Hernani, the first municipality with Zero Waste certification in the Basque Country

The first Basque municipality with Zero Waste certification

After its official commitment to become Zero Waste in December 2022, Hernani has become the first Zero Waste certified municipality in the Basque Country with an accreditation of 3 stars out of 5 possible. On December 20, the City Council fully approved a declaration of interest to participate in the European program and commit to carrying out an external audit.


What is Zero Waste Cities Certification?

The Zero Waste Cities Certification is a European certification standard evaluated by third parties. Created by Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), and run by its sister organization Mission Zero Academy (MiZA), its goal is to accelerate the transition to Zero Waste and the implementation of the circular economy in European towns and cities, at the local level.

Which entities encourage cities and towns to apply Zero Waste measures to favor citizens?

Rezero, a non-profit foundation that works to promote waste prevention and responsible consumption, has supported the Hernani City Council to highlight the path towards zero waste carried out by the public administration, social entities, and companies in Hernani. The environmental entity has accompanied the municipality in the identification and collection of evidence of the initiatives implemented in recent years, among others, the separate door-to-door collection of waste, the promotion of decentralized composting (domestic and community), as well as the payment for the building and use of large generators.

On the other hand, Amigos de la Tierra (Friends of the Earth), an environmental organization that defends and promotes zero waste for many years, has been the audit organization. Hernani has been promoting initiatives and actions aimed at zero waste for more than 10 years. A relevant piece of information from Hernani is the low residual generation per capita, of 62.99 kg/inhab/year registered in 2020, when the average per capita in the Basque Country was 251.81 kg/inhab/year. In short, the generation of the residual fraction per capita in Hernani is 75% lower than the average for the Basque Country.

What steps must be followed for zero waste to work in the municipality where you live?

The Zero Waste Certification is made up of 5 steps: (i) the expression of interest in being Zero Waste by the municipality, (ii) the acquisition of the commitment to be Zero Waste – candidacy phase, (iii) the implementation of this system, (iv) its certification and (v) the performance of annual improvements. The overcoming of each of these steps is given with the support and advice of expert entities in the fields of waste and resource management. The evaluation for certification is developed around a scoring system, which includes mandatory criteria and optional scoring criteria.

Scoring criteria are scored based on the ambition and impact of each implemented policy. The sum of the points defines the level of certification of the municipality and its subsequent number of ‘stars’.

Subsequent to Certification, municipalities must monitor their activity and make annual improvements to enhance the results achieved. Every 3 years they are subject to new audits to confirm their Certification status, with the possibility of leveling up, reaching a maximum of 5 stars.

Do you want to know which European cities are also working on it?

Hernani joins other towns in Spain such as El Boalo-Cerceda-Mataelpino (Madrid) and Torrelles de Llobregat (Catalonia) and European cities such as Bled and Gorje (both in Slovenia), or Capannori (Italy), to be one of the first municipalities in becoming certified with this new program.

Statements of the protagonists: a perfect collaboration to walk towards zero waste

Xabier Lertxundi Asteasuizarra, Mayor of Hernani, highlighted: “this new certification system values ​​the efforts of the Consistory, local businesses, and citizens after so many years of joint work committed to minimizing the generation of waste. Being able to play in the same league as municipalities in northern Europe is really gratifying.”

Jon Kortajarena, a technician from the public collection company Garbitania, stressed: “it is essential to look back and see everything that has been done so far, compiling all the work and material produced. Along with this, we are laying the foundations to organize the improvements that we can make starting today.”

“Being able to play in the same league as municipalities in northern Europe is really gratifying.” – Mayor of Hernani,

Rosa García, Director of Rezero, said: “the Zero Waste Certification is very useful for those municipalities that want to face the climate emergency, it is a great tool both for those who are at the beginning of the road towards zero waste as for those already experienced as is the case of Hernani and other municipalities in the Basque Country.”

Marian Lorenzo, in charge of natural resources and waste at Amigos de la Tierra in the Community of Madrid, pointed out: “these towns are leading the way. It is exciting to see how these initiatives grow and develop with citizen participation and political will, facing external difficulties with imagination and conviction. We encourage other towns and cities to join this change, an essential transformation that will bear fruit in the short and medium term”.

Joan Marc Simon, Director and founder of Zero Waste Europe, who has advised entities such as Zero Zabor for many years stated: “I congratulate the municipality of Hernani for being one of the first to achieve this in the Basque Country. We hope that this interest in doing things well will grow because it only brings benefits for administrations, for citizens, and for the companies that want to advance in zero waste and reduce their carbon footprint.”

Kaisa Karjalainen, Coordinator of the Mission Zero Academy, said: “Hernani has shown leadership in zero waste for several years already with impressive results. It is great to see them renew their commitment to zero waste and get certified to verify their progress and the impacts of their policies. Having an example in the Basque country will surely inspire other municipalities to take the leap soon.”

Do you want to know more about the Zero Waste Cities and Towns Certification?

Do you want to know more about the Certification of Zero Waste Cities and Towns? Discover more details about it here.