The path towards zero waste should be fun

Ljubljana 22. April – Waste is a daily human creation and if everyone would indulge in the same consumption patterns as Americans and Europeans we would require not one but five or two planets respectively. Indians and Chinese are trailing not far behind the West in terms of consumption and waste generation therefore a transition from linear to circular economic model is of utmost importance, according to Paul Connett a zero waste advocate. He is also certain that the path towards zero waste is fun. Connett first heard of the zero waste idea in 1998 and since then acts as one of the most visible zero waste proponents. Today he presented the concept at the annual zero waste Europe and zero waste cities conference in Ljubljana jointly organised by Ecologists without borders, Zero waste Europe, City council of Ljubljana and Snaga Ljubljana. Landfills are boring and so are incinerators. However a different story occurs in the reuse centres which are usually bustling with activities. There people are socialising, learning, participating in communities and creating new jobs in the process, said Connett. “If it’s fun, people will get involved more” he assured.


Paul Connett at the Zero Waste Europe meeting (photo: Maša Kores)

He reinforced his claims with numerous cases of good practice regarding reuse, recycling and composting that were developed in a number of cities worldwide. One such centre in Sweden even has a clown that entertains kids, a bathroom that is in fact an art gallery and a truly entertaining dog which is able to sort waste in six appropriate bins. “If a dog can sort waste into 6 distinct bins so can Jožica and Janez do with 3 different bins”, he elaborated. However zero waste goals are much broader than mere composting, recycling and material reuse. The end goal is to derive to a society which wastes nothing. “Zero waste is better for business (economy), our health and the planet. It is also better for our children as it provides more hope for the future”, emphasised Connett.

His message to the industry is: products that cannot be reused, recycled or composted should not be made. “We need a better industrial design” he appealed. As an example he put forth an Italian city of Capannori, where the president of Zero Waste Europe, Rossano Ercolini comes from. The residents there were disgruntled by the immense amount of used coffee capsules left behind. Therefore local authorities took action and together with the producer they found solutions in the form of biodegradable and recycled capsules.

The idea of Zero Waste was first conceived of in California, whereas first Slovenian municipalities adopt it in 2014. Currently the project includes municipalities of Bled, Gorje, Vrhnika, Borovnica, Log-Dragomer and Ljubljana. “We would like to see other municipalities follow suit and adopt these advanced Zero Waste models”, with these words Irena Majcen the minister of environment, greeted the attendees of this year’s conference. “In spite of a very ambitious outlook of the scheme at these times of global consumption patterns and consequential growth of waste generation per capita we cannot deviate from our goals”, she added. Ljubljana is the first European capital which joined the Zero Waste movement, a fact that made the mayor Zoran Janković flushed with pride: “For everyone else the idea of Zero Waste is but a dream, for us however it is a reality.” He said and added that the Slovenian capital is indeed one of the cleanest and tidiest cities in Europe.

Ljubljana, which also carries the title of the Green capital of Europe 2016, is the European capital with the largest percentage of separate waste collection (65 % in year 2015). Today the residents of Ljubljana collect almost ten times more recyclables then 10 years ago. The results can be mostly attributed to improvements in infrastructure, intensive communications efforts and collaboration with the residents among others. Cooperation within the Zero Waste network brings abundant benefits to participating cities. These benefits were also the subject of today’s lectures at the Zero Waste Europe and Zero Waste Cities conference. The lecture will be followed up by a discussion revolving around the effects of electronic waste management on climate change. Two additional topics included are concerned with how to ensure reuse of electronics and about a special problem with recycling plastic waste which occurs when recycling paper.

The conference started on Thursday when there was talk of how to prevent waste and opportunities which these measures bring to the local community. At the round tables, the attendees were talking about the examples of good practice in relation to use of washable nappies in nurseries and maternity wards. Further topics were waste prevention in tourism and how to reduce the amount of food waste in general.

The Zero Waste Europe network consist of 19 national organisations, 302 local grassroots movements and many other organisations, businesses, and individuals from all corners of Europe. This Network represents a voice of almost 7 million people, including 6 municipalities from Slovenia.

Written by: bg/jes, STA

Translated by: Andrej Fideršek