Environment part 2
With considerable far-sightedness, since 1993 Piberplast proposed and created and integrated service for the production and delivery of disposable meal sets, with customised design, and including after-meal collection, recycling of collected material and re-use of the same for the production of other articles.
The integrated management of all these stages exhibits Piber’s know-how in this sector.
The innovative aspect is evinced in having organised a well-balanced line of products (disposable crockery items wholly in a single-material), service (delivery and collection logistics, plus assistance for implementing the catering service) and technologies (production, recycling and re-use). As regards LCA, the lower environmental impact needs to be assessed in terms of shipment costs and landfill space for a product which, if not correctly managed, is very volume-hungry.
PIBERCYCLING AT WORK
In the event of administration of its service to a collective catering facility, Piberecycling provided, already in 1993, for the weekly distribution of the dishes to the cooking and sorting centers. The staff responsible for clearing the dishes was adequately trained on the methods of collection and packaging, specifically designed to facilitate collection, transport and recycling operations. The moment of training of the staff assigned to the canteens is still very current and fundamental in order to obtain a responsible collaboration of the employees, indispensable for the success of each collection system. Furthermore, users must also be informed and sensitized in relation to the objectives of the proposed service, and their active participation is also essential for the success of the project. The dishes, carefully closed in sturdy sacks also made of polypropylene, flowed to a collection center and then were sent to the recycling plant, which consisted of the elements that today are part of the national collection system: a grinding station of the dishes, followed by a washing phase which separates the organic residues from the recovered plastic material and finally a polymer drying and regeneration station. After this treatment the material is suitable to be reused in multiple applications.
Recycled polypropylene was transformed as it still happens today by injection and extrusion molding into products of different nature and used in the agricultural sector (film for agriculture, flower pots) automotive (secondary technical details) of urban furniture and construction, and consumer goods (disposable razors). The washing water was sent to a modern purification plant before being returned to the public collection network.
Globally, the Piberecycling service already minimized the use of water in the 1990s and eliminated the discharge of detergents and organic residues from the dishwashing systems at the individual canteens into the normal sewer system, without weighing down the flow of waste urban solids to be disposed of in an undifferentiated way.
The reduction of the environmental impact is still obtainable today with a conscious use of any Piber Group packaging. If the user correctly confers the products used in the local collection system, it is not even necessary to wash the container, just remove most of the residues of the food contained.
The case of Milano
An example of the success in applying Piberecycling can be seen in the Milan Municipality’s School Catering Service. In this case, Piberecycling organised a service supplying a top quality meal set (complete with plates, cup, bowl and cutlery) to 55,000 students using the Municipality’s catering services every day.
The set is subsequently collected and wholly recycled. Since 1993, Piberecycling has collected and recycled about 600 tons of polypropylene per year just in Milan.
CULTURAL SIDE-EFFECTS: USERS, PERSONNEL AND TEACHERS
As we said, a key aspect of the Piberecycling service lies in the co-operation of all catering staff as well as users. In particular, in the case of the Milan Municipality, user awareness (the users are children attending infants, elementary and secondary schools) was initially achieved with the aid of the teachers. The cleaning, re-stacking and collection methods for the used crockery were illustrated to the users, stressing their importance in achieving the project’s comprehensive recycling objectives. The children were able to learn the importance of the many, little daily deeds which, when added together, enable efficient, economic, differentiated collection. These little deeds, such as recognising the different materials, rudimentally clearing the more voluminous food waste from the plates, re-stacking used dishes according to type, re-placing them in order to minimise transported volume, are all key aspects for making the service successful. Such co-operative behaviour is, in fact, very similar to that demanded today by recent laws on waste management, especially as concerns differentiated collection (recognition of materials; locating method; uniformity of located materials, minimisation of volumes). It is widely upheld that the success of this strategic design depends on the degree of co-operation of individual citizens, and there is no doubt that we must aim at the future generations to spread a new culture, consisting not only of attention to environmental themes but also of active, responsible co-operation. Clearly, the involvement of children, from the very youngest up, in large-scale project tied to their daily experience of life and study, provides education on environmental subjects. This process is unique both in its range (number of people involved) and in the degree of personal involvement. In the case of the city of Milan, about 350,000 children have become aware actors of a wide-ranging environmental project, ahead of their parents, who have, only in recent years, begun participating in differentiated albeit partial waste collection. This school-family cross-reference creates a virtuous cycle which will not fail to bring benefits in the next decades in terms of the awareness and collaboration of citizens on environmental and waste production themes.
Another type of actor involved in this cultural change are the companies providing catering services to Bodies and Communities. Their approach to sales and commercial competition is changing also. It is shifting from a logic of pure profit and price-oriented competition, to a logic of responsible management of resources and competition based on the service’s quality aspects. The spreading of this new aspect of corporate culture is a key changeover, in view of these companies’ considerable lobbying power over the Public Administrations.
BODIES AND ADMINISTRATIONS
We believe that the Milan Municipality’s experience is an example of a changeover model in policy and administrative terms which can be exported to other situations. There are two particularly important aspects: a) In terms of policy, the changeover from a waste management logic based on landfills (an approach that is now almost impracticable) to a logic aimed at preventing the production of waste itself. b) In terms of administration, active, highly participative involvement of the Public Administration’s structures (the Purveying sector, School Administration, the Teaching Organisation, and Teachers) hitherto not involved in environmental problems.
Piberplast has implemented the following communication activities:
– Organisation of training days for teachers and catering personnel, with the aim of informing them about objectives and explaining methods and operational tools.
– Visits to the production and recycling plants by political and administrative managers of the Milan Municipality and by teachers’ representatives.
– Production of a film explaining the activities. We are supplying this film to the Municipality for unlimited user education purposes. The film has also been distributed to local television channels.