This week the first meeting of a project known as UrBan Waste is taking place here in Adeje. Rubbish might sound like a boring subject for a European conference, but when you consider that globally the tourism industry is responsible for the production of 35 million tonnes of solid waste annually, the need for new flexible rubbish reuse and recycling strategies in tourist destinations makes sense.
The UrBan Waste project will be co-ordinated by the Canarian Government and has a number of pilot urban and semi-urban areas around Europe taking part. They includes Adeje, Arona and Puerto de la Cruz. Other destinations involved include Copenhagen in Denmark, Dubrovnik Neretva in Croatia, Kavala in Greece, Nice (France), Lisbon in Portugal, Nicosia in Cyprus and Syracuse in Italy. The destinations have been chosen as much for their tourist relevance as their variety so that strategies and policies that emerge as successful from the pilot projects can be applied on a much wider scale.
Up to now, in general, towns tended to design urban waste systems with the resident population as the important factor – but this project wants to change that in areas where the visitor influxes can see local populations increase by anything from two to 10 times the resident number. Among the aims would be the reduction of solid waste generated by tourists by up to 40% by 2022 and by 80% by 2030 while in parallel increasing the amount of tourist-generated waste recycled by up to 50% in 2022 and by 80% in 2030.
At the ‘kick off’ meeting in the FIT (Factory for Tourism Innovation) today the Adeje mayor José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga said that Adeje was already working in the field of waste treatment with sustainable projects, “in particular in tourist areas, and we will continue to work along these lines and improve in terms of sustainability and environmental care because we are well aware that recycling, reuse and the reduction of waste are fundamental in the evolution of a modern society”.
The project planners are promoting Urban Metabolism as a form model, an integrated platform that examines material and energy flows shaped by social, economic and environmental forces. The model will be used to quantify the impact of tourism on the metabolic cost for towns and cities, and also for the development of waste prevention and management strategies. The direction will be to redefine waste as a resource, which will also mean a shift in economic focuses with the creation of ‘green’ job opportunities.
There are many factors to be taken into consideration in the study and subsequent policies that will be developed out of this project. Important too is that while a tourist zone can develop a local strategy for reducing waste production and education of the resident population on the benefits of reuse and recycling, tourists arrive from different countries and cultures with other customs and habits. They are here for a short stay so there needs to be flexible policies in place to encourage them to care for their holiday resort too. Take into consideration the fact that statistically every tourist generates twice as much solid waste as a resident, and the problem is apparent.
Who knew there was so much to consider in rubbish – but what we do know, those of us who live here, is that this is a relatively small island, with limited land mass, so alternatives to dumping and rubbish storage need to be found and supported.