3 January 2018:
A quick scan of recent waste, recycling and related environmental developments from around the globe...
On January 1, 2018, a ban on single-use plastic bags officially took effect in Montreal, Canada's second largest city and the largest Canadian city to ban such bags. Traditional plastic bags less than 50 microns thick are now prohibited as are oxo-degradable, oxo-fragmentable or biodegradable plastic bags of any thickness. Reusable plastic bags 50 microns or more in thickness are permitted.
Although the law was adopted in August 2016, retailers still have six months to be in compliance with the law before fines are issued. Fine amounts for violating the law range from $200 to $4,000, depending if the violation is a first or subsequent offense and whether the violation was committed by an individual or a corporation.
Download the Montreal plastic bag bylaw at
On December 19, the Italian Minister of Environment and Protection of the Territory and the Sea announced that the government approved banning cosmetics and personal care products containing plastic microbeads as well as plastic cotton swabs. The bans take effect on January 1, 2019, and January 1, 2020, respectively.
The small plastic shafts in cotton swabs will need to be replaced with compostable or biodegradable material.
The ban on microplastics is significant for Italy, a country that produces and exports roughly 60% of the world's cosmetics.
The Italian Ministry of Environment announcement is posted at
According to a 22-page report sent by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to the state legislature and governor last month, collection of e-waste increased to 101,2019,296 pounds in 2015, up from 96,756,892 pounds in 2014. The per capita collection level increased to 5.1 pounds from 4.9 pounds. The increases follow declines in 2014 from 2013.
The amount of covered electronics collected by manufacturers exceeded state targets for the consecutive years 2013 through 2015.
Since the New York State Electronic Equipment Recycling and Reuse Act was approved in 2010, 520 million pounds of e-waste was collected and diverted from landfills. However, DEC said recycling of cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and monitors remain a challenge.
Download the 2017 New York State E-Waste Recycling and Reuse Act report at
The Irish Environmental Protection Agency reported in late December that municipal solid waste (MSW) recovery increased to 79% in 2014 from only 59% in 2012 largely due to more MSW used as a fuel. Factoring out recovery-as-energy, the recycling rate (that includes composting and anaerobic digestion) increased only 1% during the period, from 40% in 2012 to 41% in 2014.
The amount of MSW managed in 2014 climbed 4% to 2,575 kilotons.
"The future focus for municipal waste treatment will be to prevent it arising (with a particular focus on food waste), increase preparation for reuse (e.g. waste electrical and electronic equipment) and increase recycling," the Irish EPA said in releasing the data. " Ireland's recycling rate didn't change significantly between 2012 and 2014. With more challenging recycling rates proposed under the Circular Economy Package, Ireland will need initiatives and policies to improve municipal recycling rates."
Get more 2014 Irish municipal waste data at
According to a 35-page stasticcal report released in late December by the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department (EPD), municipal solid waste (MSW) generation in the special Administrative District decreased by 0.7% in 2016 compared to a year earlier. The decrease was larger for residential MSW: 2.7%.
Despite the overall decline in MSW waste generation, the amount of food waste disposed in landfills increased by 1.5% and the per capita disposal rate increased by 5.8%.
Food waste was 35% of the MSW disposed in landfills in 2016. Following food waste was paper at 22%; plastics at 21%; wood, glass, and textiles at 3% each, and metals and household hazardous waste at 2% each. The remaining 9% of the MSW disposed in 2016 was classified as "other."
Roughly 66% of the MSW generated in Hong Kong was disposed in landfills, and only 34% was recovered for recycling.
Download the Hong Kong EPD Waste Statistics 2016 report at
MobileMuster, Australia's industry-led mobile phone recycling scheme, released its 2017 annual report last month. According to the report, 79.1 tons of mobile phones components were collected and recycled during the latest 12-month reporting period including more than 1 million handsets and batteries. The recycling rate for collected phones was 99%.
Since the scheme launched in 1998, 1,323 tons of mobile phone components and 307 tons of mobile phone batteries have been recycled.
Despite the encouraging collection statistics, the 2017 annual report states, "Australians continue to hold on to their old mobiles, many of which are redundant. MobileMuster estimates that Australians are storing 5 million old handsets that are broken or not working."
Download the 2017 MobileMuster annual report at
On December 27, the Swedish Environment Protection Agency said that according to a recent consumer survey, 21% more consumers are declining disposable plastic bags to carry their retail purchases compared to six months earlier. (Disposable plastic bags remain available for a fee, but the Swedish Government is taking steps to reduce their use such as requiring retailer reporting on bag distribution.) In the survey, 89% of respondents said it is "very important" or "fairly important" to avoid using disposable plastic bags.
While 6.5% of consumers said they stopped using disposable plastic bags to carry food or beverages, increases were larger for a few other types of products, such as some electronics (9%), shoes (11%) and clothing (15%). The biggest reason some consumers said they still accept disposable plastic bags was they forgot to bring reusable bags with them - 68%.
The survey was conducted for the Swedish EPA by Novus, a Stockholm-based market research and analysis firm.
More Swedish EPA plastic bag survey data is posted at
On December 14, the Government of the United Kingdom published "From Waste to Resource Productivity," a 45-page paper co-authored by the Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the former Government Chief Scientific Adviser, although the government says the paper does not represent its official views. The paper argues "there are big opportunities for the UK to become a more prosperous and secure society by generating value from material that is prevented from entering waste pathways in the first place; and material that is extracted from waste pathways."
The paper outlines how the government could bring leadership, direction and coordination in regard to the economics of waste; discusses activities pertaining to resource extraction, business, building and construction' food and agriculture, and environment risks; and how citizens, local governments and cities can achieve greater resource productivity.
The report concludes, in part, that "unless we find ways, behaviourally or financially, to internalise the externalities of waste, we will not be able to develop the most effective incentives for the minimisation and management of waste. Ultimately, we can only manage waste effectively if we make it easy and cost effective.The world is going through another industrial revolution, enabled and driven by new technologies that share a common digital denominator. We should take advantage of the flood of data that these technologies generate to manage new resources and our existing assets much more effectively."
Download the UK Government's From waste to resource productivity report at
Last month, the industry organization Plastic Recyclers Europe updated ten separate free guidelines for designing plastic packaging that can be more effectively recycled. Covered plastics include PET bottles, HDPE containers, PP containers and a range of films.
"Good design for recycling will boost recyclates' quality which is fundamental to increase the use of recycled material," said Ton Emans, Plastic Recyclers Europe President. "This will also facilitate the use of recyclates in an increased number of applications."
Plastic Recyclers Europe also said it was "simultaneously collaborating with Association of Plastics Recyclers within the Global Outreach Alliance which is expected to produce harmonised Design for Recycling guidelines at a global level."
Download the Plastic Recyclers Europe updated guidances at
Underscoring the growing importance of food and other organic waste management in a circular economy, Vereniging Afvalbedrijven (Dutch Waste Management Asssociation) announced that its Bioconversion Division has joined the Dutch Bio-Economy Federation, an organization of industry and research institutions that launched in August 2017.
The Bioconversion Division focuses on food and organic waste collection, compost production, and innovation within the bio-based.
The Vereniging Afvalbedrijven announcement is posted at