On Friday March 29th in Kiel, our last Zero Waste Cities conference, co-organised by Zero Waste Kiel e.V., brought together no less than 226 registrants: representatives of NGOs, innovative businesses and public authorities, as well as University students and private citizens from across Europe, gathered to learn more about the municipalities’ journey towards Zero Waste. This has indeed recently become a hot topic in the country: last November, thanks to the support of Zero Waste Kiel e.V., Kiel was the first German municipality to officially commit to Zero Waste.
Being the first German city starting its journey towards Zero Waste, Kiel was a strategic choice for the international conference on Zero Waste Cities, hoping that Zero Waste becomes a seed that will sprout in the rest of Germany.
Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director, Zero Waste Europe
The day was just getting started with a warm welcome from Marie and Marc Delaperrière, founders of Zero Waste Kiel, when Dr. Ulf Kämpfer, Kiel’s Lord Mayor, stepped in with a big announcement: the city of Kiel managed to raise funds to finance the Zero Waste plan for the first year.
To inspire the city, Joan Marc Simon presented the Zero Waste fundamentals: phasing out waste-to-energy incineration, redesigning business models, rethinking packaging and pushing for a repair economy are clearly needed to climb the Zero Waste Hierarchy he had just introduced. And this comes with direct benefits for the city: less waste to manage and less residuals, reduced expenses for the citizens too, more social integration, innovation and local jobs – as well as less environmental impact.
But where to start? To answer this question, Esra Tat, Cities and Communities Programme Coordinator at Zero Waste Europe, invited three key actors on stage: Enzo Favoino, Chair of the scientific Committee at Zero Waste Europe, Rossano Ercolini, President of Zero Waste Italy, and Jože Gregorič, Project Manager at Snaga.
Enzo Favoino explained what the Zero Waste methodology is, how it works and what cities could achieve: in Parma (Italy), in 5 years, separate collection reached 80% and residual waste was reduced by 56%. The Zero Waste strategy of Kiel’s twin city, San Francisco, was presented in a video recording by Alexa Kielty, San Francisco’s Environment Zero Waste specialist. Rossano Ercolini brought up the best practice example of Zero Waste Italy and Capannori, showcased in one of our Case Studies. To close this first panel, Jože Gregorič showed us how Snaga drove Ljubljana’s outstanding transition to Zero Waste. But what they all highlighted was the importance of organic waste management.
That is why the second panel, moderated by Csilla Urbán, president of Humusz Waste Prevention Alliance in Hungary, dealt with this key issue.
Enzo Favoino reminded us also the link between the separate collection of organics and the fight against desertification and making agriculture more resilient. Yet, in Europe 30 Mt are currently diverted to composting, whereas 88 Mt of biowaste are still included in Municipal Solid Waste.
Ramón Plana, consultant in biological treatments for organic waste, presented one of the options to tackle this huge untapped potential: the decentralised and local composting alternatives of Pontevedra (Spain). Thanks to this approach, the city of Vilaboa managed to reduce its waste management costs by 16%.
By exposing the case of Sybert in Besançon, Pierre Condamine, Waste Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe, proved us that organic waste was not only a first and quickly efficient step in the bigger Zero Waste strategy, but also a very meaningful one.
During lunch break, we could have a look at the innovative Kiel initiative “Spülbar”: a dishwasher on a bike which can be used during events and in the markets to avoid the use of single use cups!
Supporting the implementation of reusable coffee-to-go systems with financial measures was besides covered by Elena Schägg, Project Manager at Deutsche Umwelthilfe, while Theodor Flammer explained how his company ReCIRCLE Germany established a Deposit Return Scheme for reusable lunch boxes.
Moving away from waste management to waste prevention and reduction was indeed at the heart of the afternoon’s discussion. Ana Gutierrez Dewar, Policy Officer at Retorna, introduced us to Michele Giavini, who reviewed PAYT and the new concept of Know As You Throw developed by ARS Ambiente. Francesc Giró i Fontanals, as Director of the strategic planning at the Waste Agency of Catalonia, shared Catalonia’s 15-year experience in environmental taxation, namely the introduction of landfill and incineration tax and PAYT.
The last panel of the day, moderated by Marc Sautelet from Zero Waste Belgium, focused on climbing the Zero Waste Hierarchy. The speakers covered varied subjects: Henning Wilts (Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy) on the research on new indicators for waste prevention, Larissa Copello (Zero Waste Europe) on the use of Extended Producer Responsibility to incentivise plastic-free initiatives, Alexandre Garcin, who came directly from Roubaix to showcase the success of Zero Waste Families, and Antigone Dalamaga (RREUSE and Ecorec), on the local benefits of repair and reuse.
In total, 21 speakers from all across Europe showcased encouraging best practices and the numerous Q&As gave the audience the opportunity to exchange ideas, compare experiences and find inspirations. In the words of Zero Waste Europe Network and Development Coordinator in charge of the Cities programme Esra Tat,
Such conferences are instrumental in bringing together local change agents and foster cross-pollination of best practices. The need for further support and training is one of our priorities. I very much invite all interested players, local authorities, social entrepreneurs and civil society, to join us for our future events and Study Tours. We need everyone on board to turn Zero Waste into reality!
All pictures © Charlotte Köhncke