SWEEP - Net: a hope for waste management in MENA region?

I spent three fruitful days in Tunis participating in the first meeting of SWEEP – Net (Solid Waste Exchange of Information and Expertise Network). This is an initiative supported by GTZ, Germany and the Tunisian ANGed, trying to promote sustainable waste management in the countries of Middle East and North Africa (MENA region) through adequate common activities and political agendas.

This is the first time I felt that something is moving in this so difficult as well as so troubled area of the world. Thanks to the efforts of the SWEEP – Net General Secretariat representatives from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Mauritania and the Arab League were gathered and made an intensive workshop concerning the key-priorities on waste management, the strategy of the network, institutional consolidation, working groups etc.

I was positively surprised by some facts. First it was the level of some presentations which have been really well elaborated by the speakers. Second it was the feeling of “the necessity of such an initiative” I received from a lot of participants. Third, it was the understanding that although waste management is underestimated in the political agendas in this area, there are very well educated human resources that could upgrade it and deliver serious results.

So I left Tunis with more hopes for the future of waste management in MENA than I went there. And I think ISWA would be a real supporter and part of this network too, since it has a lot to offer and it is very well perceived.

Needless to say that I found some old and I made some new friends there (hopefully they think the same). I always feel very comfortable between Arabs and the hospitality provided by the organizers was a great one and really promoted the development of good relationships.

Thanks a lot to Anis Ismail, secretary general of SWEP- Net for his help and hospitality. And I hope we will soon meet again and deliver real results through SWEEP – Net.

Last but not least. For everyone that has not yet been to Tunisia, I can provide a guarantee of an unexpected warm and high – level hospitality by friendly people within the framework of a real impressive landscape and cultural monuments. Do not miss it if there is such an opportunity.


Industrial recycling networks

This is from "Science for Environment Policy", Issue 200, 17-6-2010,a periodical newsletter by DG Environment.

Recycling waste products between companies in industrial recycling networks can bring environmental and competitive benefits. A recent study on whether such networks can be used to advance sustainable development more broadly suggests companies first need a clear, shared network identity before other types of sustainability-oriented cooperation can take place.

'Industrial ecology' aims to reduce the environmental impact of industry by recycling by-products and waste from one company and using them as raw material inputs (resources) for another company. The concept of industrial ecology is modelled on natural ecosystems where all materials are recycled in an efficient and sustainable manner.

These industrial recycling networks can be considered a type of 'industrial symbiosis' (IS) project. Apart from providing economic benefits to all the firms involved, the environment also benefits from reduced raw material use, waste generation and emissions.

This study conducted a survey among companies from the general manufacturing sector of Austria, as well as firms belonging to recycling networks in Styria in Austria and Oldenburger Münsterland in Germany. It sought to understand whether IS projects can be used as a starting point for much wider cooperation amongst companies in terms of sustainable development. That is, whether they encourage further environmental protection and social responsibility activities.

The survey asked about the sustainability-related aspects of inter-company recycling activities and compared responses from companies within IS projects with companies that did not belong to such networks.

Surprisingly, companies belonging to the recycling networks passed on a
significantly lower percentage of waste products for recycling than companies in the general manufacturing sector (52 per cent for other companies compared with 39 per cent for the Styria network and 36 per cent for the Oldenburger Münsterland network).
In addition, companies that are partners in the recycling networks do not view their cooperation to be different to a regular customer relationship.

In particular, none of the companies from the Styria recycling network and only two companies from the Oldenburger Münsterland recycling network were aware that they were part of a wider waste recycling network. This implies that the companies view the recycling activities as a bilateral market relationship, rather than a shared value contributing to sustainable development.

Descriptions and charts can be used to understand the materials and energy flows for recycling purposes, but they do not reveal any information about the social level of the recycling networks. This study demonstrated there was no shared network 'identity' in the Styria or the Oldenburger Münsterland recycling networks.
In order for industrial networks to encourage new ideas about sustainability and become sustainability networks, it would be necessary to first create a network identity. From this a network vision of sustainability with common objectives could be developed.

Source: Posch, A. (2010). Industrial Recycling Networks as Starting Points for Broader Sustainability-Oriented Cooperation? Journal of Industrial Ecology. 14(2): 242-257.
Contact: alfred.posch@uni-graz.at


ARS is on the way up!

As I was flying from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt I was thinking about the ARS (Argentinean ISWA National member) Beacon Conference on Sustainable landfills I just attended. And I have to say that I was happy enough considering that the event was a great success for both ISWA and ARS.

For ARS, it was an event with massive participation (up to 500 hundred people) and excellent representation of more or less all the levels of government and municipalities. What a recognition for ARS and the restless efforts that they made! It is really impressive how many people are really interesting for waste management in a country that has just started to recover from an almost lethal financial crisis.

It is more impressive if you consider that such an interest is combined with lack of financial resources that could support infrastructure development.

For me, the first real lesson of the event was that ARS influence has really started to grow, maybe faster that ARS’ people consider. The second lesson is that there is a growing need for education and training in specific waste management issues, that ARS has the capacity to cover and thus there is a huge opportunity for strengthening of it.

For ISWA, the event was a proof of the successful work and promotion made by the Regional Development Network and of the political recognition it can have.

The example of Argentina is a real Beacon for all national members that may help them to understand the real power and strength that can be utilized from their membership to ISWA. Further, the example of Argentina proves that not all matters are related with financial resources and official policies: even with their absence, an active and well networked organization can deliver a lot and gain serious recognition.

Because the real and the most important difference is made by the passion, the quality and the commitment of the people involved – we should never forget that finally and after all ISWA is and will be an NGO that promotes sustainable waste management in practice which means through and by more and more informed, educated and globally oriented human resources!

Special thanks to Ricardo, Atilio, Sole and Maria for their (as always) perfect hospitality and logistics – guys I wish we could have two or three of you more in other countries.

Last but not least: combining those really good friends with the magnificent Buenos Aires explains why every time an Argentinean event is finished I wonder when the next will be. Even in the middle of the worst financial crisis in Greece…