Take a walk on the 'sustainable side' of Weststellingwerf  

​ On April 12, the Mayor of Weststellingwerf André van de Nadort (NL/PES) organised a study visit in his town area, located in the Dutch province of Friesland, to let the visitors get first-hand experience on climate adaptation and waste reduction and recycling projects.

The coordinator of the PES group in the European Committee of the Regions, André van de Nadort (NL/PES), led a study visit of the CoR's Commission for the Environment, Climate change and Energy (ENVE) in Weststellingwerf, a town with over 25,000 inhabitants in the north of The Netherlands where he has been Mayor since September 2017.

Members visited Weststellingwerf's climate adaptation initiative which aims at increasing resilience to heavy rainfalls and foster the area's capacity to face floods. After damaging inundations occurred in 1995, the area invested in mechanisms to increase the capacity to retain, store and drain rainwater, protecting sensitive areas from floods while giving biodiversity suitable spaces to expand. The results go beyond improved climate resilience and include walking paths that have provided citizen's with new chances to re-experience an area once left to climate vagaries.

Mayor van de Nadort gives more details about Weststellingwerf's climate adaptation initiative: "Climate change is real and to a certain extent imposes 'progress' on towns, cities and regions everywhere. All scientific data and even our own experience tell us that we will experience more extreme weather events and that we have to adapt our infrastructure, for example to cope with much heavier rainfall. But the question which we had to ask ourselves – and not just in Weststellingwerf but all across the country, has been: do we just build higher flood defences, or can we do other, more intelligent things? This is why we have opted for an integrated project where we created new storage ponds for excess rain water including a hydro-plant facility to clean it, and combining this with creating additional natural overflow areas. This approach has not just solved the immediate water problem but has also allowed us to improve biodiversity protection right next to our town center, creating new green recreation areas for the citizens to enjoy, and even integrating it with a historic park from the 19th century."

As part of the study visit, Members visited Omrin, a waste collection and public cleansing company set up jointly by local authorities in the Friesland province and specialised in waste recycling and processing. Source separation and post-separation approaches, a civic amenity site, second hand shops, education initiatives with interactive games and cleanup weeks are amongst the actions it coordinates. An incineration facility produces green electricity and biogas. Concerning plastics, a waste plant facility opened since July 2018 has succeeded in treating 65.000 tons of plastics. Watch here a plastic separation video.

Mayor van de Nadort replies the question: How do the two projects you have shown contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the local level?

The great advantage of the SDGs is that they are all-encompassing. That means that we can and must address the social, ecological and economic challenges together to achieve 'sustainable development'. Clearly our rainwater management project is 'climate action', but it contributes to biodiversity, green healthy living and thus also to sustainable communities. Our inter-communal waste recycling plant, which separates household waste, extracts valuable raw materials for reuse and recycling and transforms organic waste into bio-gas for climate friendly combustion engines and heating, addresses another set of SDGs. They also take their educational role very seriously, organising waste reduction and recycling competitions in primary schools and thus teaching future generations how to live responsibly and sustainably – which is what local action all over Europe should be all about! The SDGs provide a framework for all of us to work, and the EU will be thinking hard about how to support local and regional authorities in their efforts. We hope our examples can be inspiration to others, and who knows, maybe we will also have the opportunity to use EU funds for future ideas.

This highlight has been produced with the contribution of the policy and communications team of the CoR's PES group.

In October 2018, the European Committee of the Regions adopted André van de Nadort opinion on a " European Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy ".

Read here "We need less and better plastics" , our 'plastics' press release published on 10/10/2018.

49 million tons of plastic were used in the EU in 2015. The packaging sector uses 39.9% of total plastic production followed by the 'building and construction' sector (19.7%), the automotive sector (8.9%) and electronics (5.8%) (EC 2018)

Contact: David Crous | david.crous@cor.europa.eu | +32 (0) 470 88 10 37