Skip to content
Zero Waste practices from San Francisco (USA) and Contarina (Italy) show transition is possible

The zero waste practices of San Francisco (USA) and Contarina (Italy) show that the transition is possible.

Leaders in waste management in the United States and the European Union demonstrated their experience in Brussels on March 4. A selected audience composed of members of the European Parliament, officials of the European Commission and stakeholders learned about San Francisco and the province of Treviso in northern Italy.

At the event, Joan-Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe, introduced the concept of zero waste and how to design non-toxic products and keep in mind how to reintroduce them into technology or natural recycling as necessary to collect and ultimately reduce resource use. By comparing the two methods with specific performance examples, the difference between zero waste landfill and true zero waste is also clarified.

The event continued with a presentation by Kurt Vandenberghe, Director of Climate Action and Resource Efficiency of the European Commission. Mr. Vandenberghe welcomed the initiative to organize a seminar on best practices and pointed out that eco-efficiency restoration is important, but they are not enough to reverse the current unsustainable trends, and we need to change our production and consumption methods. In addition, it confirmed the EC’s commitment to make a more ambitious proposal for a circular economy that takes waste and products into consideration.

Jack Macy from the City of San Francisco’s Zero Waste Program started his speech with the experience of using compost on the ranch for carbon capture. He established the link between waste and climate policy. He then introduced the San Francisco experience based on the "Fantastic Three"; separate door-to-door collections in three waste streams, organic waste, recyclables, and residues. The system is optimized through a pay-per-use approach, which allows waste generators to pay based on the amount of waste they take out. Preventive measures such as banning the use of disposable plastic handbags, disposable plastic water bottles, or extended polystyrene complete the model that represents the most advanced technology in the United States.

Marco Mattiello introduced the most successful practice in Europe so far. The area covered by Contarina of 550,000 people has achieved a recovery rate of 85% and a rate of residual waste-which is collected and sent for processing-is only 53 kg. But Contarina, who is loyal to the spirit of zero waste, hopes to continue to improve, and has set himself a recycling target of 96.7% and a prevention target of 80% reduction, which means that each person produces only 10 kg per year-the EU average residual waste is 250 kg- —. Mattiello shows how Contarina can help reduce costs and create jobs.

JM Simon concluded the event by emphasizing the fact that these changes occurred in less than ten years, thus proving that it is possible to achieve a high separate collection rate in a shorter time than the construction of the incineration plant. Simon pointed out that three factors have made these initiatives possible; political leadership, separation of the source of organic matter, and failure to invest in incineration capacity, and warned that the European Commission has stopped separate collection of organic waste since 15 years, and has been in the process for 10 years. Promote the growth of incineration. In order to make a circular economy possible, these two things need to change.

To download the presentation of this meeting, please click:

Previous article Reuse the network