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New case study: The story of Gipuzkoa, the fastest transition towards Zero Waste in Europe

by Joan Marc Simon

This case study proves that a fast transition to meet EU recycling targets is possible in less than 5 years.

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Zero Waste Europe publishes a new case study and video showing the transition of Gipuzkoa towards zero waste. This province located in the Spanish Basque Country has almost doubled recycling rates in five years and made investing in an incineration plant obsolete.

In 2011, the Province of Gipuzkoa decided to scrap the plans to build an oversized incineration plant and took steps towards Zero Waste, arguing that the plant was highly resource-consuming and it heavily endangered the circularity of resources. On top of saving € 250 million, Gipuzkoa has managed to meet EU targets 5 years earlier than expected.

Today, the province separately collects 51% of its municipal waste and plans to meet 70% by 2020. These improvements are even more significant when considering that only one fifth of Gipuzkoa’s population live in municipalities that have followed a transition, which prove that the results of these municipalities are outstanding, some of them above 80 or even 90% of separate collection.

Executive Director of ZWE, Joan-Marc Simon said “the transition we are seeing in Gipuzkoa proves that reaching the EU target of 50% recycling is completely feasible in only 5 years. Therefore, with enough political it should be possible for laggards to meet the targets for 2020 and aim at more ambitious targets for 2030.”

The drivers behind this change have been: political will, citizens mobilisation and participation, prioritisation of biowaste collection, intensive separate collection at source and not having built incineration capacity which would hijack prevention, reuse and recycling.

In less than five years, Gipuzkoa has moved from pushing for an outdated finalist treatments for waste to become Spain’s leading province in recycling, being above EU’s 2020 targets, and 12 points above Spanish average. Gipuzkoan towns have also proved that kerbside collection remains cheaper than roadside containers, while creating jobs and local economic activity.

Today, these case studies show that, in contrast with the outdated idea of burning or burying our waste, preventing, reusing and recycling it create jobs and resilience, save money, and protect the environment and public health.

You can download the case study here.

Watch the video of this case study

ENDS

Contact:

Joan Marc Simon

info@zerowasteeurope.eu

+32 25034911

Zero Waste Europe was created to empower communities to rethink their relationship with resources. In a growing number of regions, local groups of individuals, businesses and city officials are taking significant steps towards eliminating waste in our society. Read more about us here.

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This is the last of 6 case studies published by Zero Waste Europe. If you want to learn about these amazing practices download the case studies of Capannori (Italy), Argentona (Spain), Vhrnika (Slovenia), Contarina (Italy) and Ljubljana (Slovenia), and review the stories of their successes to date, providing an analysis of the key elements that allowed such impressive transition.

Today, the province separately collects 51% of its municipal waste and plans to meet 70% by 2020.

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Ferran Rosa

Ferran Rosa

Policy Officer at Zero Waste Europe
Ferran joined the team in May 2015 after several months of collaboration with Zero Waste Europe. He has previously worked for the European Commission, supporting the design of policy alternatives to current waste-related legislation, for the Green European Foundation, spreading the main ecologist ideas and proposals at the European level and for GOB Mallorca on sustainable use of land and natural resources. Ferran holds a Master in European Studies from the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Ferran Rosa
Ferran Rosa

Ferran joined the team in May 2015 after several months of collaboration with Zero Waste Europe. He has previously worked for the European Commission, supporting the design of policy alternatives to current waste-related legislation, for the Green European Foundation, spreading the main ecologist ideas and proposals at the European level and for GOB Mallorca on sustainable use of land and natural resources. Ferran holds a Master in European Studies from the Université Libre de Bruxelles.

There are 3 comments
  1. José Manurel

    “ZeroWaste” results in this case are not so “zero”.
    Gipuzkoa is involved in a MBT facility with a new Waste-to-Energy plant: http://www.ghk.eus/hasiera.htm?lang=1
    Household separation is not so optimistic. Even with an utopian 100% of separate collection, the subsequent sorting and recicling procesess are not perfect, so a relevant ammount of rejected materials (waste) have to be considered for waste-to-energy or landfilling. Waste hieracchy prefers WtE rather tah landfilling. The hidden face of this type of case study is the huge ammount of waste that can’t be efectively recycled, even if they are separately collected. For example, RCERO in Ljubljana (Slovenia), anothes ZeroWaste case study, produces 40% refuse derived fuel (RDF) for energy purposes !!!!, which means incineration. The whole waste solution should be presented, otherwise “Zerowaste” is a “half lie”. I agree prevention and separate collection for recycling are crucial, but waste-to-energy for the rest is currently (and in the mid term) a key process to avoid landfilling. A municipality is not “Zerowaste” becaus 100% separate collection and MBT. A municipality is ZeroWaste if landfilling is “zero”. Best regards

  2. José Manurel

    “ZeroWaste” results in this case (Gipuzkoa) are not so “zero”. Gipuzkoa is currently involved in a MBT facility with a new Waste-to-Energy plant: http://www.ghk.eus/hasiera.htm?lang=1
    In 2018, household separation in Gipuzkoa is not so optimistic than in 2015. Even in case of reaching 100% of separate collection (utopia), the subsequent sorting and recycling processes are not perfect, so a relevant amount of rejected materials (refuse) have to be considered for waste-to-energy or landfilling. Waste hierarchy prefers WtE rather than landfilling. The hidden face of waste management under ZeroWaste perspective is the huge amount of waste that cannot be effectively recycled, even if they are separately collected. RCERO in Ljubljana (Slovenia), another ZeroWaste case study, produces 40% refuse derived fuel (RDF) for energy purposes!!!! which means incineration (not recycling); as well as 35% of “digestate” containing also non-organic materials https://youtu.be/Uwb-UCMZel4. The whole solution for waste should be presented; otherwise, “Zerowaste” is a “half lie”. I agree prevention and separate collection for recycling are crucial, but waste-to-energy for the rest is currently (and in the mid-term) a key process to avoid landfilling. A municipality is not “Zerowaste” because of 100% separate collection and MBT. A municipality is “ZeroWaste” if landfilling is “zero”. Best regards

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