22 Nov

EU Waste Directive – Ambition needed

OPEN LETTER TO MINISTER NAUGHTON.

To the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment

Re: Final steps for more ambitious EU waste legislation – your help is needed

Dear Minister Naughton,

The 2018 Climate Change Performance Index highlights Ireland as being the worst performing country in Europe for action on climate change. (https://www.climate-change-performance-index.org/). The Index is produced annually on the basis of joint analysis by two leading European think-tanks. It places Ireland 49th out of 56 countries, a drop of 28 places from last year.

The expert report lays bare the continuing and disturbing contradiction between the Irish Government’s rhetoric on climate change and the stark reality of very poor progress made here. However, we can redeem ourselves and play catch up. Here is one way to do so if we are serious about our deteriorating Environmental conditions.

At the moment final stage of the negotiations within the European Council’s Working Party on the Environment regarding amendments to the EU Waste Directive is fast approaching.

We in the Zero Waste movement are calling on all environmentally conscious politicians to urgently support ambitious measures in three key areas:

  1. more ambitious recycling targets;
  2. urgent action on tackling marine litter; and
  3. immediate action to curb food waste.

We actively support the ambitions of better resource and waste management in Ireland and the EU and the move towards a truly Circular Economy. However, we are concerned about the obstructing position of the Council, undermining the negotiations of the Waste Directives as well as job creation and environmental progress in the EU.

As the fifth trilogue negotiation approaches, we call on you and the government to support the following three key measures in the Council’s mandate for the Trilogue of 27th November 2017:

Higher targets for preparation for reuse and recycling, and mandatory separate collection:

In order to gain the maximum benefits of resource savings and job creation, it is essential to support a target of 70% of municipal solid waste to be prepared for reuse and recycled by 2030. Countless European countries and municipalities have shown this is possible to achieve.

In addition, a key legislative step to reach this target is to remove loopholes around compulsory separate collection and pricing anomalies such as flat rate fees which we see in Ireland

Tackling marine litter: Include a European Union wide marine litter reduction target of

  • 30% by 2025 and
  • 50% by 2030

for the ten most common types of litter found on beaches (mainly plastics), as well as for fishing gear found at sea, with the list adapted to each of the four marine regions in the EU.

Curbing food wastage: Include a European Union wide food waste reduction target of

  • 30% by 2025 and
  • 50% by 2030, from farm to fork.

In parallel, introduce a review clause calling on the European Commission to propose a binding target by 2020 once baseline data and a clear methodology are available, and support the introduction of a standardized food waste hierarchy.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further information and discussion. Thanks for giving this your consideration,

Best regards,

Sean Cronin,

Director

Zero Waste Alliance Ireland

16 Nov

Zero Waste Lifestyle –What Does It Mean?

Zero Waste Lifestyle

 

Zero Waste Lifestyle– What Does It Really Mean?

The Zero Waste lifestyle is becoming a more popular phrase  But what does it really mean. It’s far more than just recycling your disposable plastic bottle.  The Zero Waste lifestyle is about sending nothing to landfill or thermal treatment (aka Incineration). This does not mean that we do more recycling. In fact, the opposite happens. We recycle less because we find upstream ways to avoid having material to recycle in the first place.

The key to Zero Waste lifestyle is decisions!

Deciding to buy something or not. Deciding to Avoid, Refuse , Switch, Reuse and Reduce. It is a decision rich consumption lifestyle, evaluating the consequences for waste of each decision we make to acquire something. The real goal is to try to avoid landfill / incineration (the destruction of resources) and keep resources in circulation as long as possible in multiple useful life-cycles.

I may never reach ZW nirvana but I feel it is just over the horizon.

Making early choices.

As we consume resources in our daily lives (Food, products, services, stuff) the decisions made in the early part of the lifecycle have the biggest impacts. This applies to the design, manufacture and re-manufacture and support activities (maintenance) of manufacturers and the purchasing choices of consumers. In this decision making top-down approach recycling is a last resort: it is always better to avoid, refuse, reduce, re-use and repair before recycling anything. It is an iterative process because you must re-examine decisions all the time when faced with your residual waste. Simply ask how this waste is still remaining – and examine all the decisions made along the way that got you into this waste situation. Constant refinement of decisions with the end of pipe consequence in mind will ensure you progressive eliminate bad choices and reach as close as possible the Zero Waste nirvana.

I recycle all the time but I’m not at ZW nirvana just yet, It’s a journey and I’m on it, along with many other fellow travellers. ! So as a ‘ZeroWaster I’m always thinking about my residual waste, refining my earlier choices, and aspiring to do better next time. I may never reach ZW nirvana but I feel it is just over the horizon. I’m getting ever so close and I enjoy the company, support and advice of fellow travellers.

What does a Zero Waste lifestyle look like in normal life?

It’s all about doing something more and progressively trying to cut your waste. Zero Waste choices and informed decisions are your tools.

  • SEEK LONGEVITY: It is about choosing the right durable products that are well-made and built to last, that can be repaired or re-manufactured, and won’t end up in landfill/incinerators once life-expired. The Manufacturer or Supplied should have a takeback/recycling programme in force. It may cost a little more at the time you buy but it will save you money in the longer term.

    Choose Re-usable over Disposable

    Choose Re-usable over Disposable

  • SHUN DISPOSABLES: It is about choosing reusable products over single-use disposable items. There is a re-usable coffee cup in the photo below. Which one is it?
  • FAVOUR OLD over NEW: Do you really need a new item. e.g. car? Look to second-hand over new where possible, and valuing resources already in circulation.
  • SATISFY YOUR NEEDS not WANTS? Do you really need the item? Do you really need the amount on offer (e.g. special offers on food quantities than may not be right for you). You need to avoid temptations and impulse purchases and refuse anything not needed.
  • EMBRACE SHOPPING LISTS : Your best ally in the fight to remain focused on what you are going to the supermarket to buy. What’s not on the list is not needed. Make the list at home before you set off. Check your larder/fridge etc for your actual needs and volumes required and stick to it.
  • ASK QUESTIONS and QUESTION ANSWERS: It is about asking questions of the supplier and retailer to find out what they offer for recycling, maintenance and packaging recovery. How much recycled or re-manufactured content is in the product?
  • EMBRACE RE-USE: Think of novel ways to re-use your stuff or components. Find new and better ways of doing things, re-using things and substituting for unsustainable products or processes.
  • DOUBLE VISION: Think ahead. Before acquiring something think about how your relationship with it will end. Then decide the best option for a Zero Waste outcome at the end-of-useful-life point.

See more on Zero Waste lifestyle on our video page.

What does your Zero Waste lifestyle look like? Have you started your journey yet?

Take action on disposable coffee cups. Grab yourself an eCupán re-usable, collapsible coffee cup.

Photo Credits David East via Unsplash
01 Nov

Dirty Water : Wastewater treatment opportunity.

Image courtesy Peter Hershey

The recent EPA report on the Quality of our Wastewater treatment in 2016  highlights that there’s  a lot to be done.  The EPA 2016 Wastewater Report’s Summary findings are stark. It’s embarrassing to contemplate!  But challenges need to be faced and very soon.

Here’s a very brief summary of the top 5 urgent issues.

  • 50 /185  of Ireland’s urban areas did not meet European Union (EU) standards.
  • The final deadline to comply with these standards was 2005 (12 Years Ago).
  • Ireland is being taken to the European Court of Justice for not treating wastewater properly.
  • Raw sewage in wastewater is released into the environment from 44 urban areas.
  • Improvements are needed at 148 urban areas to address the priorities listed in the report.

It is clear that we need significant capital investment to upgrade deficient wastewater treatment systems, improve water quality and avoid financial penalties.

Opportunity hidden in the wastewater.

While the scale of our ‘dirty water situation’  is great, there are opportunities open to mine our wastewater for nutrients. ZWAI have previously sent submissions on this topic and it is now very pertinent to look at our proposals again. There are benefits in acting in sync with the new capital investment programme that will be needed.

See our Submission details here and others on our submissions page .

Unfortunately, Irish wastewater policy is focused solely on “treating wastewater” in an effort to minimise the detrimental effects of wastewater discharges on the aquatic environment.

Our view is that a better policy would be to place equal emphasis on wastewater “segregation” as well as on “the treatment of wastewater”. This would greatly facilitate “wastewater pollution avoidance”, “nutrient resource recovery”, more efficient use of water, and water recycling where appropriate.

Zero Waste Alliance Ireland calls for a very radical revision of the EPA Code of Practice and Part H of the Irish Building Regulations.

Phosphorus Mining.

The world’s finite phosphate resources are limited and this limited resource will be unable to keep up with the world’s growing and increasing demand for phosphorous fertilizer over the coming decades.
In economics, for any amenity, product or service where there is a growing
shortage, prices will begin to rise. Since there is no alternative to phosphate as
a constituent of fertilizer we can only expect very serious price rises – resulting
in food shortages, and increased prices which hit the poor worst.
To soften the economic threat of rising phosphate prices, Ireland must be much more efficient in recycling phosphorous. It is of strategic importance that phosphorus should not be wasted, methods should be found to conserve and recycle it. If waste of phosphorus can be avoided, and phosphorus recycled as much as possible, this will be a “win-win” outcome, coinciding with our ZW policy of reducing and eliminating waste

Rationale of our  ‘Dirty Water Mining’  proposals

  • In nature, the waste products of every living organism serve as raw materials to be transformed by other living creatures, or benefit the planet in other ways; and human communities must follow this ecological principle as far as possible;
  • “Zero Waste” is a realistic whole-system approach to addressing the problem of society’s unsustainable resource flows – and it applies equally to domestic wastewater and to solid wastes;
  • Discarded materials and substances do not necessarily become “waste”, as long as there is a possibility of re-use, recycling or re-incorporation into the biosphere (e.g., by composting, anaerobic digestion or other biological transformations) without causing ecological or environmental damage; but these desirable processes become more difficult or even impossible when discarded substances or materials are mixed to form a combined “waste stream”;
  • For most of humanity’s existence on this planet, our excreta served as nourishment for other animals, or were returned directly to the soil; providing valuable nutrients or fertiliser for agricultural or horticultural use;
  • This practice carried a risk of spreading faecal-borne diseases but our current knowledge of microbiology can be applied to ensure that this risk is reduced to negligible proportions;

Septic tanks and Flushing.

  1. The widespread adoption of the relatively simple technology of the flush toilet throughout rural Ireland in the 20th century, and the building of large numbers of houses in unsewered areas, has led to a huge increase in the numbers of individual on-site wastewater treatment systems for domestic sewage and other wastewaters from houses and other buildings outside towns;
  2. The adverse environmental effects and public health risks associated with unsuitable location and inadequate maintenance of these single house wastewater treatment systems have been well documented by local authorities and by the EPA;
  3. These effects include surface water and groundwater pollution by faecal bacteria and sewage-derived nutrients; with consequential difficulties in complying fully with the Water Framework Directive

The principal response to this problem has been to develop a registration and inspection regime, carried out by local authorities under the supervision of the EPA, with the aim of bringing all single-house wastewater treatment systems under control, and preventing further pollution of groundwater and surface water;

Though satisfactory in other ways, this registration and inspection scheme does not consider wastewater as “waste” to be prevented, reused or recycled; and does not address the need to recover and re-use the valuable nutrients contained in domestic wastewater;

ZWAI advocates:
  1. separation of different types of wastewater produced in houses. i.e., “black water” (highly contaminated with faecal micro organisms), and “grey water” (discharge from bathing, showering, clothes washing, dish-washing and other similar uses); and,
  2. separation of urine from faeces, with urine being used as a source of nitrogen and phosphorus.

• In order to become truly sustainable in the long term, society must practice the re-use and recycling of wastewater to a much larger extent than is done at present; and source-separation of human urine is one promising technology which can be used to achieve this objective.

  • Source separation Toilet Swedish style

    Source separation Toilet Swedish style

    Source-separation of human urine has the added advantage of conserving and re-using phosphorus. It is not a new technology, and can be relatively easily installed, as shown by examples from Sweden and other countries.

Actions to take now.

  1. This objective may be best achieved by an amendment to Part H of the Building Regulations; and,
  2. A further step in the direction of resource conservation would be to encourage the more widespread adoption of modern composting toilets which do not require water for flushing.