Wednesday, October 18, 2006

International - Survey of Zero Waste initiatives

Extracted from Green Alliance

Can countries, cities or businesses really eliminate waste completely? Is ‘zero waste’ an achievable absolute goal, or more a framing concept within which to develop progressive waste and resource management initiatives? With these questions in mind Green Alliance examined nine international examples where ‘zero waste’ goals or similar objectives have been set to explore the concept and the achievements of the approach in a little more detai.

A number of countries, cities and businesses around the world have adopted a ‘zero waste’ goal. Green Alliance examined a range of these initiatives at the local, regional and national scales with the aim of identifying international practices that are relevant to the ‘closed loop’ vision of transformed resource use. The survey assesses the coherence of the case studies’ objectives, identifies the policy measures put in place to achieve them, evaluates experiences to date and identifies lessons for the UK. The findings and recommendations from this work are given in the paper An international survey of zero waste initiatives (pdf format - 52KB).

A diverse range of approaches were considered: from the high-tech, large-scale waste management systems of consumerist San Francisco; to the locally based, small-scale initiatives in the Philippines. Purely voluntary schemes such as that rolled out in the town of Kamikatsu, Japan were assessed along side the more legislatively based examples such as the region of Flanders, Belgium.

International surveys yield ideas and demonstrate the art of the possible yet can always be dismissed as culturally specific. However, good ideas can always be imported, perhaps with adaptation, if there is the will to change. The case studies highlight that whilst there are some inherent problems with ‘zero waste’ as a concept and as a policy objective, there are nevertheless lessons to be learnt by critically considering the achievements of existing practice, wherever in the world that may be found.

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