What sustainability criteria should the future sub-system meet?
The amount of the total waste production on Texel is bigger than other similar municipalities (700kg of annual waste per head, instead of an average of 518kg). The main household waste components are: “green” and “grey” waste, bulky household waste, small-scale chemical waste, electrical and electronic equipment and “dry” components (paper, textiles, glass).
The materials used in Texel are mostly produced on the mainland, and then shipped, used and ending their lifecycle on the island. An ambitious solution would involve the concept of waste equals food. “Waste equals food” is a Cradle to Cradle introduction that is revolutionizing the way we consider the lifecycle of a product. The whole chain of a product is considered. From the energy and efforts to produce it, the sustainability of the materials, the durability and the way it can be reused or just thrown away becoming nutrients for the soil instead of being a harm for the environment (biological metabolism). Materials like metals or components of electronics are part of what is called “Technical metabolism”, which cannot be biodegraded but it can be designed in such a way to return into the industrial metabolism from which it came. This must be the future of the material production not only in Texel, but in the whole Netherlands.
However, small islands like Texel normally have a few natural resources. Their limited resources, geographical isolation, undiversified economies, and dependence on a narrow range of products often makes them to rely on international trade. The import of raw and finished materials from outside cannot be interrupted. A step-by-step approach should be detailed, for an effective improvement of the sustainability level of the product’s lifecycle, to be applied within a short time period.
A proposal for a 4 steps strategy is here explained.
1. On site production and finishing of sustainable materials and product (C2C)
2. Reduction of waste
3. Reuse of most of the waste stream
4. Sustainable disposal of the remaining stream
1. Production of materials in a more C2C way
The process could be powered by green energy from the renewable sources (especially when energy independence will be achieved) and produce more sustainable materials that can return to the biological or technical metabolism of the island itself. These materials should be biodegradable and not made out of toxic elements.
2. Reduction of waste
Awareness campaign should be created to make the population of Texel aware of the key role that people play in the sustainable development. An example could be the extended adoption of differentiation for the household wastes and incentives in making this happen. Another important issue is also the real understanding of what is waste in the first place.
3. Reuse of most of the waste stream:
In Texel, a company named Sortiva is already recycling part of the bulky items, rubble, plastics, papers and glass. However recycling is an expensive and energy consuming practice that could be partially avoided if the materials would be upcycled or reused. Upcycling means reusing a product in a new way without degrading the material it is made of. It is a process opposed to recycling, which generally breaks down the materials, turning them into something else.  Depending on the nature of the material, it might be possible to just reuse it for the same function or for a different one.
4. Sustainable disposal:
The landfill disposal of waste should always be avoided, because of the environmental impact that it can have. A more sustainable waste disposal could be the incineration process for those materials that cannot be reused, upcycled or recycled. Currently the waste is shipped to the mainland (Alkmaar, 50km distance) for incineration. An on-site process would reduce Texel’s footprint, because it would not involve any extra fuel consumption for the shipping resulting in green energy production through incineration. However, we know that incineration is not the best solution for the waste problem, because it might results in loss of recyclable or reusable materials (when over-used) and production of harmful gasses and compounds. This is why we consider incineration as only a small part of the whole sustainable waste management.
A final consideration can be done: these 4 notions should be completely acquired and applied to reach the highest level of sustainability in matter of materials and waste. However, we know that it will require a long time, social and economical efforts, and strong tenacity for the institutions and companies involved in the process. This means that small initial steps are crucial to make this happen, and we can actually say that some of them have (in a small scale) already be done, by recycling and incinerating waste streams.
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