ISWA’s Weekly Waste Briefing aims to bring you a brief roundup of the week’s waste related stories from across the world’s media. We will update you every Friday with a spotlight on the waste-related stories featured in the week's news.
Latest Briefing: 24 February 2017
Welcome to the latest Weekly Waste Briefing!
With the fourth World Ocean Summit currently taking place, it is only appropriate to take a look at marine litter in this week’s briefing. The Summit takes place in Bali, Indonesia, a country exposed to the consequences of waste in our oceans more than most.
At the Summit, Dell announced an innovative programme which will take plastic waste from the oceans and use it for packaging its computer products. As reported in CNBC, by pulling plastics out of the ocean and recycling them into a commercially viable way, they hope to keep harmful micro plastics from troubling ocean waters. Dell has developed the technology industry’s first packaging trays made with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. This comes after last month's news that SUEZ had supported Procter & Gamble in developing a shampoo bottle from scrap plastic recovered from beaches. This is a bottle only being sold in France for the time being, but the company say that by end of 2018 more than half a billion bottles per year will include up to 25 percent recycled plastic.
The summit is part of an international call to action for the world to take more care in cleaning up its oceans and the United Nations have “declared war” on ocean plastic waste. In its statement, the UN criticised single-use plastics, such as water bottles and plastic bags and others. This criticism comes shortly after the positive news that one of the world’s biggest consumer healthcare manufacturers, Johnson & Johnson confirmed it will remove the plastic from its cotton buds, as reported by The Independent. Let’s hope other companies follow their lead!
Marine Litter will also be one of the key focuses of the 2017 ISWA World Congress, where we aim to present some of the initial findings of our current ongoing study.
Continuing with plastic waste, according to The Guardian, the world currently only recycles 14% of plastic, a tiny amount! So why don’t we recycle more? A recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimated that, if the other 86% were to be properly recycled, it could create $80bn-$120bn in revenues and innumerable jobs. These figures are not probable in the current economic environment since much of the products, such as coffee cups, food wrappers etc., contain multiple materials which are difficult to separate. Therefore, new materials and methods are required. This article in The Guardian takes an in-depth look at the various alternatives being considered by innovators and organisations across the world who could help solve our plastic recycling conundrum.
One final thing to consider, could you give up food waste? Love Food Hate Waste is challenging people to give up food waste in 40 days in an alternative lent. Most people give up coffee, chocolate or takeout food, but why not just attempt to be more resourceful and use it as an opportunity to eliminate food waste? You can sign up to their challenge for free to receive advice, tips and recipes to help you achieve the goal.
That’s all for this week,
The ISWA Team!
17 February 2017
Welcome to the latest Weekly Waste Briefing!
So who is to blame for the mountains of food waste generated in developed economies? Differing opinions in this week’s newspapers are pointing fingers in different directions. One article in The Guardian highlighted research that indicates that so-called “millennials” are largely responsible. The study suggests that the younger generation’s “throwaway” attitude towards cooking and eating is contributing to this food waste, placing little value on the food on their plate in contrast to the +60’s who grew up with more rationed food, throw away much less. In the UK, for example, a study of the food waste patterns of 5,050 consumers, revealed nearly two-fifths of those aged over 65 say they never waste food, compared with just 17% of those under 35.
However, another article, in the same newspaper rebutted this study, suggesting that we focus the blame on intensive farming and supermarket culture that has divorced people from how food is produced. Most modern consumers will have almost no knowledge of how their food is produced, where it comes from, how much food was wasted in the process and why they come so cheap. This isolation of food awareness is a result of the modern supermarket.
Meanwhile, a recent study by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation found that one third of global food production for human consumption never ﬁnds its way onto plates and is lost or wasted. The infographic they present demonstrates the unaccetable situation of global food waste. The food waste can be the resolt of transport, poor harvesting, consumer’s throwing it away, supermarkets rejecting it etc. Some of these situations are out of the consumers control, but this is nontheless a very serious matter when you consider that 21% of landfill waste globally comes from food.
Whilst the younger generations have been blamed for being more wasteful, there are also many initiatives which show how some Europeans are developing new business models with a closed-loop economy in mind. “Can the Circular Economy Save the Planet” asks Deutsche Welle in a report on alternative building methods and materials. Almost 40% of materials end up as waste, however, there is a growing awareness of this issue with many businesses in Europe looking to change their ways, including Edinburgh Remakery, a social enterprise promoting a zero waste society through a circular economy. Another fine example is Cyclomania, a bike kitchen in Budapest, Hungary. More and more businesses look towards the a circular economy approach, which has the potential to eliminate waste from the start pf the process, make things that last and expends less energy; reducing the impact on the environment. For more information on the circular economy concept, take a look at the reports published last year by ISWA’s Task Force on Resource Management.
One final story, following the wasteful Olympic Games last year in Brazil, we are pleased to see that the organisers of the 2020 games in Tokyo are looking at a more sustainable approach, as reported in ABC News. The organisers say that the medals will be produced from recycled e-waste and there is an overall effort to reduce the environmental impact of the games. "There's quite a limit on the resources of our earth, and so recycling these things and giving them a new use will make us all think about the environment," said Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi.
That’s all for this week,
The ISWA Team!
10 February 2017
Welcome to your latest Weekly Waste Briefing!
Last week we discussed the issue of plastic waste in our oceans, following which some tragic news illustrated why we should be concerned as a whale was found off the coast of Norway so full of plastic bags, that zoologists were forced to euthanize it. As reported in The Telegraph, scientists found over 30 plastic bags in the stomach of the whale upon opening its stomach.
The volume of plastic inside the whale’s stomach and intestines led to it being malnourished, leaving the wardens with no option than to put it down. For those familiar with the threat of plastic waste, this hardly comes as a surprise given that recent research estimates that more plastic than fish will sit in the oceans by 2050.
Following these concerns, Sky News launched its #OceanRescue campaign, to raise awareness on this matter which we strongly encourage you to take a look at. They have also produced a moving, 45-minute documentary “Plastic pollution in our oceans” which is essential viewing and presents some rather shocking images of the real-life threats posed to the health of those living in coastal areas in the developing countries most affected, with one describing the situation quite emotively: “The ocean where life on Earth began is being turned into a synthetic soup.”. If you watch the documentary, you may find yourself in agreement.
Much of this waste arises as a consequence of our rapid change in lifestyle and habits, especially in a time where international travel and tourism has become so accessible. New York, for example, is experiencing a significant increase in waste volume as more and more tourists see the city hit record numbers of people. As pointed out in a recent report by the New York Times, the city’s sanitation department required an extra $49.5 million to clean up the extra waste created in 2016 (compared to the previous year), they also recruited an extra 1,880 volunteers to help manage the street-cleaning operation. But even with all of this extra man-power and financial investment, the garbage continues to amass. If you are resident and worried about the accumulation of trash in your region, then we encourage you to check out the global clean-up initiative of Let’s do It!, with whom ISWA recently signed an MOU.
Finally, we were very pleased to read this week that a supermarket has opened in Germany, selling only food waste, as reported by Deutsche Welle. The supermarket, called The Good Food opened last Saturday in the German city of Köln is the first of its kind in Germany and one of a handful in Europe (the first being in Denmark last year) and sells produce that would have otherwise gone to waste, rejected by the mainstream supermarkets. The unique element is that the consumers determine the price and pay what they think the food is worth. Let’s hope we see more such stores in the future!
03 February 2017
Welcome to the weekly waste briefing!
With marine litter being increasingly highlighted as one of the most significant dangers to our planet, plastic waste is under the spotlight more than ever. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation about 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled.
As reported in The Guardian this week, several retailers and manufacturers are increasing their efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste they create, or at the very least looking to redesign their plastic packaging in an attempt to cut waste. Such shocking statistics as those highlighted in the report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have led to companies to rethink how they use plastics. Unilever, whose brands include Dove, Magnum and Surf, has pledged to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. At present the company estimates that 70% of its plastic packaging is recyclable. Furthermore, supermarkets like M&S have pledged to switch to single polymer recyclable plastic in the next few years.
Microplastics are especially hazardous and are clogging up our oceans and, as highlighted by The Independent, collective action is urgently needed to remedy this. Although the report focuses on the UK, it remains a global problem in a world obsessed with throwaway, single-use plastics. The article by The Independent includes interviews with local people who are establishing new initiatives and setting the standards when it comes to plastic recycling. One fascinating example is a project by a group of Australian surfers called “Seabins”, which collects waste, oil and fuels with the potential to take significant amounts of waste out of the waters. You can read more about this on their crowdfunding website here.
Alongside plastic, food waste is also a serious economic and environmental issue and the public are becoming more aware and frustrated by this. Fortunately, this increased awareness is having an impact on the retailers. However, in a report from The Guardian, we are very, very far from doing enough. Many British supermarkets pledged over the last year to donate surplus food to homeless charities. But this is barley a small dent in the numbers of food waste the supermarkets create indirectly. The vast majority of food discarded is unprocessed, healthy, fresh food currently wasted further up the supply chain on farms. This article is calling for all supermarkets to be more open about their data and explain more clearly how much food is wasted further up the supply chain and prior to it reaching the stores.
One incredible initiative is trying to combat the food wasted in this supply chain. The Gleaning Network is raising awareness on this matter, looking to change the retailer policies and consumer cultures that lead to this waste. Reducing food waste at farm level is an absolute must and will likely have the most dramatic impact.
And finally, we would like to share one final article with you, from Recycle Bank, which offers some tips and suggestions on how you can minimize your waste with your friends
That’s all for this week, thanks for reading!
27 January 2017
We took a break, but we now hope to keep you updated on a weekly basis with the latest news from the world of waste, offering an overview of what the newspapers are saying in the world of waste.
Starting on a positive note, it was announced this week that Delhi, the capital city of India is to ban all forms of disposable plastic! This includes cutlery, bags and other plastic items which contaminate our oceans and air. According to The Independent, India is responsible for 60% of all plastics which enter the world’s oceans each year. Those astonishing figures, coupled with the mass burning of plastic that takes place across the city, pushed the city to respond and take action. There are three large dumpsites in the city which cause significant air pollution due to the burning of plastics which has ultimately led to this decision, with the National Capital Territory stating that
“Each of these sites is a depiction of the mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi. The Delhi government shall take steps for storage and use of plastic materials.”
Let’s hope the ban, which came into action this month, can help reduce Delhi’s notoriously polluted air and also reduce the amount of plastic going into our oceans. The trend for reducing plastic waste has continued into 2017 with a number of US States, such as Michigan, also banning disposable plastic bags.
To understand the tragic impact of plastic waste on our environment, one just needs to take a look at these images of Lebanon recently published by the New York Times. What was once a beautiful, scenic beach, is now a huge dumpsite. The trash has been piling up for the last two years on the beaches of Beirut, creating a nasty smell across the city. This unfortunate situation stems purely from political dysfunction and the citizens of Beirut are far from happy. Waste infrastructure is being held up by politics and subsequently blighting a country once famous for its natural beauty. You can read more about the Lebanese waste crisis in this New York Times article.
Meanwhile in the U.K., The City of London is challenging people to reduce their coffee-cup waste. A modern phenomenon, coffee cups have become one of the biggest challenges to the waste and recycling industry due to the materials used (there is often a plastic lining for heat insulation) and simply because of the immediate and disposable nature of the drinks. The fact that up to 7 million paper cups are disposed of in the UK every day (over 2.5bn every year.) never ceases to shock. What is worse, less than 1% of these are recycled.
But as The Guardian reports, efforts are increasing to improve these statistics. The City of London, in collaboration with a number of coffee chains, will introduce dedicated coffee cup recycling stations in stores, cafes and in the streets making it much easier to recycle the cup, even in such a fast-paced environment. Similar schemes have been tested, such as this one in Manchester, but this is the biggest trial of its kind and aims to make a much more significant dent in the number of coffee cups which avoid recycling.
That’s all for this week!
05 August 2016
Welcome to the first weekly waste briefing of August!
The Olympic Games opens today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Since being awarded the games seven years ago there have been numerous concerns about the waste and public sanitation situation, particularly the infamous waters around Rio. Over the last seven years, according to D Waste Dive, the city has failed to address the problem of waste in the waters. The city originally pledged to clear at least 80% of the sewage flowing into the bay and surrounding waterways. But as ISWA Vice-President Carlos Silva Filho points out in the article, this has not succeeded. The problem has been building up for some time and as The Guardian pointed out in February this year, with one key issue, amongst many, being a lack of funding due to the political and economic crisis that hit Brazil.
A series of eco boats and barriers have been installed to stem the flow of waste temporarily, but this is not just a problem for the Olympics, it is one which continues after the world’s television crews leave the city. There is no guarantee that after the games that this problem will continue to be addressed with the same urgency. Check out the full article for comments from ISWA’s President and Vice-President.
Earlier this year we focussed on the use of plastic bags across Europe and how many countries are moving towards charges, or in France’s case – total bans. But what is the impact of these restrictions? Are we cutting down on the use of plastic bags as a result? Since the UK introduced a 5p charge on plastic bags last October, the results have been staggering. The Guardian have reported on an 85% reduction in the number of single-use plastic bags taken from supermarkets by customers. Looking at the real numbers, this is a staggering reduction – 500 million plastic bags were taken in the first six months of this year, compared with 7 billion in the year before. Taking over 6billion plastic bags from the ocean is a small change when you consider that 8 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans each year, but it shows that individual consumption habits can change dramatically with a small nudge in the right direction.
We often hear about the ambition of “zero waste” but it is often rejected as too ambitious and fantastical. But one small town in Japan has a solid plan to establish a completely wasteless town. As Business Insider reports, Residents and businesses of Kamikatsu are on a mission to become Japan’s first zero waste community by 2020. The town had previously incinerated all waste, but having recognised the awful impact on the environment, they began this ambitious plan which includes the sorting of waste into an astounding 34 categories. The town now recycles 80% of its waste with the other 20% going into landfill. You can watch a short documentary about Kamikatsu here.
29 July 2016
Welcome to your weekly waste briefing!
It’s been a very wet summer across Europe, with some of the rainiest summers ever recorded. Some business-minded brewers in Amsterdam, Netherlands have converted this into an opportunity, as reported in The Guardian. The De Prael brewery has created a 5.7% blond beer made from filter rain, organic barley, wheat, hops and yeast. The beer is currently on sale for a very reasonable €2 per bottle in various restaurants and bars across Amsterdam. That’s one way to deal with the rainy summer!
Over recent weeks we have been documenting the challenges made to the coffee shop industry on the sustainability of their cups. Last week Starbuck’s began trialing a new recyclable cups. Edie.net reports on how another huge coffee chain is committing to a more sustainable business model. One way they are doing this is by replaying the traditional Mobius Loop symbol (the three arrows) with the clearer “Tidyman” in an aim to push for more responsible disposal of the cup. The aim is to offer “absolute clarity as to whether the cups can be recycled.” However, there is still a lot of work to do. This week, UK Politician Natalie Bennett (of the green party) this week requested a coffee be poured in her reusable cup, only to be rejected.
Despite its bad reputation, the coffee industry is far away from being the most wasteful. After oil, it is the fashion industry that takes this unfavorable position. Clothing production has a poor reputation due to the levels of water usage and hazardous waste created in the production process. Whilst the situation remains poor and it is nonetheless an unacceptably wasteful industry, some labels are taking the initiative to end waste and create sustainable fashion. This long article by Forbes highlights how four major fashion brands are doing this. Levis, for example have focused on reducing water waste and have developed “waterless” jeans which used 96% less water in the manufacturing process than previously. Check out the article to see which other brands are trying to reduce their waste.
Finally, for those of you in the UK, don’t forget to check out the new series of BBC’s War on Waste, to see how Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s attempts to bring sustainable waste management matters to a mainstream audience. If you do not have access, you can also check out the Twitter hashtag #wastenot - https://twitter.com/hashtag/wastenot?src=hash
22 July 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing!
Most people tend to keep frozen food as it lasts longer, but many people still fail to properly take advantage of this, leading to far more food being wasted than necessary. In the U.K., the Food Standards Agency is launching an initiative to educate people on the myths of frozen food. According to The Guardian, over two thirds of people are throwing away foods that could instead be frozen like breads, leftover meals and fruits. The food standards agency states that “Much of this waste is unnecessary, and a better understanding of how to freeze food safely could go a significant way towards tackling the problem.”
The USA is one of the world’s most wasteful countries when it comes to food, but the world’s biggest supermarket is aiming to make a dent in the country’s “$29bn food waste problem”. Walmart is attempting this by encouraging consumers to purchase imperfect produce and changing its approach to how foods are labelled. From next month, Walmart products will no longer have the “best by” or “use by” wording, but will instead say “Best if used by” – the aim here is to make customers aware that most products last much longer than they realise. They have also been doing a lot to repurpose their “misshapen” produce. Read more about Walmart’s initiative in this blog.
Many countries impose a fee on plastic bags in order to discourage using them, but France has just gone a step further in completely banning them from all stores including bakeries, butcher shops, grocery stores and pharmacies of all sizes. A further ban on plastic bags for produce will be enforced within a year. As reported by France 24, this ban is part of a wider initiative stemming from the 2015 energy bill and it also requires that stores are only allowed to offer recyclable or biodegradable bags to its customers. Currently, 5 billion plastic bags are handed out each year at cashiers. Hopefully this new legislation will put a dent in this figure.
Another big American company, Starbuck’s, have begun trialling a new recyclable cup in response to the recent backlash following the news that billions of disposable coffee cups are wasted every year. Most coffee chain cups, despite popular belief, are not recyclable. But in a new initiative, as reported by the Mail Online , Starbuck’s have responded to concerns by trialling a new British-designed cup made from materials which can be recovered and reused in the recycling process. Furthermore, Styrofoam cups are becoming a thing of the past with many places, San Francisco for example, imposing tough measures to ban or reduce them.
01 July 2016
Welcome to July and your Weekly Waste Briefing!
Earlier this year we reported on the unacceptable amount of waste generated by coffee chains and the disposable paper cups. 8 million coffees were sold each day in the UK in such cups, with only one in four being recycled. The heavy criticism that followed put pressure coffee chains to look into ways to reduce this. Just this week, in response to the problem, a manifesto was signed with the aim of significantly increasing paper cup recovery and recycling rates by 2020. As reported by Resource Magazine, various representatives from each stage of the cup supply chain have signed the pledge. As the article highlights, the manifesto pledges that:
“‘The paper cup supply chain agrees to work together to ensure paper cups are designed, used, disposed of and collected to maximise the opportunities for recycling by further investment and funding of recycling, disposal and collection projects.’”
Some of the largest companies in the country have signed the pledge including Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Veolia, Costa and the British Soft Drinks Association. Let’s hope this can make a real difference.
This follows on from the news earlier this month reported in The Independent about a radical initiative turning disposable coffee cups into resin which could lead to a breakthrough in recycling unsustainable takeaway cups and reducing of waste. A resin, called “NextCupCycle” has been developed which can help convert the cups into a strong material which can be used for a range of practical products
Another consequence of modern consumption habits is the amount of plastic bottles we throw away. But one company has put these to good use, as reported by CNN. Graduates from universities in the United States this year will probably be wearing gowns made from recycled plastic bottles. One company is turning plastic bottles from PET into clothing, supplying over 1000 schools and colleges in the United States with graduation gowns. Take a look at the video in the article for an insight into the processes.
The idea of zero waste is gaining momentum especially among young people and The Guardian’s article recognises the efforts of the so-called “zero waste bloggers”. The article focuses on a blogger in the united states who is part of a wider, global movement of people who are promoting a zero-waste lifestyle in opposition to the increasingly wasteful consumption habits that exist. Their aim is to create 99% less waste than the average US Citizen (1lb per year, rather than 1,058). Many habits help form this lifestyle, some of which are very simple. Composting, refusing plastic cups, always carrying a re-usable water bottle etc. These are all very simple changes that any person can do in order to reduce their waste generation.
10 June 2016
The European football championships, one of the world’s most well-attended sporting events, begins today in Paris, France. That’s hundreds of thousands gathering in stadiums across the country over the next month, with at least 1.5 million more expected in the cities without tickets. This, combined with strikes taking place across the country, has burdened France with unsurmountable piles of garbage. “Paris Trash Piles Up Amid Strike Disruption Ahead of Euro 2016” cries the headline in Bloomberg as recent strikes about working laws have blocked waste collection across the city since Monday. They are also restricting access to the waste incinerator and are causing major restrictions to the 3000 tons of waste created each day by Parisians.Pictures in this piece by Reuters show enormous piles of waste gathering up in the grand boulevards of one of the world’s most grand cities. The solution by the French authorities has been to hire private contractors, but can they clear all of the waste in time for the big day? That’s unlikely. But it also raises the issue of how we deal with our waste on big occasions such as this. Last year, the world’s biggest music festival, Glastonbury in the UK was described by The Guardian as “an apocalypse of scrap metal, plastic bottles and abandoned tents.”
Away from the festivities, India is hardly well-known for public cleanliness and hygiene. But one village in Eastern India has been recognised as Asia’s cleanest. Residents of Mawlynnong, as reported by the BBC, are incredibly proud of the cleanliness of their village and everyone works together to ensure no garbage is left on the floors. Although India is infamous for discarded waste and unclean public spaces, a big “Clean India Mission” began in October 2014 with the goal of making India “clean” by October 2019, Mahatma Ghandi’s 150th birthday. As this report highlights, one of the major issues is public deification, something the Indian government hope to eradicate by the installation of large numbers of public toilets and new police sanitation inspection units.
Back to one of our most discussed issues – food waste. A new global food waste standard was announced this week by a consortium of organisations including the UN and a number of private and public organisations. Readers will be well aware of the shocking value of food waste (circa $940 billion annually) but these figures are often only estimates. This new standard, according to Reuters news agency, has established the first set of international definitions and reporting requirements for business and governments for measuring and managing food waste internationally. The aim is to accurately measure food waste in order to properly plan and manage the waste as the report states that “it is challenging to manage what you do not measure.” Read the press release above in full for further information on this new standard.
03 June 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing!
There are many arguments as to how we can reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away and entering the waterways and non-recyclable waste stream. One idea being discussed by the Indonesian government is to impose a levy (or tax) on plastic containers, much like the plastic bag fee that has been introduced many countries in Europe over recent years. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the state has proposed a $1.4 levy on plastic bag containers following recent floods in Jakarta which left tons of plastic piled one meter high on the shore line exposing the extent of the problem. Indonesia, with its population of 220 million people, is the world’s second highest ocean contaminator with plastic waste. For more information and statistics on the shocking state of plastic waste check out this video from the Wall Street Journal.
Others have promoted biodegradable plastic water bottles and shopping bags as a sustainable alternative to help reduce the enormous amount of plastic ocean waste. However, the UN’s top scientists have warned that this is a false solution, as highlighted in The Guardian. According to Jacqueline McGlade, UNEP’s chief scientist, this good intentioned solution is wrong. Why? Because most such plastics will only disintegrate at temperatures above 50 Celsius which is not possible in the oceans. Furthermore, this type of plastic actually proves more difficult to break down in the recycling process at a time when we are constantly arguing for better collection and recycling.
Over in the United States celebrity chefs are pressing congress on the major issue of food waste. The New York Times reports on a number of high-profile chefs who are making their way to Capitol Hill to testify and call for the legislators to take action and help raise the level of public consciousness on how much food is being wasted – roughly seven billion lbs annually in the United States. The article also notes how pressure groups are increasingly considering ways to redirect some of this food to those in need.
Last week we reported on the tech firm who is helping restaurant reduce their food waste. Well it turns out they are just one of a number who are helping, not just in the catering industry but in the agricultural and food production industry. The Guardian have called this concept the “OK Cupid for unwanted fruit and veg” in their long article linked above. It tells the story of Zoe Wong who, upon moving to the State’s largest agricultural state, California, was shocked to discover the amount of fruits of vegetables thrown away by farmers simply for being “misshaped”. She established an app “Cerplus” which aimed to take this unwanted produce and sell them off at 30% of the retail price.
This article in fashion magazine, Vanity Fair, highlights a number of other apps and start-ups popping up across California with similar goals. Huge amounts of money are being raised from donations from major celebrities including UN Environmental Spokesman, Leonardo Dicaprio.
27 May 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing!
Earlier this month a huge toxic fire at a tyre dump in Sesena, Spain forced a mass evacuation with the majority of the population of the small town fleeing their homes. The extent of the fire, which is highlighted in a video on BBC News was such that it required 10 fire trucks and an entire day to put out. The dumping site for tyres represents a significant environmental burden and was actually declared illegal back in 2003, sadly it still exists and the dangers have been highlighted by this fire.
Illegal dumping of waste remains a huge problem, not just in developing countries but all over the world. As reported by ABC News, the Australian EPA are currently cracking down on the illegal dumping of waste. In the report, a representative of the EPA describes the practice as “environmental crime” “and we want to stamp it out". Our thoughts exactly!
This shows us that the current waste problem is global and is the responsibility of everyone. It is arguable that westerners obliviousness to the issue is part of the problem, as indicated by the LA Times. The mounting global waste problem, or even crisis, is one of the greatest dangers to public health and the environment, the threats of which are imminent unless drastic changes are made. The world bank predicts that waste generation could raise to 4 billion tonnes per year within the century, a terrifying prospect. This alarming article points out the amount of waste generated across the world, with the United States and China leading the way. Yet at the same time, many of these people remain ignorant to the crisis, especially in the United States where a flat fee for garbage collection is installed. We urge you to check out our Global Waste Management Outlook for a full analysis of the current waste crisis.
Many claim to have the solution to this waste crisis, but we should not fall into the trap of thinking that technology alone can be the answer. As detailed in D Waste Dive, which also elaborates on the report by the World Bank, technology can only be part of the solution. World Bank expert, Ijjasz-Vasquez, warns that by taking waste away so efficiently, people are inclined to throw away more and are unaware of any waste problems. He calls for more viable collection processes and better governance, amongst many required changes.
But it’s not all bad news! Check out this couple in The Netherlands who are living in a house made entirely of waste! These two architects, as this story in The Guardian highlights, are in the process of building a home from old construction waste supplied by a Dutch Start-up. Talking of start-ups, food waste has featured heavily in the news recently and awareness is very much on the up and a number of small start-up companies are playing their part in helping raise this issue further. This article in The Guardian, warns how a staggering $80 billion of food waste is created annually by restaurants worldwide. But one London-based start-up has attempted to begin tackling the problem with its meter for food waste. Since 2013, the company has already saved its customers 2million GBP in food waste. Check out the article to see how this company is helping its customers reduce is food waste by an incredible 50%.
Friday April 15th 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing!
This week is “World Recycling Week” for H&M and they are encouraging people to bring their unwanted clothes, odd socks, old torn pajamas and any other unusable garments to their stores for recycling. According to H&M, 95% of clothes that are thrown away are reusable and recycling one t-shirt can save 555 gallons of water. The clothing retailer are are offering recycling points across its 3000 stores worldwide. They even made a music video, which you can see on Vogue magazine here. It might not be to everyone’s taste…
If you’re reading this, you probably know a little bit about waste. Have you ever wondered what is in a fellow waste expert's trash? The BBC paid a visit to Margaret Bates, ISWA Member and Professor of sustainable waste management at Northampton University, UK. They went through her trash to reveal 2.2kg of glass recycling, 4.4kg of paper and card and 1.5kg of non-recyclables amongst others. The article also attempts to trace the paths of the waste once it is collected, where plastics, for example, normally find their way to China (and sometimes back to the UK!)
There are many ways to reduce what you might be putting in your trash at home and the Daily Mail has put together a guide highlighting the unlikely foods that many throw away but can be frozen, getting up to six months more out of them. The article includes tips for freezing cheese, eggs, avocados, hummus, herbs and spices and even some vegetables.
The United States, one of the planet’s great consumers (and waste creators), is finally joining the fight against food waste by acknowledging that it poses a significant problem to the planet. The National Geographic reports that the United States is spending a staggering “$218 billion producing, transporting and discarding food that isn’t eaten” and the article estimates that reducing that waste by 20% would yield $100 billion in societal economic benefits across a decade. These figures have led the US government to finally take action and the US Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) have set a strong target of reducing food waste across the country by 50% by the year 2030. A consortium of businesses, government leaders and NGOs have come together to set up ReFED which has put together a very comprehensive plan to reduce food waste and have calculated the economic benefits, potential emission reductions, water saved and much more.
The economic potential of waste has been well documented recently and it is estimated by the Economic Times of India that there is a $13 billion industry waiting to be tapped into. At present, waste collection and treatment is a fragmented sector in India with little backing from big business. In a country where around 39 people work as manual waste-pickers, waste collection is still without industry status. The article calls on the Indian government to back the schemes and help encourage employment and business growth within waste management.
Friday April 1st 2016
Welcome to your weekly waste briefing for April 1st!.
How often do you pick up a takeaway coffee on your way to work? Does it come in a plastic or cardboard cup? If so, what do you do with the cup afterwards? The volume of coffee being served in disposable cups on a daily basis is absolutely staggering, with coffee chains in the UK alone handing out 8 million per day. And that figure, according to The Guardian, is a conservative estimate. The report adds that fewer than 1 in 400 of these are actually being recycled. The article goes on to discuss the problem in detail and offers some suggestions to help reduce the situation.
It is not just coffee cups that are using up resources and creating waste; modern consumption habits have encouraged so many single-use packaged products. In a video already seen by almost 10 million followers, actor Jeff Bridges urges people to avoid convenience products individually wrapped in plastic, say no to straws and to consider how they take home goods. He recorded the video on behalf of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, a group of individuals and organisations whose mission is to stop plastic pollution and encourage everyone to reject plastic goods.
Much of this plastic finds its way into our oceans where it is seriously endangering marine life. Earlier this year, a number of Sperm Whales were discovered starving and stranded off the North Sea coast of Germany. Further tests discovered that they had large amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs. Although the plastics did not lead to the Whales being stranded, this report by the National Geographic nonetheless highlights the danger of plastic to the endangered species, detailing how objects such as old car parts are being consumed and causing serious health issues, including heart failure, to marine life.
On a more positive ending, recent figures released by the EU this week show that waste generation across the continent continues to decrease. For 8 consecutive years the amount of waste generated per person has decreased according to Resource Magazine. The average European is creating 475kg of waste compared to 527kg in 2002. Read the article to find out how this waste is handled and treated in each country.
Friday 24 March 2016
Welcome to your weekly waste briefing for March 24.
What the supermarkets and fast food chains dispose of their food waste has been in the spotlight recently following the news that both France and Italy have passed legislation, ordering supermarkets to give any food waste to charities. Now Starbuck’s in the United States are in on the act and have pledged to give 100% of their food waste to charity. As reported in the Independent, the chain has 7,600 stores across America and will be working with a food donation charity to ensure that the unsold products go towards feeding those in need, rather than into the waste stream.
This news comes shortly after a surplus food supermarket opened in Denmark. The store “Wefood”, which opened in Copenhagen earlier this month, as reported by The Telegraph, will be selling produced that has past its labelled “sell by” date but is very much safe to eat. It is estimated that at least half of the food we through away in Europe is still edible and safe for consumption. But with food waste being so prominent in the news of late, hopefully a change is taking place. More can and should be done, of course, and the British Medical Journal has called for UK Supermarkets to cut food waste by 20%over the next decade and suggests the government take legislative action to expedite this.
Did you know that there are over one billion Apple products in active use across the world? And that is just one brand, so imagine how many smart phones and tablets find their way into the municipal waste stream. To counter this, Apple have developed a robot – Liam – who will take apart disposed iPhones and recover valuable materials that are recyclable. As discussed in Yahoo Finance, the technology has been under development for three years and finally began full operation last month, recovering valuable elements from the iPhone such as aluminium, gold, copper, tungsten etc.
Continuing the subject of e-waste, according The Times of India, new rules recently enforced by the Indian government extended e-waste disposal incentives to consumers who hand over old electronic goods to registered dealers and retailers. There will also be financial penalties for manufacturers who violate the new e-waste legislations. You can read more about the new legislation in the article above.
Thanks for reading and we wish you a happy Easter weekend!
Friday 11 March 2016
Welcome to your weekly waste briefing for March 11.
We were very pleased to read this week that the World Bank have reiterated what ISWA has been long arguing – that good solid waste management is fundamental to sustainable development. In a report by the World Bank, the importance of waste management is acknowledged and backed up by the shocking statistic that “More than half the world’s population does not have access to regular trash collection” and that “Unregulated or illegal dump sites serve about 4 billion people and hold over 40% of the world’s waste”. These terrifying numbers won’t come as a surprise to regular visitors to ISWA’s website, but wider recognition is nonetheless significant.
In Europe our recycling habits are very much taken as normal and instilled into our daily routines, but they still vary from country to country and can take some adjusting for new people. In an article in the New York Times, Katharina Heinrich writes about her experiences in moving to Switzerland and how she came across a very hefty fine for incorrectly disposing of her paper waste. However, recycling attitudes still need to improve across Europe if the waste crisis is to be addressed. In the UK, the BBC are reporting a “waste apathy” with recent data showing that household waste rising 30% in most regions at the same time as household recycling rates are falling to an average of 35%. They blame this reduction in household recycling on “green fatigue”.
However, a number of groups are aiming to reduce the amount of food we dispose of. In this article, The Guardian highlights the number of groups who are working very hard to ensure that food disposed of by supermarkets, stores and those that do not make it to supermarkets, still make it to the consumers in some form, even if it is made into beer.
Ocean Waste continues to make the headlines and this article from The Guardian remains very relevant. According to the report, 40% of global waste is coming from just China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. Therefore it is waters of East Asia which are most at risk. The report, which was conducted by Ocean Conservancy, indicates how the situation can be improved upon with four key actions which can help significantly reduce the amount of litter in the surrounding oceans. Better transportation, dump sites, better recycling, and cross-sector collaboration are all detailed in the report.
Friday 26 February 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing from ISWA!
In an effort to reduce unnecessary waste, the city of Hamburg has banned plastic coffee capsules from all public office buildings. Coffee pods and capsules have become increasingly popular over the past decade for a quick and convenient shot of coffee. But the pods, which account for one third of the coffee consumed in Western Europe, have been described as an “unnecessary resource” causing “consumption and waste generation, and often contain polluting aluminium" in a report detailed here by BBC Magazine.
The coffee pods contain three grams of packaging for every six grams of coffee, but resource inefficiency is even more staggering in household meat. According to a report by the Guardian, UK Households waste 34,000 tonnes of beef every year. That represents round £260m worth of raw and cooked beef items, as outlined by the “Meaty Issues” campaign by Love Food Hate Waste. If UK households are wasting this much meat, imagine what the figures might be across the rest of the world.
But waste is being taken more seriously by those who matter following 2015’s climate change agreement in Paris. ISWA President, David Newman was at the event and found that good waste management was being recognised as a critical component in reducing our carbon outputs. Reducing waste, recycling and composting are equally as important as other leading climate solutions indicates this article by Waste 360. Read the article in full for a detailed explanation as to why waste matters in the climate change debate.
As the global population grows, more waste is being generated every single day. According to the New Yorker, our daily waste creation is the equivalent weight as a million elephants. The article features a series of images taken by photographer Paul Bulteel who has captured a series of images from recycling plants in Europe to illustrate just how much waste we are creating.
But it is not just food waste, there is “an e-waste problem in the world” says Apple’s head of environmental affairs, Lisa Jackson speaking with Bloomberg Business. Apple collected 40,000 tonnes of e-waste in 2014 and are looking into ways to make every component within the iPhone recyclable. Read the article to find out where your iphone goes when it dies.
Friday 19 February 2016
Welcome to your Weekly Waste Briefing for Friday 19th February 2016!
One of the UK’s largest cheese manufacturers is making good use of the waste generated by its cattle. They have been converting the cattle’s excrement into methane gas, which is creating enough gas to fuel 6,000 homes in the region. The farm is creating 73 million kW/h of biogas each year and has a direct link to the national grid which fuels family homes. You can read the full story in the BBC here. Many dairy farms across Europe are doing something similar and this shows the huge potential of organic waste and that even animal excrement has a use.
Environmental Leader also reported this week on creative ways of monetising waste with biogas technology. It notes how various companies, like Biogest, are encouraging farmers to treat and process their waste with this technology, creating energy from their waste.
India’s third largest city, Bangalore, has recently adopted a “no landfill” policy and is also investing heavily into biogas, as The Hindu reports. With food being one of the largest waste streams, the municipality are realising it as a resource. Their ambition is to have a mid-size biogas plant in every district to help process the staggering 2,500 tonnes of wet waste produced daily.
Meanwhile in Australia the Senate has opened an inquiry into the problem of marine litter. In a report by the Guardian, the ocean waste situation is described as “critical” for the global ecosystem and subsequently for human health. The Senate has heard from a number of marine biologists and experts who have warned that the microscopic plastic pieces coming from household products such as toothpaste and soap are killing the marine wildlife in significant numbers.
On the subject of marine litter, a team of nature enthusiasts and film makers are currently putting together a documentary film “A Plastic Ocean” which aims to highlight the dangerous consequences of modern lifestyles and consumption habits and the amount of plastic waste we create. The film makers are hoping to educate the public and the industries on the necessary changes to clean up the oceans. You can watch the trailer and find out more about the film and the people behind it here.
Friday 12 February 2016
ISWA has been trying to raise attention to the global dumpsite problem recently, with its Wasted Health paper calling for immediate action to combat the serious human and environmental health risks posed by dumpsites. This is emphasised by the dumpsite in Mumbai, India which recently caught fire. This is the largest dumpsite in the city which receives over 4,000 tonnes of waste each day, so large that the fire could be seen from space. You can see the NASA'S satellite images in this fascinating video recently published by CNN.
A lack of waste infrastructure and the negative health impacts can be seen all across the developing world, with Reuters pointing out how poor solid waste management is one of the key factors in the large number of diseases in the informal settlements of Nairobi.
In the UK, the recent floods which effected huge parts of Northern England have caused millions of pounds of damage, creating 30.000 tonnes of waste, all of which had to go to landfills with an estimated landfill tax bill of £2.25m. This report in the Guardian shows how climate change and waste management are heavily linked and how we need to better prepare our waste management infrastructure to manage such natural disasters.
New ideas are being explored in order to mitigate climate change following December’s pledge to reduce emissions. One incineration plant in Oslo, Norway has commenced an experiment to establish the feasibility of capturing the carbon dioxide from the emissions of the waste-to-energy plant. As reported by news agency, Reuters , the incinerator currently emits 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. But these new tests hope to capture the emissions and utilise them in oil and gas fields. It is a long way off yet, with tests having only just begun.
Friday 5 February 2016
As of Wednesday this week, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away unsold food items. As covered this week in The Guardian, instead of sending the food to the residual waste, French supermarkets are now obliged to donate the unsold food items to food banks or charities. The supermarkets will also be banned from spoiling food to prevent foragers. Campaigners are hoping that France is first of many countries to adopt such an attitude to food waste. The Guardian have also produced a fascinating infographic to help comprehend really how much food is being wasted each year, you may be surprised!
Meanwhile in the UK, one of the country’s largest supermarkets has adopted a new policy of putting “ugly vegetables” on their shelves. Many supermarkets waste significant food as they refuse to stock so called “ugly” or misshaped vegetables.
However, Asda is setting the trend by selling these misshapen vegetables at discounted prices, as reported by The Guardian.
For more detailed reading on the food waste situation, take a look at this feature article in Greenbiz, which discusses how food waste can be tackled going forward now that the “big hitters” such as the United Nations see it as a major humanitarian and environmental imperative.
In China, a huge effort is being made to move towards cleaner energy. A Beijing based company has, according to The Financial Times, bought German WtE Company “Energy from Waste” (EEW) for a staggering $1.6Billion! This extraordinary deal shows that China is serious about dealing with its waste as the country embarks on a huge waste-infrastructure rebuilding programme. As News Agency Reuter’s points out, clean energy is very much in demand in China as the country attempts to reduce its pollution output and reliance on landfill.
Also in an attempt to reduce landfill reliance, Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is investing in a number of recycling schemes in order to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. The city has been formalising the litter pickers on the street, offering them a base salary and a more secure livelihood with social security and pensions. You can read the full report in The Guardian about how the government’s “Green City” plan has recruited over 5,000 litter pickers who are now in secure employment and take their recyclables (plastic bottles, cardboard newspapers etc) to the sorting trucks were they are separated and then recycled.
Another innovative recycling scheme has been in operation in the Indian city of Chandigarh since December 2015. The Indian Express documents how a company has begun offering a door-to-door recycling service which assists residents in selling their household recyclables and junk such as newspapers, plastic, glass, metal, tyres and also electronic waste (refrigerators and other household electricals.) The founder of the project says he wants to encourage a habit of recycling amongst the residents of the city.
Friday 29 January 2016
One brewery in the UK has come up with a unique and innovative way to tackle food waste by turning excess bread into profit. The beer, called “Toast”, as reported by The Independent, uses one slice of bread for each bottle from surplus supplies taken from bakeries and sandwich makers. The beer is being produced by food waste campaign group, Feedback whose mission is to reduce global food waste through innovative solutions such as this Toast Beer.
It is clear that food waste is one of our greatest challenges in the expanding, modern world, which is why Champions 12.3 was founded last week at Davos. As reported by a number of sources, the group consists of CEOs, government ministers and civil society leaders who will “increase political and social momentum to achieve Target 12.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals” Chapter 12.3, as agreed upon in December’s Climate Conference is to “halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reduce food losses along production and supply chains including post-harvest losses” You can meet all of the food waste champions on the Champions 12.3 website here. They will be lobbying governments and directing various campaigns over the coming years.
One significant constraint in limiting food waste individual perceptions. As reported by The Guardian, UK citizens are throwing away twice as much food as they think. A survey found that 81% of people have a much more positive understanding of how much food waste they are creating - believing that they throw away half as much as they actually do. The reality is that families are putting a staggering £58 (€76) worth of food in the trash each month.
The Circular Economy remains an important theme since the release of the EU Circular Economy Package last December and research suggests that closing the loops could save organisations both small and large serious money. Research highlighted by CNBC suggests that greater resource efficiency could save companies a staggering $25trillion by 2050. The circular approach is a hot topic at the moment and you can read more about this in ISWA’s recent reports by the Task Force on Resource Management.
Meanwhile, the ISWA Scholarship Programme is gaining momentum as noted in the blog of ISWA Young Professional Zoë Lenkiewicz who has written an excellent piece on the work of Timothy Bouldry, who is organising and overseeing the ISWA Scholarship Programme. The programme will take 19 children out of work from a dumpsite in Nicaragua and provide them with clothing, educational materials and a sustenance allowance for two years.
Friday, 22 January 2016
The World Economic Forum (WEF), where the world’s leaders from both the public and private sectors gathered to discuss a number of global concerns, concluded on Friday. A new report was released at this year’s WEF in Switzerland which suggested that waste will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans if we do not take drastic action and improve how we dispose of it. The report, which has been widely reported such as this article in The Washington Post, was conducted in partnership with The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, also warns that plastic waste is becoming a major issue with 95% of plastic packaging being lost after single use.
The study, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics, can be read in full here.
In more positive news, scientists have a plan to remove many of the millions of tonnes of plastic waste which finds its way into our oceans, according to The Independent. The clean-up project intends to remove the plastics when they first enter the ocean before they can do any real harm by using 100km-long, inflatable booms aligned across sea currents along the coast lines of the most densely populated countries such as China. The Ocean Cleanup Foundation are currently testing the technology off the coast of the Netherlands and hope to implement it on a larger scale following a crowd-funding effort and hope to significantly reduce the amount of plastic polluting our oceans and being consumed by marine life.
Meanwhile British businessman, Alan Parker has raised $3.3Million in venture capital which will be used to help eradicate food waste from the hospitality industry. As reported in The Telegraph, the start-up, Winnow, has “created a system that weighs food waste bins, recording what items are binned and why” which will allow the industry to order and prepare produce more effectively, reducing its waste.
The more the global population grows, the more efficient we need to be with our food. Yet more than a third of the food we produce goes uneaten according to an article in Business Insider. However, an American initiative is investing $130 million in projects which aim to tackle food waste. According to the United Nations, we produce enough food to feed the entire planet, yet many crops go wasted in Africa. Therefore YieldWise, an initiative by the Rockerfeller Foundation hope that their projects can help cut food waste in half by 2030.