GAIA in the Asia-Pacific Region
Even before GAIA was formally established, citizens’ groups in the Asia-Pacific region were actively addressing the mounting environmental problems related to the region’s economic and industrial development. First held in July 2000, the Waste Not Asia (WNA) meetings have aided in this work by nurturing regional networking and campaigning on waste and incineration issues. Now the regional platform for GAIA’s more than 200 Asia-Pacific members from 20 countries, the WNA meetings bring together GAIA members working on Zero Waste to address wasting and unsustainable consumption; municipal, healthcare and hazardous waste management; toxics and pollution; and environmental injustice.
Many Asia-Pacific GAIA members are at the frontline or are supporting communities asserting their rights to a safe and non-toxic environment against dirty waste disposal facilities such as “waste-to-energy” facilities, incinerators, cement kilns, and dumpsites. GAIA members are also working with cities and communities to mainstream inclusive, sustainable, and climate-friendly solutions on waste such as promoting robust programs on waste minimization and materials recovery, organics and composting management, and the proper use of existing public and private funds towards the realization of these programs.
A particular concern for GAIA members in South and Southeast Asia is the recognition of the invaluable role of informal recyclers in the waste sector, including waste pickers and other informal itinerant buyers, and the promotion of their fundamental human right to safe and humane employment and protection from occupational and chemical hazards. Groups from Asia have been crucial in elevating wastepickers’ contribution in greenhouse gas reductions at the global climate policy arena.
In 2016, key GAIA members in the region helped establish the #BreakfreefromPlastics, a global movement that aims to eliminate marine plastic pollution through public advocacy, promotion of Zero Waste solutions, corporate campaigning, elimination of problematic plastic products and policy development.
Over the years, GAIA members in the Asia-Pacific region have achieved much success in fighting for progressive waste policies, winning a number of incinerator battles and instigating relevant demonstration projects. Among the many accomplishments and victories of GAIA members in the region are the award-winning “Zero Waste Kerala” project by Thanal in Kerala, India, the cancellation of the Broga mega-incinerator project in Selangor, Malaysia, successful waste reduction projects at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines, annual celebrations of the International Plastic Bag Free Day and Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration, among others.