniture supplier was about to be re-awarded. The person responsible for this tender process was interested in doing something more environmental and had already started to look into reused furniture as an option.

Therefore, we eventually decided that furniture, and reused furniture specifically is the right way to start because it is quite straight forward but nonetheless a highly necessary product category to address.

When the city officials first started looking into the issue they quickly realized the scale of the problem – not least because they discovered a large container full of dumped furniture just behind their offices. Both production and disposal of office furniture require large amounts of resources and energy – stress on the environment that could be avoided through buying used furniture and keeping it in the loop longer. ´

We already have an internal second hand market, where colleagues can offer used office furniture online and colleagues from other departments can use them in their offices. With the new framework contract, we hope to create more awareness about this internal service as well.

To prepare the tender, city officials have already begun to do some market research and have visited multiple suppliers of second hand furniture.

When we visited these suppliers, we realized just how much second furniture is available, and this fact only strengthened our belief that what we are doing as a city is really important and useful. The suppliers we visited were very happy to speak to us and hear about the city’s ambitions in this regard. From what we know until now, we will not have any issues finding suppliers that meet our requirements.

The requirements included in the tender go beyond providing used furniture. The new contractor is also expected to offer services such as repair or refurbishment in collaboration with the city’s internal works and repairs service, as well as short term rental of furniture if needed. This will ensure that furniture used by the city will stay in the loop longer. When eventually the furniture needs to be disposed of, the city has the ambition to ensure it gets refurbished, or at least recycled. This can be achieved through supplier take or buy back schemes to reuse spare parts or redesign the furniture. Alternatively, furniture user can also hire 3rd parties to take care of recycling.

It is crucial for us to have our colleagues on board. This will be a framework contract, which is why of course we cannot force our different procurers to make use of it. Ideally though we want all procurers of the different departments, when furniture needs to be purchased, to check our internal options like the second hand market first. In case they cannot find what they need, they would turn to the new supplier and purchase used or refurbished furniture. This is why we are planning such an extensive internal marketing campaign around it, to show that there are better ways than make, buy, replace out there!

We are organising a couple of information events on the circular economy, some of which have already taken place. Our colleagues are keen to learn more about this topic and it helps us to raise awareness. And at the end of the day, used furniture is not only more environmentally conscious but also cheaper. This factor will convince the doubtful ones as well.

We have the ambition to work with our interior designers and architects to familiarize them with this idea and to get them on board in terms of designing solutions that suit this new approach.

The call for tender is intentionally designed to be quite open – the city does not want to exclude good submissions, just as long as they fit into the set of requirements. This way the city maintains the option to award a contract to multiple suppliers.

The city views this tender as a pilot and envisions that it will embed circularity in more tenders in the future. A couple of topics that the city would like to address include the procurement of textiles, the construction sector, as well as food and catering.

During this tender process we are already learning a lot on how to cooperate better with our suppliers – something which is key when comes to asking the market to provide solutions that are more outside the box. We are asking quite a lot and are also working with new suppliers that have not been suppliers for cities before.

A challenge the city of Malmö, and many other public bodies looking to purchase used goods, are legacy substances that could potentially be hazardous. Making sure that second hand products are safe to use means additional costs for recyclers who often lack information on chemicals contained in products and on ways on how to deal with them appropriately.

The city of Malmö published the call for tender mid-November. The city is confident it will award a contract by January or February 2019. We will be following the process and report back once the contract is awarded.

 

Report

Plastic Waste: Global Solutions to a Global Problem

5 December 2018

The last two editions of Sector Watch have looked into policy developments and practice examples to deal with what some have termed the plastic waste crisis. But oceans do not respect country borders and plastic pollution is a global issue.

While Europeans are amongst the biggest plastic waste generators on the planet, in 2010, Europe and Central Asia combined only contributed 3,6% to global marine plastic litter. This is thanks to comparatively well managed waste disposal.

But 79% of global plastic is still accumulated in landfills or the environment, including the oceans.

And Europe is not exempt from responsibility in tackling the global marine litter problem. It hit the news last year when China refused to accept any more plastic waste exports: After 25 years as the world’s salvage king, China refused to buy any recycled plastic scrap that wasn’t 99.5 percent pure. And Thailand was quick to follow this October. This development sheds light on a key problem in European waste management: Plastic waste is a global issue and the fact that countries can get paid to accept plastic and other forms of waste poses a huge problem which the EU strategies to curb the plastics issue only partially address. Countries willing to take waste for cheap expose themselves to higher risks of pollution, particularly when they lack the capacity to treat plastic waste properly.

"East and West are inextricably connected by their plastic trash, as wealthy nations sell their recycled plastic scrap to Asia for the simple fact it’s easier to ship it around the world than process it at home." (National Geographic)

South-East Asian countries are among the biggest contributors to marine litter. It is also these countries that import the largest share of recyclable waste, including from EU countries. If the EU wants to address marine litter beyond its borders it needs to enforce strict waste treatment practices when exporting waste to countries at high risk of waste mismanagement.

Plastic waste: moving to solutions

Activists and policy makers alike have argued that waste treatment and recovery solutions are just the start of a comprehensive waste management strategy that tackles plastic waste globally. More efforts need to be focused on the source of plastic waste: packaging material and single-use items such as the ones banned by the EU.

Procura+ participant City of Oslo supports this stance: It is one of the first to completely phase out unnecessary single-use plastic. And the Mayor, Raymond Johansen, calls on the EU to take the next step and shift more responsibility to the industry through extended producer responsibility schemes, sharing the cost of cleaning up litter and to raise awareness. Industry stakeholders need to share knowledge about what is required for a product to be recyclable to get the design solutions that allow for high quality recycling, says the Mayor.

There are some inspiring examples out there showing that recycling can be profitable and environmentally sound. The Dutch company CeDo has combined a recycling business with a plastic bottle manufacturing line. The recycling arm of their operations is directly linked to the manufacturing end, closing the loop of the plastics value chain, a process that previously has been thought to be impossible.

The European Parliament seems to be on board: the ENVI committee (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) of the parliament proposed to direct EU funding to higher waste hierarchy options – waste prevention, reuse and recycling – to help member states advance towards a Circular Economy, while excluding funding for residual waste treatment facilities, e.g. waste incineration and Mechanical Biological Treatment.

While the policy world is slowly but steadily moving toward a plastic litter free world, others are taking on the task of removing the damage done: The Ocean Clean Up, a project seeking to remove plastics from marine environments without harming them, has launched its operations in the Pacific this October. So far, the newly developed technology seems to be highly successful. Hopefully, it will not have to run for too long.