We didn’t start the plastic crisis, but together, we can end it

GAIA members in the Global South tackle the plastic crisis head-on at INC-3 for a Globally Binding Plastics Treaty 

Global South Representatives at INC-3 Media Briefing

14 November 2023 – Nairobi, Kenya – As the third session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) on Plastic Pollution begins this week to negotiate a global plastics treaty, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) hosted a media briefing to voice the demands of the Global South. Featuring representatives from a coalition of civil society organizations, including Acción Ecológica México, Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance/New Zealand Product Stewardship Council/Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre, Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Foundation For Environment And Development, GAIA Latin America & the Caribbean, Green Africa Youth Organisation, South African Waste Pickers Association, and the Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development, this united front of civil society organizations have called on their leaders to urgently address the plastic crisis. 

With the problem escalating to massive proportions, the INCs stand as a decisive turning point in the battle against plastic pollution. These negotiations are not only an opportunity to address environmental concerns but also to tackle issues that affect the health and rights of individuals and communities. One of these issues is waste colonialism, which is the practice of illegal exporting of waste, from economically powerful countries in the Global North, to lower-income countries in the Global South, who are ill-equipped to handle this waste. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the trade of waste is extensive. In the period from 2018 to 2021, the shipment of plastic garbage to Mexico had a growth of 121%, according to a 2023 report. 

Alejandra Parra, GAIA Latin America & the Caribbean’s  Zero Waste and Plastics Advisor says that, “To stop waste colonialism, we need to reduce plastics production. To make recycling really useful, we need to reduce plastics production. To manage waste in an environmentally healthy manner, we need to reduce plastics production. To achieve the climate goals, we need to reduce plastics production. To respect human rights and planetary boundaries, we need to reduce plastics production. And that is what we must achieve with this plastics treaty that is currently being negotiated. But some countries don’t want this and are acting so this process fails. That is why we need to unite our voices because we are the ones suffering the worst consequences of plastics pollution and we need to be heard.”

Emphasizing that the plastic crisis didn’t start with the Global South, speakers stressed the need to correct a narrative that unfairly singles them out as the main culprits of plastic pollution. This narrative overlooks the significant role of the Global North, which not only contributes heavily to plastic production but also exports toxic plastic waste to developing nations, often disguising this under the guise of “trade.” With many African countries struggling with extreme poverty, they fall victim to toxic, unrecyclable plastic waste, e-waste, textile waste, and a range of different technological false solutions from corporations to attain economic development. 

Merrisa Naidoo, GAIA/BFFP  Africa Plastics Campaigner, underscores this point, stating, “Colonialism continues to manifest on the African continent in the form of ‘waste trade’ that permits the importation of toxic and non-recyclable waste into the continent from Global North countries.”

In detailing the situation in Africa, she explains, “Every day, markets in Accra, Ghana, and rivers in Kenya are inundated with Europe’s addiction for fast fashion, particularly plastic fiber-based apparel. This unjust practice places economic, social, and environmental burdens on Africa and its future generations. It reflects a disregard for Africa’s sovereignty and the laws in place to protect its people. Therefore, the Global Plastics Treaty must prioritize closing trade loopholes through a global plastics trade tracking system, imposing trade bans on plastics and associated chemicals post-phase-out, and strengthening the Y48 listing of plastics waste in Annex II of the Basel Convention to explicitly include paper waste contaminated with plastics, textiles, and refuse-derived fuel (RDF) to halt the dumping of these mixed plastic wastes on the continent. Africa is not a dumping ground!””

In addition, the Global South is advocating for a comprehensive set of crucial measures. These include reducing plastic production, discontinuing harmful technologies like incineration, imposing strict limits on toxic chemicals in plastics, and adopting a transparent approach to chemical use. The delegation underscores the importance of a just transition, the implementation of mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) based on the Zero Waste hierarchy, and a steadfast commitment to translating policies into practical operational regulations. These mechanisms are important to preserve traditional knowledge within the Global South, which has abided by principles of preservation and reuse for centuries. Our investment in these systems will allow us to return to regenerative indigenous knowledge that illustrates understanding and respect for the unique ecosystems in which we live. 

Arpita Bhagat, GAIA Asia Pacific’s Plastic Policy Officer, emphasizes, “Prior to the industry introducing toxic plastics into our local systems, causing harm to our land and sea; cultures in the Asia and Pacific region prioritized co-existing with nature. This cultural value has also positioned us at the forefront of adopting Zero Waste solutions.”

She goes on to say, “The most significant opportunity for addressing global plastics pollution lies in an international agreement. This agreement should advocate for a policy mechanism mandating the transition away from plastics. We need a treaty grounded in human rights and justice, recognizing the role of petrochemicals in plastics by mandating a reduction in production, banning harmful chemicals and polymers, and discontinuing polluting technologies like incineration, plastics-to-fuel, and chemical recycling. Moreover, it should underscore scaling up reuse, safeguarding indigenous peoples’ rights, and facilitating a just transition for informal workers and waste pickers away from plastics and into Zero Waste systems. To ensure the effectiveness of this instrument, a conflict of interest policy is essential to prevent the industry’s disproportionate influence on negotiations and avoid maintaining the status quo.”

Furthermore, the delegation further underlines the importance of inclusion by advocating for the participation of Waste Pickers, Indigenous Peoples, and Frontline Communities. Their focus extends to under-represented African, Asian, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) countries, in addition to advocating for greater involvement of women and youth in global efforts to combat plastic pollution. Moreover, the delegation calls for the establishment of robust financial mechanisms to support the effective implementation of these essential measures.

The Global South is calling on the INC-3 delegates to create a strong, comprehensive, and globally binding plastics treaty that respects health, human rights, and centers justice with due consideration to the realities of the Global South. This approach underscores the interconnectedness of the plastic lifecycle, environmental justice, and the rights of marginalized communities.

14 de noviembre de 2023 – Nairobi, Kenia – Con motivo del inicio de la tercera sesión del Comité Intergubernamental de Negociación (INC por sus siglas en inglés) para negociar un tratado mundial para prevenir la contaminación por  plásticos, la Alianza Global para Alternativas a la Incineración (GAIA) organizó una rueda de prensa para dar voz a las demandas del Sur Global. Con la participación de representantes de un grupo de organizaciones de la sociedad civil, entre ellas Acción Ecológica México, Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance, New Zealand Product Stewardship Council, Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre, Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile, Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Foundation For Environment And Development, GAIA América Latina y el Caribe, Green Africa Youth Organisation, Asociación de Recicladores de Sudáfrica y Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development, este frente de organizaciones de la sociedad civil hizo un llamado a sus tomadores de decisiones para que aborden urgentemente la crisis del plástico. 

Dado que el problema está alcanzando proporciones masivas, las sesiones de los INC suponen un punto de inflexión decisivo en la batalla contra la contaminación por plásticos. Estas negociaciones no sólo brindan la oportunidad de abordar las preocupaciones medioambientales, sino también las cuestiones que afectan a la salud y los derechos de las personas y las comunidades. Uno de estos problemas es el colonialismo de la basura, que es la práctica de exportar ilegalmente residuos de países económicamente poderosos del Norte Global a países de ingresos más bajos del Sur Global, que no cuentan con la infraestructura necesaria para manejar estos residuos. En América Latina y el Caribe, el comercio de residuos es una práctica extendida. Por ejemplo, en el periodo de 2018 a 2021, el envío de basura plástica a México tuvo un crecimiento del 121%, según un informe de 2023

Alejandra Parra, Asesora en plástico y basura cero de GAIA América Latina y el Caribe, afirma que “para acabar con el colonialismo de la basura, necesitamos reducir la producción de plásticos. Para que el reciclaje sea realmente útil, necesitamos reducir la producción de plásticos. Para gestionar los residuos de una manera ambientalmente sana, necesitamos reducir la producción de plásticos. Para alcanzar los objetivos climáticos, debemos reducir la producción de plásticos. Para respetar los derechos humanos y los límites planetarios, necesitamos reducir la producción de plásticos. Y eso es lo que debemos conseguir con este tratado de plásticos que se está negociando actualmente. Pero algunos países no quieren esto, y están actuando para que este proceso fracase. Por eso necesitamos unir nuestras voces, porque somos los que sufrimos las peores consecuencias de la contaminación por plásticos y necesitamos que se nos escuche.”

Subrayando que la crisis del plástico no empezó en el Sur Global, las y los panelistas insistieron en la necesidad de corregir la narrativa que injustamente les señala como los principales culpables de la contaminación plástica. Esta narrativa pasa por alto la responsabilidad del Norte Global, que no sólo contribuye en gran medida a la producción de plástico, sino que también exporta residuos plásticos tóxicos a países en vías de desarrollo, a menudo disfrazado bajo la etiqueta de “comercio”. Muchos países africanos luchan contra la pobreza extrema y son víctimas de los residuos plásticos tóxicos y no reciclables, los residuos electrónicos, los residuos textiles y toda una serie de falsas soluciones tecnológicas de las empresas para alcanzar el desarrollo económico. 

Merrisa Naidoo, campañista de plásticos de GAIA/BFFP en África, subraya este punto al afirmar: “El colonialismo sigue manifestándose en el continente africano en forma de “comercio de residuos” que permite la importación de residuos tóxicos y no reciclables al continente desde los países del Norte Global”.

Al detallar la situación en África, explica: “Cada día, los mercados de Accra (Ghana) y los ríos de Kenia se ven inundados por la adicción europea a la moda rápida, en particular a las prendas hechas de fibras de plástico. Esta práctica injusta supone una carga económica, social y medioambiental para África y sus futuras generaciones. Refleja un desprecio por la soberanía de África y las leyes vigentes para proteger a su población. Por lo tanto, el Tratado global de plásticos debe dar prioridad al cierre de las lagunas legales del comercio a través de un sistema mundial de seguimiento del comercio de plásticos, la imposición de prohibiciones comerciales de plásticos y productos químicos asociados después de su eliminación, y el fortalecimiento de la lista Y48 de residuos plásticos en el Anexo II del Convenio de Basilea para incluir explícitamente los residuos de papel contaminados con plásticos, textiles y combustibles derivados de residuos (CDR) para detener el vertido de estos residuos plásticos mezclados en el continente. África no es un vertedero.”

Además, el Sur Global aboga por un amplio conjunto de medidas cruciales. Entre ellas figuran la reducción de la producción de plásticos, el abandono de tecnologías nocivas como la incineración, la imposición de límites estrictos a las sustancias químicas tóxicas en los plásticos y la adopción de un enfoque de transparencia sobre el uso de sustancias químicas. La delegación subraya la importancia de una transición justa, la aplicación obligatoria de la Responsabilidad Extendida del Productor (REP) basada en la jerarquía basura cero, y un compromiso firme para traducir las políticas en normativas operativas prácticas. Estos mecanismos son importantes para preservar el conocimiento tradicional en el Sur Global, que ha acatado los principios de preservación y reutilización durante siglos. Nuestra inversión en estos sistemas nos permitirá volver a un conocimiento indígena regenerativo que ilustre la comprensión y el respeto por los ecosistemas únicos en los que vivimos. 

Arpita Bhagat, responsable de Política de plásticos de GAIA Asia Pacífico, subraya: “Antes de que la industria introdujera plásticos tóxicos en nuestros sistemas locales, causando daños a nuestra tierra y nuestro mar; las culturas de la región de Asia y el Pacífico priorizaban la coexistencia con la naturaleza. Este valor cultural también nos ha situado a la vanguardia de la adopción de soluciones de Basura Cero.”

Y añade: “La oportunidad más importante para abordar la contaminación mundial por plásticos reside en un acuerdo internacional. Este acuerdo debería abogar por un mecanismo político que obligue a abandonar los plásticos. Necesitamos un tratado basado en los derechos humanos y la justicia, que reconozca el papel que juega la industria petroquímica en los plásticos y obligue a reducir su producción, prohíba los productos químicos y polímeros nocivos, y ponga fin a tecnologías contaminantes como la incineración, la conversión de plásticos en combustible y el reciclado químico. Además, debería hacer hincapié en el aumento de la reutilización, la salvaguarda de los derechos de los pueblos indígenas y la facilitación de una transición justa para los trabajadores informales y los recicladores, alejándose de los plásticos y hacia sistemas de Basura Cero. Para garantizar la eficacia de este instrumento, es esencial tener una política acerca del conflicto de intereses que impida la influencia desproporcionada de la industria en las negociaciones y evite que se perpetúe el “statu quo”.

Además, la delegación subraya la importancia de la inclusión abogando por la participación de los recicladores, los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades de primera línea. Su atención se extiende a los países subrepresentados de África, Asia y los Pequeños Estados Insulares en Desarrollo (PEID), además de abogar por una mayor participación de las mujeres y los jóvenes en los esfuerzos mundiales para combatir la contaminación por plásticos. Además, pide que se establezcan mecanismos financieros sólidos para apoyar la aplicación efectiva de estas medidas esenciales.

El Sur Global hace un llamamiento a los delegados del INC-3 para que elaboren un tratado sobre plásticos sólido, exhaustivo y vinculante a escala mundial que respete la salud, los derechos humanos y centre la justicia teniendo debidamente en cuenta las realidades del Sur Global. Este enfoque subraya la interconexión entre el ciclo de vida del plástico, la justicia medioambiental y los derechos de las comunidades marginadas.


Media Contacts:

GAIA Africa: Carissa Marnce, +27 76 934 6156,  carissa@no-burn.org

GAIA Asia Pacific: Sonia G. Astudillo, +63 9175969286, sonia@no-burn.org

GAIA América Latina: Camila Aguilera, +56 9 5 111 1599; camila@no-burn.org 

About GAIA:

GAIA is a network of grassroots groups as well as national and regional alliances representing more than 1000 organizations from 92 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, Zero Waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. www.no-burn.org

GAIA es una red de grupos de base y alianzas nacionales y regionales que representan a más de 1.000 organizaciones de 92 países. Con nuestro trabajo pretendemos catalizar un cambio global hacia la justicia medioambiental fortaleciendo los movimientos sociales de base que promueven soluciones a los residuos y la contaminación. Imaginamos un mundo justo, de Basura Cero, construido sobre el respeto a los límites ecológicos y los derechos comunitarios, donde las personas estén libres de la carga de la contaminación tóxica y los recursos se conserven de forma sostenible, no se quemen ni se viertan. www.no-burn.org

The third session of the intergovernmental negotiating committee on plastic pollution to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution will take place on 13 – 19 November 2023 in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Join the Global South delegation as we put forward our demands to address the entire lifecycle of plastics, overall production reduction, putting a stop on incineration and similar harmful technologies, limiting toxic chemicals in plastics and calling for chemical transparency, a just transition, mandatory Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) based on Zero Waste hierarchy; commitment to put regulations in place to operationalise policies; pushing for more upstream measures; robust financial mechanism for implementation and the inclusion of Waste Pickers, Indigenous Peoples and Frontline Communities, Under-represented African, Asian and SIDS Countries, Women and Youth.

La tercera sesión del comité intergubernamental de negociación sobre la contaminación por plásticos para desarrollar un instrumento internacional jurídicamente vinculante sobre la contaminación por plásticos tendrá lugar del 13 al 19 de noviembre de 2023 en Nairobi, Kenia. 

Únete a la delegación del Sur Global en la presentación de nuestras demandas para abordar todo el ciclo de vida de los plásticos, la reducción general de la producción, la limitación de la presencia de sustancias químicas tóxicas en los plásticos en el continente y la transparencia química; una transición justa; la responsabilidad extendida del productor (REP) obligatoria basada en la jerarquía basura cero; el compromiso de poner en marcha reglamentos para hacer operativas las políticas; el impulso de más medidas previas; y el reconocimiento de los recicladores, los pueblos indígenas y las comunidades de primera línea, los países subrepresentados, las mujeres y los jóvenes.

14 November 2023,  4PM Kenya

Comfort Gardens Hotel, Township, United Nations Cres, Nairobi, Kenya 

[Directions from UN Complex] 

Live streamed via Facebook @GAIA Asia Pacific @GAIA Africa @GAIALAC 

Click here to join Zoom

Africa: 3pm Central African Time; 2pm West African Time; 4pm East African Time. 

Asia Pacific: 6:00 PM (Pakistan), 6:30 PM (India), 6:45 PM (Nepal), 7:00 PM (Bangladesh), 8:00 PM (WIB), 9:00 PM (Philippines), 12:00 AM, Nov 15 (Solomon Islands).

Latin America and the Caribbean: 7 am México, 8 am Ecuador, Colombia, 10 am Brasil, Argentina, Chile.


  • Waste pickers and a just transition 
  • Waste Colonialism in the Global South 
  • Indigenous Rights 
  • False Solutions 
  • Human Rights 


Soledad Mella, Asociación Nacional de Recicladores de Chile

Maditlhare Koena, South African Waste Pickers Association

Larisa de Orbe, Acción Ecológica México

Mageswari Sangaralingam, Consumers’ Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia Friends of the Earth

Dr Leslie Adogame, Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development, Nigeria

Lena Estrada Añozaki  (Colombia) UNEP Indigenous Peoples Representative

Alejandra Parra Muñoz, GAIA Latin America & the Caribbean

Trisia Farrelly, Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance, New Zealand Product Stewardship Council, Massey University Political Ecology Research Centre 

Jacob  Attakpah, Green Africa Youth Organisation, Ghana

Marce Gutierrez Graudins, Azul 

Olivia Tamon, Foundation For Environment And Development, Cameroon

Media Contacts:

GAIA Africa: Carissa Marnce, +27 76 934 6156,  carissa@no-burn.org

GAIA Asia Pacific: Sonia G. Astudillo, +63 9175969286, sonia@no-burn.org

GAIA América Latina: Camila Aguilera, +56 9 5 111 1599; camila@no-burn.org 

By Programs Manager of Era/FoEN, Maimoni Ubrei-Joe

During a webinar titled “Embracing Zero Waste: A Path to Addressing Climate,” which was hosted by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and other member organizations, they had a discussion about zero waste systems.

Mariel Vilella, the director of the Global Climate Program at GAIA, stated that 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the product life cycles of garbage, which include its extraction, transportation, and disposal into the environment. According to Mariel, the waste industry is the third largest generator of anthropogenic methane. Since anthropogenic methane has a warming potential that is 82 times greater than that of carbon dioxide, it is an exceptionally hazardous greenhouse gas and a superior pollution.

According to her, the creation of plastic and the pollution that it causes also results in greenhouse gas emissions at each stage of the lifecycle—from its beginning as fossil fuels through refining and manufacturing to disposal emissions at the end of life. She also mentioned that waste-to-energy incinerators are also considered to be extremely polluting facilities. She stated that composting, source reduction, and energy recovery are zero waste strategies that can be used to reduce GHG emissions from waste, as a powerful mitigation approach that is adaptable to different needs and circumstances. She highlighted the key takeaways from a Zero Waste to Zero Emissions modelling study of eight cities that was conducted by GAIA in 2022.

She went on to point out that the zero waste strategy, in addition to having positive effects on the environment such as less air pollution and fewer floods, also has positive effects on society, the economy, and institutions. These benefits include improved public health, a reduction in poverty, the creation of jobs, and increased public involvement and participation.

Chima Williams, Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, was another one of the people who spoke during the webinar. He remarked that it is high time that the fallacies that are embedded in the current waste management systems in Nigeria and around the world be examined and replaced with regulations that are binding. Flooding is cited as an example of the destruction, loss of life, and loss of property that may be attributed to the presence of plastic trash in the world. According to him, the global south requires additional education regarding the threats posed by plastic garbage and the effects it has on the earth. He went on to say that the webinar, along with other platforms of a similar nature, are avenues to participate in and collectively join hands in the fight against plastic waste as no one group can do it all by themselves.

Leslie Adogame, Executive Director of Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev), indicated that there is a significant gap in policies connected to waste management and climate change. Adogame’s statement was made on behalf of SRADev. He added that GAIA has members in Nigeria with the goal of bridging the gap between waste reduction and climate change while developing ideas, policies, and activities that will promote waste reduction as an important climate action.

The Programs Manager of Era/FoEN, Maimoni Ubrei-Joe, emphasized the main successes of GAIA and ERA in promoting zero waste, including the creation of the Zero Waste Ambassador, in order to promote zero waste policies at the local level. 

The importance of zero waste in global south countries cannot be overstated. These countries often face unique challenges in waste management and are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. Implementing zero waste practices can not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change, but also create opportunities for sustainable economic development and improve public health in these regions. Additionally, embracing zero waste principles can help preserve natural resources, protect biodiversity, and foster a more resilient and equitable society for future generations.


By Nipe Fagio Staff

Nipe Fagio, a member of the Global Alliance for Anti-Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Africa, has started the implementation of their online Zero Waste Academy in Tanzania, with a primary focus on the African continent. Nipe Fagio took over leadership of the process from Zero Waste Asia. The goal is to diversify trash-free systems in Africa and to take part in the process of developing sustainable communities that are free of plastic waste.

The Zero Waste Academy engages participants who are currently implementing or will start implementing zero waste implementation on the continent and beyond, with the backing of a strong organization engaged in systemic change in their area. Participants come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including those who work in the government, non-profit, and private sectors. The online portion of the academy will take place from August until September 2023, and there will be a live component available for participation in October. Additionally, participants will have the option to sign up to become members of the African Zero Waste Coalition for Zero Waste Implementers.

“Participants at the Academy are excited to gain further knowledge on the implementation of zero waste policies. It is incredibly wonderful to see that the materials supplied in the course (assignments and tutorials) have boosted their dedication and enthusiasm to develop a zero waste program in either their town or cities.” Explained Marco Dotto – Nipe Fagio’s Zero Waste-Community Mobilization Officer, who has been teaching the participants on community mobilization and advocacy.

The academy is broken up into many theme categories, such as Understanding Zero Waste Systems, Introduction to the Zero Waste Academy, and Material Recovery Facilities Management. False solutions, trash management, advocacy and policy for zero waste, and data management in zero waste systems are all part of the building process. The 56 Participants in the academy will gain comprehensive knowledge and skills in various aspects of zero waste implementation. They will also receive hands-on training and practical guidance on how to effectively manage waste materials and develop sustainable strategies. 

Furthermore, the academy fosters a collaborative environment where participants can network with like-minded individuals and exchange ideas for advancing the zero waste movement globally.


By Kaziro Douglas, Bio Vision Africa, Uganda.

The 19th ordinary session of the Africa Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) took place from 14-18 August 2023 at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel in Addis Ababa.  The session’s theme was Seizing opportunities and enhancing collaboration to address environmental challenges in Africa.  Prior to the meeting, UNEP major groups and Stakeholders (CSOs) held a meeting at Capital Hotel in Ethiopia on 12-13 August 2023 and drafted a Major Groups and Stakeholders statement which was read to the Ministers during the main session. 

AMCEN was established in December 1985, with a mandate of providing advocacy for environmental protection in Africa and ensuring that basic human needs are met adequately and in a sustainable manner.

The discussions for the 19th session focused on the twenty-eighth session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  (COP28) and the Africa Climate Summit (ACS), the sixth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEA6); Africa’s participation in the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution (INC process); Africa’s preparations for the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; preparations for the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, the Kunming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and implementation of 18th  AMCEN decisions. 

I was a participant with support from GAIA, My focus was mainly on Africa’s participation in the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution (INC process), AMC 18/6 decision on phasing out opening burning in Africa, preparations for the fifth session of the International Conference on Chemicals Management, and most of my engagements pretty much nearly 90% were on the plastic treaty work. It was an interesting learning experience with good information to take home as a first-time participant in AMCEN meetings. 

Key highlights from the meeting included declarations, decisions and key messages adopted by the session notably the decision 19/2 African participation in the development of an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment, which relates directly to our work and a declaration to appreciate the work of the African Group of Negotiators on plastics, and urged member states to support the African position on the establishment of a legally binding instrument. 

By and large, the discussions were fruitful, with few contestations from some countries, especially on the issue of raw materials for plastics being considered as plastics.  Also, there was a considerable representation from countries in the Global South. It’s important to mention that, going forward, the draft documents from this session can provide good information for our advocacy work as Civil Society organizations as we continue engaging with our National Focal Points within our various countries and ensure that the language and other key components that we desire to be in the Plastic treaty are well captured.


No More Empty Promises

By Ndyamuhaki Isaac, Green Africa Youth Organization Uganda, Circular Economy Programs Manager.

Uganda’s communities and people find themselves in the clutches of top-polluting corporations. Incidentally, plastic pollution is an injustice to the environment, wildlife, climate, human health and general social life, making it a growing global problem. Research shows that approximately 7 billion of the 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic produced between 1950-2017 became plastic waste, ending up in landfills or dumped. Plastic pollution can alter habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ ability to adapt to climate change, and directly affecting millions of people’s livelihoods, food value chains and social well-being. 

Brand Audits elevate people’s understanding of the structural causes of plastic pollution, gather hard data proving that corporations are responsible for producing excessive amounts of single-use plastic packaging and reveal the disproportionate harm these corporations are causing to vulnerable communities. In 2018 when the first brand audit was carried out, unique achievements, challenges and breakthroughs were realized, putting a spotlight on major plastic-polluting companies across global and local scales.

End Plastic Pollution conducted a brand audit on River Rwizi in Mbarara City in 2021/ This generated significant evidence of a flowing river with plastics where 56 brands and 32 companies were identified as visibly damaging the river with plastic waste. The top polluting brands were The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi, and BIDCO Africa, as well as Mbarara-based companies like Yausafi Ventures and Ice Love Company.

The 2022 brand audit carried out on the showers of lake victoria and Kireka landfill jointly conducted by Green Africa Youth Organization Uganda and End Plastic Pollution was the most significant year for brand audits. The global plastic pollution crisis marked the 5th Anniversary of the global brand audits. This brand revealed a remarkable consistency of results; year after year, the same Fast Moving Consumer Goods companies with the largest market share are generating the most plastics polluting the environment. A total of 32 companies were exposed, with The Coca-Cola Company, Pepsi and Unilever making the top three polluters. Six hundred fifty-six items were audited, 49% were food packaging, and 11% were personal care products. By material type, 49% of the items audited were PET, and 22% were HDPE. 

Through these brand audits, key findings contained the contribution of the brands and the key players in plastic pollution in  Kampala and Mbarara cities. A total of 1487 plastic items were collected and sorted. It was found that 137 brands produced by  39 parent companies were responsible for the plastic waste collected. By material type, 673 items were PET bottles, 424 items were HDPE bottles, and other items, including sachets and baby diapers, were 273.  The exercise also found 97 unbranded items, including plastic footwear and plastic cutlery. The Coca-Cola Company was the biggest plastic polluter with 312 items found,  followed by Pepsi with 124 items, BIDCO Africa with 115 items found,  Unilever in fourth place with 107 items and Mukwano Industries fifth with 99 items.

However, less than 10% of all the plastic ever produced globally has been recycled. According to the plastic coalition, 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels and their production is poised to quadruple by 2050. There exists, therefore, a dire need to control plastic pollution before the entire ecosystem is eaten up and rendered inhabitable. 

This audit proposed various recommendations to different stakeholders in Uganda: The corporations were recommended to freely reveal and share information about the true extent of their plastic footprint, reduce the amounts of plastics they produce and also redesign their packaging to involve reusable material. The government was recommended to hold accountable the corporate polluters, as voluntary commitments seemed to have failed; to ensure that no new plastics are produced. It was also tasked to invest in waste reduction measures and zero-waste systems that are in line with the national climate action plans. Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to life and the ecosystem. There is, therefore, a need for an immediate response, especially in holding accountable the perpetrators of plastic pollution. 


The shift towards an empowered youth population for Environmental Justice has already begun!

In the struggle for environmental justice in Africa, our team is shining a light on youth activists as well as other people who are working at the grassroots level and organizing on specific issues. People working across the  fields of zero waste, plastics, fighting against incineration and demanding climate action. Participate with us in their celebration and the celebration of every other young leader in the region who is working out positive change from family to national level. This campaign aims to amplify the voices of young activists and grassroots organizers who are driving change in Africa’s environmental movement. By showcasing their efforts and achievements, we hope to inspire more individuals to join the fight for a sustainable and just future. Together, let us recognize and support these dedicated individuals who are making a significant impact in their communities and beyond. 

The role of young people in the environmental revolutions in Africa is gaining more momentum due to the growing need for change and inclusivity in decision making for our future. As young people, it is important to include them so that they are part of the system they serve, adding to the creation of the solutions that Africa’s rally to a just transition requires. By involving young people in environmental revolutions, we can tap into their innovative ideas and fresh perspectives, ensuring that the solutions we develop are sustainable and effective. Additionally, empowering young individuals to take an active role in decision making not only benefits the environment but also fosters a sense of ownership and responsibility among the youth, driving long-term change. 

Meet Taylen Reddy!

My name is Taylen Reddy and I am the founder and coordinator of Zero Waste Durban in South Africa. I have over 2 years of experience campaigning against plastic pollution in my hometown through Zero Waste Durban. This has culminated in me being appointed a Youth Ambassador for the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) movement in 2022 as well as Zero Waste Durban becoming a core-member of both BFFP and GAIA Africa networks. I am also a member of the GAIA Africa Plastics Working Group, with a major focus on INC processes and how best to build capacity for member organizations to take action. This includes campaigns against waste colonialism and a shift of narrative to Global North accountability for much of the single use plastic waste that ends up in Africa. 

Since starting in this space, I have seen a rapid increase in young people getting involved in civil society, with an increased appetite to face the status quo and dismantle the systems that are failing us and the environment. A great achievement that stands out to me is the immense participation of people in the African region for the 2023 International Break Free From Plastic Summit, for which I was a coordinator for African representation. This truly is a testament to the drive and will power of the African youth! On this Youth Day, I urge all young Africans to join the fight in stopping waste colonialism by fighting back and ensuring that full accountability is shifted to the polluters.

Meet Oureya Raissa!

My name is Oureya Raissa, and I manage the programming for the non-governmental organization known as Jeunes Verts. Jeunes Verts is a non-governmental organization with the goals of preserving the natural world, minimizing the effects of climate change, and fostering an appreciation for physical activity. Our work consists of increasing awareness among young people and women of the necessity to be aware of their environment and to take care of it, to minimize the use of plastics, and to adopt sustainable ways of consumption and production. Specifically, we focus on creating awareness of the need to be aware of their environment and to take care of it. We provide them with support in the form of capacity-building and tangible projects so that they can move in this desired direction and take action. To this day, thousands of young people have already been made aware of the problem, have been provided with the information, and have made the commitment to begin engaging in environmentally conscious enterprise and to modify their behavior. 

As part of the celebrations for International Youth Day, I would like to extend an invitation to all of the young people around the world, and the young people of Togo in particular, to get involved with civil society organizations that are fighting to protect the environment, against single-use bags, and to make personal commitments to preserve this planet for the generations that will come after us. Together, let’s act our age, show some environmental consciousness, and refuse to use plastic bags.

Meet Chaima!

Zero Waste Tunisia is an organization that campaigns for the promotion of sustainable practices and the creation of communities that produce zero waste by educating, engaging, and empowering the various players who make up the ecosystem. ZWT has spent the past three years concentrating its efforts on increasing public awareness on food waste management and food security by means of digital campaigns, a zero waste guide, videos, and media programs. The goal of these initiatives is to implicate many stakeholders and involve them in the process of creating change.

To this day, we have been successful in engaging youth and children in the process of reducing the amount of waste they produce in their day-to-day lives. My most memorable experience would be during my awareness sessions and training to many participants express how easy it is to transition to the zero waste lifestyle and to practice the 4 R strategy with giving themselves the tips and the solutions; therefore, it is about making choices: beginning new habits that produce zero waste OR continuing to produce more waste. 

My call to action is for all of us to regard climate change as an individual threat, and the actions should be everyday from where we are, at home, in the schools, in the markets, and in the industry….it is easy to make waste, but trust me when I say that it is easier to minimize the waste.


By Aminat Ibrahim, SRADeV Nigeria

Following a series of online meetings towards hazardous chemicals and pesticide export ban, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) hosted a face-face Advocacy and Capacity-building Campaign meeting with NGOs from the global south in Brussels, Belgium between the 12th – 14th July, 2023. 

Stakeholders and partners at the event consisted of EEB consultants, the EU Parliament and NGO representatives such as SRADeV Nigeria, Community Action Against Plastic Waste (CAPws), Center for Public Health and Environmental Development (CEPHED), Journalists for Human Rights (JHRMK), PAN Europe, Nanny Africa; across countries including Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Benin, Senegal, Sierra-Leone, Kenya, South Africa, North Macedonia, Nepal, India and Vietnam. 

The first two days of the hybrid event were an avenue for partners to share experiences on activities carried out in their organizations, building communication capacities, providing support on database information and also review and analyze a joint campaign to ban the export of hazardous chemicals in the form of pesticides to the global south.

As part of the agenda for the event, there was a visit to the European Parliament on the 14th of July to lend a voice to introduce a mechanism prohibiting the production and/or exportation of hazardous pesticides already banned in the EU- to protect non-EU countries from their negative effects on humans and the environment. 

Dr. Leslie Adogame, the Executive Director of Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADeV Nigeria), attended the meeting as a Global South representative. In his speech at the Parliament House, he called for the need to work on the three pillars of the framework for sustainable development (people, environment and profit). The GAIA Africa member representative also reminded the relevance of discontinuing to place profit over the health of people and the environment and that what is not good for the global north can never be good for the global south. 

Dr. Leslie finished by making an appeal, as quoted below:

“I hereby make this appeal on behalf of all Nigerians towards not just the ban of export of these chemicals from EU-member states to the global south but also to stop the production of these chemicals and pesticides in entirety. AS INJUSTICE TO ONE IS INJUSTICE TO MILLIONS.”

As part of the next steps to back up the Parliament visit, a regulation to “Stop Toxic Exports” was also proposed to support the reduction of waste dumping in global south countries.


By Alaaedeen Tawfik, Greenish

Greenish, an organization that promotes sustainability in Egypt, has developed environmentally friendly manuals in the form of open-source information pools to assist local populations in gaining knowledge regarding the effects of climate change and sustainability.

The purpose of Greenish manuals is to offer environmental content on a variety of subjects. These manuals are primarily aimed towards college and school students who have limited access to environmental resources written in Arabic, notably in Egypt. However, the manuals are available to anybody who might find them helpful. The purpose of Greenish is to provide people who are interested in finding out more about the environment with the chance to access material in the language that is most comfortable to them. 

Although there is an abundance of English-language resources on environmental and scientific topics, the organization’s primary objective is to improve environmental consciousness by publishing the very first manuals written in both Arabic and English. Every effort is made to continually update and improve the information in order to make it user-friendly for everyone who accesses it. 

The manuals currently cover seven different topics, which are Ecological Principles, Biodiversity, Clean Energy, Facilitators Guide, Waste Management, Public Health, and Water, Food, and Agriculture, respectively. In addition, Greenish is presently engaged in the production of three new manuals, the release of which will be announced within the following few months. You will find links to each of these guides on the Greenish Manuals page of the Greenish website, which can be accessed at: https://green-ish.org/en/greenish-manual.