Malta, (5 October 2017) – At this year’s Our Ocean Conference, an annual gathering held since 2014 to press world leaders to address marine plastic pollution, non-government organizations working with 16 cities across Asia pledged to prevent hundreds of tons of waste from entering the environment through Zero Waste programs.

Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe, presents the commitments during the Our Ocean Conference in Malta.

Nine organizations from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and India belonging to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) committed to implement a Zero Waste strategy that would prevent more than 868,000 tons of waste annually—including more than 173,000 tons of plastic waste—from being released into the environment.

Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe, GAIA’s European branch, made the commitment at the high-level meeting attended by heads of states and environmental activists from all over the world.

Part of the commitment read:

Zero Waste Europe, in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives in the Philippines and 9 other partners in Asia, announced the allocation of EUR 300.000 to involve 16 cities in Southeast Asia to implement a Zero Waste strategy by 2020, preventing more than 868,000 tons of annual waste from entering the environment and including more than 173,000 tons of plastic waste annually from being released into the environment.

The nine organizations are working collaboratively to establish Zero Waste city projects in high-impact sites to reduce plastic and other pollution within two years.

The projects aim to localize zero waste systems in a wide variety of neighborhoods and cities, with focus on highly urban coastal areas where the potential for plastic pollution into waterways is high. The projects aim to reduce air, land, and water pollution while growing local economies and movement strength.

The solutions coming from Asia, particularly the Philippines, first came to the attention of world leaders in the 2016 Our Ocean Conference in Washington, DC.

Froilan Grate, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives’ Regional Coordinator for Asia Pacific, shared Zero Waste solutions happening in the Philippines during the 2016 Our Ocean Conference in Washington, D.C.

Froilan Grate, Regional Coordinator of GAIA Asia Pacific, speaking as one of the panelists on marine pollution, shared the success stories of communities in the Philippines in implementing Zero Waste solutions that resulted in more than 80% diversion rates from landfills, produced green jobs, saved the communities millions of pesos, and changed the behavior of people toward waste.

Grate shared the experience of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga, a city just north of the country’s capital. San Fernando implemented Zero Waste strategies that involved waste reduction, job creation, waste separation at source, door-to-door collection, and investing in appropriate infrastructure and equipment that truly serves the need of the community.

“It was an honor to share zero waste models from the Philippines in the global stage. Our goal is to show that while waste is a problem in the region, communities and grassroots organizations have also successfully implemented working and viable models. Land-based solutions like zero waste systems, especially in coastal cities, are some of the fastest and most economical way to address the problem of marine plastic pollution,” said Grate.

The project partners from the four countries are Mother Earth Foundation, Ecowaste Coalition, and Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia from the Philippines; Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Thanal, and Stree Mukti Sanghatana from India; Balifokus and Yayasan Pengembangan Biosains dan Bioteknologi from Indonesia; and Consumers Association of Penang from Malaysia.

These organizations are also members of the #breakfreefromplastic, a global movement of more than 900 member organizations from across the globe envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community.