Greening the Islands Foundation

Whatever the Shape – Islands Must be Circular

Management of waste – and, more generally, management of resources – shows specific challenges in islands, which compels to consider getting as circular as possible.

As a matter of fact, whatever import of materials from the mainland, and whatever disposal of waste to the mainland, implies loading-shipping-unloading, which increases not only the environmental footprint, but also related operational costs.

On account of the foregoing, which supplements the need to preserve the beauty of shores and landscapes, but also the tourism industry and the fishing activities from leakage of single-use materials into the environment, islands are perfect labs for strategies aimed at circular economy and they are fostered by its concepts.

Whatever material that gets reused or recycled on site, implies cutting on imports from the mainland, and reducing the need to export waste – or to dispose of it on the island.

While some recycling activities imply industrial infrastructure that is typically not suitable for small islands (e.g., a glass factory, a paper mill), composting may be implemented on site, with small-scale, low-tech infrastructure (and even promoting home composting in the backyards), and providing organic fertilisers that may then be used as soil improvers to make islands more resilient against droughts, floods and landslides, and to restore/improve fertility of farmlands for local crops.

Furthermore, reuse programmes (e.g., for takeaway food and beverages, for containers used to purchase food stuffs at shops) may be implemented with comparatively easy organisational schemes and the support of low-level infrastructure (e.g., washing centres to provide a service to more restaurants and bars, if this is the case). This retains added value of such activities on the island, promotes the paradigm shift of “producing value” with the very same amount of resources, and brings to operational reality strategies and visions which are now being promoted, such as by the recently adopted EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation.

Also those bits of a circular economy vision that cannot be directly implemented on site, as may be the case with paper or glass or metal recycling, may connect with the proper design of schemes for separate collection, so as to export materials to be recycled, and not waste to be disposed of – which, with skyrocketing costs of landfilling and incineration (e.g., for the obligation on pretreatment, the extension of the EU Emission Trading System to cover incineration, the EU Do No Significant Harm principle which prevents any fund from being used for landfills and incinerators) implies savings, besides environmental benefits.

So, long story short, it’s just about time: let’s go circular.

Author: Enzo Favoino, Chair of the Scientific Committee, Zero Waste Europe & GTI Specialist Waste

Enzo Favoino

Enzo Favoino

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