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The First zero waste celebration of the annual gathering to support the Basque language

On October 4, in Usurbil, Gipuzkoa, the annual celebration of Basque schools ‘Ikastolas’ took place, and this is the first year that the organisation have considered taking a zero waste approach.

This is already a traditional meeting point for over 10,000 people who come together to support the Basque language “Euskara”, and this year it was also used to showcase how it is possible to radically reduce waste and increase recycling rates. This event was particularly useful to highlight how wrong and unnecessary is to build the incinerator of Zubieta which the regional government wants to build next to the town of Usurbil in the Basque country.

The event implemented three steps to be a zero waste event:

  1. Prevention: the promotion of tap water to avoid the use of disposable plastic bottles.
  2. Reuse: drinks were mostly served in reusable cups,
  3. Separate collection; over 90% of the waste was separately collected.

Prevention: promote the drinking of tap water!
For the first time, and thanks to adopting the zero waste approach, it was possible to provide tap water to the participants. The organisation of the event partnered with the municipality to promote the tap water from the municipality as being healthy free.

The results were incredible! In past editions around 15,000 disposable plastic bottles were bought during this day and thanks to this measure the number went down to only 3,548 bottles. This will be the mark to beat for future years!

Reuse: Reusable cups
The celebration planned to move away from single use glasses and therefore heavily promoted the use of reusable glasses. 49,350 glasses were rented and 85.89% of them were recovered and washed for future use. Prior to adopting the zero waste approach the same festival was getting back 66% of the glasses.

Separate collection
Thanks to an innovative separate collection system and the involvement of more than 110 volunteers, 7,750 kg of segregated waste was collected during the day of the celebration.

More concretely the organisation and volunteers managed to separately collect:

1,160kg of packaging
1,180kg of paper
1,140kg of biowaste

3,024kg glass

106ltr of oil

380kg of special plastics
720kg residual waste
40kg nappies

This totals a separate collection rate of 90.19% leaving only 9.81% (760kg) of residual waste.

In addition to the successes in waste management the zero waste strategy managed to produce many positive spin-offs such as promoting sustainable mobility with use of bicycles, chemical free cleaning products and toilets, etc.

As a result of this successful experience, the local Zero Waste Europe member, Zero Zabor, will be helping to produce guidelines to host similar events elsewhere. Watch this space for more!

All in all, it was an incredibly successful experience considering it was the first time it was organised and Zero Zabor is already looking forward improving the results in 2016!

Want to see what this event looked like? Watch this 5 minute video:

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Matt Franklin

I am the Communications & Programme Officer for Zero Waste Europe. I joined Zero Waste Europe in July 2015, moving to Manchester, UK after living in Bologna, Italy, and working as a freelance campaign communications consultant. Before Bologna I worked for People & Planet as a Corporate Power Campaigns Co-ordinator, supporting UK student groups campaigning around workers’ rights in the garments and electronics industries. I have been long been involved in grassroots social movements, and campaigns for social and environmental justice. I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Anthropology and Classical Literature & Civilisations.

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