GAIA’s founding meeting was held in South Africa in December 2000, with the participation of more than 80 people from 23 countries. Founding members identified incineration as an immediate and significant health threat in their communities and a major obstacle to resource conservation, sustainable economic development, and environmental justice. Through GAIA, members committed to increased community solidarity and collaboration to achieve their common goal of a just and toxic-free world without incineration
Highlights from our first fifteen years include:
Stopping pollution from incineration
Hundreds of community victories have protected families from pollution, while reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas emissions into our atmosphere. Some highlights include: ‘
- Members have achieved bans or moratoriums on waste burning in the Philippines, Costa Rica, Bashkortostan (Russia), Emilia Romagna (Italy), Porto Alegre & Minas Gerais (Brazil), Hidalgo (Mexico), and Massachusetts (USA).
- In the U.S., GAIA and allies have been instrumental in supporting grassroots organizing to prevent the construction of dozens of proposed waste incinerators.
- In the Philippines, we worked with our local partners to sustain the world’s only national ban on incineration. The ban has been in effect for more than 15 years
- In Australia, local groups supported by GAIA have prevented the establishment of waste-to-energy incinerators for the past 20 years despite numerous proposals and policy threats, promoting instead sustainable zero waste models and empowering communities to defend themselves and embrace zero waste
- And much, much more!
In GAIA’s global network, we have over a dozen Goldman Environmental Prize winners all awarded for their outstanding work protecting their communities from toxic pollution or to advance zero waste solutions
Building zero waste successes
- National alliances have formed and taken action for solutions in 15+ countries, from the Brazil Zero Waste alliance to Zero Waste Italy and beyond.
- The Network of Zero Waste Municipalities in Europe has more than 350 active cities that are on the road to zero waste, with some managing to divert more than 90% of their waste from landfills or incinerators. Capannori was the first municipality in committing to a zero waste goal in 2007. In 2014, Ljubljana was the first EU capital to do so.
- Waste pickers have been formally recognized in international policy and are now an official stakeholder in sustainable waste management plan development. Waste pickers have also organized for rights and dignity, securing unions, better wages, and legal recognition. Waste pickers and environmentalists have also joined forces in many places — from the world’s largest waste worker coop in India, SWaCH, to the Latin American Recyclers Network, to the Teamsters and ILWU in the U.S.
- We are supporting community-based economic development projects that demonstrate how the principles of reuse can build sustainable livelihoods. Thanal’s zero waste pilot project has helped create livelihoods for more than 100 families, and recently led to the state’s adoption of a “waste-free Kerala” policy and the UN’s creation of a related training program for other tourist destinations.
- We have published 25+ detailed case studies that demonstrate that zero waste is possible and good for the economy, and they have been translated into 5+ languages.
Building a world free of plastic pollution
- GAIA has played a leadership role in a global process uniting NGOs, workers, and funders to end plastic pollution, leading to the creation of the #breakfreefromplastic initiative.
- Our members have achieved national and municipal bans or levies on plastic bags, Styrofoam, & other polluting products in France, Italy, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Germany, and more.
Changing policy and finance
- We have influenced climate policy at the national and global level, bringing frontline communities to speak directly to those who are making decisions that impact their lives.
- We have ensured through a new clause that all United Nations Clean Development Mechanism projects acknowledge and respect the work of wastepickers and recyclers on the ground, and that new projects do not lead to a decrease in existing recycling rates.
- We have mobilized against climate subsidies for so-called “waste-to-energy” incineration and countries around the globe, and influenced government officials to come out against such subsidies.
- The European Union is revising waste policies to follow the principles of a circular economy and ensuring no incineration of recyclables & compostables.