Interview: Zero Waste Bulgaria, by Martina Forbicini
We had the pleasure to get to know Denimir and his idea of “Zero Waste Bulgaria”, NGO which promotes a zero-waste lifestyle! Following the 5R – refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle, rot – they teach how to implement this philosophy of life, starting especially from students from middle schools.
- Who is Denimir Dimitrov? Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Denimir Dimitrov, 28, and I graduated in the field of International Relations from the University of Sorbonne in Paris. Once back in my country – Bulgaria – I have founded “Zero Waste Bulgaria” with a bunch of friends, after the final exam of one entrepreneurial program in Sofia where we presented the idea of launching an NGO whose mission is to spread the zero-waste philosophy.
I am also a founder of a company whose mission is to reduce the usage of disposable plastic by offering a 100% biodegradable tableware made out of by-product which is currently considered as a waste, being thrown away in 95% of the cases.
- How did you come up with the idea of Zero Waste Bulgaria? And how does it work?
After my return to Bulgaria, I was very disappointed that my country is not working in the field of ecology as big and fast as I have expected in comparison with France where I was used to different habits! For example: refusing plastic at the supermarket, reusing my bottle, reducing water when taking a shower or when brushing my teeth, recycling my beer bottles after use and composting food leftovers. In the previous sentence, I literally described the so-called 5R of the zero-waste philosophy: refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle, rot.
- Which is the biggest challenge you have faced (or you are facing) since setting up this no-profit organization?
Our mission is to spread the zero-waste philosophy: back when we started, Bulgaria was not well known in this field. So, our biggest challenge was to inform more and more people accordingly. Since the beginning, we have made more than 90 events, presentations, green schools, workshops, in front of more than 10 000 people!
- Which kind of reactions/feedbacks has Zero Waste Bulgaria received?
Luckily, we have received an enormous support from everyone who shares the same vision with us. Besides, we are receiving an incredible support from several big international companies that help us to spread our mission addressing the main target of our organization – students at middle school classes.
- Living Zero Waste in a society where we are overwhelmed by things to buy and places (whether physical or virtual) where to buy these things (together with their packages), can result a bit difficult to accomplish. From your point of view, how can it become easier to achieve this philosophy of life?
It becomes easier to achieve this philosophy of life when people start with baby steps: I mean, if they start to bring their own bottle, to bring their reusable bag when they go shopping, to use less amount of toothpaste, to recycle their own materials… then after a couple of times, it will become a habit. People start to feel more comfortable when they know that with their actions they save and preserve a little part of our home – Earth. And when they understand that to live a life like that is cheaper!
- Which is the contribution of Zero Waste Bulgaria to the shift from linear to circular economy?
Starting our road since 2018, a lot of things have changed in terms of shifting from linear to circular economy. The European Commission “Circular Economy Action Plan” emphasizes the need to move towards a life-cycle-driven ‘circular’ economy, reusing resources as much as possible and bringing residual waste close to zero.
We help to turn waste into a resource in several ways:
- helping to implement EU waste legislation, which includes the waste hierarchy, the need to ensure a separate collection of waste, the landfill diversion targets, etc.;
- helping to reduce waste generation and waste generation per capita in absolute terms;
- helping to limit energy recovery to non-recyclable materials and phasing out landfilling of recyclable or recoverable waste.
- In your opinion, which role does youth play in raising awareness about environmental issues?
Young people constitute a large part of the world’s population and young people will have to live longer with the consequences of current environmental decisions than will their elders. Future generations will also be affected by these decisions and the extent to which they have addressed concerns such as the depletion of resources, biodiversity loss, and long-lived radioactive wastes. Young people can play an active role in protecting and improving the environment and, consequently, livelihoods. They can change their lifestyle and how it affects the environment. They can make their homes, schools and youth organizations more environmentally friendly by adopting environmentally friendly practices, recycling of different materials as well as preserving resources such as water and electricity. Engaging youth in environmental protection not only creates a direct impact on changing youth behaviors and attitudes but possibly influences their parents, relatives and families. By applying the greening knowledge at home and schools, we can help to make a greener world.
- What’s next for you and Zero Waste Bulgaria?
Well, I think that now is the time to mention our most ambitious project: students in middle school classes. Starting a year ago, we entered 12 schools’ classes, teaching students about zero-waste philosophy. We have created a methodology of 7 connected lessons, very interactive for children. To have even a more entertaining and pleasant experience, we also organize green schools in the mountain. We plan to continue entering schools’ classes, to mentor teachers and directors: in this way, we can spread our mission faster and wider. In 3-5 years, we plan to propose our methodology to the government and especially to the Ministry of Education and Science: we think that this subject should become a mandatory part of the educational process. Apart from that, we continue with our presentations in front of big international companies, optimizing their processes and carrying out workshops.
- Which advice would you give to young people like you who want to be more active in environmental protection?
It must start at home. Educate and practice, that is the only way it can be inculcated into the psyche of people. We all have to contribute to it, not only the government. We always try to do things the easiest way. But if we first start thinking not only about our convenience but also about the environment for any action that we take, then it will probably help. The change has to come from the way people start thinking about it.
Also, don’t forget to:
1.Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, Rot – the 5 R’s
- Use as far as possible locally produced groceries, goods and services.
- Make each community as self-supporting as possible.
Zero Waste Bulgaria Social media
Denimir gave us a chance to reflect about a zero-waste way of living: it might sound challenging at the beginning but after a while it becomes part of a mindset!
Thank you for discussing about it with us! Good luck with your next projects!