SECTOR WATCH 

Innovation and Resources on Urban Waste

SECTOR WATCH SEARCH RESULTS ( 1 - 10 from 11 )

Report

Plastic - friend or foe in the fight against food waste

8 May 2019

It’s the oft-recited estimate: one third of all food is wasted across the world. Not to mention the farmers’ work, fertilisers, pesticides and fuel used to grow it, the energy to transport it and, finally, the impacts of its disposal too. In Europe, 88 million tonnes, 95-115kg per capita per year is lost, costing €143 billion (European Commission) and comprising 8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (FAO). Yet for every Euro invested in Food Waste reduction, a city saves €8. From plastic packaging to participation, what is the best way to implement a sustainable food waste strategy? Our case studies include the city of Bruges, Belgium, who implemented a radical strategy to slash their waste to reach zero food waste status.


From food waste fiasco to fun opportunity    

Facing the food waste challenge plays a significant role in attaining climate goals globally. Indeed, as stated in the comprehensive study Drawdown, reducing food waste is ranked as the third most effective solution to reduce GHG emissions, even before solar farms and plant-rich diets. “It is also an easy and fun topic to work on [...] Citizens even contact me because they have too many courgettes and want to make sure they get eaten. This would have never happened 6 years ago.” says Mieke Hoste, Bruges’ alderwoman of environment.


Awareness first

Whether using a method as simple as disposing of organic waste in separate clear bags or a high tech intelligent camera that identifies the exact type, amount and cost of food being wasted, diagnosing the problem is the vital first step to fight food waste. As stated by food waste organisation FoodWIN, knowledge leads to action. Initially not included in their urban food strategy, after talking to food waste expert and activist Tristram Stuart, Bruges used Foodwin’s food waste calculator and was convinced by the “huge” costs - equivalent financially to investing in solar panels. Restaurants, citizens, retail and healthcare were found to create the most waste.


The (zero) waste hierarchy

Organic waste can be used as a source of bioenergy. However, the susustainability of this type of energy is contested. Zero Waste Europe best practise states a reduction of organic waste should be prioritised through improved labelling, portioning, awareness and educational campaigns around food waste and home composting. Unavoidable (excess) edible food should be targeted at human consumption first i.e. donated to social organisations, as done by Bruges, or otherwise for animal feed. Non-edible organic waste can be composted and used as fertiliser for agriculture, soil restoration and carbon sequestration; garden trimmings, discarded food and food-soiled paper in low-tech small-scale process sites whenever possible. In larger areas, composting could be centralised with more technologically advanced systems. Alternatively, depending on local circumstances and nitrogen levels in the soil, non-edible organic waste should be used to produce biogas through Anaerobic Digestion, a truly renewable source of energy and soil enhancer. If there is any organic waste within the residual waste stream, Material Recovery – Biological Treatment (MRBT) allows for the recovery of dry materials for further recycling and stabilizes the organic fraction prior to landfilling, with a composting-like process. Landfill and incineration are the least preferable, last resort option.


Participation and cocreation

In Bruges, a participatory approach increased awareness and ensured the involvement of citizens, e.g. via the creation of Bruges Food Lab - a local stakeholder council on sustainable food which includes organisations like social grocery stores and restaurants that redistribute surplus food, and via a crowdsourcing day to shape the urban food strategy, organise redistribution and reduction of surplus in public organisations. Bruges is the first city in Belgium taking the commitment to only use sustainable food at events. An annual food festival also “fed the 5000” with food waste; further boosting awareness.  


Collaboration and communication of organisations

From 2017, Bruges started to focus on different sectors such as hospitals, resulting in food waste reductions of up to 43%. Communication between the different services of an elderly home or hospital for example was crucial to cocreate a system to serve food right away to ensure freshness. Too Good to Go is an app that allows shops and supermarkets to sell surplus food for a significantly reduced price, and the city is planning to launch a logistical platform to help it reach social projects via car or bike. UrbanWINS’ pilot project in Cremona similarly saw surplus food distributed by bike to families in need, an app created advertising end of day discounts at eateries, and a second hand/vintage market.


Fighting food waste: is plastic packaging a help or a hindrance?

The linked challenges of food waste and plastic packaging waste must be tackled together, as stated in the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) Report UNWRAPPED. Aside from health and unknown chemical migration risks associated, they found plastic packaging to increase food waste overall. Practises such as trimming to fit packaging and multipacks for example were found to cancel out the benefits of preservation of foods. They also present solutions such as laser marking goods, which produces 1% carbon emissions of a typical plastic sticker.


Conclusion

Ultimately, energy policies for a low-carbon economy should progressively move away from extracting as much energy as possible from waste - such as energy from biomass - and instead increase measures to preserve the embedded energy in products, a far more efficient and sustainable approach to resource use. In Bruges, all government departments now work within a sustainable food framework, setting the foundation for zero food waste overall. Going forward, they plan to focus more on citizens and restaurants who have the biggest impact.

Report

Changing the (product-service) system

27 April 2019

“The future is not in low cost production. In making things with finite components. The future is in providing services that then materialise in products, instead of the other way round. Products that are used and reused time and time again.” These are the words of First Vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmerman, at one of the “defining moments” in the development of a circular economy in the EU. While the EU has made progress with Green Public Procurement (GPP), the adoption of circular economy business models has been slow, despite proven performance. But product-service systems (PSS) or product as a service (PaaS) could be key to the transition to a service-based economy and public procurement can play a key role as enabler of this transition.


The ‘performance economy’,

Was developed by Walter Stahel in the 1970s, who insisted on the importance of selling services rather than products. Via his method, “manufacturers can retain greater control over the items they produce and the embodied energy and materials, thus enabling better maintenance, reconditioning and recovery. Customers benefit too, as they only pay for the service they require and use, and often receive a better service as the manufacturer has a greater interest in providing a product that lasts.”


New business models

To ensure circularity will require cooperation of product life-extension, recovery and recycling and product-as-a-service business models. Although not by definition sustainable, by leasing or paying for a service instead of paying for the product outright, customers can pay per use, while ownership and life cycle costs of a product remain with the producer, setting incentives for resource efficiency along the complete life cycle. The energy embedded in the products at production is retained at the highest possible level.


WEEE and PaaS

Incorporating PaaS, e.g. for lighting, into the public procurement framework holds great potential for minimising waste, especially E-waste. Where eco-design and circular economy directive requirements can be costly in terms of collection and regulation for producers, Danish research suggests that Product-as-a-Service and Product Life-Extension are particularly relevant concepts to improve value chain performance, resource efficiency and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directive compliance while at the same time offering an attractive commercial potential. They can, at least in part, support ecodesign, WEEE prevention, re-use and help official collection systems to better compete with the unregistered WEEE collection channels.


IoT to maximise efficiency

The company Bundles employs Internet of things (IoT) to turn use of appliances into a service, reusing materials to make new appliances to avoid creating waste. Starting with washing machines, they supply a plug measuring energy use which gives feedback on how to use it more efficiently. “What is actually innovative and really new to this economic model is the way different people, parties and institutes collaborate to deliver a whole different experience to the consumer which much less impact on the future of our planet.” says Marcel Peters, CEO.


Lighting as a service

A collaboration between Philips and Turntoo is a showcase for the pioneering ‘pay-per-lux’ model. Philips created a purpose built minimalist LED light plan that maximised use of a building’s natural sunlight while minimising costs. With a combined sensor and controller system dimming or brightening lighting in response to motion or daylight, the bespoke, intelligent lighting system can supposedly cut energy bills by 30-40%. Furthermore, by moving to a model in which the light provider maintains ownership of the materials, the client benefits from maintenance and service, as well as the option to adapt or upgrade the setup, with the manufacturer able to recover the materials when necessary.


Designing for disassembly

Brummen town hall in The Netherlands was looking for a temporary construction with a consistent use of reusable and renewable high-quality construction materials. “The first building in the world conceptualised as a raw materials depot”, their contractual approach guarantees circularity at the end of the intended use period. Minimal concrete and prefabricated wooden components mean over 90% of the materials can be easily dismantled and reused. Price and sustainability were placed on par during the procurement process.


Considerations and conclusions

Along with a clear vision/ objectives, inserting life cycle costing, extensive dialogue during tendering process and training on performance based (functional) specifications, a  UNEP report, co-authored by ICLEI Local Governements for Sustainability, suggests payment in terms to ensure service performance. PaaS is new, and may need more research, but holds much potential to decouple consumption from economic growth, by meeting needs with lower material and energy requirements.

 

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.

 

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.

Report

MEPs agree to ban single-use plastic items

21 November 2018

Plastic waste and marine litter are major environmental hazard that requires political action as pointed out in the last edition of Sector Watch.

EU policy makers have long looked to address the issue of plastic waste on multiple fronts. In what was celebrated as a major success, EU parliamentarians (MEPs) have recently approved a bill that bans various kinds of single-use plastics. The ban will have to be adopted by member states as of 2021. It covers plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. These items were chosen because of readily available alternatives such as paper straws and cardboard containers. The new regulation also requires member states to reduce plastic items that have no alternatives by 25% by 2025.

The bill is part of a larger scale EU initiative to tackle the issue of plastic waste. The EU strategy for plastics in the circular economy, adopted in 2017, seeks to introduce a holistic approach. Among others, it requires that all plastic packaging put on the market is either reusable or recyclable by 2030.

So why are plastic bans necessary when top-notch recycling practices are implemented? Practice has shown that despite all efforts to recycle plastics, several issues are not solvable by better recycling: some items are highly likely to end up in the environment, they are used outside, taken by the wind, forgotten. Recyclable and reusable, after all, does not mean that all plastics are actually recycled or reused. The move to straight up ban certain single-use plastic products could even improve recycling rates – the less waste there is to treat, the more of it can be treated properly in recycling facilities.  On top, recycling of plastics, depending on the type of plastic, still means down-cycling: The process hampers the quality of the product and can only be repeated a few times until the material is not recyclable anymore.

Within a circular economy, the priority is always to reduce material use, before recycling it.  A future looking circular strategy thus not only improves recycling practices, it also reduces the need to recycle at all.

The European project CIRCPACK is one example of how this could be achieved in practice. In three demonstration cases, it shows how plastic packaging waste could be reduced and transformed into a resource. For the first case, new bio-based polyesters are developed that have the potential to replace fossil based materials. The second case looks into eco-friendly packaging design that requires little material input put offers the same qualities as regular packaging does. And finally, the project also develops and enhances sorting and recycling practices to improve the reuse rate of recycled material and this way keep them in the loop longer.

Improving materials and their use is just one dimension of a comprehensive circular strategy. UrbanWINS, a European project that develops and tests innovative waste management and prevention methods, looks at the Urban Metabolism of cities. This helps to understand waste streams and to prevent or turn them into resources wherever possible. To learn more about the pilot actions that are implemented as part of UrbanWINS, go to the project website.

In the coming edition of Sector Watch, we will take a look a global perspective on the plastic waste problem. Stay tuned.