Lessons from the Asia-Pacific: As Africa Journeys to host the next IZWCC

By Careen Mwakitalu, GAIA Africa, Communications Associate

The benefits of a zero waste model are a multitude. Household waste sorting, re-use and recovery of products, responsible production and consumption and even product resurrection at its end of use are some ways we can support the zero waste model.

To demonstrate the power of zero waste, GAIA Asia Pacific held the International Zero Waste Cities Conference (IZWCC) in the Philippines from 26th  – 27th January 2023. The conference was a strategic effort to obtain active engagement from municipalities to phase out waste and showcase cities as primary drivers of sustainable environments. Furthermore, the conference demonstrated innovative zero waste solutions like source separation, organics management, materials recovery, and plastic regulation.

The Asia-Pacific region produced inspirational outputs that created meaningful engagement during the IZWCC. This includes a series of apprising panels, presentations, waste management facility visits and publications. One of these publications was the ‘Vision & Grit’ publication, a compilation of impact stories from 14 women environmental leaders from the Asia-Pacific region. The publication spotlights years of exceptional leadership dedication by Asian women to attain zero waste communities and defend the rights of waste workers.

Another publication showcased during the conference was ‘On The Ground. The publication sheds light on the realities of waste workers, their challenges, and how they are essential stakeholders in the zero waste value chain. A beautiful exhibition was constructed to highlight the publication and the waste workers featured. 

For the visiting Africa team, comprising of Niven Reddy Ana Le Rocha, Careen Mwakitalu and Carissa Marnce, one of the major highlights for the conference was that Africa would be the next host of the IZWCC. This would be the first time the conference happens outside of Asia, and Nipe Fagio in Dar es Salaam would lead the process.

The social and environmental contexts in Asia-Pacific and Africa are very similar. Like the Asia-Pacific region, Africa still struggles with infrastructural barriers, inadequate awareness, geopolitical challenges and socio-economic issues. Remarkably, the IZWCC demonstrated that zero waste practices are possible through collaboration with municipalities, community compliance, and respect for waste workers. The visiting Africa team had a lot of inspiration to take home as preparations are underway to gather government officials, civil society organizations and zero waste practitioners for the next IZWCC. 

The IZWCCC 2023 ended with a role appreciation ceremony that was done in conjunction with Mother Earth Foundation. A total of 200 waste workers from the Philippines were celebrated on the 28th January 2023 at the mayor’s office in Quezon City. Waste workers were awarded for their important contributions and provided with necessary services like sanitary services and medical checkups and good food and company. All in all it was a sucessfull event where participants gained so much knowledge from the information and experiences shared.