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Communicating strategically with internal and external stakeholders

Communication is key to optimise the “waste pyramid” of municipal action priorities effectively: reduce, re-use, recycle, recover and only then dispose (see also The Basics in the 1st level Waste Module). The Devon Authorities’ Waste Communications Strategy and the Waste Prevention and Recycling Communications Plan of the London Borough of Lambeth, UK, give LGs a good overview on analytical points of departure, community waste management objectives and respective strategies, actions and  monitoring activities as well as fresh ideas for suitable stakeholder involvement processes. Especially, relevant for LGs in Central Eastern European countries could be the internal communication strategy and plan of the TransWaste project, which aims to formalise the informal sector activities in collection and trans-boundary shipments of waste.

Besides regular communication between the municipal energy and waste departments throughout the design, implementation, monitoring and acceleration of the local SEAP, inter-municipal networking through relevant LG organisations like ACR+, Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and Sustainable Resource Management or Zero Waste Europe is advisable to exchange good practices. If a membership isn’t desired municipal staff shouldn’t hesitate to use other options of knowledge transfer by e.g. attending the European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) or connecting to the Waste Watch group on Twitter for inspiring photos / videos and informative tweets.

In regards to the optimisation of waste reduction it is recommended that your strategy covers (at least) the following aspects for the external communication with stakeholders:

  • Target audience specific waste calendar (for households, commerce and industry) with explanations for waste separation, recycling tips and informative events;
  • Thematic website (in different languages if needed) with concise information and contacts including "green pages" that give an overview about local recycle, repair and rental services;
  • Brochures and flyers on specific issues like e.g. free edible oil / fat collection for local restaurants or district heating through biowaste;
  • Regular press releases on new developments, waste projects and offers;
  • Discussion roundtables, lectures, exhibitions and (competitive) involving activities like which office separates waste best or which family produces the least plastic packaging by preferring reusable packing;
  • Organisation of experimental learning and waste education activities and material for local schools;
  • Guided tours to treatment and disposal facilities;
  • Advice on all waste management issues through a “waste phone”.

Local governments have a role model function and should lead by example within the (publicly visited) municipal departments and owned facilities by introducing high reduction and recycling standards, procure sustainably and promote respective behaviour changes within municipal staff. In addition to these internal measures that nevertheless send strong signals to the public, opportunities like cultural events and festivals that are happing in the community could be authorised only when having a waste (reduction) management strategy in place.

If all the above communicative and soft measures fail or show to be ineffective the enhancement of generator pays incentives, in particular on non-recyclable waste and landfill charges, are likely to impact. Local governments could opt to raise waste management charges in careful consultation with its stakeholders and make it clear what services are paid for: collection costs, recycling and composting costs, aftercare costs and landfill management. However, even more important is it to communicate that reduction in waste is directly connected to reduced charges and that proper separation of certain types of waste (biowaste, packaging, edible oil etc.) which increase the performance of energy- and thus cost-recovery, can further decrease or at least stabilise charges. In this sense the nexus between waste and energy is crucial to communicate.  

Local government examples of energy related waste communication

Separation campaign in Berlin animates citizens to save annually 403,000 tons of CO2

TrenntStadt Berlin (separation is trendy in Berlin) is an initiative of the municipal-run company Berlin City Cleaning (BSR) and its partners. The (marketing) campaign focuses on waste prevention, recycling and energy recovery in the German capital. Especially for achieving high outputs on biogas, waste separation plays a key role in the communication strategy. In Ruhleben , one of Berlin's new biogas plants , 60,000 tons of organic waste is disposed by microorganisms through a dry fermentation process. This method is ideal for Berlin’s mix of biowaste, which has a water content of 60-80%.

After the biogas is purified and concentrated, the share of methane is 98% and thus is chemically identical to natural gas. Hence after appropriate treatment, the biogas is fed into the city gas network and can fuel as well half of Berlin’s refuse vehicles’ fleet. As a result to the good separation rate and the production of biogas, each year about 2.5 million litres of diesel and 12,000 tons of CO2 can be saved (Source: BSR). In addition, the BSR installed at all of its three landfills combined heat and power plants to convert electrical and thermal energy. Only the landfill of Schwanebeck feeds an amount of electricity of about 77 GW / h into the grid - enough to supply 30,000 households (Source: BSR).

The campaign TrenntStadt Berlin works with elements of competitions, videos, information magazines, design of e.g. PC screen backgrounds (see photo), trendy trash cans, festivals and many creative ideas for using old things for new purposes. The vast offer of products, services and information on aspects of recycling, resource and energy conservation and waste prevention are summarised interactively on an online-map. This TrenntMap quickly and easily shows citizens where to go.

Moreover BSR attracted the attention of the media and citizens by performing a world record: 150 volunteers placed 6,401 colourful dustbins to the world's largest mosaic image. With this marketing action Berlin wanted to thank its citizens for annually saving 403,000 tons of CO2 by the waste separation and animate them to recycle even more. Watch a video clip that tells the story of the new world record.

European Green Capital 2012 Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain, recently followed Berlin’s example by introducing a similar online map to inform citizens about local recycling facilities and the impact that their actions have on CO2 emissions and natural resources.

Planning sustainable events for less waste and energy
Organising public events present LGs with valuable opportunities to raise awareness among stakeholders, show good practice and communicate a new culture of less waste and efficient energy use. The host as well as the participants benefit in a number of ways through e.g.:

  • Costs savings - through energy efficiency, waste reduction, consumption of local products.
  • Environmental innovation – promotion of innovative technologies / techniques can help you use resources more efficiently.
  • Reputation and awareness-raising - among participants, staff, service providers and the local community, encouraging people to make responsible decisions and spreading good practice.
  • Influencing decision-making – inspire change by engaging stakeholders, sharing standards and introducing new ways of behaviour.

The selection of the venue, catering, and accommodation as well as the management of your own resources influence the material consumption and waste generation as well as energy use and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions. In preparation of your next local event, look at the Sustainable Events checklist to reduce waste and energy. Get ad-hoc, practical guidelines for the “Capital of Europe” in How to organise sustainable meetings & events in Brussels. If you are planning a large-scale event and want to reflect amongst other sustainability criteria on waste and energy use - study the Sustainable Events Guide. Finally make your event carbon neural as far as electricity is concerned by using venues that are powered by green energy from the start (see picture of Local Renewables Conference).

Paper recycling initiative of Birmingham saves 70% energy

Local governments have implemented many innovative projects to enhance paper recycling across Europe. One of the sophisticated examples that are worth to be copied by others is the Birmingham’s Paper Chain which is driven by a multi-channel media campaign. The Birmingham City Council initiative targets households, businesses, schools, universities, faith institutions as well as community groups specifically, by analysing demographic data and selecting methods and messages that are communicated through radio, websites, leaflet drops, newspapers and billboards accordingly. In the end, residents get a better collection service, while the city increases its recycling rate and thus its material sales income. It takes 70% less energy to recycle paper compared with making it from raw materials – an interesting measure which you may want to consider to include in your next energy action planning and reporting.

More related and awarded energy saving examples can be found on the website of the European Recovered Paper Council. 

Interactive landfills with renewable energy and waste communication

Many local governments have planted greenery on their closed and sealed landfills to wipe off the ugly spot of resource inefficiency of the landscape. More recently LGs use these unproductive spaces increasingly to install photovoltaic and even wind power plants. The installed renewable energy is now contributing to the targets of local SEAPs and laid waste and energy paths often attract individual visitors and study tours. An example that combines all the above and communicates even more diversified about waste prevention and resource efficiency, is the closed landfill in Marsascala in Malta. Here the landfill was rehabilitated to a family park with an education centre on waste management, but also with leisure facilities like amphitheatre, outdoor gym, running track, picnic area, rock climbing and more. Hence the communication on energy and waste possesses different entry points to reach out to bigger variety of stakeholders.


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