Monday, September 17, 2018

Mr. Erik Solheim
United Nations Avenue, Gigiri
PO Box 30552, 00100
Nairobi, Kenya
cc: United Nations Environment Program

Dear Erik Solheim,

We were dismayed to see that the United Nations Environment has expressed its support for the controversial Reppie Waste-to-Energy Project. This misguided plan is setting the region on the wrong path: one that encourages waste instead of reducing it, and puts the surrounding community’s health at risk. We are also concerned with UN Environment’s inconclusive stance on incineration in Africa, as outlined in its latest Outlook Report.

According to the UN Environment’s own report, waste incineration is especially unfeasible for low and middle income countries like those in Africa, due to its cost-prohibitive nature and unsuitable waste composition [pp.22-pp.26]. As stated in the report: “WtE technologies are…typically both a more expensive way of managing waste and a more expensive way of producing energy.”  However later in another report, one of the authors–who is connected with the Danish incinerator industry– writes favorably of incineration [pp.141-148].

The U.S. and EU are already moving away from incineration, with the understanding that incineration stands in the way of a zero waste, circular economy. Why should Africa be treated differently than its Northern counterparts? It seems that in response to “waste-to-energy”’s waning popularity in the West, the incinerator industry is attempting to make a profit by exporting Europe’s old waste management approach to Africa, undermining both regions’ zero waste goals.   

The Reppie project might be lucrative for the multinational company behind it, Cambridge Industries Ltd, but it is a burden on the surrounding communities who will be exposed to the emissions that result from burning waste. In fact, the waste incineration industry has the highest negative economic impacts from air pollution compared to the financial value added by the industry. Trash incineration emits large quantities of pollution including nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury, dioxins, and ultra-fine particles. Incinerators are also a major contributor to climate change.

Africa has the opportunity to build a just, equitable Zero Waste economy by enacting policy mechanisms to phase out the sale of wasteful products, create markets for reduction and reuse, and build more robust zero waste infrastructure. Instead, incinerator projects like Reppie lock cities into a cycle of burning that directly competes with zero waste efforts like recycling, composting, and other waste reduction strategies.

We ask the UN Environment to give a clear stance and policy statement supporting sustainable waste and resource management approaches at the top of the waste hierarchy, to refrain from endorsing waste incineration projects, particularly here in Africa, and to stop advocating waste incineration in all the agency’s publications and statements.


ACPO – Associação de Combate aos Poluentes

African Uranium Alliance

Amigos de la Tierra Argentina


Association Toxicologie-Chimie (ATC)


BIOS Argentina


Centar za zivotnu sredinu/ Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)

Centre for Earth Works (CFEW)

Centre for Environment Justice and Development

Centre for Zero Waste & Development


Children’s Environmental Health Foundation

Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group


Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd

Consumers’ Association of Penang

Coordinadora de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Oriente del Estado de México en Defensa de la Tierra, el Agua y su Cultura


Društvo Ekologi brez meja

Earthlife Africa Durban



Environmental & Public Health Consulting

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)

European Environmental Bureau

Fluoride Action Network

Food & Water Europe

Food & Water Watch

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth Australia

Friends of the Earth Canada

Friends of the Earth Europe

Friends of the Earth Ghana

Friends of the Earth International

Friends of the Earth Sierra Leone

Friends of the Earth U.S.

FUNAM, Environment Defence Foundation

Fundación Basura

Fundación el árbol

GAIA Africa

Goldman Environmental Prize

Green Knowledge Foundation, Nigeria

Greeners Action


Health Care Foundation Nepal

IndyACT and InnoDev – Lebanon

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Irrigation Training and Economic Organization – IRTECO

JA!Justica Ambiental/FOEMozambique

Jovenes Ambientalistas

Les Amis de la Terre-Togo



Nipe Fagio

No Waste Louisiana


ONG Valpo Interviene

Pan African Vision for the Environment

Plastic Change

Recicladores El Bosque.


REDES – Friends of the Earth Uruguay

Regional Centre for international development cooperation

Rose Academies

Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

Society for Earth

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance


Toxisphera Environmental Health Association

United Kingdom Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)

University of the Witwatersrand School of Governance

Wellington Association Aggainst the Incinerator (“WAAI”)

Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

Zero Waste Europe

Zero Waste OZ

Centro Universitário Fundação Santo André