Zero Waste Derry & Strabane

Derry City and Strabane District Council is creating a zero waste circular economy, by preventing waste creation in the first place, encouraging its preparation for re-use and delivering separate waste collections for recycling, composting and digestion.

How is this tackling the climate crisis?

Derry City and Strabane District Council is one of the first local authorities in the UK to create a zero waste circular economy strategy. Waste is a climate issue due to the emissions caused in manufacturing products that are then thrown away, and due to the methane gases released at landfill sites.

The council says it is working towards an economy where resources are used for as long as possible, have maximum value extracted from them and are recovered and regenerated at the end of their service life.

This is a core element of the region’s Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan, and has helped the area win Zero Waste City Region designation from Zero Waste Europe.

The strategy has three key aims. In order of priority, they are:
1. Preventing waste creation in the first place, encouraging reuse, improving the design of products, and extending product life cycles.
2. Encouraging its preparation for re-use.
3. Delivering separate waste collections for recycling, composting and digestion.

The council seeks to ensure that residual waste which is unable to be recycled is treated prior to disposal, to reduce its environmental impact.

The authority has outlined 37 key policy actions that will help it cut or eliminate waste and pollution from council services and activity, increase the re-use of materials and products and to develop regenerative natural systems.

To make these plans achievable, the council is attempting to shift local attitudes and behaviour to redefine waste as a vital resource. Its tactics are changes to collection methods combined with public education on issue.

The council is also moving its focus away from the percentages and amounts of different material gathered for recycling to the quality of the material eventually produced through the recycling process. This is important in creating future value on the commodity market as part of a circular economy.

Reuse and Recycling:

The local authority is upgrading its household waste and recycling centres and expanding food and garden waste collections to reduce the amount of valuable waste materials entering landfill. The council is also developing a reuse and recycle economy through a partnership with New2You Reuse Centre, a local social enterprise.

Green Procurement Strategy:

The council has also introduced green procurement policies into plans and contracts. It is in the process of adopting new criteria for all purchasing activity.

Local and Sustainable Food:

Food management is a key to creating a circular economy. Derry and Strabane views sustainable food production as a key priority. Its ultimate goal is a city that feeds itself.

Refurbished Laptops:

A laptop donation scheme has helped children who had no access to a device with home-schooling during the pandemic. In partnership with North West Greenway Network, Sustrans and Zero Waste North West, 400 laptops were refurbished. The project also prompted wider action from central government.

Lessons learned

Set up internal circular economy working groups:

In order to ensure its strategy and policy actions are delivered, the local authority set up a series of internal circular economy working groups. These groups develop procurement criteria, measure impacts and work with local stakeholders to create sustainability checklists and pledges.

What impact has it had?

Action to raise awareness and spark behavioural change across the region is already starting to have an impact. Before the development of a circular economy plan, the council had the lowest recycling rates in Northern Ireland at only 33%. By March 2021, this rate had increased to 48%. Its landfill rates are also falling, from 14.38% in April 2019-March 2020 to 8.87% in April 2020-March 2021.

There are also social impacts being delivered including the mental and physical health benefits of the food growing project and educational benefits of the laptop project.

It is important to consider that many innovative impacts from this strategy will be effective in the long term, such as influencing product design, and re-localising processing of waste into useful materials.
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