It is not just people here in the UK who are interested in preserving the environment for future generations. Every country in Europe is committed to environmental initiatives that conserve energy and reduce waste. The European Commission is running a major project called the Life Plus programme and one of the events that has been set up by this is the European Week for Waste Reduction.
When is the European Week for Waste Reduction?
This event happened for the first time in November 2009 and took place in 2010, during the last week of November. The organisers now hope that it will become an annual event, and are planning the next one for the end of November 2011.
What does the EWWR do?
The week is basically an event to raise awareness amongst people all over Europe of the small changes in behaviour that they can make on a daily basis that will, overall, make a huge difference to the amount of waste produced. The latest available figures, from 2008, show that Europe as a whole produced over 2.5 billion tonnes of waste; over 100 million tonnes of that was classed as hazardous waste. The amount of waste produced increased sharply during the 1990s but initiatives for waste reduction has helped production to plateau and the amount of waste we produced in 2008 was actually 0.3 billion tonnes less than in 2006.
The EWWR encourages individuals, families and businesses to take action – just small actions count – and they produce a tally of actions that take place in that week. In 2009 people managed to achieve 2672 actions but in 2010, efforts nearly doubled, with 4231 actions recorded.
Plans for Expansion
Like many environmental initiatives, the EWWR started small but has already grown. In 2010, seven more countries decided to join in, adding to the 10 that were already part of the 2009 EWWR. The initiative also included organisers from outside Europe – from Brazil and the Dominican Republic, and it may be that the European Waste Reduction Week will eventually become a global event.
The UK was involved in the 2010 initiative – but not at a national level. Events were concentrated in Scotland, Wales, the East of England and in Warrington and Belfast. Hopefully, the 2011 EWWR will be more widespread across the UK.
Education is a Major Part of EWWR
The idea behind the EWWR is that the week focuses on education using all methods available from posters, web banners and adverts, leaflets, promotional videos, a Facebook page and electronic comic strips. These all encouraged people to think of their own ideas for ways to reduce production, reduce consumption, to recycle and reuse and to dispose of in a more environmentally friendly way. Everyone can get involved but this is a particularly good project for schools, as environmental studies form part of the curriculum in many countries in Europe.
The event has a serious purpose but it is also meant to be a lot of fun. At the start of the week, several countries organised an opening party with music and dance. The music was no ordinary music – it centred on the beat and percussion produced by using metal bins as drums. This has the symbolism that we are beating waste – or our waste receptacles – and suggests that if we are successful, we might have to find some other use for all of our bins.