ZEROING IN ON ZERO WASTE: GAIA AT COP27
70% of all greenhouse gas emissions comes from making, taking, and wasting stuff, and 20% of methane emissions–a greenhouse gas 80 times as potent as C02–comes from landfills. If we are to reach the 1.5 degree target in the Paris Agreement, we need an international effort to reduce waste and adopt zero waste strategies like reuse and repair, composting, and recycling. We know it works: people around the world, particularly indigenous communities, have been practicing zero waste for millenia. If we act now we can tackle our waste and climate crises while creating better jobs, more resilient cities, and a liveable future for all.
Stories of Zero Waste for Climate Action
Innovative Zero Waste Model in Dar es Salaam is Creating Zero Waste Jobs and Mitigating Climate Change
The organization Nipe Fagio, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, has implemented a zero waste model that combines separation at source, organic waste management, and recycling into a decentralised framework. This model generates jobs for vulnerable groups, increases waste collection and waste management in low-income communities, reduces open burning of waste and dumping, increases the rate of waste being diverted from landfills – at no additional cost to municipalities and creates awareness of the improved benefits of improved waste management. Nipe Fagio’s work on zero waste diverts organic waste from landfills, which prevents methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. GAIA report on the job creation potential of zero waste finds that cities that invest in zero waste programs and policies create good green jobs, in addition to known benefits of reducing pollution and improving community health. Although composting produces relatively few jobs, it is still three times as many jobs as waste disposal systems. The co-benefits of separate collection and treatment of organics is a critical component of zero waste because it avoids cross-contaminating recycling streams and has some of the largest direct climate benefits through avoided landfill methane generation
Sunshine After the Storm: A Typhoon-Ravaged City Rises to Become Zero Waste
In 2013 Tacloban City, PH was devastated by one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, Typhoon Haiyan. The impacts were made worse by the lack of waste management infrastructure in the city: single-use plastic waste clogged drainage systems, and streets were awash with debris, with nowhere for it to go. Citizens and city officials embarked on a zero waste program to separately collect, recycle, and compost waste, and in just one year were able to divert 55% of waste from landfill, up from 10% the previous year. By fertilizing local gardens with compost, soils can better absorb and detoxify floodwaters, and increased collection of plastic prevents clogged drains. The zero waste program better prepares the city for extreme weather events, making it more resilient in the face of climate change.
Waste Reduction and Cost-Savings a Benefit of Climate Action in Prelog
When GAIA member Zero Waste Croatia teamed up with waste management company PRE-KOM to create a zero waste strategy for the city of Prelog in northern Croatia, many were skeptical. But within just 5 years, the city tripled its percentage of separately collected waste, and reduced the amount of waste generated to below 100 kg per capita, becoming a model zero waste city in Croatia and beyond. The separate collection of waste prevents greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and incinerators, while raising recycling rates. Compared with the national average in 2018, for every tonne of municipal solid waste generated in a year, the city saved 192 kgCO2eq. How did this happen, in spite of much criticism that the city’s goals were unattainable and ‘utopian’?
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Organics Management Reduces Public Health Threats and Builds Resilience
Ten years ago the Monte Cristo neighborhood of Florianópolis, a city on the Brazilian island of Santa Catarina had unwelcome neighbors: rats. The community was plagued with a rat infestation so serious that it caused the death of two people, who caught leptospirosis from exposure to rat urine. The true cause of the problem, the residents learned, was their waste management system, specifically food waste, which was attracting rodents. A dedicated group came together to start what became known as the “Bucket Revolution,” where workers collect residents’ organic discards in blue buckets, which are composted and used to fertilize school and community gardens. Now the program serves over 2,400 people, and is a model of how organics management not only cools the climate, but also protects against public health threats.
US & CANADA
Zero Waste for Climate Justice in Detroit, Michigan
After successfully shutting down the waste incinerator that had been polluting the community for decades, the Detroit residents and community groups like Breathe Free Detroit are embarking on several composting pilots. One such project, the Georgia Street Community Collective (GSCC), runs a drop-off center for food waste that gets composted on-site for a local garden that grows produce for the community, creating a closed-loop food system in what has historically been a food desert. In just under two years, the Collective has prevented upward of 25,000 pounds of organics from a local university from being landfilled. Through modest zero waste strategies like scaling up recycling and composting programs, Detroit could achieve net negative emissions in the waste sector by 2030. These projects provide a blueprint for the city on how decentralized waste diversion efforts could both mitigate climate change and improve well-being across Detroit.
MEET OUR DELEGATION
GAIA will have a diverse international delegation of advocates, academics, city policymakers, grassroots activists, and waste pickers at COP27. The delegation members will be sharing their expertise in a number of official side events, as well as engaging in dialogues with decision-makers, members of the media, and fellow climate experts. For media inquiries or speaking engagements please contact claire[at]no-burn.org.
Davo Simplice Vodouhe coordinates L’Organisation Béninoise pour la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique (OBEPAB), an NGO in Benin that has promoted organic agriculture since 1994. He is also a professor at the University of Abomey-Calavi; a member of the Pesticide Action Network Agroecology Workgroup; and is active in numerous African networks that promote ecological and climate-resilient farming.
Victor H. Argentino de M. Vieira works as a zero waste consultant at Polis Institute, a GAIA member based in São Paulo, Brazil. His work focuses on developing studies about waste management, climate and related issues in Brazil, promoting capacity-building activities and supporting municipalities to develop and implement zero waste strategies, with special focus on composting and organic waste management, in different Brazilian local contexts.
Nazir co-led the formation of the Minnesota Environmental Justice Table, where he works with communities to stop injustices like trash incinerators, concentrated pollution, and hyper-consumption, and instead build a regenerative, caring, and sustainable society. He has had a variety of roles over the last 15 years in the climate, labor, and global health movements. He has borne witness to these movements creating profound social change, often starting with a few individuals working on some local issue.
Iryna Myronova is the Executive Director of Zero Waste Lviv and founding member of Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine. She received an MS in Ecology and Environmental protection at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy and a professional certificate in Environmental Policy from Bard Center for Environmental Policy. Iryna has 15 years of professional experience as a sustainability manager and business consultant, and as a corporate engagement officer at World Wildlife Fund Ukraine. She is a member of the environmental board of Plast – a National scouting organization of Ukraine.
Ana is a Zero Waste implementer and a plastic activist who believes that it is mandatory for us to recognize the inequality of the world that we live in, using solidarity to fill historical gaps, providing vulnerable groups with meaningful opportunities and ensuring that social justice walks together with environmental stewardship. Ana actively advocates for plastic reduction, from production to disposal to achieve climate balance. She participates in local, regional, and global networks bringing African and Latin American inputs to global conversations and pursuing equality of opportunities in environmental activism in the Global South. Ana is the Executive Director with Nipe Fagio, in Tanzania.
Niven is GAIA’s Africa Regional Coordinator. He has a background in social science and worked in the education and environmental planning sector before joining the environmental justice movement in 2016 with groundWork, where he focused on air quality and working with local waste picker groups. He joined the GAIA team in January 2018 and is based in Durban, South Africa.
Dr Atiq Zaman is currently working as a Senior Lecturer at the School of Design and the Built Environment (DBE), Faculty of Humanities, Curtin University, Western Australia. He is also a Researcher at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP) and the Course Coordinator of the Master of Environment and Climate Emergency program. He is one of the founding Co-Directors of the Global South Nexus research cluster at DBE. Since 2022, Atiq has been working as the Curtin Node Leader for the Sustainable Community and Waste Hub funded by the Commonwealth Government under the National Environmental Science Programme-NESP2 (2021-2027).
Daniel Nkrumah is the Municipal Coordinating Director (City Manager) of La Dade-Kotopon Municipal Assembly, in Accra, Ghana. He holds Master’s degree in Public Sector Management, a bachelors degree in Political Science and is currently a Phd. student at the Institute of Development and Technology Management (IDTM). Daniel is also a Chartered Professional Administrator and Management Consultant, ADR Practitioner, and Project Management expert (Galilee International Management Institute (GIMI), Israel).
Aditi Varshneya is the Membership Coordinator for GAIA U.S. and Canada. Originally from India, Aditi grew up in China and is now based in New York City. Her academic background centers on environmental justice, and she is pursuing a Master of Urban Planning at New York University. Aditi was a community organizer prior to joining GAIA and is fiercely dedicated to building a world that values people and the planet before profit.
Mariel Vilella is GAIA’s Global Climate ProgramDirector, building bridges and identifying opportunities for collaboration across borders to promote zero waste policies and practices with members worldwide. Prior to this role, between 2014-2019 she was the Managing Director of Zero Waste Europe, during its foundation and early development. Before 2014 she was the lead climate policy campaigner for the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
Froilan Grate is the Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator and Executive Director of GAIA Philippines. He is a committed environmental justice campaigner who has assisted more than 20 cities/municipalities in the Philippines in developing and improving waste management programs and systems. He has extensive experience in module development and training and legislative work, providing support to legislators at the local government level, especially in areas of policy review.
Christie is the International Coordinator of GAIA. She joined GAIA in 2005 and has 25 years of experience with social movements and international non-profit organizations. She began her work in Guatemala as a popular educator, program coordinator, and strategic planning facilitator for groups in the women’s movement and Mayan-Campesino organizing community, as well as in international human rights. For the last 15 years, Christie has worked from the U.S. on international waste, public health, and environmental justice issues.
Joe is the co-founder of YVE- Gambia, which focuses primarily on involving youth in local projects that incorporate concepts of sustainability, climate change adaptation, spread poverty-oriented and sustainable solutions to energy production and environmental preservation.
Amira has in-depth expertise in participatory and action research for waste management and recycling planning with different stakeholders. In Sierra Leone she is the Technical Coordinator and the Field Lead on the Plastic Circular Economy in Plastics for Sustainable Tourism and Economic Diversification Project.
Luyanda has been a reclaimer based in the city of Johannesburg in South Africa for 13 years. He is a founding member of Africa Reclaimers Organization and currently the project implementation officer focusing on the separation at source project. He is engaged in school educational programs to educate students the role of reclaimers and the impact of plastics.
Mahesh is the Director of Paryavaran Mitra, a climate and environmental organization based in Gujarat, India. Known for his vibrant role as an environmental and human rights activist for almost two decades, Mahesh Pandya is also the editor of the bi-monthly publication Paryavaran Mitra.
Carissa is the Communications Coordinator for GAIA Africa. She has a background in journalism, with a special focus on new media and has previously worked with local news media as a journalist. She has developed multiple publications and materials with members across the continent and has a special interest in working with the informal sector and mainstreaming messages around waste picker integration in Africa.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
The following events are located within the official conference venue, any person wishing to access the side event area must be duly registered as part of a delegation of a Party or an observer organization and in possession of a conference badge. The link to access the virtual platform for badge-holders will be provided here as soon as it becomes available.
With the exception of the press conference and Zero Waste Hub, all events will be livestreamed on the UNFCCC youtube channel, which is accessible to anyone.
ZERO WASTE HUB
At the Zero Waste Hub, hosted by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), COP attendees can learn more about how zero waste strategies like reuse and repair, composting, and recycling are fast, affordable climate solutions that help build resilience, create jobs, and promote thriving local economies. Guests have the opportunity to speak with zero waste advocates from around the world and access the latest research on waste and climate.
WHEN: Nov. 10-12, from 19:00-21:00 EET
WHERE: Blue Zone , Exhibit Space 21
ZERO WASTE AS CLIMATE JUSTICE
Zero Wate as Climate Justice: Frontline Solutions to Emissions from the Plastics & Petrochemical Sector. Plastic pollutes the climate and and perpetuates environmental injustices at every stage of its lifecycle. However, we can curb emissions by incorporating simple, effective and low-cost zero waste strategies. Our expert panelists organize on the frontlines of the plastics crisis and will discuss the opportunities and threats to a just transition to zero waste.
SCALING UP LOCAL VOICES AND SOLUTIONS
Scaling up local voices and solutions from urban informal settlements: Governance and finance models that advance climate justice and urban resilience. This event will illustrate the power of urban poor communities to produce governance and finance models that advance climate justice from the ground up, highlighting the transformative power of these strategies when partnerships with other stakeholders facilitate replication and scaling up of the work.
WHEN: Nov. 17, from 12:30-14:00 EET
Waste management will be one of the critical topics tackled at COP27, where host nation Egypt plans to put forward the Africa Waste Initiative, an initiative hoping to catalyse both adaptation and mitigation solutions and aiming at treating and recycling 50% of the waste produced in Africa by 2050. In this press conference, civil society experts both from Africa and abroad will reflect on how the Africa Waste Initiative underscores the importance of tackling waste as a climate solution.
WHEN: Nov. 11, from 12:00-12:30 EET
WHERE: Press Conference Room Luxor/2
JUST TRANSITION TO ZERO WASTE CITIES
Increasing GHG emissions in cities can be greatly reduced through just transition strategies toward circular and zero waste local economies. Panelists will reflect on how cities around the world are using zero waste strategies to reduce waste and emissions to meet their Paris Climate Agreement targets. The panel will underscore measures that support a just transition for workers and marginalized communities.
WHEN: Nov. 16, from 15:00-16:30 EET
WHERE: Khufu (300)
Methane Matters: delivering on the Global Methane Pledge for ambitious methane mitigation. Speakers will present which measures need to be taken by Global Methane Pledge signatories to ensure ambitious methane cuts & explore the need for diplomatic efforts to develop an int’l governance framework on methane mitigation.
WHEN: Nov. 14 , from 17:00 – 18:30 EET, and Nov. 17, from 13:15 – 14:45
WHERE: Chile Pavilion, and Thutmose (150)
ZERO WASTE IMPLEMENTATION
Zero Waste Implementation as a Just and Equitable Approach to Climate Action.This cross-cutting session will showcase climate solutions and community interventions currently implemented in Africa. These are on the way to putting African countries on the path of decarbonising high-emitting sectors such as waste, oil and gas, cement, and transport. The panel will discuss key enablers to end the repressive behavior of national governments and the private sector towards the informal sector, and the corporate greed in fueling consumer culture. Panelists will guide the room on how to jumpstart a revolution for waste pickers’ recognition and frontline community empowerment.
WHEN: Nov. 11, from 15:00-16:00 EET
WHERE: Sanafir Hotel
PANEL: WASTE DIVERSION AND SEGREGATION
Waste Diversion and Segregation, a huge opportunity for methane mitigation, and a challenge for ambtitious public policy and subnational implementation. During the event, we will discuss the relevance of public policy waste diversion and segregation as an opportunity for the global South methane mitigation, an OECD analysis on Food Waste/Loss and Organic Fraction of Municipal Solid Waste public policy will be presented, and we will discuss how national and local governments could work and show good examples on public policies, data information, and environmental justice consideration
WHEN: Nov. 17, from 11:00 -12:10 EET
WHERE: Science for Climate Action Pavilion
METHANE FROM THE WASTE SECTOR
Methane from the waste sector: Opportunities and challenges to deliver the Global Methane Pledge. At last year’s COP, over one hundred countries signed onto the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) to reduce global methane emissions at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. These countries need to find affordable, effective strategies to reach their goals. The waste sector is the third largest source of methane emissions, primarily from rotting organic waste in landfills.
WHEN: Nov. 17, from 16:45-18:15 EET
WHERE: Thutmose (150)
A new report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) provides the clearest and most comprehensive evidence to date of how better waste management is critical to the climate fight, while building resilience, creating jobs, and promoting thriving local economies.
This report highlights the most actionable steps governments can take to reduce methane emissions. We found that by tackling the waste sector, governments will get fast results using some of the easiest and most affordable methane reduction strategies available. Waste prevention, source-separation of organic discards, and other methods can reduce solid waste methane emissions by as much as 95% by 2030.
Waste is the third largest source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas over 80 times as potent as CO2. Most waste sector methane emissions come from landfilling organic waste. This paper discusses how diverting organic waste from landfill is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to lower methane emissions.
Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are submitted by signatory countries to the Paris Agreement that describe their plans and goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In October 2021, GAIA analyzed 99 NDCs to evaluate how zero waste solutions — plastic reduction, waste separation, composting, and environmental justice — are embedded in national climate mitigation plans. As an update to the analysis, we present a set of country profiles, featuring the governments’ commitments made for the waste sector and grassroots efforts for climate zero waste solutions in 12 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America.
The mission with the #breakfreefromplastic brand annual audit is to identify the world’s top polluting corporations. By gathering data on plastic waste collected at community cleanups around the world, brand audits allow us to challenge the plastic industry and demand real solutions. Our reports have revealed that the true driving forces of the plastic pollution crisis are the corporations producing all this plastic in the first place. For these five years in a row Coca-Cola–which is sponsoring COP27– has been implicated as a top plastic polluter.
Net zero strategies put forward by key industries such as cement and plastic production will be insufficient to limit global warming to 1.5C. Current industry net zero roadmaps are projected to still not meet the target, resulting in warming of up to 2oC. Instead, it is imperative to reduce resource consumption, particularly in the Global North in the cement and plastic production sectors. Zero waste systems provide an immediate and affordable opportunity for cities to meet ambitious emissions reduction targets in the context of rapid urbanisation and increasing waste generation.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt –The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) held a press conference along with Friends of the Earth Nigeria at COP27 to provide civil society’s perspective on Egypt’s impending announcement of its Global Waste Initiative 50 by 2050. The initiative sets the ambition to recycle and treat at least 50% of waste produced in Africa by 2050. In this press conference, civil society and diverse experts including climate justice groups, waste picker organizers and government leaders from across the African continent emphasized the potential of waste reduction and management for climate adaptation and mitigation.