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Wednesday, 15 May 2013 14:44

8th JTIR Conference, 16 to 18 of July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal

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8th JTIR Conference, 16 to 18 of July 2013, Lisbon, Portugal

On the occasion of the 8th International Technical Conference on Solid Waste, organized by GRAPESB this July in Portugal, D-Waste is interviewing Proffesor Mario Russo, Coordinator of Solid Waste Group at APESB.

Mário Augusto Tavares Russo is Coordinator Professor at School of Technology and Management - Polytechnic Institute of Viana do Castelo and Vice - President and Coordinator of Solid Waste Group at APESB (Associação Portuguesa de Engenharia Sanitária e Ambiental), representative of Portugal in the International Solid Waste Association (www.iswa.org).

He is also a member of external evaluation committee of engineering courses in Portugal during last 5 years and consultant of civil and environmental engineering, coordinating projects in the field of sanitation and environment. He has a broad experience in composting and mechanical biological treatment and a deep knowledge of both the European and the Latin American conditions

GRAPESB is organizing this July, for the 8th time, the Jornadas Técnicas Internacionais de Resíduos, a biennial event that is taking place in Portugal since 1997. What makes this event so special for waste management sector in the region, and which are the elements that distinguish it from other similar events?

The JTIR were the first international conferences dedicated to issues about solid waste management in Portugal.  In the first 6 editions of the conference, only invited international experts had presented lessons and shared their experiences with national technicians and researchers. The focus of the conference is mainly on technical and practical issues in the field of waste management, but also scientific knowledge, that has made all the difference from other conferences. Since the VII JTIR the organization accept papers for evaluation by the scientific committee in order to join the communications of invited experts (keynotes).

This year the focus of the event is on the challenge of seeing waste as resources rather than searching for end of life solutions. Do you think that this approach is feasible for a greener future? Do you agree with the vision of a Europe as zero waste society?

Yes, in fact we should consider waste as a potential resource. It is an imperative of environmental protection and natural resources preservation. Regarding the possibility of Europe becoming a zero waste society, there are now some constraints, namely the financial crisis that hit the world, but especially on Europe, that will penalize environmental policies. Moreover, the concept of zero waste is a physic impossibility in the understanding of most people which can lead to confusion or even disillusionment about waste policies as an utopia and unrealistic. So, it is necessary to define accurately and what is expecting about a zero waste society, their goals and how to achieve them. Despite the underlying romantic idea, some European countries can achieve a so called zero waste society in the future.

Which are the challenges that Portugal has to deal with, in order to become a zero waste society? Which are the environmental challenges that the country has to face to reach waste management sustainability?

Portugal meets the EU Landfill Directive. However, the landfill disposal of MSW represents 53% of the total produced. The new MBT plants will divert biowaste from landfills, but still landfills will represent an important share in waste management in the country. The recycling target of 27.5% for plastic packaging is difficult to be achieved.
So, much depends on the concept of zero waste. Portugal will have to invest more and more in environmental education and public awareness, but at the same time, incentives for the participants in sustainable practices should be established. However, the actual economic crisis is very unfavorable for the development of such policies and practices. Normally in such situations the environment pays the crisis (everywhere). But we can desist.

This year you are welcoming to the Conference the Environmental Minister of Angola, Dra. Fátima Jardim, what led to this cooperation, and how the two countries can benefit for the benefit of the environment?

Both countries share the same language and a common cultural past that facilitate understandings. Portugal made a waste revolution since 1995. In fact, Portugal passed from a country with open dumps in each municipality to a country with 23 modern systems of waste management. We took a route that Angola is starting to do now. The Angola minister Fátima Jardim  is Biologist and a great defender of the environment, the biodiversity and natural resources. She did approve the Angola waste regulatory framework recently, which is a document very realistic and without megalomaniac solutions. She wants to clean Angola and is committed to environmental education. Portugal is nowadays well equipped and has a good installed capacity in all these areas, such as the design, the construction, the equipment, the operation and monitoring. Both countries can self-benefit if walking together as partners. Our mission, as an environmental association, is to contribute for a better knowledge and promote networking with worldwide experts in Angola, Portugal and other Portuguese speaking countries.

In the above framework, do you think that globalization and interconnectivity have a role to play in the waste management sector? Which are the signs that demonstrate such a trend, and which are the tools that can accommodate it?

Of course globalization and interconnectivity belongs to the same ship. Globalization is one of the major challenges of our days, not only in economic and social terms, but also in the sustainability of resources. Waste management sector has a role to play in this complex globalized world, because many of the available resources are in the waste stream and we are losing billion tonnes of them each year by landfilling or in open dumps worldwide. Every day new kind of industrial and hazardous wastes are entering into the waste stream without properly knowledge and adequate management.  Like many other matters, millions tonnes of recyclables are traveling between Europe and China each day. The internet and the Information and communication technologies are changing the relationship between people and countries. More and more information about waste management (and many other subjects) is available by internet that serves different objectives and makes a growing interconnectivity among cultures with reflexes in the governance patterns by public pressure for sustainable policies.
Nowadays is virtually impossible to hide new ideas and trends about everything because of the interconnectivity provided by internet.   
But Waste Management sector needs appropriate regulation and harmonization about all related concepts in order to speak about the same language and not about different things despite the same name.

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