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Reporting the International Training on Organics Management

Report on International Training in Organics Management

. The international training course on organic matter management was held in Donosti (Basque Country, Spain) from October 13th to 14th last year. This is an excellent opportunity to solve the problem of organic waste management, including collection and disposal. The course aims to empower decision makers, waste managers and activists by providing them with relevant tools and knowledge on biological waste management. The course involves the participation of waste or other environmental NGO activists, representatives of local authorities and policy makers from the Basque Country, other parts of Spain, France, Italy, South Africa and China.

Three trainers from Scuola Agraria del Parco di Monza, Dr. Marco Ricci, Dr. Enzo Favoino, and Dr. Alberto Confalonieri, provided knowledge and examples on the separate collection and treatment of biological waste in Italy and Europe. In addition, the course also includes a field trip to Hernani and a field trip to a centralized composting plant.

The importance of handling the organic part separately

Enzo Favoino stated that to achieve zero waste, biological waste must be specifically collected and treated: "We are only half succeeding through packaging recycling," he believes. Biological waste is still an important part of the total amount of municipal solid waste, so only collecting and processing dry waste will not be able to achieve the ambitious zero waste plan.

The main advantages of dealing with biological waste mainly related to climate change: reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the reduction of landfill or incineration of biological waste, the possibility of sequestering carbon in the soil and preventing soil degradation. At the same time, the special treatment of biological waste has proven to be the best way to meet the EU's landfill transfer targets, and at the same time proves that it does not require incineration.

One of the current best practices in Europe is in the Contarina district in northern Italy, which is the European champion of separate collection and reduction of residual waste. On the contrary, the case of Mallorca claiming to have the largest incineration facility in Southern Europe shows what it means to have an incinerator that requires feeding. Other bad examples come from the public, such as Tenerife or South Africa, where incineration plants are planned.

Separate collection scheme: the simpler the better.

The meeting of Dr. Marco Ricci-Jürgensen discussed the elements to be considered when designing a separate collection scheme: the main elements to be considered and the advantages and disadvantages of each element, including different collection systems and policy tools for implementing biological waste collection.

Among these instruments, the door-to-door collection system is considered the most effective because it increases the share of individual collection and significantly reduces the presence of contaminant elements in different parts. The other policy tool highlighted is the Pay-As-You-Go Program (PAYT), which allows a direct link between waste generation and service costs. The meeting concluded that, given the different implementation options, it seems clear that the simpler, the better the effect.

"There is no perfect solution. Any system must adapt to local conditions," Marco Ricci said. "However, involving stakeholders in the transition to zero waste work is crucial. In this sense, environmental NGOs, the agricultural sector and citizens (waste producers) must be involved and understand these changes."

Milan was introduced as a successful example of the implementation of biological waste collection. This densely populated city with 1.5 million inhabitants recently launched a door-to-door collection of bio-waste and achieved its goal in 6 weeks. Another different and interesting example is Castelbuono, an old town with a medieval building in Sicily, where the logistics of collecting bio-waste is complicated, and they started collecting bio-waste with donkeys. After all, it turns out that no matter what challenges any given municipality faces, there is always a viable way to collect biological waste.

Garden waste: an opportunity for community composting.

Garden waste is also an important waste stream in general biological waste. The conference chaired by Dr. Favoino focused on home and community composting and the reality of these systems in Europe.

Community composting is usually a parallel element with public management, but it can also be a good substitute for collection in remote or remote areas because it has no collection and processing costs. However, the fact of changing the ownership of discarded objects may challenge existing legislation. For example, in Bulgaria, they adjusted the legislation to classify community composting as “decentralized composting” without administrative approval, as long as the annual compost does not exceed 10 cubic meters.

Hernani field trip

The group also had the opportunity to visit Hernani's Zero Waste Best Practices, one of the leading towns in Gipuzkoa's zero waste movement. Hernani decided to implement a door-to-door collection system in 2010 to collect bio-waste, but it was not until 2013 that it started community composting in urban areas. According to the civil servants responsible for waste disposal, the system is working and they have successfully reduced the remaining waste by 60%. They are still committed to continuous improvement, and they are looking for ways to overcome 90% of independent collections. Facts have proved that Hernani's system is successful. There are 14 employees now, compared with 3 in 2010. This is also part of the success in countries with high unemployment. View the full case study here.

Compost details

Subsequent meetings discussed in depth the basic elements of composting, covering the biological process of converting biological waste into compost and the main composting technologies, as well as the methods to deal with peculiar smells.

Again, the best technology is the one defined for the precise situation and specific needs. Dr. Alberto Contalonieri said: “Composting is actually a very versatile process, so it allows small low-tech facilities to large industrialized and centralized facilities. For example, weather conditions or the facts in rural or urban areas may affect open or closed systems. Or dynamic or static system decision.Dr. Enzo Favoino talked about using compost as a natural fertilizer and explained the positive impact of compost on soil and vegetable production. The presence of organic matter reduces soil loss by a third, while greatly increasing the presence of earthworms. These are natural indicators of soil health. At the same time, the use of compost as a natural fertilizer reduces the proportion of root diseased vegetables. Due to the presence of organic matter in the soil, half of Europe is in a pre-desertification state, so using compost is a good way to close the cycle and solve this situation. Dr. Favoino emphasized the other benefits of composting, such as its slow release of nitrogen, which can avoid nitrogen loss during heavy rains and eventually overproduce nitrate.

Field trip to Lapatx centralized composting facility

In the afternoon, we visited the Lapatx centralized composting facility in Aizpeitia. The director of the plant and the director of the Provincial Waste Consortium in charge of the plant introduced the different problems they encountered in the plant. This is an excellent way to apply the concepts learned in the morning to the decision-making process and understand the reasons for incorrect facility design. In this sense, the original government originally wanted to meet the needs of the province, but because of the construction of incineration facilities, it hoped to collect a small amount of organic waste. However, the change of government stopped the incinerator and requested that the Lapatx composting center be adjusted to distribute more biological waste.

Nowadays, Lapatx can give full play to its performance, but is plagued by the initial poor design: it is very small and inappropriate in shape; the upload of biological waste occurs on a slope; the bag opener was originally designed to open packages, etc. However, in the near future, Gipuzkoa will open two new facilities to complement Lapatx.

An experience must be repeated!

This training course is the first of its kind in the European Zero Waste Program. It has proved to be an excellent opportunity to learn the basic principles behind the separation of organic waste from the source and the logistics and economics of the separation and collection of biological waste systems. Through field visits, you can directly observe how the zero waste system works, as well as the complete details of the main challenges and opportunities. Participants are very satisfied with this experience and look forward to further training programs.

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