Interviews

Silvia Ricci and the Municipalities: "Challenge to the last bag"


"Challenge to the last bag", because there is a need to train a new "special" generation. According to Silvia Ricci of Porta La Sporta, a competition between virtuous municipalities will make citizens aware of the environmental and economic impact of the plastic bag, letting them experience first-hand that everyone has the opportunity every day to "do the right thing". The challenge is to demonstrate that right choices made by many people can provide solutions to global environmental problems, but to win it takes a sense of team among citizens, united to benefit the local school where the citizens of the future grow.

1) "Challenge to the last bag": who wins? What wins?

It is a challenge between municipalities: the one that, in the space of six months, will be most able to reduce the consumption of disposable bags, at a per capita level, will obtain a cash prize of 20,000 euros offered by three sponsors and to be allocated at the local school. The measurement system that will be applied will be based both on the data provided by the municipalities, such as the number of purchases made without taking bags in supermarkets and shops, and on the results of the surveys carried out by the organizing secretariat and by the local offices of the national partner associations of the campaign. Retail outlets of large-scale distribution and small local businesses will soon be consulted because their participation is essential to detect the amount of bags "saved" by customers who do not take disposable bags of any kind.

2) Who can participate? Such as?

This is a competition in which up to 20 Italian municipalities can participate, among those that have reached 60% of separate waste collection in 2011 and with a population between 8000 and 16000 inhabitants. On the Porta la Sporta website http://www.portalasporta.it/ you can find the announcement and regulations that can be downloaded for the municipalities that have until 20 September to send their application. The first 20 valid applications will be accepted.

3) Where did the idea come from? With what goal?

The starting point offered by the competition Reusable Bag Challenge of 2009, which took place in 2009 in Colorado, was “exploited” to provide those Municipalities that have already implemented a first initiative to promote the reusable bag an opportunity to do even better. This time it is a reduction project, with measurable results, which can be achieved within a concrete project of participatory citizenship. The main objectives of the initiative, in general, are: to make citizens aware of the environmental and economic impact of the bag (an emblematic example of consumption increasingly oriented towards the "disposable" system, co-responsible for the immeasurable increase in the production of waste from recent decades which weighs on the consumer from the purchase phase to the disposal phase); make it clear that each of us has the opportunity in everyday life to "do the right thing" for the environment and that "right choices" made by many people can provide solutions to global environmental problems; to create a sense of team among citizens who see their efforts oriented towards a common purpose for the benefit of the local school attended by the citizens of the future.

4) What contextual differences do you think you have to deal with by carrying out an overseas initiative in Italy?

The Italian initiative has been adapted in several aspects. A substantial difference with the Colorado initiative - where the management was entrusted to volunteers belonging to various associations in the various municipalities - is that in Italy, to better involve the whole community, the role of local promoter and coordinator is assumed by the administration municipal. In this way, the initiative can become an opportunity for comprehensive information and environmental education. As regards the system for assigning points that will determine the best performance, the results of six surveys will also be considered, which will be carried out by the representatives of the national organizational secretariat. In Colorado, only the data provided by businesses supervised by local associations were considered.

5) Who collaborated in the implementation of this initiative and who is missing from the appeal?

For the moment, Italia Nostra has been among the partner associations. The fundraising to realize the € 20,000 prize pool was directed towards the private sector. Three sponsors responded to the appeal: Banca Marche, main sponsor, Frà Production, with its Ecottonbag brand and Novamont. Two of the sponsors are companies already close to the Porta la Sporta project. Banca Marche was the only bank to have joined the campaign by spreading, through the account statement, an ad hoc message to its account holders and giving them reusable bags. Frà Production, the only Italian company that produces mesh bags made entirely in Italy on an industrial scale, has long been a technical partner of the campaign for the initiativePut it on the net . On this occasion we are also launching an appeal to companies, foundations or other subjects to contact us to evaluate a participation as a sponsor in order to also reward the runner-up. Compared to pages or other paid advertising formulas, our initiative offers sponsors national and local visibility (in the 20 municipalities) for several months for a modest outlay.

6) Can a race like yours be a winning tool for raising awareness in a time of crisis?

Yes, provided that it is a project that involves a community in an articulated way and for a long period, leading people to move from declarations of intent to concrete facts, capable of giving rise to measurable results. Changing our wasteful habits and making intelligent use of the planet's resources must become a source of pride and a source of gratification for the results obtained for all of us. Satisfying the comforts of the moment without worrying about the consequences is something that everyone knows how to do, taking care of others and the world to come is not an undertaking for everyone. There is a need to train a new "special" generation.

7) What participation do you expect from your experience?

We are not yet able to make predictions even if there have been requests for information from very motivated municipalities that suggest that the 20 available places will be filled. The most likely candidates are the municipalities of northern Italy where separate collection is an already established habit. But we do not exclude the presence of municipalities in central or southern Italy because even there we have virtuous experiences especially in small to medium-sized municipalities.

Interview byMarta Abbà

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