No To Gasification, Yes To Zero Waste

Prologue

Incineration had been rejected twice by the Derry public.

1991                                                                                        Opposition to DuPont’s toxic waste incinerator transcended political differences. The campaign was the most successful cross-community project in 30 years of The Troubles. No government funding involved. JUST INTRINSIC HUMAN MOTIVATION!

2002                                                                                            Derry City Council plans for a municipal waste incinerator were rejected by the Derry public.

Our story begins in January 2013 when we heard that a municipal waste gasification facility was to be built at Strathfoyle.

Citizens were assured that gasification was not incineration; that this was state of the art technology with multiple safety features. It would actually generate electricity back to the grid. Legislation driving the move to incineration was a result of landfill’s impact on climate change. We needed something innovative to deal with our waste. So burning it and getting energy back was surely good?

The questions that remained were;

“How different is gasification from incineration?”          “What are the problems with incinerating waste?”         “Does it address those problems?”

We discovered the concept of “Zero Waste“.

Environmental campaigners in 2002 had invited Dr Paul Connett, an environmental toxicologist, to bring our city up to speed on this solution. He has literally written the seminal book on the movement to Zero Waste.

It became clear that we are in a waste generation crisis.

It then became clear that all forms of incineration/gasification  have multiple human and environmental health implications.

Even with their state of the art filters they still release an aerosol of nano-particle toxins into the local atmosphere. These fall and bioaccumulate in the food chain.

Trying to make waste appear to disappear is just landfill in the sky.

Incineration and gasification are a pseudo solution to the crisis. Once built these hugely expensive monster machines need to be fed. This creates a demand for waste 25 years into the future (the normal length of the contracts councils are tied into at inception to finance them). Meanwhile the energy captured in the process is only 25% of the embedded energy in the resources, so 75% of their value is lost to the economy.

We realised that Zero Waste is the only authentic solution to our waste generation crisis and an appropriate response to the climate crisis.

Watch this short video by Professor Vivyan Howard on the issues.

And this even shorter video on Why Yes To Zero Waste

In March 2013 in the context of being for Zero Waste, we formed Zero Waste North West to oppose the plans for the gasification facility. The aerosols released would threatened our air, water and soil. It would be a local driver for climate change, creating demand for ‘waste’ into the next 25 years.

In March 2014, after a year of public education, lobbying, creative campaigning and modelling zero waste, council abandoned their plans for the gasification facility.

Once plans for the incinerator were defeated, with our slogan, “No To Gasification – Yes to Zero Waste” we committed to work with council and the local community to implement Zero Waste. This would necessitate a culture shift in local attitudes and behaviour towards ‘waste’. To support that objective we joined ZWE a member based organisation co-ordinating and sharing expertise across the network of grassroots organisations in Europe leading the transition. We knew that with council on our side the culture shift could be achieved in partnership because that is how it is happening across Europe. It would set us apart as a model of best practice on these islands. It was the direction of travel of EU legislation and so would effectively future proof our economy too.

 

Our Road To Zero Waste Began

With incineration off the table we immediately began organising to win the argument for a zero waste strategy for the city region. Integral to this was lobbying our political representatives for finance to commission a bespoke business case study into its viability for the Derry/Strabane city region.

June 2015 

We hosted Derry’s first international conference on zero waste, Countdown To Zero. See below the video of Joan Marc Simon, ZWE’s Director’s opening address. His comprehensive overview of the case for Zero Waste left attendees from across the statutory, business, community and education sectors in no doubt about its viability and the direction business was going in.

By 2016 we had secured £20k of our £44k budget for the research from DAERA and another £20k from DCSDC. This with an in-kind contribution of £4k from ourselves to co-manage the process resulted in an Invitation to Tender being issued. Eunomia won the tender and their final report A Circular Economy Zero Waste Strategy for the city region was published in November 2017.

In December 2017 it was unanimously adopted by Derry City and Strabane District Council Cou

The report made clear that if we were to implement the strategy as outlined

  • we could be the first city region on these islands to become a Zero Waste City region, pioneering the transition to us as a species living within our earth’s carrying capacity
  • save ratepayers an estimated £3m per annum
  • create more than 190 new jobs within council directly
  • and enhance the potential for green jobs in the local economy
    • Firstly as the resources captured will be of a sufficiently quality to replace recyclate local repressors are currently needing to import.
    • Secondly as availability of quality recyclate will entice other reprocessors to consider setting up in or close to the region.

Implementing The Strategy

With the strategy adopted our focus shifted to lobbying council for its implementation.  This would involve council “actively considering the adoption of a phased strategic change to [its] collection methods in tandem with public education which redefines ‘waste’ as vital resources” for the local circular economy.  “It’s not waste until it’s wasted”.   That work is now underway in tandem with a review of all 37 Policies outlined in the report.

The big prize we focused on was the culture shift, and winning council of the merits of signing us up to become a Zero Waste Europe certified Zero Waste City region. We are delighted that this Declaration, essentially an act of faith taken by council in the council-citizens partnership it will take to deliver it was was formally announced on 20th November 2020. Here are links to our Citizen Bulletin on WHAT THIS MEANS for the region, our  Joint Press Release with Council and a 17 second video from former Chairperson Maeve O’Neil speaking that morning!

In addition to the work with council, we continue to educate other councils and the community, lobby government, facilitate and support ZWCE best practice with schools, community centres, and local businesses. This video tells the story of Thornhill College’s Journey to source separation and zero waste.

  • Naw to Straws Campaign

    Our Naw To Straws campaign is another example. We also offer Journey To Zero support for local cafes and other businesses in waste reduction through better design. Our work zero wasting the Stendhal Festival being a prime example as is the establishing of The Use-less Shop, a package free shop a number of our members initiated. We also established a series of Terracycle local Collection Points for recycling old biros to demonstrate more ways to salvage the resources in hard to recycle ‘waste’. We also have a Zero Waste Juniors Club and a vibrant community events calendar to foster our relationship with and love of the earth. This might be actions like tree planting, or Litter-picking or our annual marking of Earth Hour and our Enough Stuff Festival,  Our Facebook page helps to spread awareness and supports Zero Waste Lifestyle options for both individuals/businesses. 

A Call To Action

Please consider getting involved by Becoming A Member. If you can take a few minutes to complete the short pro forma we will get back to you promptly. There might be a particular part of our work already underway that you have an interest in or a new direction you want to suggest. This is not our world it is yours too. Let's be about the change we want to see.

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This is not someone else's world it is our world. We transform it together by being the change we want to see.