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Strengthen your action plan with more ambitious measures

Entry points for more ambitious waste and energy measures

First of all - waste and its inherent energy is the raw material of the future. Mainly by rising energy prices and the finiteness of resources waste as raw material and energy source shifted back into the focus of European local governments. An increasing number of politicians and technical staff have understood that material and energy recovery from waste enhances their independence as well as added value chains within their regional economy. Front-running cities and towns are now exploring and investing into the field of “urban mining” on their way to the concept of a productive city. By that they are doing what a study of McKinsey is foreseeing: 30% of the worldwide demand for resources by 2030 could be met through efficiency and recovery, benefiting the economy with US-$ 3.7 trillion each year. LGs can tap this potential also through their Sustainable Energy Action Plans.

Usually the European policy framework (see also Guidance in the 1st level Waste Module) and the national Waste Management Act as well as the local tax law and municipal regulations determine local governments’ public waste management and the possibilities to reach out to ambition. To change the waste module’s parameters towards reduction and recycling as well as energy efficiency and recovery, LGs can typically influence the following instruments:

  • Connection and compulsory use
  • Forms of collecting and conveying
  • Provision of waste
  • Compulsory segregation of waste for recycling
  • Disposal of waste
  • Demand fees for waste

Extend and accelerate – reduce, re-use, recycle

Local governments’ “shopping list” of new ideas and good practice to reduce, re-use and recycle municipal waste:

  • Promote second-hand shops and flee-markets in your LG as well as a respective online platform - naturally there are many obstacles to boost reuse rates in your community – the network rreuse suggests solutions in one of its papers.

Source: Cathy Andersen

  • Create local programmes with cashback incentives for reusable, washable nappies like Derby or Leeds in the UK.

Source: Derby City Council

  • Foster home composting by reducing waste fees if applied and establish partnerships like York Rotters.
  • Enhance recycling and waste prevention for shopping by voluntary agreements and cooperating with local trade and commerce.
  • Raise awareness in kindergartens and schools through games, competitions, theatre and lectures like the comprehensive Waste Prevention Strategy of Edinburgh does.
  • Optimise the network of recycling centres in your community and integrate textiles, carpets, mattresses etc. into your recycling.
  • Fine-tune your collection system of waste separation for public spaces or facilities such as offices, schools and large (residential) complexes.
  • Develop trade and industry-sector-specific waste prevention concepts together with stakeholders.
  • Cook a Disco Soup and develop a food waste prevention plan with local schools, canteens and restaurants and see if other governmental levels or agencies can support you through expertise and tools like Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency’s National Waste Prevention Programme.

Efficient energy recovery from municipal waste

In addition to your first focus within the processes of public waste management – prevent, reduce, re-use – energy efficiency and recovery from waste is the subsequent priority. You should explore the potential of the later through the appliance of the following three main methods to have a substantial impact on your energy performance of your SEAP:

  1. Connect your waste treatment plant with the grid and if possible district heating system to use the heat and electricity that is produced through the waste incineration of solid, non-recyclable materials. Find out details how The Greater Copenhagen Region in Denmark uses waste incineration for its district heating system and what regulatory framework today generates heat of up to 8.3 million MWh.
  2. Introduce and optimise the separation and collection of organic waste (incl. lop, edible oil etc. from households, restaurants and other business) to increase the generation of heat and electricity and to fuel your fleet of refuse collectors by producing biogas through wet or dry, aerobic or anaerobic fermentation. Understand how and why the city Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, signed a contract to divert food and green waste from landfill to generate biogas which is fed into the national gas grid.
  3. Install suitable technology to collect dump gas from your landfill for combined heat and power (CHP). Mix the landfill gas from different sites of the dump to achieve the optimal mix (45-55% methane) for CHP. If your landfill is older or closed and the mix of gas might be insufficient, combine it with biogas out of the organic waste fermentation process.
    Be briefed about the integrated waste management concept of the City of Freiburg and how it connects to the SEAP as well as how a closed landfill together with a biogas plant (Source in German) is able to heat an entire district.

Regional cooperation for a better performance

In all three cases mentioned above, a better waste and energy performance is achieved through close cooperation with different partners: To optimise the efficiency of waste collection and incineration five municipalities within The Greater Copenhagen Region teamed up and save resources. Proactively Milton Keynes cooperates with the local private waste company, while in Freiburg only the continuous political pressure succeeded in bringing public and private entities together to find an optimal solution for a complex technological and logistical challenge. 

From another perspective cooperation is also crucial, in particular when private companies are involved in the local waste management. Their financial interest (in more waste) might contradict the ultimate aim of local governments to prevent the generation of waste. Therefore all waste management service contracts need to be formulated in a way that they actively support waste reduction and do not constrain financial incentives to maintain or increase the amount of waste. However, in order to keep the best rates of efficiency and energy recovery of the installed technologies as well as to maintain and ensure a stable supply of an e.g. connected district heating system, regional waste collection streams should be combined while the total waste generation is reduced. Hence (different) LGs as well as financial interests of private companies can be brought together.  

Read up also about Porto’s case in Portugal: Less waste, less carbon – a climate protection approach in the region.

Advanced waste policies

Hedgerow management contributes to carbon neutrality goal
Next to the border of The Netherlands the German Steinfurt County has the aim to become carbon neutral by 2050. A 100% energy supply from local renewables is besides energy efficiency and sufficiency a central pillar of the regional strategy. Rising cost of fossil fuels is the reason that some local renewable potential can now be tapped that beforehand didn’t reach financial feasibility. Nevertheless the economic use of green waste from small-scale biomass sources like individual hedge maintenance (in the countryside) is challenged by the large number of landowners and distances.
Therefore the county needed to function as coordinator and platform manager. It introduced a GIS (geographic information system)-based programme in which private hedgerow owners and municipalities could register and offer their hedges for maintenance. A tendering procedure allowed maintaining the hedges and selling the biomass for the best offer on the market. The gained quantity through the coordination effort is able to pay for the hedgerow manager of the county. Moreover the green waste is economically so attractive that the private and public owners not only get a free hedge maintenance, but even benefit of a small additional income (see figure).

Look into the step-by-step guide for hedgerow management planning.

Bristol on the way for a decree for using recycled building material
SCI Network’s Procuring Innovative and Sustainable Construction snapshots cite Bristol, UK, as one of the most innovative cases in procuring recycled material. Point of departure was the reconstruction of four new schools with a value of around £ 120 million. The local authority was keen to include significant recycled material in construction and commissioned the Waste Resources and Action Programme (WRAP) to conduct market research into local suppliers and materials. This survey found that at least half the materials necessary to construct the buildings could be sourced with above average recycled materials at cost-competitive rates. Detailed analysis using three secondary school designs revealed that total recycled content of over 15% could be achieved at no extra cost.
This gave Bristol City Council the confidence to include a minimum requirement for recycled materials in their Invitation to Negotiate. Combined with other waste reduction initiatives, Bristol City Council calculated the reduced waste disposal costs, avoidance of landfill tax and lower material wastage delivered an overall cost saving estimated at £ 650,000 (around € 820,000). Since this success story the City Council might next consider a decree for procuring and using a minimum percentage of recycled building material.

Click for more information on reuse of building material as well as the Bristol case and many others.

Get inspired by the City Hall of Venlo, The Netherlands, which fully followed the philosophy of cradle to cradle in the reconstruction of its public building by using 100% recycled and recyclable material.


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