Posts

Waste


Eurostat reports that the production of urban waste in the EU is increasing every year. Portuguese nationals each produce an average of 514 kgs of urban waste. That is just above the European average of 505 kgs but below major consumers like Denmark (845 kg) and Luxembourg (790 kg).


On the 17th of May – World Recycling Day – the country didn’t look good, say environmentalists pointing to an excessive failure in the recycling of waste.


In 2020 only 16,1% of municipal waste (8,9% from plastic, paper, glass, and metals; 7,2 % from organic material) was sent for recycling, a long way from the goal set, according to the environmental NGO Zero. This recycling rate even decreased compared to 2019 – when recycling reached 21% – and is far from the EU target of 55% set for 2025.


The same poor result is seen with electronic waste. Only 15 % was collected, less than a quarter of the target! The picture only improved a little for batteries – with 29% collected against a target of 45%.

Zero adds that the drop in the recycling rate ‘contradicts the official line that in a pandemic year there would have been widespread compliance with recycling practices’.

The NGO further believes that the continued focus on selective collection through Eco points (recycling points) – instead of door-to-door collection – explains the stagnation of the recycling rate throughout the years.
There are now a total of 70.000 Eco points compared to 45,000 in 2019.  


The good news, however, is the transformation of waste into hydrogen, which subsequently can be used for public transport and waste collection vehicles.

In November last year the municipality of Cascais – in cooperation with the Portuguese companies Floating Particle (‘technology’) and IPIAC (‘machinery’) started with the installation of a production unit capable of converting 50 tonnes of household waste into 5 tonnes of hydrogen per year.


By investing in this technology with two hundred thousand euros, the municipality is contributing locally to solving two urgent environmental problems.  The management of household waste (eliminating transport costs and the use of landfills) and the use of fossil fuel energies, which are highly polluting and – since the war in Ukraine – increasingly expensive.


The unit – called Stella – is located in the parish of Alcabideche and will only need household waste –plastic, paper, and organic material but not glass or metals – air and a small amount of water, being self-sufficient in terms of energy.


Enjoy the week                     Aproveite a semana      (pic PtRes/Público)




















Dumping

“The planet is witnessing the appearance of new creatures, ones that have already conquered all continents. At first glance, they seem very delicate and frail but this is an illusion – they are long-lived, almost indestructible: their fleeting bodies won’t decompose for some three hundred more years.
These plastic bags are empty on the inside, and this historic foregoing of all contents unexpectedly affords them great evolutionary benefits”
( Olga Tokarczuk in Flights – Man Booker International 2018)

Plastic has proven to be indispensable in our global economy; most is used as packing material. Despite the fact that over 13 million tons of plastic are annually dumped into our oceans – every minute a truckload – the global production of plastic is still on the increase.

In Europe circa 30% of plastic is recycled.
If it is up to the Portuguese Parliament plastic bags – as well as plastic packing material for fruit, vegetables and bread – will be forbidden from June 2020.

Every Portuguese citizen produces about 480 kg of garbage per year (~ 1,3 kg per day), just as much as the average European. However, the separate collection of paper, glass and plastic in Portugal is still very limited and only 10-15% recycled.

Since the tourist boom some seven years ago, urban waste production in the capital has nearly doubled. Especially downtown Cais do Sodré, Misericórdia and Bairro Alto, where most tourists stay and the nightlife takes place – garbage accumulates. It leaves no doubt that – besides separation of waste – the frequency of collection services has to be intensified.

Another major polluter is the textile industry, the second largest after the oil industry. Although one can nowadays buy a T-shirt and a pair of jeans for almost no money, few people realize the enormous footprint – of nearly 15.000 litres of water – it takes to produce them. The manufactory of clothing has doubled in the last 15 years, whereas its lifespan was halved. Fast fashion rules!

Each year the Portuguese throw away 200,000 tons of textile (~20 kg per person). Although in some places – e.g. Braga –selective collection of textile takes place, the majority of unwanted clothes end up in the incinerator or on the garbage dump.


Bom fim de semana              Enjoy the weekend            
(pics Sapo/DN/Público)