European week for waste reduction:
put a stop to waste!
Introduced in 2009, the European week for waste reduction (EWWR) aims to provide householders, businesses and communities with the keys to significantly reduce waste.
Before being adopted in Europe, the Week for Waste Reduction was first rolled out in Ontario and then in Quebec (Canada). "The Canadians (Recycling Council of Ontario) developed the concept back in 1980. In early 2000, the Week was adopted in Quebec following an initiative by the Quebec network of waste sorting and recovery centres. The concept then jumped the Atlantic to France’s Nord - Pas-de-Calais region where the French network of waste sorting and recovery centres took up the action in 2004 with the backing of ADEME’s Nord - Pas-de-Calais and Picardy regional divisions", recalls Valérie Jouvin, EWWR Project Coordinator at ADEME. "We were so convinced of its success that from 2006 onwards the Week became the flagship event of the ‘Réduisons vite nos déchets, ça déborde !’ [Reduce our waste. It’s overflowing!] communication campaign”. Entertaining and effective, the concept was then picked up by ACR+*, Brussels-Capital, Catalonia and Greater Porto which contacted ADEME to examine the possibility of broader action. "This would be no mean feat because the aim was to make a submission in response to a call for project proposals from the European Commission to obtain a significant level of Life+ programme funding for the project’s three year term: around one million euros of the two million the organisation needed for the three European Weeks." As it tied in perfectly with the revision of the Waste Framework Directive that entered into force in 2008, the European Commission responded positively to the initiative and decided to fund the European partners for the period 2009-2012. At this stage, ADEME took over the project’s management and coordination. "Initially, we spent time getting to know the partners in order to develop the organisation’s governance and develop a shared strategy. Then, we defined our work framework in detail, while continuing to retain the concept of holding a week of events based around a variety of actions targeting a wide audience of local authorities, businesses and the general public, conferences, and so on, always with the prime objective of generating awareness of the need to reduce the production of waste", adds Valérie Jouvin. In all, 2,672 actions (of which 1,313 in France) received the EWWR label back in 2009.
Over the years, an increasing number of events have been organised alongside the Week: "A conference on waste reduction in the first year, a training seminar the next. Then in 2012, the project’s closing seminar organised by ADEME highlighted the different ways of promoting the issue of waste prevention and reduction in Europe."
At the same time, three award presentation ceremonies that were widely reported in the media were held in Brussels and Paris. They honoured the most exemplary actions selected by an independent European panel of judges in five categories (administration, association, business, schools and other).
Communication tools (22 in total, all of which are translated into at least six languages) were also produced and distributed throughout Europe. Additionally, a database of the most exemplary actions and a practical guidebook are available on the ewwr.eu website.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL GOAL BUT NOT ONLY
In 2012, after three and a half years’ support, the European Commission ended its funding as planned. Is the EWWR’s future under threat as a result? "I don’t think so", says Valérie Jouvin. "Proof of that is evident from the fact that the most recent Week went ahead without EU funding and it did not prevent the 35 public waste management authorities from 23 countries from mobilising project leaders to run over 10,700 actions during the Week. And yet, the Commission’s support remains crucial for several reasons: firstly, because its financial support is needed to run the network of EWWR organisers, and secondly, because the partners and associations need this reference to convince their sponsors."
Given this state of affairs, a second proposal was submitted to the European authorities by the Belgians, Catalans, Hungarians, Italians and Portuguese. Pending its examination, the initiative is continuing and committed parties are already preparing the next Week. "Communities, businesses, associations and volunteers are as motivated as ever", explains Valérie Jouvin, who goes on to say, "more than an environmental project, we are dealing with something that has wider ramifications aimed at putting some common sense into our everyday consumer habits and placing people back at the heart of society. Just look at some of the initiatives organised this year: some involved soup competitions to reduce food waste, there were bike repair workshops and a guide was published listing local repair tradesmen."
* ACR+ is an international network of cities and regions to promote the sustainable management of resources.
Nearly 11,000 initiatives for this fourth European Week
Held from 17 to 25 November 2012, the fourth European Week for Waste Reduction involved nearly 11,000 initiatives, compared with 7,035 in 2011. In France, 2,888 actions received the EWWR label and involved all regions of the country. Local authorities alone accounted for 48% of the projects, reflecting the fact that municipalities in general and their elected councillors in particular are fully aware of the importance of the issues at stake. Two preventive measures were promoted in France: reusing products and combatting food waste. This latter topic led to interesting and durable initiatives, for example, that introduced by API Restauration at 32 school canteens involving the installation of "waste radars" to teach students to reduce food waste as the weeks go by.