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Zero Waste, 10 ways to do it and the law that blocks it

  •   November 27th, 2014
  •   Category: News
  •   Posted by: Ecodyger

Everybody talks about Zero Waste, but do we really know what it is?

In the previous blog article we discussed in depth the Carbon Footprint. The Carbon Footprint is the fundamental premise to get to talk about a very important subject which is very dear to us: Zero Waste.

Zero Waste is a philosophy and strategy of waste management that aims to re-design the cyclic life of the waste not considered as discards, but rather resources to be reused as secondary raw materials. Zero Waste is opposed to the practices involving necessarily landfill or incineration processes, and tends to eliminate or decrease the amount of waste for disposal. The process Zero Waste is based on the model of reuse of resources found in nature.

Waste management is the set of policies, procedures or methodologies to manage the entire process of waste from its production to the final destination. Waste management involves the collection phase, transport, treatment (recycling or disposal) to the reuse of waste materials, usually produced by human activity, in an attempt to reduce their effects on human health and the impact on the environment .

When talking about Zero Waste it is important to mention that among its major theorists there is Professor Paul Connett. Connett, a US scientist, professor emeritus of chemistry and toxicology of St. Lawrence University and highly respected environmental activist.

paul_connett

What does Zero Waste mean?

According to the definition proposed by the Zero Waste International Alliance, “Zero Waste” means products designed, engineered and manufactured in order to reduce its volume and, consequently, their waste to preserve and recover the materials, progressively eliminating the use of incineration and conferment landfill.

The Zero Waste strategy seeks to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all someone’s discarded materials become resources for others.

At the base of zero waste is therefore the same logic of the principle of the waste hierarchy of the European Union; that’s climb up the ladder of priorities from the final disposal and incineration “steps” to the initial reuse and source reduction: If a product cannot be reused, repaired, rebuilt, renovated, finished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be reduced, redesigned or removed from production

The 10 things to do to achieve Zero Waste

We want to mention the “International Charter of Naples”, prepared by the participants at the Fifth Conference on Zero Waste Strategy in 2009. It indicates to directors and politicians 10 points to embrace the philosophy Zero Waste:

  1. Separation at the source. Waste management is not a technological problem, but organizational. It requires the involvement of the whole citizens community on the path of differentiated collection;
  2. Door to door collection. If you want to reach substantial percentage of recovered material, the most effective is the abandonment of the curbside collection in favor of withdrawal from home, according to a precise set schedule:;
  3. Composting. Have a composting plant where merging the organic waste, preferably located near the places of use by farmers;
  4. We feel compelled to add to this point, given that since 2009 the world is already much changed and evolved: adopt new technologies that can dramatically reduce at source the production of organic waste. Ecodyger is one of these technologies.
  5. Recycling. Adopt platforms and systems for the selection of materials and their reintegration into the production process as secondary materials;
  6. Waste reduction. The elimination of waste will not be possible without a real change in the behavior of citizens; hence the need to raise awareness of the increased consumption of tap water, the purchase of drinks, detergents, food “on tap”, the use of reusable containers;
  7. Reuse and repair. The abandonment of the “disposable” mindset also involves the reuse of durable goods (furniture, clothes, appliances, means of transport); for this, it is hoped the creation of centers for the repair and sale of second-hand;
  8. Pay As. The introduction of charging systems that charges families with the cost of disposing of waste products and non-recyclable is a mechanism that rewards good behavior of citizens and encourages them to a conscious consumption;
  9. Recovery. Construction of a plant for selection of waste, so as to recover other recyclable materials, refining the waste collection and to prevent that waste with some level of toxicity or anyway problematic are sent to landfill
  10. R&D. Creation of centers for the redesign of industrial objects not recyclable, that communicate directly with businesses to raise awareness on the importance of eco-design;
  11. Zero waste. The ultimate goal is fixed by a certain date in the ability to “hijack” from the end of cycle plants (landfill and incineration / energy plants / gasifiers) at least 90% of the waste that today there are conferred.

Zero Waste: a dream, an utopia or reality?

When some years ago we began to talk of “Zero Waste”, it seemed it was a commercial or a dream without the possibility of becoming true: a future without waste, like the man who lives on a space station or cars clean powered with no more oil.

Instead, what looked like a utopia, today looks like an achievable goal, a path already well traced in many countries, from Australia to Canada, from the United States to Europe, from the Philippines to South Africa

Examples and economic benefits of the Zero Waste

We can say that the results achieved to date induce optimism, right?

If big cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle deliver a percentage of waste to landfill ranging from 46% to 23% of the total and have seen at first hand the economic benefits of such choice, we need to look very carefully at the Zero Waste strategy.

Absolute forefront arises San Francisco, which in 2009 became the first US city to encourage home composting for families and businesses. Besides San Francisco organized the differentiation of plastic, aluminum and paper, and rewards the reduction of waste at source with a charging system “pay as you throw” or “pay in relation to what you throw.”

San Francisco, in particular, shows the highest rate of treated waste before the end of the cycle of the United States (77%), with a target of 100% by 2020, which means that within seven years San Francisco, according to experts, won’t need any landfill and incinerator.

Italy: rapid growth, but it can do more

In Italy, the municipalities that adopted by resolution the Zero Waste strategy are now 130, in continue rapid growth, with a heavy concentration in the south center, for a total of about three and a half million inhabitants.

But beyond the official application to Zero Waste, a growing number of Italian municipalities that make record percentages of recycling in excess of 65%, then go away from the landfill. Legambiente calls them “Big recycler municipalities  and rewards them every year. In 2012, these municipalities were 1,123, for a total of about 6.8 million people, which become 1,488 municipalities and 10 million citizens, if we consider the limit of 60%, however, set as target by the European Union.

All data are encouraging, but still much can be done. Especially for wet waste which is still for the most part collected, transported for many kilometers and conferred if not in a landfill or incinerator, in plants of total or partial recovery as composting plants, for the production of biogas, etc. .

The law, in fact, does not care about Zero Waste

We can say that the technology Ecodyger was created to fully interpret the philosophy of Professor Connet’s Zero Waste. The purpose of Ecodyger is to reduce as much as possible the organic waste at the source, before it is entered in the traditional chain of waste management.

Also, the little solid residue left by the process of Ecodyger is in effect a real resource. Chemical analysis in hand, meets the stringent parameters that define a legal mixed composted soil amendment, commonly called compost. (see featured article).

Too bad that, for the European law, it cannot be given away or sold to be reused as a natural resource. You need to use it privately. If you plan to “get rid” of the compost produced by Ecodyger even gifting it to third parties, it becomes “organic waste”. The legislative paradox is that on one hand the law tells us that if it is done in certain well-defined parameters then it is a valuable natural resource, on the other hand it cannot be made available to the community because it would go back to being from a regulatory standpoint “waste”.

On the one hand we have a beautiful pyramid of hierarchy of waste, on the other hand there is still some resistance to further the effective implementation of this hierarchy to protect up to when it will be possible the traditional system and the consolidated waste management which still provides collection, transportation and conferment of the same for their treatment or abandonment in landfills.

zero-waste-pyramid

But wasn’t the reduction of the carbon footprint to represent the contribution that human activities should take to reduce CO2 emissions and lower its impact on the greenhouse effect ?! (for more details see article)

So, many nice words, but then the national and community institutions still do not actually want to encourage in practice the new technologies that really realize the philosophy of Zero Waste and the reduction and prevention of waste at source, etc.

Conclusion

Zero Waste is a strategy that needs different skills and abilities and that assigns a role to each actor:

  • citizens and local communities, who have to change the way they consume
  • entrepreneurs and designers, who need to change the way they produce
  • but above all institutions which must use the set of tools available (politics, economic incentives, awareness campaigns, investments) to revolutionize the present organization of waste management

Will we achieve it together? This also depends on you!

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