Europe: Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA, +44 7847 079154
United States: Antonia Bruno, GAIA, +1 510 859-4730
Today, on the 24th of April, Uroš Macerl, a Slovenian anti-incineration campaigner has been awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for the successful campaign of Uroš and Eko krog halting the Trbovlje Cement Plant. The plant would have burned waste and other toxic substances and endangered the health of the community. The campaign, which has previously been covered in detail by Zero Waste Europe, highlights the environmental hazards associated with the burning waste in cement plants and demonstrates power of grassroots organising to defeat this industry and protect the human right to breathe clean air.
Uroš Macerl and ‘Eko krog’ (Green Circle) have led the campaign against the LafargeHolcim cement plant, where the company had been burning waste to supplement traditional fuels. This is a common practice for the cement industry, which is responsible for 5% of global carbon dioxide emissions and uses waste burning to attract climate finance. Cement industry has already received windfall profits from the European Carbon Market in fraudulent ways. Yet climate finance for waste burning in cement kilns contradict the science, as the process emits high levels greenhouse gases and of hazardous chemicals with severe impact on public health and the environment. Ultimately, this is a significant obstacle to zero waste and Circular Economy practices as it destroys natural resources that could otherwise be recovered.
Uroš and his community fought a ten year battle against the plant’s construction, exposing company fraud, organizing mass actions, and pursuing a legal strategy that succeeded in blocking the plant’s operation.
Uroš emphasises that “Burning waste is madness because it destroys natural resources. And burning waste in cement plants is even worse: it is a crime because it poisons people and environment – the crime is supported by lobbied legislation. Zero Waste is an already implemented alternative in many communities around the world.”
The issue of global climate finance being used to promote waste-burning in cement kilns is well documented and , there are many other active campaigns against cement kiln co-incineration taking place across Europe and globally. This victory sets a precedent for those communities around the world that are standing up to the cement industry and its pollution.
Mariel Vilella, Managing Director of Zero Waste Europe and Climate Policy Director for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) says, “All over the world, communities are standing up to powerful industries like cement and saying that life is more important than profit. The victory of Uros and Eko Krog demonstrates that when people organise together in defense of their right to breathe clean air, nothing can stop them.”
The Goldman Environmental Prize is a prestigious award reserved for grassroots environmental activists and is considered a “green nobel prize.” For more information on the prize visit goldmanprize.org/uros. For more information on waste burning in cement kilns and organizing around the world, see no-burn.org/cement-kilns/.