Capannori: A municipality against Europe’s waste

Incineration is a common way of gaining energy in Europe. Even though it would damage your health and support a culture of waste, Rossano Ercolini, it‘s most famous critic says. His personal protest against incineration triggered a whole movement that is opposing Europe‘s waste.
Catching them early: Primary school teacher Rossano Ercolini shows his pupils how to recycle Goldman Environmental Prize
Five days a week, Rossano Ercolini teaches children in a primary school in Italy. That is striking, as his ongoing protest against incineration sites in Italy made him one of the most famous figures for a sustainable waste management in Europe. Every weekend Ercolini travels through Italy or Europe and advises municipalities on how to increase it‘s recycling rate or how to produce less waste. Or, to put it short: How they could approach the goal of „Zero Waste“. But from the start: 1997 Ercolini Rossano heard that the region of Luca was planning two incineration sites in the 45.000 people municipality of Capannori. One of them directly next to the primary school where Ercolini works. He gathered information about possible health risks, the people and pupils of Capannori could be exposed to. The findings shocked him. Studies exposed that pollutants and fine particles from incineration sites could intrude the lungs and increase the risk of respiratory diseases or cancer explicitly. Ercolini organized municipal meetings to create awareness for the threat to residents health of Capannori. It didn‘t take long for the protest to be successful but Ercolini‘s mission did only start there.

Tackle the problem at it‘s source

While organizing the protest, the inhabitants of Capannori were already confronted with presenting an alternative. If the waste wouldn‘t be incinerated anymore to ensure public health, it wouldn‘t be possible to landfill it, either. So, the members of the new campaign started a new waste management plan. Instead of dumping waste in huge garbage bins like it is usually done in major parts of Italy, it was collected by ASCIT, Capannori‘s garbage collection, at each doorstep. A new pay scheme was introduced, which included a fee on each garbage bag. This led to an increased recycling rate. Additionally, information about recycling and also bio composter where handed out to families. Between 2004 and 2013 the percentage of recycled waste rose from 30 to over 80 percent. That is double of the EU-average. But far better: Most of the waste wasn‘t even produced anymore. The percentage of annually produced waste sank at the same time about 40 percent to 400 Kg per person. An average european „produces“ 500 Kg each year.

What started out as a small movement is now known in whole Italy under the name of “Ambiente e Futuro” (Environment and Future). Goldman Environmental Prize
Today, ZeroWaste spread to many parts in Europe. „The Basque region, Catalonia, Wales and since only now Slovenia are new model students regarding ZeroWaste“, says Rossano Ercolini. Recently he went to Nizza where he spoke with representatives about a new waste management. But still, there are some parts for which ZeroWaste is „a rather new idea“, says Ercolini. „For example Germany or Austria. But we are working on that.“

The most sustainable waste is the one not produced

The European Commission already declared that from 2020 on, only „non-recyclable materials“ would be allowed to incineration or landfill. „Many regions, which relied heavily on incineration face a problem now“, says Ercolini. If recycling rates increase the resource for incineration will be missing. In some regions this led to a new business. Naples, the city with the most famous waste problem in Europe, annually ships thousands of tons of it to the netherlands where the incineration sites already lack their resource for gaining energy.

Ercolini at the award presentation of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2013. Goldman Environmental Prize
Saving energy by not consuming it: That would be the core-thought of ZeroWaste, says Ercolini. By now he leads Europe‘s first „ZeroWaste Research Center“ in Capannori. In 2013 he was rewarded with the „Goldman Environmental Prize“, one of the most important environmental prizes there is. „We do our better“, says Ercolini. „Not our best but we are quite close.“ Fotos: Goldman Environmental Prize Further links: Video about recycle-champion “Capannori
Website of the ZeroWaste movement”ZeroWaste EuropeAre you working on fixing waste management problems through knowledge or technology? Get in contact with us. We connect you to competent business partners around the world. 

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