Recycling crisis and barriers that we have to overcome

Dear Antonis

You keep going with special articles about the debate to recycling crisis and after a review I made would like to contribute on that as following


1. What are the barriers we have to overcome?
· Lack of short term capital
· Companies will increasingly need financial resources and/ or bank or state guaranties to continue operations and tackle the negative revenue effects of the recession. This will be essential to maintain the high environmental standards internationally, particularly with respect to climate objectives which cannot be achieved without functioning waste management and recycling infrastructure.
· Recycling needs must remain economically viable.
· There is global supply excess of recyclates without knowing the quantities but there are large stocks for those companies which are largely dependent on international sales in emerging markets such as China and India. And once people stopped buying other products, manufacturers in China no longer accepted America’s recyclables – particularly paper for all that packaging. Secondary raw materials as paper and scrap metals are accumulating at the ports of call because contracting parties refuse to accept the goods.
· The private sector what needs to see is good understanding of how serious the situation is by local authorities. Contractors do not want to stop providing a service but if they cannot afford to continue some contracts, yes the council could take them to the court but this would achieve little. There will be costs incurred and there are few companies who will want to take over the contract at present. The better way forward is for councils to pay more to cover the shortfall in material value and we can agree on a structure so that when prices rise again a fair share of this increase ca be returned to the local authority.
· The biggest market problem is with bad quality of mixed papers and it is irrelevant how it is collected and that means we have to continue with good quality.
· There must be data bases to control the supply and demand in the market otherwise is setting down to a new equilibrium will be a long term effect.
· We have to share experiences and problems and communicate and try and find innovation solutions
· If we have to start landfilling recyclables we will lose public confidence in recycling schemes and it will take a long time to build up again.
· As for eventual market recovery, we would say it won’t happen until manufacturing picks up again. In the mean time, survival is a matter of which recycling businesses anticipated a decrease in demand. Everybody is hurting right now. The question is; How long is it going to happen and who’s best prepared for it ? Who can ride out the storm?.
· In recycling business must understand you are going to lose money one year out four and must prepare for it. It must be part of business plan, but it is difficult to find that altitude, certainly among people who understand recycling and particularly the fluctuation should have been expected because the commodities are volatile and risky whether they’re tin cans or crude oil and we have to understand that the good times wouldn’t roll forever.

Best regards

Andrew Kouskouris


Ideas for discussion regarding landfill tax across EU member states, by A. Kouskouris

After the question you uploaded about harmonized landfill tax within EU member states, I could put the following ideas for discussion:

a) Harmonized landfill tax would provide incentives for waste producers to find solutions for waste recovery, enhance recycling or re-use, and lead to a drop in the amount of waste produced.

b) Against a harmonized minimum tax might argue that national circumstances vary and that a harmonized tax at EU level will be thus not an adequate solution mainly on the basis of costs and competitiveness issues Especially for waste categories for which there is no alternative to landfill (e.g. construction material and mineral waste), and landfill taxes might argue to have no steering effect and could instead lead to fly-tipping. A flat landfill tax would hinder the mix of incentives and flexibility needed at national or local level to divert from landfill. The economic costs of waste landfills and population density differ among the Member States.

For example United Kingdom employs both tradable landfill allowances and a landfill tax. More generally, opponents might warn that introducing new minor taxes should be avoided as it is contrary to deregulation and reducing administrative costs.

A landfill tax might not be the best solution, by Greg Vogt

The question posed by Mr. Andrew Kouskouris returns to the issue of using special taxes to achieve certain policy goals. Some do not support taxes of any kind, while some support special taxes directed for special costs, purposes, or society benefits. Certainly if one significantly increases a special tax on a certain item, say a pair of shoes, less people will buy shoes. If you support total diversion of waste away from landfills, then raise the special tax to the level you require to meet your goal. This may not be the most efficient way to shift society's resources, but you will have accomplished your goal.

The arguments against a harmonized landfill tax might include:
- expensive, time consuming to execute
- there may be no 'fair' number or method to harmonize
- other, better tools might be well suited to accomplish the same 'landfill diversion' goal (e.g., market forces, permits, etc.)
- often times creative tax credits work better than direct taxes
- we do not want passage of taxes on waste disposal/treatment facilities methods to become too popular government authorities.

Best regards,

Greg Vogt
Managing Director
International Solid Waste Association
Vienna, Austria

Do we need a harmonised landfill tax across EU members?

Dear Antonis I write down for your blog the folowintg question I can support and have sent as well to your e-mail: Statistics and reports show that there is not sufficient progress from EU member states to divert waste away from landfill trying to implement landfill directive. Are there any ideas about a harmonised landfill tax with EU member states ? What would be in favour and against on that issue?

Andrew Kouskouris


Assessing waste prevention schemes among SMEs

This was published in Science for Environmental Policy, a publication by DG Environment. The article is based at publication "D. and Rechberger, H. (2009). Quantitative evaluation of waste prevention on the level of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Waste Management. 29(2): 606-613".

Evaluating waste prevention schemes is necessary to ensure that funds are spent as efficiently as possible. A new Austrian study proposes a method of ranking schemes to prevent waste production by smaller businesses according to their efficiency in protecting the environment, human health and resources.

Collectively, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) contribute substantially to environmental damage, although they may not be aware of doing so. Initiatives to improve the environmental record of SMEs can therefore play an important role. Incentives that cover 30 per cent of the cost of waste prevention schemes for SMEs in Austria, is an example of such an initiative.

The study conducted a simplified life cycle assessment (LCA) of 52 waste prevention projects from 2005 and 2006, measuring improvements before and after each project in terms of waste produced, energy consumed, CO2 and sulfur dioxide emissions. It also provides data on the impact associated with different waste materials such as paper, cardboard, plastics and metals.

The results were combined with expert opinion to rank each scheme in order of effectiveness. The authors note that one quarter of the projects evaluated were not truly waste prevention schemes, but waste reduction schemes. Waste prevention takes place before waste is generated, collected, stored, processed or disposed of and is aimed at avoiding waste altogether. The three main types of waste prevention measures are:

Optimisation. This reduces the amount of material and energy required, as well as the use of harmful substances, by introducing more efficient processes.
Substitution. This replaces material and energy inputs by using more environmentally friendly options, such as replacing plastic packaging with wood.

Product re-use. This repeatedly uses a product in its original form.
This method suggested that some schemes are not as environmentally beneficial as previously thought. For example, a previously highly regarded scheme to reduce hazardous waste from X-rays was discovered to be not as cost-effective as initially assumed due to the small quantities of chemicals involved. The scheme had been ranked fifth for efficacy in previous comparison studies of waste prevention schemes, but this method placed it at the bottom of the table.
The authors write that SMEs are a vital part of the economy but are often unaware of their environmental impact. The new model could be a reliable method for assessing and ranking waste prevention projects. For example, it could compare the cost of saving 1kg of CO2 in different economic sectors, allow users to choose the most efficient waste management option, support qualitative decisions made by experts and increase the transparency of incentive schemes. Challenges include a lack of means for collecting data on the flow of goods and substances.

Source: Laner, D. and Rechberger, H. (2009). Quantitative evaluation of waste prevention on the level of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Waste Management. 29(2): 606-613.

Contact: d.laner@iwa.tuwien.ac.at Theme(s): Sustainable consumption and production, Waste


Questions that need answers regarding recycling

Andrew Kouskouris wrote:

"What are the main problems to recycling markets due to the financial downturn?

If we have to start landfilling recyclables we will lose public confidence in recycling schemes and it will take a long time to build this up again.

Local Authorities must determine the extent of the problems they may be facing.

There is a huge amount of uncertainty in the market place at the moment and what is needed is a co-ordinated approach to solving both the short term needs and issues.

The volume of waste produced by businesses is decreasing.

The story of how this happened is the usual tragic saga of good intentions turning into inflexible regulations , and of unforeseen consequences.

Paper mills close in some member states because are unable to competitive with China’s high-tech mills.

Mixed grades of materials (of varying quality) are typically attracting lower prices because more effort and expense has to go into sorting and cleaning materials to produce the equivalent of virgin raw material.

Understanding the forces driving the economics of recycled materials, the negative environmental consequences of the market downturn are:

- Reduced plant maintenance or lower treatment standards due to pressure to reduce costs
- Lower quality of processed recyclable material due to pressure to reduce costs
- Inappropriate storage of materials until market conditions improve, which could cause environmental harm
- An increase in abandoned vehicles caused by the fall in the price of scrap metal


From East to West recycling chain collapses...

It seems that problems with recycling due to global crisis are going worst. The followink link from Guardian is very usefull for more details


Lot of thanks to David Newman for his contribution


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Trying to arrange my activities for 2009, I thought it will be very useful to have a diary to promote ISWA.

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