The webinar included officials from Berlin, Ljubljana and Gabrovo

Trash to Treasure: the webinar that showed EU cities a way out of the waste mess

Trash to Treasure: the webinar that showed EU cities a way out of the waste mess

The one-hour event turned into a platform for ideas on the future of waste management

Today, TheMayor.EU organized an interactive webinar called “Efficient Waste Management in Cities: From Trash to Treasure”, in partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and ICLEI Europe.

The panel event, which sought to highlight some exemplary practices implemented by different urban authorities, gathered experts from different corners of Europe to present innovative ideas that could easily be replicated by other local authorities.

The webinar was short but insightful and packed to the brim with valuable advice. Its format demonstrated that good practices can be communicated between European authorities with speed, convenience and efficiency.

Gabrovo’s holistic example

More than a quarter of total waste in Europe is municipal waste so local governments have a role and can have a significant impact by reducing it. In Bulgaria, one resident on average generates about 489 kg per year. In Gabrovo, however, it’s 370 kilograms, and the ambition is to keep shrinking that number.

That’s why it’s essential to reduce waste and landfills. For municipalities, these facilities need to go down by 60% by 2030. Gabrovo has taken an integrated approach to the issue by developing strategic documents, having a systemic approach to managing the waste cycle and engaging the population.

Gabrovo Mayor Tania Hristova explained that 2015 was a landmark year after the opening of the new modernized landfill for non-hazardous waste, equipped with an electronic system that monitors the capacity. As a result, waste treatment has already become the fourth major source of CO2 reduction in the town.

Ljubljana’s circular approach

Jože Gregorič, from Voka Snaga – Ljubljana’s waste management and water supply company, offered an overview of the waste management development in the Slovenian capital in the past two decades.

In 2007 underground containers were installed as a way to free up urban space, and since 2013 door-to-door collection has been in place. Ljubljana was also the first European capital to sign a zero-waste commitment. By next year, the aim is to raise the recycling rate by 75% and reduce citizen waste to 60 kg, though admittedly that’s still a challenge.

Ljubljana’s next big ambition, however, is to set the base for the creation of a viable circular economy. For instance, since 2015, all hygienic paper used in public institutions is made only from recycled milk and juice cartons. All public events now include waste prevention and waste separation campaigns and facilities.

Circularity is also part of the communication strategy itself, including key messages, tools and channels, goals, and target audience. There’s Ekoskola – a yearly eco-school event aimed at children and youngsters. Of particular interest is also the Centre for Re-use at Povsetova Street. It consists of a shop, sewing room and workshop, and it sells 350 items per day, showing there’s demand for re-purposed objects.

Berlin’s triumphs in zero waste

Dr. Sonja Witte, responsible for Strategy Development at the Berlin Sanitation Department (BSR), presented the German capital’s philosophy towards waste. This decade Berlin wants to reduce private and commercial waste by 20%.

She clarified that zero waste doesn’t mean that there will be no more waste in the year 2030. It’s about returning as many resources as possible back into the economic cycle. That’s why BSR is not just a traditional waste management company but also acts as an advisor, multiplier and networker in the local economy and society.

One of its supported initiatives, for example, is the Re-use mall (NochMall), where you can buy only re-used and second-hand products.

A culture of forging new ways of waste management mindset has helped Berlin establish in July Europe’s first Zero Waste Agency. The new institution, independent of BSR, will become a holistic hub to unite all the principles and threads that influence any way zero-waste management in the city. It will unite all aspects of this philosophy, namely putting the principle of rational and reasonable consumption as the best way to prevent waste accumulation.

EIB’s support to cities

Christopher Edge, Senior Solid Waste Engineer Manager (EIB/JASPERS), explained how all municipal work and innovative ideas can be supported by EIB – the leading provider of climate finance in Europe.

Lending, advisory, blending. This is the model that EIB is promoting as its new working approach in doing its part to reduce waste accumulation. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem. Municipalities also need complex know-how in order to feel emboldened to try out new methods and technologies.

On the funding side, local governments can access investment loans (for large projects) and framework loans (for small and medium-sized projects), multi-beneficiary framework loans, intermediated lending, or equity funds.

However, the real value of this development financing comes with the addition of valuable expertise available from the bank’s experts.

JASPERS, a joint EIB-EC initiative was created to provide advisory assistance. It is free of charge to municipalities, including the crafting of strategies, project preparation and appraisal.

Authorities, however, should keep in mind that all project ideas must align with EU policy objectives and Country Work Programs. The largest priority is given to prevention and re-use when deciding on advisory and financial support.

A good word of advice is to approach JASPERS in the earlier stages of idea generation and project formation, as the experts can help craft a viable working project.

For more information: visit their website where you can find helpful contact links.

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