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Tuesday, 20 August 2013 15:40

An exclusive interview with Ana Loureiro, Communication Director at Valorsul and D-Waste's Expert

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An exclusive interview with Ana Loureiro, Communication Director at Valorsul and D-Waste's expert

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Ana Loureiro is Communication Director at Valorsul SA since 2005. She has also worked in the Municipality of Lisbon (1996-2000), as a communication specialist of Monsanto Ecological Park, being part of the initial team that was in charge to implement new activities and projects.From 2006 to 2009, she was Chair Woman of the Working Group on Communication and Social Issues of ISWA (International Solid Waste Association), Vice-Chair of the same group (2004-2006) and an active member since 2002. Mrs Loureiro is also an expert and an author in D-Waste and a member of the Organizing Committee in the 8th Conference of the “Jornadas Técnicas Internacionais de Resíduos”, organized by GRAPESB in Portugal, which will held in Lisbon - Portugal from 16 to 18 of July 2013 . Mrs Loureiro has recently awarded as a communication specialist on solid waste management.

Dear Ms Loureiro, you are an awarded communication specialist on solid waste management field. You have worked in many projects as a Communication Director at Valorsul, and you have also for many years been involved in ISWA’s Communication and Social Issues Working Group being a Chair. From your experience, how do you understand peoples’ opinion on Communication in Waste Management? Do policy makers and waste professionals recognize the real benefits deriving from a well-planned communication campaign, or is it an underestimated issue?

Peoples' opinion and needs are a key factor to take into account in any field of action, as a consumer, as a customer, as an opinion leader or as in any other role.  I would say that waste professionals know that they must pay real attention to communication, but many of them only ask for professional help when they have trouble with the media or with the population. All institutions that have public responsibilities on environmental education are already doing a lot of good work, and there are also many companies with very good examples in the field, but talking globally, I have to say that there is still a lot of work to be done.  

NIMBY is a frequent phenomenon in countries all over the world, especially for waste management works. What is your opinion about citizen’s involvement in waste management policies’ application? Which are the tools that can help them accept, participate and cooperate more effectively in relevant issues, and which are the key considerations that should be taken into account in order to have not only a simple communication campaign, but a successful one?

When we talk about NIMBY we have to think that people have reasons to have doubts and we can't start from the point of convincing them to accept something they don't understand or are afraid of. Besides the responsibility of public authorities to involve people from the first beginning to participate in the discussions, we should provide meetings with representatives from the local government, NGO's, technical specialists, and all necessary stakeholders. Besides this, we need to be transparent, provide accurate information and listen to what they have to say - most of the times, consensus and a fruitful partnership comes from these meetings. Besides being available and have these personal contacts, we need to provide good communication tools to disseminate information in a language that everyone understands.

Apart from your role in Valorsul and ISWA, you are also a D-Waste Expert, having published recently a successful report on Recycling and how to implement successful communication campaigns. In your report you stress the importance of looking environmental communication as a continuous process, taking into consideration all stakeholders from students to informal sector workers. How easy and challenging is for a municipality or company to follow such an approach?

It's an attitude and part of the management process. You can define priorities of approach to keep it easier, but you must take all stakeholders into consideration when you talk about behaviors - everyone is a waste producer, and we need to promote the best possible behavior to everyone (but with specific messages). Besides this, from the institutional point of view, it would be a mistake to disregard or treat as an enemy one stakeholder just because you don't feel comfortable to deal with him.

Portugal, as many countries in the EU, was majorly affected by the recent financial crisis. In times of such crisis, one of the first things to be cut is the communication expenses. What is your opinion on that, have you experienced such a phenomenon as a professional?

Unfortunately I am experiencing those cuts since the last two years. In spite of that, we are still doing our best, with as much creativity as possible, to keep the public service with as much quality as we can.

Next days you will participate in the 8th Conference of the “Jornadas Técnicas Internacionais de Resíduos”, organized by GRAPESB in Portugal, where you are a member of the Organizing Committee. The event brings in Portugal various and important experts from many countries around the world, exchanging views, know-how, and experiences. How easy is for countries to cooperate and bring tangible results in Waste Management, especially for developing countries that suffer significantly from poor waste management?

I would say that this is an opportunity for developing countries to see what countries with more mature waste management systems are doing, their mistakes and ways to move forward faster. Probably it's not so easy to cooperate as it should be, but these conferences help to build bridges and promotes networking and future partnerships. During the conference I will present a a reflection about "Media & Waste Management", that resulted from a workshop held in Portugal this year between environmental journalists and communication managers from the waste industry.

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