Interview with Sandra Mazo-Nix, the Coalition's Waste Initiative Coordinator, and Andrea Celeste Paiz, New Technology Management for the City of Buenos Aires
Waste

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The city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, member of the Coalition's Municipal Solid Waste network, has implemented multiple programmes to reduce the amount of organic waste sent to landfill.

Cities want to tackle food waste but don’t always know where to start. Beyond Food Waste interviewed Sandra Mazo-Nix, Waste Initiative Coordinator for the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, and Andrea Celeste Paiz, City of Buenos Aires, to learn about the Climate & Clean Air Coalition's Municipal Solid Waste network that offers technical support and knowledge exchange opportunities to cities around the world.

 

Why do we need to act on climate change now?

Sandra Mazo-Nix (SMN): Short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are powerful climate forces with global warming potential many times that of carbon dioxide. Examples are black carbon, methane, hydrofluorocarbons and tropospheric ozone. They also significantly impact food, water, and economic security for large populations throughout the world. The Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) supports cities and national governments in their efforts to reduce these pollutants. Its activities address key polluting sectors, including agriculture, brick production, heavy-duty diesel vehicles, oil & gas, household energy, and waste; and crosscutting subjects such as finance, national planning, and public health.

Why should cities target organic waste?

SMN: Waste can play an important role as part of cities’ actions to reduce methane gas and black carbon emissions; for example, by reducing the amount of organics which goes to landfills. Within our municipal solid waste platform, organics is mostly targeted because it is by far the largest waste stream and can have severe effects on climate change due to the uncontrolled methane generation in landfills and large open dumps.

Within our municipal solid waste platform, organics is mostly targeted because it is by far the largest waste stream and can have severe effects on climate change.
Sandra Mazo-Nix
Coordinator Waste Initiative, Climate & Clean Air Coalition

What kind of cities do you focus on?

SMN: Our target group is medium and large cities in developing countries. We work with cities around the globe like Sao Paulo (Brazil), Nairobi (Kenya) and Penang City (Malaysia). For example, we have just starting supporting Arequipa (Peru) with assessing the development of a composting plant that will process organic waste coming mainly from market and landscaping activities from the 16 districts in the province. The only requirement to become a partner city, is to sign a letter of intent in which the city commits to reducing SLCPs from the waste sector. Also, our network includes mentor cities from the United States, Europe, Japan, and South Africa.

How does the CCAC support cities?

SMN: The Coalition is a voluntary partnership of governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations. We support cities in various ways. First, through direct technical support. As an example, we have supported the city of Sao Paulo, together with ISWA, to develop a municipal solid waste work plan. Second, we support the exchange of experiences between cities with regional networks and workshops. We now have six networks in place: South-America/Mexico, Central America, Southeast Asia, Africa (French), South East Europe/Middle East/ Central Asia, and India and one network in the near future: Africa (English). Third, we offer cities information, which is available through our website. There you can also find relevant documents, tools, databases and upcoming events and webinars.

City of Buenos Aires

One of the cities in the Coalition's Municipal Solid Waste network is Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires has been awarded in 2014 the C40 Cities Award in the category of Waste Management thanks to its Solid Urban Waste Reduction Project. Andrea Celeste Paiz explains their efforts on addressing food waste.

Why do you address solid waste and food waste in specific?

Andrea Celeste Paiz (ACP): Buenos Aires is reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills in order to decrease environmental impact, thus reducing greenhouse gases emissions on local climate and effects on community. To achieve this goal, Buenos Aires City owns a Recycling Center, which consists of five facilities of recovery and treatment for different streams: construction and demolition waste, pruning waste, recyclables, PET and organic waste. The Organic Waste Facility treats 30 tons of waste from a separate collection every day and turns this material into an organic amendment, which works as a soil improver.

Since 2015, Buenos Aires has a specific focus on food waste reduction. Buenos Aires signed the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the first international protocol through which Mayors commit to develop sustainable food systems to grant healthy and accessible food to all, protect biodiversity and fight against food waste. Therefore, we have started to work in a program aimed at food waste prevention in 2016.

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Organic Waste Facility in Buenos Aires. Photo credit: Beyond Food Waste

What was your first step to address food waste?

ACP: In 2016, The Ministry of Environment and Public Space started to work on a program to reduce food waste. Food waste is a key element to decrease organic waste generation in Buenos Aires City. Because food waste is a transdisciplinary subject we joined forces with other government areas to create a working table. At the table, we decided to evaluate the current situation of the city. This evaluation study has been carried out a study by Bologna University and includes analyses on how much citizens waste in their houses, their food habits and causes of food waste.

There has been a survey with 1,000 respondents from different parts of the city. The entire city wastes 26 tons of food per day. Thus, on average a citizen throws away about 2.9 kg of food per year. This food waste has an estimated value of US$ 180 million per year. This last value represents 0.3% of the Buenos Aires City Gross Geographic Product in 2016. And these results are probably an underestimation of the real situation: people tend to give socially desirable answers and throwing away food is considered not socially correct. In addition, most people don’t know how to estimate the amount of food they waste in kilograms.

The Organic Waste Facility treats 30 tons of waste from a separate collection every day and turns this material into an organic amendment, which works as a soil improver.
Andrea Celeste Paiz
New Technology Management, City of Buenos Aires

When the study was finished, what was the next step?

In 2017, the working table was formalised and started the Cuidemos Los Alimentos or “Take Care Food Waste” programme. Since the launch of the programme, the topic has had increased in visibility. A few actions of the programme are:

      

  • Including food waste in Mi Escuela Saludable (My Healthy School), a magazine that is giving to students of primary and secondary schools.
  • Promotion of the doggy bags in restaurants and cafes. Over 40,000 doggy bags have been delivered to motivate Buenos Aires citizens to carry on their leftovers.
  • Training of professional kitchen employees who prepare food to reduce food waste in the kitchen.
  • Workshops about food waste in Estaciones Saludables (Healthy Stations). These are places located in different parks of the City. The workshops aim to boost the well-being of the neighbors through the awareness and promotion of healthy habits.
  • Participation at city markets and fairs where which food is recovered.
  • Awareness raising in Puntos Verdes (Green Points). These are places in parks of the City where citizens can take their recyclables.

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Cuidemos los Alimentos programme. Photo credit: Beyond Food Waste

What are the key elements of your programme?

Currently, the Ciudemos los alimentos programme is based on three main parts: training, awareness raising, and donation. Next to what we already do, we have planned the following actions:

    

  • Transform groceries into areas which raise awareness and motivate the consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce food waste at fruits and vegetable markets.
  • Promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables as a healthy habit, in general, in public buildings, working meetings, and at mayor meetings with neighborhoods.
  • Reduce food waste in school canteens, and train employees who prepare food.
  • Motivate composting at home with domiciliary compost workshops.
  • Promote sustainable urban food production through orchard workshops and planting orchards in “Healthy Stations”.
  • Motivate the donation of food which is still good to be eaten.
  • Improve awareness raising about food waste with tips about on how to reduce it, at The Recycling Centre and Green Points.

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Doggy bag template

Do you encounter any difficulties tackling food waste?

Food waste is an interdisciplinary topic. Different areas that have very different objectives need to work together and that can be difficult sometimes. Furthermore, changing citizens habits is challenging, thus raising awareness about food waste is a long-term policy. Some habits are deeply rooted in the population and are very difficult to modify. For instance, asking people to take a doggy bag in a restaurant is not very common, as people feel embarrassed.

How did CCAC support you?

We are part of CCAC’s Municipal Solid Waste city network. In 2017, they launched a network aimed at South America and Mexico in order to share and learn from other city experiences on solid waste. We are part of these networks and we gain a lot of knowledge from other cities.

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Buenos Aires is part of CCAC’s Municipal Solid Waste city network in South America and Mexico

      

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