The city of Ponta Delgada located on the beautiful Island of São Miguel, Azores has always struggle with the problem nature versus waste.
The island is characterized by its splendorous and diverse nature, the beaches, the extinct volcanoes with its lagoons, the geothermal hot springs are some of the incredible attractions of the island.
Ponta Delgada being the capital of São Miguel and its biggest city has become, either by plane or by boat, the main entrance of people in the island and also in the all Archipelago. The increasing demography of Ponta Delgada in the last decade (65 854 inhabitants in 2001 to 68 809 in 2011) pushed the waste management authorities to improve its management with the implementation of more effective methods of waste reduction and treatment. In fact, after a continuous growth of urban waste production until 2011 a successive decrease in the overall production of urban waste in the municipality was observed, from 2012 onward. Despite this relevant decrease, 83% of the total production of urban waste goes to the sanitary landfill and only 17% is effectively separated by the local population to recycle, either through the collection network of eco-points or by the door-to-door selective collection.
However, a new panorama in the Azores arose in 2015 contributing to the increase challenge of waste reduction and treatment. The liberalization of the Azores airspace allowed low cost flight companies to operate in the Region. This occurrence, allied to the fact that Azores have been elected the best tourism destination for 4 consecutive years by specialized publication, allowed a massive increase of tourist only in the first year of low-costs operation (745 357 tourists in 2014 to over a 1 000 000 in the end of 2015) and the estimates point to a growing number in the following years. The fast increase of tourism was a welcome boost to Azorean economy, but brought as well, some upsetting urban waste questions such as how will the increased tourism flow affect urban waste metabolism and if the Azores waste management network is ready for such a challenge? Whether the Azores are prepared for a potential negative impact of the production of urban waste in a tourist destination whose promotional poster “sells” nature and simply, what measures and goals should be established to ensure that the nature destination of the Azores will continue to be economically, environmentally and socially sustainable?
Indeed, one important step to approach successful these issues is the inclusion of Ponta Delgada city in the project URBAN-WASTE where best practices will be share among other touristic cities of Europe, allowing Ponta Delgada city to learnt how to approach and deal with the change in urban metabolism derived by the massive increase of tourism.