Meet our Members ZWE – Za Zemiata
by Sarah Martin
Za Zemiata (ZZ) is an independent non-profit non-governmental organization established in 1995 to work for environmental justice and sustainable and equitable life on our planet, without exploitation of people or nature. We are one of the two key Bulgarian NGO dealing with waste issues, together with the Public Environmental Centre for Sustainable Development, based in Varna. We work through awareness raising and capacity building to mobilise and empower local communities to take action on waste dumping, incineration, landfilling, etc.
We reach out to decision-makers, from municipalities to European officials, raising issues, such as the unrecognised role of the ‘invisible hands’ of informal recyclables collectors and the unacceptability of incineration projects. We promote good practices from the Zero Waste Europe network that inspire Bulgarian municipalities, such as Svilengrad, to get on the road to Zero Waste. We also work with schools from all across Bulgaria with resource-saving initiatives and practical activities, using our teaching toolkits on smart waste management.
How long have you been in the field and what got you into (Zero) Waste?
I was part of a student eco-club which took care of collecting paper and plastic water bottles from the university buildings, including student dormitories. Since then I have been fascinated by waste and I keep discovering new aspects of it. I see waste as both a very personal thing and a kind of material record of modern human life, whose negative long-term impacts remain to be witnessed for generations ahead.
What is your current role in your organisation?
Our Zero Waste team is made up of two: Danita, who is based in ZZ’s office in Sofia, and myself, based in a nearby village. I do more policy and content-related work, such as preparing reports, policy briefings, analyses, etc. I also maintain relations with local authorities interested in Zero Waste.
Tell us more about one ongoing campaign/activity you’re working on?
The campaign to stop the construction of an RDF incinerator in Sofia is at its turning point in 2019: expecting the decision of the European Commission to reject or approve Cohesion funding for the project, combined with local elections looming in October. We cooperate with local initiatives and direct neighbours of the site, using litigation, public awareness raising and engaging with decision-makers to stop funding for the project.
PlasticFreeBG is our part of the global #BreakFreeFromPlastic movement – we focus on the overuse of plastic bags, lack of deposit return systems for plastic bottles, and for introducing reusable cups in kindergartens and for events.
If there was one thing that you would like your organisation to be known for, what would it be?
I would love Za Zemiata to be known as the organisation that finally managed to slay the dragon of incineration – not just in Sofia, but also dirty co-incineration facilities, such as obsolete thermal power plants. In my perfect world, we help amplify meaningful and much-needed campaigns to their ultimate success, such as the Mission I choose the reusable cup for kindergartens, managed by PECSD and activist mother Sabina Maximova.
How would you describe the growth of the Zero Waste movement in your country? What is your perspective for the future?
In the past couple of years we have seen a big growth in the number of organisations and individuals in search for Zero Waste, so I am optimistic. We are over 30 groups already and growing. Our first joint action was an online photo challenge for March 22nd, the international day of water. The perspective is to continue synchronising our actions and get together around key demands and issues, without formalising into any sort of membership organisation just yet.
You can find more about Za Zemiata and their work here.