Global Day of Action: A Call for Leaders to Go Beyond Recovery to a Zero Waste Future
Zero Waste Proven Strategy for COVID-19 Economic Recovery: Mitigating Climate Change, Creating Good Jobs, and Revitalizing Local Economies
31 March 2021- Environmental Justice groups around the world are joining a Global Day of Action to demand that our leaders go beyond recovery, to a future where zero waste practices drive clean air and water, more and better jobs, and a healthy environment for our families and communities, as our planet returns to a life-sustaining pathway where nothing and no one is wasted.
Over 150 groups across the globe have organized actions [50 events in 18 countries], signed petitions, or taken to social media to unite around a common blueprint for leaders to build a better future beyond COVID-19:
- Go zero waste, don’t incinerate. Regional and municipal COVID recovery plans and budgets should prioritize Zero Waste City systems, and phase out of false solutions like incineration.
- Include waste pickers and workers. Governments must include waste pickers and waste workers in these systems and provide them with a dignified living, as well as a seat at the decision-making table.
- Break free from plastic. The pandemic must not be used as an excuse to fuel the plastic production crisis, and governments should enact policies that drastically reduce its production and consumption.
- Divest from incinerators, invest in local solutions. As part of a green recovery, International Financial Institutions must divest from waste-to-energy and instead finance local and regional zero waste systems.
- Put communities first. Governments and financial institutions must be fully transparent and inclusive with regards to how taxpayer money is being spent, not least by ensuring that meaningful consultations are held with civil society and affected communities early on in the process.
Transitioning to zero waste systems has significant environmental, social, and economic benefits for any city.
- Studies show that zero waste strategies score highest on environmental benefits and create the most jobs of any waste management approach, creating up to 200x more jobs than waste disposal.
- Cities can save upwards of 70% of waste management costsper tonne by implementing better collection and recycling/composting systems.
- Inclusion of informal recyclers in zero waste systems results in cost-savings, healthier environments, and greater economic justice for a large percentage of the population.
- “Waste-to-Energy” incineration is the most expensive waste management approach, 3x the cost of landfills and up to 5x the cost of recycling and composting.
Cecilia Allen, Global Projects Advisor at GAIA and contributor to the #BeyondRecovery publication series states:
“At a time when governments are looking for ways to recover their economies, they need to realize the potential to create local, sustainable jobs by transitioning into zero waste systems. This will not only be good for the economy, but could also be the beginning of the end to the trap of eternal waste disposal, a headache for governments and a tragedy for the environment.”
GAIA members across the globe are uplifting these demands to their local and regional decisionmakers. In Asia Pacific, More than 50 environmental and human rights groups have urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to stop funding waste-to-energy incinerators as the world faces climate, health, and economic crises.
Ahmed Afrah Ismail, Co-founder of Zero Waste Maldives criticized ADB for investing USD 73 million for WtE in their country, saying that the project will sink their country into more debt and derail its net zero aspirations: “The ADB-funded WtE plant undermines our country’s single-use plastic phaseout plan, waste-to-wealth policies, and circular economy ambitions,” he added. "The government must look into zero waste, which is already proven to be viable financially, socially, and environmentally. Maldives can no longer burn more finances."
In Africa members are taking action to both combat plastic pollution and build zero waste alternatives. For example, in Dar es Salaam, GAIA member Nipe Fagio will be debuting a Materials Recovery Facility for vulnerable populations, such as waste pickers and female community members, to own and lead waste management and earn an income from it.
Ana Le Rocha, Executive Director of Nipe Fagio, states:
“On this day, we demand that decentralized zero waste models become the rule for solid waste management in Tanzania and that communities are given an opportunity to embrace effective waste management by being presented with solutions that fit their needs. We take action for a healthy balance for people and the planet.”
European groups are pushing their governments to drop incineration and instead invest in a circular economy. Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN) states:
“Incineration has no place in the circular economy towards which we should be working. Most of what is incinerated in the United Kingdom could and should be recycled or composted, and the rest should be designed out. The release of CO2 from incinerators makes climate change worse and comes with a cost to society that is not paid by those incinerating waste. ”
In Latin America, waste picker groups are demanding inclusion into municipalities’ formal recycling systems and worker protections. Silvio Ruíz from the Asociación Nacional de Recicladores Colombia states:
“Inclusion is the recognition of our work, which is one of the most important and honourable jobs in the world. It extracts from society’s waste everything that can be recycled and used so that it can benefit society again and minimise the impacts on nature.”
In the U.S., groups are pushing back on a provision of a federal bill that supports waste incineration. Denise Patel, GAIA US & Canada Program Director, states:
”Rather than propping up a dying industry, transitioning to zero waste systems and building true clean, renewable energy systems is clearly a win-win solution for the climate and the economy.”
For more information about the campaign, a list of actions, and the #BeyondRecovery Publication series, visit zerowasteworld.org.
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GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped.