URBAN-WASTE project: tourist cities experiment with new methods


(c)Patrick Schneider_unsplash

Tourist cities attract visitors with their landscapes, their culinary specialities or their range of sporting and cultural activities. But while tourism boosts local economies, it also creates waste.

Tourist cities are faced with flows of people that vary with the seasons, and their populations are multiplied by the arrival of tourists. Away from home, tourists tend to change both their consumption habits, making purchases on the go, and their waste sorting, with rules changing from one place to another. Better waste management requires local authorities to respond to certain specific problems: How can infrastructure be adapted to deal with flows that vary over time? How can tourists be supported to ensure sites are kept clean and waste sorting rules are respected? How can scattered waste be captured, avoiding uncontrolled disposal in nature?


The ORDIF (the Île-de-France Region waste observatory) took part in the European URBAN-WASTE project (Urban Strategies for Waste Management in Tourist Cities), basing its work on the urban metabolism. After characterising the problems posed by tourism-related waste in 11 European cities*, the project identified and capitalised on existing best practices.

Interview with Maxime Kayadjanian, ORDIF's Europe Project Manager.


How did ORDIF contribute to the Urban Waste programme?

As part of a consortium of 27 European partners responding to the European Commission's call for proposals under the Horizon 2020 programme, ORDIF took part in preparing an analysis and a methodology aiming to reduce and better manage waste in tourist cities. Two major challenges must be faced: improving management of the large quantities of waste associated with tourist in-flows in summer and informing tourists about how to sort waste or consume more sustainably. Having inventoried the volumes of waste produced in each city, Urban Waste characterised tourist flows (age, country of origin, reason for travel etc.) and surveyed tourist behaviour. Globally, we discovered that differences in behaviour with regard to waste sorting in foreign countries were caused by a lack of information. Finally, we reviewed the measures implemented in the 11 participating cities in terms of waste prevention, reuse and recycling. 


Can you tell us more about the measures implemented?

The goal was to work together in a participatory framework to develop waste prevention and management strategies on a case-by-case basis for the 11 target cities, with results that could be measured precisely. The challenges to be faced depended mostly on local conditions: whether the city was by the sea, its size and geographical situation, the level of commitment to waste management among local politicians and organisations and the level of gender equality, development of which was one of the Commission's requirements. Each participant was free to take specific steps according to their own judgement. For example, Copenhagen, which had already implemented a number of measures such as doggy bags, reinforced these initiatives. A feature of Copenhagen is that it considers tourists to be temporary citizens, and thus encourages them to adopt the same behaviours (transport, consumption, respect for the environment etc.) as the local population.

The measures adopted relate to recycling and recovery, but also to prevention (reducing the use of plastic containers, for example), information (distributing waste sorting guides) and awareness (posters in cities and reports in the media), with all communication materials translated into the main languages spoken by tourists.

During the year-long analysis of waste flows and tourist flows, we worked with local organisations in an effort to develop measures jointly with them. Several measures relating to food waste were introduced with restaurants and hotels, such as providing doggy bags and compost bins and reducing the volumes of food in hotel and restaurant buffets. Together, these measures allow to reduce food waste by 20% to 40% per establishment.

One important concern was the high turnover of staff in the sector, which means that food waste training needs to be carried out regularly and scheduled before periods with high levels of tourist traffic.


What do you think are the levers or the good practices that can improve the sustainability of the sector?

Environmental quality is a hallmark for all the cities that took part in the project, and if waste management measures are not implemented, the city's attractiveness to tourists will suffer. The initiatives mentioned are fairly simple and basic, but they produce significant effects quickly. However, the conditions for ensuring they are successful are not always obvious. The public authorities must encourage mobilisation among all stakeholders. Meetings and the sharing of knowledge and opinions enable players to design strategies for waste reduction and recovery together. Once the movement has been launched, it needs ongoing support to unite and lead all the players involved. This is an essential point, because professionals are often overtaken by their everyday activities. At their own level, professional associations and groups of companies can also organise conferences to create a virtuous dynamic and raise professional awareness of waste management.


*The cities and regions taking part in the project are Florence (IT), Nice (FR), Lisbon (PT), Syracuse (IT), Copenhagen (DK), Kavala (GR), Santander (ES), Nicosia (CY), Ponta Delgada (PT), the county of Dubrovnik-Neretva (HR) and Tenerife (ES).



If you would like to commit to a responsible waste management approach, do not hesitate to contact ORDIF, read their analyses, including this rich practical guide to solutions already in place, and discover the Tackling waste in events and tourism toolkit produced by Future of Waste*!


Developed in collaboration with professionals, this toolbox is constantly enhanced by members of the community through a database of solutions and references. If you want to share your feedback, write to us at futureofwaste@makesense.org


*SUEZ and makesense teamed up in 2014 to create Future of Waste, a programme intended to engage multiple stakeholders in waste management in order to speed up the transition towards a circular, inclusive and ecological economy.


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