Fashionistas push for waste prevention

    Source: fashionindustrynetwork.com
Last 10 years we watch a global shift from end of pipe waste management to waste prevention and reuse concepts. This shift clearly moves us closer to resource management optimization processes rather than the typical waste management activities. It concerns more industrial supply chains than the waste management industry and the usual end of pipe solutions.

But at the same time it provides a new practical view on how we deal with waste. It helps us a lot to understand waste as an indication of inefficient production and consumption patterns. In other terms, it helps us to understand that Waste is a Choice, as my friend Maarten Goorhuis (ISWA STC Vice-Chair and Chair of the ISWA Working Group on Recycling and Waste Minimization) usually says starting his presentations about waste prevention.

A good example of that way of thinking is given by some initiatives in the textile & clothing manufacturing sector. The real importance of them is that they try to combine effectiveness in waste prevention by utilizing personal attitudes and behavioral trends. Let’s see more details.

We all know that rapidly changing fashions increase the production and consumption of textiles and clothing. And definitely, they also increase the amount of end of life clothes that are driven to waste, in one or another way. Despite improvements in the environmental impacts in the manufacture of textile and clothing over the last 25 years, the overall volume of production and consumption of these products has increased. The relocation of manufacturing from Western countries to Asian nations and more efficient production has reduced the cost of clothing and textiles, but this has had the unintended consequence of increasing consumption and counteracting some of the environmental benefits of new manufacturing technologies.

In addition, the fast cycles of fashion and deliberately planning products to have a limited lifespan have shortened the life cycle of textiles and clothing. Garments have become cheaper, the quality reduced and clothes are typically worn for only a short time before disposal. Although reuse and recycling of clothing has also increased, this only partly offsets the increased levels of textile consumption, the proliferation of textile waste, and the environmental and social impacts, (such as where and how fibres are cultivated) associated with higher volumes of textiles and clothing production. 

A recent study (Niinimäki, K., Hassi, L. (2011) Emerging design strategies in sustainable production and consumption of textiles and clothing. Journal of Cleaner Production 19: 1876-1883) provided the suggestion that a more sustainable production and consumption of clothing could be achieved if consumer values are used to rethink design and business strategies. A good example could be an increased personalization of clothing that could increase both consumer attachment to products and their useful lifetime.

The study explored different design strategies that increase the lifespan of textiles and clothing by making the consumer the centre of the innovation processes. It argues that innovative thinking about how consumers experience and value textiles and clothes is needed for more sustainable production and consumption.

For example, the use of a product could be extended if it is designed to be personalized. This would allow consumers to develop an emotional attachment with the garment or textile and can be achieved by mass customization of products using fast digital manufacturing technologies that enable consumers to select from a variety of styles and colors to design their own look. Digital textile printers, embroidery and laser cutting machines can design products tailored to an individual’s specifications.

The manufacture of ‘halfway products’, for example, kits that offer consumers the opportunity to creatively assemble (and repair) the product could also increase attachment and usage, as could clothing designed with detachable parts that can be customized by the consumer.
In addition, designers can co-create products with consumers to increase attachment to the product, for example, through the internet, with consumers making the final design decisions. Services that focus on consumer needs can also be used to extend the lifetime use of textiles and clothing and postpone product replacement. For example, high-quality garments that can be used in renting, leasing, lending or sharing schemes; and services that modify the garments can all be offered. New business opportunities could be found in this switch to a services-orientated economy; manufacturers can offer higher quality garments, increase customer satisfaction and extend the use of the product. 

At least, we hope that this may be a succesful initiative - after all if waste prevention becomes trendy, there will be positive impacts worldwide, especially in the global interconnected cities where fashion plays a crucial role...


ISWA 2012 Congress: the new benchmark for ISWA events

ISWA 2012 World Solid Waste Congress (see web-site) will take place in Florence, Italy, from September 15th to 19th.  As long as I am involved in ISWA I have never seen a more detailed, in-time and efficient preparation and it seems that due to that preparation a very successful event is prepared. I thought that an interview with David Newman, ISWA’s Vice- President and key-person of ISWA 2012 organization, will provide interesting insights to all of us about that event. And here it is.

“David, we have heard a lot about ISWA 2012 in Florence and I have to say that there are expectations created both inside and outside ISWA about your conference in middle September 2012. Tell us what’s new about your conference? What is different about it?

Well, we started working on it three years ago, this gives us a lot of time to talk to people and understand what themes are most interesting to everyone, this means we have elaborated a programme widely shared around the world, both within ISWA and outside.

Visiting ISWA 2012 web-site, which actually is a very functional and informative one, my interest was directly grabbed by a phrase. It is written that “The World Solid Waste Congress 2012 will define the effectiveness of the waste management industry for years to come”. Why is that? What are the expectations for the participation of the solid waste industry to your conference? 

We are facing a crucial moment, as waste production booms out of control in developing countries. Florence will be an “alarm bell” calling the industry, politicians and authorities to order to affront this huge challenge. In this the Congress differs from previous years because we expect a very wide participation from developing countries and the participation of UNEP is an indicator of how serious the challenge is.

What is the expected participation from a scientific point of view? Could you give us an idea of abstracts submitted and the highlights of the conference program?

We are overwhelmed by about 650 abstracts, and this has caused us a delay in peer reviewing and deciding on a final programme. Half of these are from academics, a wonderful result.  There will be space for 240 speakers so scientists will play a significant role in the Congress. And of course the ISWA report on Globalisation will be a strong focus point.

 Are there any particular events for non-European participants? Because sometimes ISWA’s conferences in Europe are too much European…

Indeed as I said we expect many non European participants and have a very low registration fee to help them be present. We have a strong focus on Latin America, South East Europe, the Mashreq and Mahgreb countries as well as three sessions dedicated to rapidly developing low income countries. I think this year we will see a good balance between first, second and developing world speakers and attendees.

I suppose that the conference will also have a special role for the Italian waste management industry. I would like you to comment on that, especially under the view of the current crisis which seems to create significant impacts to our industry

We are dedicating some sessions to more domestic issues, like the ongoing Naples situation, waste planning in the host region of Tuscany, waste collection in historic city centers; but of course Italians will be present in many other sessions bringing their incredible innovative experiences in terms of management of services and plants as well coming to learn from the experiences of others. It’s a good mix.

Let’s not forget this is also a time for celebration and in Florence ISWA will be making three awards, for the best scientific publication, for the best communications campaign, and also for the first time to the best newspaper journalist. And a time for fun, to enjoy some Tuscan hospitality and site seeing. Did you know that Florence alone holds 25% of the World UNESCO heritage sites ? And is the second most loved city in the world for American tourists ?

Thanks a lot David - see you all in Florence!


Marine Litter: not just an environmental threat but an economic catastrophe too

Source: Ecopaparazzi

I am sure that everyone knows about the problem of ocean plastics. This is one of the most important global waste management problems. Just think about it for a while. Here are some facts:

• The average concentration is estimated around 46.000 plastic pieces/ sq. mile
• There are cases where plastic waste is 6 times more than the plankton 
• It is estimated that 10% of the global plastic production ends up in the ocean  
• It is considered that there are more than 7.000.000 tons of plastic floating around the world 

The vast majority of the ocean plastics originates from the land activities and not from the sea transport. And a big part of it is a kind of leak from advanced waste management systems, like the USA and  the Japanese one.

Few years ago, during a key-nore lecture in 2009 ISWA's conference in Lisbon, I concluded that the problem of ocean plastics is an indicator of our global inefficiency to manage waste in an environmental sound way even in what we consider advanced waste management systems! And this becomes more and more true, as the time goes by without any actual solution to that problem (for more see the 5gyres website). 

But now, there is evidence that ocean plastics and marine litter are not onluy a serious environmentla threat bot also an environmenttal catastrophe!

A recent study (McIlgorm A., Campbell, H.F., Rule, M.J., 2011, The economic cost and control of marine debris damage in the Asia-Pacific region. Ocean & Coastal Management. 54: 643-651) has now estimated that marine litter in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to cost over US$1.26 billion per year in damage to marine industries.  

The study focused on the economic effects of marine debris in the Asia-Pacific region and calculated the cost of damage to marine industries for the 21 economies in the region. Marine industries (shipping, tourism and fishing) are estimated to be worth 3% of GDP for this region and, based on available statistics from Japan, it is believed that 0.3% of marine sector GDP is lost through debris damage. For example, if floating objects become entangled in ship propellers, or engine cooling systems become blocked, time available for fishing is reduced, while maintenance and repair costs increase. The tourism industry can also suffer if littered beaches deter visitors or development.

Based on these assumptions, the study estimated the cost of damage to marine industries to be US$1.26billion per year. This is very likely to be an underestimate as data on marine debris are lacking. However, it clearly highlights the significance of the issue. Debris is also harmful to wildlife, and can therefore reduce ecosystem services - this is another important indirect cost to consider, but as there is presently no market value for these services, the study did not calculate these costs.

Further calculations suggest that the cost of clearing up plastic waste in this region, whether at sea or on beaches, amounts to $1500 per tonne of waste, on average, although costs of individual clean-ups vary considerably ($100-$20,000 per tonne) depending on the type of waste and method.

The costs of damage and clean-ups need to be weighed up against the costs of prevention, say the researchers, and setting a policy target for achieving an optimal level of waste at sea would be more economically feasible than a zero waste target. 

Community-based voluntary approaches, such as anti-litter campaigns, are also popular, but the study argues that greater efforts are needed to change public behaviour. Market-based instruments are less well used in marine litter prevention, but the study suggests they could play a role in some cases. Possible instruments to reduce overall rates of waste production include deposit-refund schemes, taxes on plastic goods to discourage purchase, and encouragement of recyclable packaging.


Smart waste management: Power to the people!

This post is the second one which is dedicated to address the issue of waste management in global cities and megacities. In the previous one (see waste management in global cities ) I concluded that we need to apply Complexity Theory techniques in order to manage waste management systems in global cities. In this one, I am going to give some practical views on how to do it. 

In a recent lecture I delivered in Brasilia, Brazil, during the XII Conferência das Cidades, at November 29 of 2011, I was presenting different possibilities to utilize modern technologies for a better urban waste management.  The lecture was really successful and after the conference I received several invitations to deliver it in different audiences. 
I closed my lecture saying that “after all, if the combined use of social media, internet, SMSs and mobile phones delivered the collapse of Mubarak and other non-democratic regimes during the Arab spring, I am sure we can use the same tools for a radical improvement of waste management in our cities”. And this is exactly my point regarding complexity management in global cities and megacities.
Few months ago, I was reading an excellent article in Scientific American, with the title “the Social Nexus”, written by Carlo Ratti and Antony Townsend. In this article I discovered several smart applications that are already applied in different parts of the world and their purpose is to improve, monitor and control the urban environment. 
As professor Carlo Ratti put it “ Truly smart—and real—cities are not like an army regiment marching in lock­step to the commander’s orders; they are more like a shifting flock of birds or school of fish, in which individuals respond to subtle social and behavior­al cues from their neighbors about which way to move forward… Rather than focusing on the installation and control of network hardware, city governments, technology companies and their urban-planning advisers can exploit a more ground-up approach to creating even smarter cities in which people become the agents of change. With proper technical-sup­port structures, the populace can tackle problems such as energy use, traffic congestion, health care and education more effectively than centralized dictates. And residents of wired cities can use their distributed intelligence to fashion new community activities, as well as a new kind of citizen activism.”
Then I visited the web-site Trash Track. In this web-site I discovered some impressive visualizations of an experiment that was done just to demonstrate that for waste management there is a huge potential available if we use the modern technologies and the interconnected citizens in an appropriate way. Please visit the web-site and you will be impressed as I was, I am sure about it. And allow me to congratulate proffesor Rati and his team from the Senseable City Lab for this excellent initiative which opens new horizons for waste management. 
So, as you can imagine, this is more or less my main idea: to manage the complexity of waste management systems in global cities and megacities with the power of the already interconnected people. Or in another phrasing, to replace the traditional top-down approaches to planning and infrastructure delivery with a bottom-up approach that is based on crowd-sourcing. 
In urban areas, where a lot of people are using mobile phones, laptops and tablets, where smart phones do release new unimagined possibilities of interaction and rapid information, we can use them in order to have substantial improvements in waste management! But even where smart phones are limited and simple mobile phones are available, the power of SMS is enough to deliver crowd – based monitoring and improvements of waste management.
Especially to the areas of street cleaning, collection, recycling and waste prevention, there can be radical improvements with limited cost! And this is exactly what we need during this period of global financial instability! The power of massive social collaboration is something that can be proven more powerful than any advanced technologies for collection and treatment of waste - and still it is ignored. We  must start thinking in a different way and we have to do it now!
There are just two pre-conditions for that.
A.      To give citizens all the tools to do it (not so difficult and definitely affordable) and, most importantly
B.   To inspire them in order to have a continuous feedback from them, to make them real human sensors of the problems in waste management, to create the right atmosphere and motivate people in order to increase social participation and interest for waste management.
After all, the only way to use the potential of new technologies is to provide a meaningful and interactive citizenship. But this is supposed to be the core purpose of any urban governance, right? 
Let’s try to think that way. I am sure we have a lot to learn and much more to deliver. And I am sure that managing complexity with a network of thousands human sensors will be much more effective than ignoring it, as we usually do today. 


Waste management in global cities

This is the first post of two that address the issue of waste management in global cities and megacities.I will try to resume some of my major findings during last two years. There will be a special event dedicated to waste management and global cities at the World Cities Summit 2012 and soon the whole program will be available - as far as I know top speakers are included. 

My research was in the framework of the ISWA project “Globalization and waste management” which is going to be presented in Florence 2012 Conference (see the excellent web-site) for the first time. ISWA;s Task Force has worked in four different packages namely a. megacities and waste management b. informal sector as a global stakeholder c. global recycling markets and d. international aid tools and their utilization.

Although the project is still on - going and there is a lot of work to be done until we will have complete it, there are some key-issues that I have concluded, especially about  global cities, which means cities that are highly interconnected in the globalization network. Some of the things I learnt have been already presented during ISWA 2011 conference in Daewoo, South Korea (see ISWA's knowledge base and search for megacities). 

Studying the triangle “Globalization – Megacities – Waste Management”  my major conclusion is that a waste management system in a global city or a megacity is much more than a local system because a. It is part of the global network of material flows b. It is highly affected by global consumerism trends and c. it is directly influenced by global regulations and initiatives related to waste management. Of course someone would easily complete that this is also true for other smaller or less globalized cities but this does not affect the core of the conclusion.

That complex dynamics between global and local markets, global and local governance, global and local stakeholders is a key issue for understanding waste management in  global cities.

As a result in megacities and global cities institutional development, social support and participation and financial sustainability (or the Software elements of waste management) are becoming more and more important especially for the success of recycling, reuse and waste prevention initiatives. They are highly sensitive to the continuous change of the neighborhoods and the appearance of “cities within the city”, especially to the poorest ones where inadequate waste management practices create serious health and environmental risks. Clearly, the Software elements control the social behaviour of citizens and thus they are the most important for the success of recycling, reuse and waste prevention programs.

It seems that a major barrier comes from the complex interactions between the hundreds stakeholders involved in a global city waste management. Another serious barrier comes from the lack of initiatives to integrate informal sector to waste management activities. 

From those remarks, it is obvious that the overall performance of a global city waste management system results from continuous interactions between global and local markets, emerging social behaviour, city governance, global and local stakeholders, city growth etc. And those interactions are hardly described by the traditional waste management approaches which are based on engineering and logistics.

The problem might be more general. As long as we face SWM as a matter of appropriate storage, collection, transfer, treatment and disposal and the main effort was to minimise environmental and health impacts, engineering and logistic tools were sufficient to plan and implement waste management systems. But today, resource management and social behaviour are becoming an organic part of any waste management system and they are essential to address increasing recycling rates and better quality of recyclables, participation of industrial stakeholders, eco-design initiatives and closed loops of products and materials.

Consequently, engineering and logistic tools are not enough to plan and deliver waste management systems in global cities. Especially in a megacity, the overall waste management system should be considered as “complex system”, which means a system composed of interconnected parts that as a whole exhibit one or more properties (behaviour among the possible properties) not obvious from the properties of the individual parts.

Complexity theory and Complex Systems Science (CSS) is a relatively new field of research focused on systemic understanding, self-organization, irreducibility, emerging patterns and properties and non-linear behaviour. Complexity science has been rapidly evolved during the last 20 years for the study of complex physical, biological and social systems. Cities as a whole may be considered as emerging entities existing near a critical point of self organization, far from equilibrium and qualitatively different from their constituent residents and subsystems.

Waste management systems in global cities should be studied using complexity theory and complex systems science tools because:

  • The overall performance of a megacity waste management system is the result of complex interactions between global and local stakeholders, global and local material flows, global and local recycling markets, global and local governance etc.
  • Effective recycling, waste prevention and reuse programs are of high importance for a megacity since they improve self-resilience and relief waste management systems. However, those programs are directly linked with social behaviour and the emerging system performance is a result of thousands or millions daily interactions.
  •  In global cities and megacities, local patterns and heterogeneity are the rule in waste management and micro-local dynamics have an impact at the system performance through their aggregate effects but also because they influence urban change iteratively through local connections and impacts.
  • In metropolitan areas there are a number of councils, utilities, regional and governmental authorities, NGOs, private sector companies, informal sector unions, municipal utilities etc. Each of these entities is operating according the rules of limited awareness and jurisdiction, and self-interest and with selected connections to other entities. The dynamics of stakeholders’ interaction in megacities cannot be predicted or modelled with the usual information tools 

But is it any easy and practical way to manage Complexity in global cities? Or the ideas above are just theoretical approaches? The answer will arrive at the next post


The problem is not with waste but with climate!

Photo from Environmentla Photographer 2009, see http://www.ciwem.org/competition-and-awards/environmental-photographer/epoty-exhibitions--events.aspx 

This post is a really important contribution from my friend Martin Steiner (General manager of TBU Austria  - see www.tbu-austria.comand Ulrich Wiegel (Consulting Engineer, see www.icu-berlin.de). I found the article very interesting and speaking frankly very close to my own perceptions about the difficulties in addressing climate change issues. It also fits a lot with my previous post http://mavropoulos.blogspot.com/2011/10/urban-waste-management-and-climate.html.

Please enjoy it (unfortunately this is just a two pages abstract of a very important article that is too long to be published in my blog - but I tried to keep the fruitful thoughts and key-messages of the authors).

"The problem is not with waste, but with climate…-how perception influence behaviour
Both solid waste and greenhouse gases are “wastes” in a broad sense, one solid, the other gaseous. The first is perceived with our senses, the other not. Solid waste is accessible to all the senses: we see, feel, smell – and even hear it, once the garbage truck arrives. The essential greenhouse gases of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide are outside our sensory capacities: invisible, odourless – and, moreover are disposed of at virtually zero cost, even allowing for the current European carbon trade system. We simply dump the gaseous garbage into the “air ocean” on the bottom of which we live.
About 250 kg of household and commercial garbage is generated per person per year. In addition, about the same amount of recyclable materials is separately collected, comprising: paper, glass, biowaste etc., altogether 500 kg of “waste” per person per year. The quantity of greenhouse gases (measured as CO2-equivalents, to which the various greenhouse gases are converted according to their relative impact) comes to about 10,000 kg of CO2-equivalents per person and year, or 10 tonnes, about 20 times the quantity of waste.
Although the green house management problem seems to be greater than the solid waste management problem, little attention has been laid on it.
Solid waste management became very quickly a major political and scientific issue in many countries worldwide, the last decades. In this sense, many technological achievements and policies have been implemented to minimize solid waste production and to limit adverse effects into the environment.
This quick response in the solid waste sector was a consequence of the following three factors: the negative impacts of improper waste treatment were quickly felt (e.g. groundwater pollution caused by dumpsites), and prompted action to be taken. Secondly, waste – through its sensory qualities – is present to some degree in everyone´s mind on a day-to-day basis – this increased the political priority to deal with it. Thirdly, the adoption of environmentally friendly waste treatment has enabled tangible environmental benefits to be quickly realised.
However, all these mechanisms do not apply to CO2-waste: damages occur only following considerable delay and are not locally connected to the source. This, together with the fact that CO2-waste cannot be perceived “sensorily”, has resulted in less intense countermeasures being taken.
It is clear that CO2-waste management depends on the existence of the problem in our perception. To be accustom this the following example is provided: If somebody throwing a noticeable piece of paper litter out their car window every two seconds for a minute, over one kilometre, resulting in 30 pieces of litter lying on the road, altogether maybe 150 g of waste that would be noticeable and annoying. If at the same time, the car has left behind 150 g CO2 over the one kilometre “on the road” via its exhaust that would not be noticeable and therefore not being annoying– so it does not exist in our perception.
On further reflection, if CO2 were solid, the greenhouse gases management problem would have already become a major issue some 80-100 years ago, with the rapid expansion of electricity production and industrialization. Surrounded by rising CO2-ash heaps from these activities, the notion to transport a human body weighing around 100 kg using a vehicle weighing more than 1,000 kg, thus a payload of less than 10 % of the total mass, resulting in more than 90 % energy loss, which is clearly too high as a proportion of energy inherent in the system, would have been promptly rejected.
We have after all direct experience of the banning of forms of energy consumption that produced atmospheric pollution which is obvious, we could see smell, and even taste it, and in terms of fatalities: in most of Europe in the middle of the last century laws were introduced to limit particulate atmospheric pollution (‘smog’) through smoke control. Within a few years people willingly gave up burning coal to heat their houses and water, because they could see both the problem and the benefits of action.
For these reasons CO2-waste management has been developed with considerable lower rates than the solid waste management sector. It is characteristic in the case of Austria that although a number of measures, introduced in a successive 10 years period, have already solved the waste ‘problem’ by nearly 100%, a reduction within 30 years of fossil-based greenhouse gas by 16% has only been announced.

Recycling is easy and makes us feel good – avoidance is hard and an annoyance

Another important difference between solid waste management and CO2-waste management is that the first is largely based on Recycling and the second is base on Avoidance. Recycling does not work with CO2-waste which final and only option is disposal-either by conventional dumping into the ‘air ocean’ or by innovative subterranean storage. So, a fundamental partial solution for reducing CO2-waste is avoidance and that means abstaining from consumption, which people are reluctant to do because they love convenience, and because they do not suffer enough immediately from the problem.
With over 100 years of increasing CO2 output, the unspoken assumption has been made that its disposal would not cause environmental damage. Until science could at long last agree that there would be any damage at all, technology and society developed into a state of enormous – because of its free-of-cost – CO2-waste production. The acknowledgement of the damage, and acceptance of the soon-to-be enforced CO2-levies will be, unlike for solid waste, clearly more difficult, as a) the damage is a future damage, is not clearly defined and not locally felt b) the existing social and economic system would be hit hard – one may imagine that all 10 tons CO2 per person per year would be charged per tonne analogous to waste treatment with say 100 € (which is the cost for one tonne of avoided CO2 for renewable energy technologies) and c) for this investment no reliable and auditable outcome can be assured.
At this point a philosophical consideration of the avoidance issue is necessary: Although technical innovations are important to avoid CO2-waste a society-wide ‘value change’ is rather critical to be achieved.
It is obvious that as humans – apart from the securing of our basic survival needs – we ultimately aim for one thing: to be happy (according to competent studies “happiness” is the least common human condition by the way, and not attainable by directly trying). Now, happiness is a condition that exists only in our minds and is generated in essence by ourselves and our emotional response to external influences.
In this direction ‘Low energy happiness generation behavior’ is consider a key factor leading to climate protection. This means that, if we can produce in ourselves the same level of happiness with reduced material and energy consumption, it can be referred to as climate friendly happiness. The initially noticeable satisfaction “loss” caused by abstention and effort is counterbalanced by the satisfaction “benefit” caused by the certainty of “doing the right thing”. This has already been achieved with waste. If we were able to imagine greenhouse gases “materialized” in solid form we would be able to create within us an increasingly greater sense of happiness from the initially unpleasant sacrifice associated with “doing without”.
On the other hand we realize that in the waste sector we have – with the participation of the broader community and developments in technology and organizational framework – been able to achieve something which, at the end of the seventies, was also unimaginable. In the area of climate protection, technology, while vitally important, will not provide the whole answer; the challenge remains to shift our philosophical basis and value set. Only then will meaningful and efficient outcomes be achievable.
The technical/scientific knowledge for implementing a climate-related change of values is available and is gathering momentum. It is now a priority to keep this change of values in our conscience, and to increase its perceived importance. In the area of climate protection, technology, while vitally important, will not provide the whole answer; the challenge remains to shift our philosophical basis and value set."


La Pintana: an awarded solid waste project

Some months ago, during the International Conference on Waste Minimization and Recycling of the International Solid Waste Management Association (ISWA) in Buenos Aires, the IDB and the FEMSA Foundation awarded the Water and Sanitation Prize for Latin America and the Caribbean in the category of Solid Waste Management to the La Pintana Municipality of Santiago, Chile, for its strategy of source separation, selective collection, and treatment

During November, in an IDB seminar in Mexico, I met Gustavo and sharing I learnt more about the La Pintana project and asked him to write about it. This is what Gustavo has prepared – thanks a lot Gustavo for this contribution, I really appreciate it and I think La Pintana serves as a good example of realistic solutions for transition countries and medium size municipalities. 

"Through this project, which was developed in the framework of Local Agenda 21, in response to the challenges posed by the Kyoto Protocol, of which Chile is a signatory, so that cities will face the challenges of socio-environmental in the present century, the Municipality of La Pintana, located south of the metropolitan region, in Santiago de Chile, with 201.178 inhabitants, has been encouraging in the Commune willingness to take charge of the integrated waste management, treating directly the fraction of vegetables residues eliminating the disposal of them in the landfill, producing significant savings for the municipal budget, not only the disposal in the landfill, the Municipality also paved the way for implementing treatment facilities for these wastes, promoting recovery and treatment of them through composting and vermiculture.

The old department for Cleaning and Ornament in the municipality was transformed in the Directorate for Environment Management (DEM), This Directorate have today four units, Green areas, Environment Health, Environmental Operations and Environmental Education. To do more effective it work The DEM has divided the commune in five operative sectors, where the four units have representation like a little (mini) DEM. Through them the DEM performed their activities for Local Environment Management (GAL for their acronym in Spanish)
The DEM did en 2003 a characterization for their Municipal Solid Waste (MSW). The DEM established that the most important fraction in the MSW in La Pintana was the vegetable fraction, (more of 56% in the summer), with this reality the DEM took the resolution to do an effort to work with those waste and gave them a value, started a program when the community must separated the vegetable waste in their houses (separation at source) and give them to truck that collect this fraction. The wastes are transported to the treatment plant built at the commune center, where the wastes are treated trough composting and a reduction treatment with the Californian’s red worm (Eisenia Foetida). 
The above mentioned treatments generate two high value products, the composting and humus. These products are handled by the municipal plant nursery, used as tree, shrubbery, plant and flowers substratum, that come back to the commune in green areas, grounds parks, so improving the life quality of the people living in La Pintana.  
The mainly actors especially in this program are the inhabitants of La Pintana, without them the program can not have a real sense.  At the first time was necessary to sensitize the people of La Pintana. Explained to families, the scope of the program how to sort and deliver the vegetal fraction. Together with this work the DEM has develop an educational program free of charge for the inhabitants of the commune, this has developed a strengthened the relationship between the municipality and community. These processes easy can be replicated by any other municipality.
The sensitization reach initially around 17.000 families, In 2010 the DEM in an additional effort reached contact with other 20.000 families this gave a total of 37.000 families and this represent the 82,2% of the total inhabitants in the Commune.
As a result of this communal program the Directorate for Environmental Management can treat around the 30% of the total vegetable waste of La Pintana in their own plant for composting and vermiculture. This process has aided the commune to obtain very easy, the middle environmental certification of the Chilean ministry for environment. The commune has become a pioneer in their program for Local Environmental Management in a national level. The contribution of the DEM to a sustainable development is reflected not only in saving cost to the municipal budget generated from the process for the separation at source and their treatment as described above, but especially in a greater contribution to a better environment in Chile.
How the saving cost generated from the Directorate of Environmental Management activities, are transferred to the Social development in La Pintana?. The municipality has a sport stadium, with 22 sport schools; the young through the sport have the opportunity to avoid the drugs and delinquency. In a commune with high conflict and social problems (La Pintana is considered a homogeneously poor commune) can said that thanks to DEM work, La Pintana have a  South American champion in athletics disciplines. This has been generated by the virtuous circle of the sustainable development. Environmental work, generate economy for the municipal budget, this cost saving are transferred to the Social development of the inhabitants of La Pintana.  
The precious work of the 120 people that work at the DEM, and their contribution to a commune with scarce resources, has been awarded with several national an international awards, for example, the award from “The Peace House” in 2009. “The AVONNI 2010” (Avonni is backwards innovation in Spanish) where the DEM participate together with other 550 projects for this national award. La Pintana won with their project “Transformation of waste cooking oil in biodiesel”. In 2011 the prize granted by the IBD-FEMSA organizations, obtained the award for the good practices in Solid Waste Management. The results that the Directorate for the Environmental Management has obtained can be summarized in the following achievements:
Diminishing of the waste volume transported to the landfill.
Make a significant cost saving to the municipal budget.
Change the common leave earth as substrate for a high quality composting, that bring real nutrients to the soil.
Reuse the pruning’s remains in a creative way for the elaboration of composting.
Minimize the loud and smog contamination, due to less trucks circulation to the landfill.
Sensitize the community about the need to minimize the household waste
Diminishing of the greenhouse gases, due to less transport and the use of biodiesel, because the maximum distance from each point of the commune to the treatment plant is only 1 kilometer. Compared with disposal of waste in the landfill distant 12 kilometers away from La Pintana.

Gustavo González A. 
Manager of the treatment plant for SW. 
Directorate for Environmental Management. 
Municipality  La Pintana. Santiago-Chile."

For more see the video and the article - the video is in Spanish as well as the official  press release