A QUIET SOUND: MODERN JOURNEYS INSPIRED BY KEN SARO WIWA’S LEGACY

Weyinmi Okotie in the Niger Delta, Nigeria.

By Careen Joel Mwakitalu

It is often a devastating loss when an active voice of change is silenced. To the communities, it means a weakened drive to change. To their respective families, it means a total reshaping of the dependants’ lives. However, to a generation, it marks a remembrance of the possibility that change is achievable and your single voice matters!

This 10th November 2022, we remember a critical voice silenced 27 years ago at Port-Harcourt. Today, on the celebration of his life, renowned Nigerian environment and political activist Ken Saro Wiwa’s story is still a torch of light for environmental justice. As a martyr of his people, ‘the Ogoni’ of the Niger Delta, Ken Saro Wiwa fought against the oppressive regime of General Sani Obacha to protect his land that was exposed to petroleum waste dumping because it is an area picked out for crude oil extraction since the 1950s.

One of the critical highlights of Ken Saro Wiwa’s work was the non-violence strategy and what it achieved. He employed a non-violent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland, putting to play the media as an integral partner for change. The above may speak volumes to climate and environmental activists today with the diverse world of technology tools at their disposal and the unlimited capacity to communicate empowered by innovation. If he did, we could!

The current times, however, can draw more than one lesson from Ken Saro Wiwa as an activist. With modern-day activism growing more complex due to the intersectionality of issues, it is only fitting to highlight the unwavering commitment to ‘Saro Wiwa’s’ strategy of using his voice to advise the government and influence policy change. 

Foregrounding a very timely example is the extensive negative impact on the environment and livelihoods of people the Royal Dutch Company ‘SHELL’ has succeeded in destroying. Since its operation started in 1937, Shell has existed at the expense of communities and lands in the Niger delta through onshore, shallow and deep water oil exploration and production.

Relevant to modern-day activism, present activists can not only rally campaigns on virtual and physical platforms but also climb the political ladder and influence change through systems in place. The reason for the prior narrative being social, economic and political systems are very much interlinked, and decision-making for the benefit of the ordinary person can be jeopardized.

Resilience and sacrifice echo the loudest in the inspiring story of Ken Saro Wiwa. Today does not only translate to a remembrance of the fallen general Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni nine but also many other vital voices of change from Africa that were silenced in lieu of justice and social development of the African people. This piece is a note of celebration carting other voices of fallen African environmentalists like Fikile Ntshangase of South Africa with the list going on.

Interview with Jane Bremmer by Dan Abril

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

Jane Bremmer is one of Asia Pacific’s prominent and outspoken environmental advocates. However, with two Arts degrees and a Sound Design major, her involvement in environmental activism was something she didn’t quite expect or envision. She shares, “We had just moved into an old house with our 4-month-old baby and we were planning on a ceramics business when we discovered we were living next door to Western Australia’s worst contaminated site – a massive 38000 m3 pit of waste oil.” 

Heavily involved in social activism back in university, Jane was not the type to hold herself back; and so, together with others in the community, they formed a group and managed to get the site cleaned up and relocate those residents most affected by the contamination.

Known then as The Bellevue Action Group, it soon joined with other communities facing environmental justice threats and morphed into the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE) 

25 years later, the alliance has seen ordinary folks become heroes: from holding industrial polluters to account to getting involved in campaigns against waste-to-energy (WTE) incinerators, and climate change.  As ACE’s pioneer, Jane Bremmer sat with us to discuss the joys and challenges that come with coordinating and leading such an alliance.  

What are ACE’s main ongoing campaigns? 

ACE continues to support environmental justice communities facing pollution threats. In addition, we have two large WTE incinerator proposals here in Western Australia (WA) and so to counteract their waste disposal narrative, we are focused on supporting Zero Waste Campaigns here. 

Aside from that, we are also working on the impacts of pesticide use in both agricultural and urban environments.  A lot of people are interested because they are tired of seeing children’s playgrounds drenched in pesticides.  

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

Our campaign on contaminated sites resulted in the state government introducing the first-ever Contaminated Sites Act. This was a great achievement and outcome for our campaign, ensuring no community in the future would face the same situation.

ACE was also able to prevent a fifth brickworks from being built in an already heavily industrial-impacted neighbourhood where air quality had long been compromised. We consider that every time that our government listens to us, and acts to protect our health and environment,  it is a win for us!

In 2005, ACE was also bestowed with a Sunday Times Pride of Australia Award for the Most Outstanding Environment Work Award. 

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

What challenges are you facing?  How is your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

ACE is a very independent voice and one of the significant challenges of an environmental justice campaigner is that you are often criticizing corporations and the government – and that is not a great way to make friends or get funding. In WA, mining corporations fund everything, even the academe is very industry-captured here and as such, it is very difficult for us to get the financial support we need. 

Another concern is that the world is changing very rapidly and people have less time now and people are feeling jaded and cynical. Compared to 20 years ago, people were more willing to take action and get involved in their local communities to defend their health and environment. Today, people are less interested and often accept government and industry platitudes without question. 

Our working model is to focus on providing resources that frontline communities need to raise awareness and engage their own communities and connect with experts and other contributors. 

COVID posed another problem, people became reluctant to meet – Australia has been so lucky dealing with the pandemic but I understand that the pandemic caused so much stress to so many other people, especially in the Asia Pacific (AP) region. 

What are the main environmental issues that your country/region is facing?

There are many issues but climate change is right at the top. The fossil fuel industry, the petrochemical industry, and the pesticide industry are a deadly trio that wreaks havoc on climate, economics, trade, and people’s health. 

How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next years? 

ACE is currently considering its future right now. Our membership often fluctuates according to the campaign – so whether we will still be ACE in 10 years or evolved into another organization, I don’t know. People retire and move on.  My hope is that I will see me and my colleagues in our old age sitting in the back while all these awesome, young, energetic campaigners will take up the reins and lead ACE forward. Whatever happens in the future, ACE will still be around in some shape or form. This oasis will always be here. 

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now?

Every single state in Australia is facing an incinerator threat. Two big ones have already been approved in WA, while New South Wales (NSW), Victoria, and Queensland are now facing numerous incinerator threats. South Australia (SA) meanwhile, has been quietly burning waste all this time and has massive expansion plans for refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The ‘waste disposal sector’ dominates in Australia driving a narrative of false solutions like waste incineration while failing to invest in sustainable Zero Waste policies and redefining a Circular Economy to enshrine waste burning. The waste disposal industry does not talk about Zero Waste and as such, government finances are funneled into waste incinerator projects and not source segregation. 

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

I have a bit of hope here though. Industry heads have acknowledged that they do not have a social licence to operate in Australia. When they say that, I know that we are being effective. 

While Australia’s world-first waste export ban was a step in the right direction, it is simply enabling further waste dumping in the AP region through a simple redefinition of waste as a fuel commodity that can continue to be exported. This will exacerbate the global waste crisis and push incineration projects into the AP region. This will be a disaster for our climate, health, and environment. The vulnerable equatorial region on our planet is no place for dangerous highly polluting waste incinerators. The AP region knows how to implement Zero Waste policy and have long been leaders in this area. They just need respect and support to scale up. Imagine a world without waste incinerators or coal industries!

To look at the other positives: Australia has seen some major waste policy improvements such as single-use plastic (SUP) bans, container deposit schemes, extended producer responsibility (EPR) schemes, and now has a national food and garden organics (FOGO) programme diverting this waste from landfills to composting. 

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We work with a number of other organizations – from local groups such as the Conservation Council of WA to international networks as the Basel Action Network (BAN), International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), and of course the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

Most environmental justice threats disproportionately impact Indigenous peoples (IPs) and other minority groups and Australia is no exception.  It is well-documented that communities hosting industries in their neighborhoods are often negatively impacted by those industries. ACE’s fight against air pollution is a battle for human rights. Everyone has a right to clean air, water, and soil. 

Who do you admire most in environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

There are so many great women in Australia and around the world who work for environmental justice, whether it’s petrochemicals, pesticides or plastic. They deserve much more recognition. Noting the work of  Dr Mariann Lloyd- Smith who founded the National Toxics Network (NTN), Lois Marie Gibbs, who lifted the lid on dioxin and its impact on communities in the US, Theo Colburn and her incredible work on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, and  Rachel Carlson who wrote “Silent Spring”. I have come to cherish and rely on them all. 

There are lots of incredible women who are doing amazing things in environmental justice spaces and a lot of women are simply standing up for their kids and communities – and they inspire me to keep going. 

Photo courtesy of the Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE)

The Alliance for a Clean Environment (ACE) is in need of funding to continue its work on exposing the threat of waste incinerators and its campaign against the use of pesticides in urban areas. Reach out to ACE via their website or their Facebook group to learn more. 

Interview with Daru Rini, Prigi Arisandi, and Tonis Afianto by Sonia Astudillo

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

Have you ever met a group of people who talk about the problems of the world, show you solutions, and suddenly you feel like there is hope for this world? That is what it felt like talking to Daru Rini, Prigi Arisandi, and Tonis Afrianto, Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation’s Executive Director, Senior Researcher and Founder, and Communication Officer, respectively.  

Once tagged as rebels by their university professors, Daru and Prigi who both studied Biology, found their calling when they set-up ECOTON as a research club in the university in 1996 and then as a non-government organization in 2000. Tonis joined the team in 2018 to bring in his communication expertise.     

“I worry about daily pollution that is happening right in front of our eyes. Fish are dying in the river, people are cutting mangroves, there was rampant building of houses in conservation areas, there was high pollution of heavy metals in coastal areas, and the water is changing colors” said Prigi. “It was difficult to understand why we are polluting the water on one side of the river and then drinking from the other side. Why is it happening? Those were the questions I had as a young researcher and I knew we needed to do something about it: research, compile data, present it to the governor via demonstrations, and get people in the city involved.”   

For Daru, it was about protecting biodiversity and the realization that the source of the problem is from the lands.  

“Back in the university, we were the naughty students,” added Prigi. “We felt useless because we had a lot of equipment but we did nothing. We were angry with the lectures because it seemed useless. Our professors became our enemy.”  Twenty years later though, Prigi was invited by the university and was given an Alumni Award for their outstanding work in ECOTON.

ECOTON, based in Gresik, East Java in Indonesia continues to promote environmental justice for present and future generations, especially in sustainable wetland resource management. The group uses the Himantopus bird as a logo to signal that just like the bird they will keep warning people if there is imminent danger. “We see our work as a warning system because we believe that we must provide good information to the community based on scientific research,” says Daru.

GAIA sat down with Daru, Prigi, and Tonis to know more about their work, their frustrations, and their achievements through the years.

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

What are ECOTON’s top priorities?

We believe: if you don’t know it, you don’t love it. We provide easy information. We transform difficult data into easy-to-understand information. Our job is to make scientific information easy to understand.  (Watch documentaries by ECOTON.)

Our dream is a people’s movement.  We want to see people conserving rivers by themselves.  We want data to translate into active participation.  

On top of that, we give early warning about environmental conditions like threats, pollution, and extinction. We share those information to stakeholders like the community, government, and media via social media and documentaries. We prioritize local community groups organizing so they can have the awareness, knowledge, and skill to participate. For the government, we push for policies that support environmental conservation while constantly reminding them through our scientific reports. Without reports and monitoring, the government will not act. 

What are ECOTON’s main ongoing campaigns? 

Our main campaign is for river protection to become a national priority of the government. Currently, there are policies on forest impact of mining but we don’t see river management programs.  

We use the information on microplastics as a tool for people to care more about rivers. Currently, all of our rivers are polluted by microplastics and it comes from the waste that we throw. It impacts our health because this same river supplies 86% of our drinking water. We want people to realize that everything we dump will eventually end up in our bodies. 

Research from ECOTON, from the UK, and Netherlands shows that microplastics are already in our bodies. We did a study that feces is contaminated with microplastics and we show how it comes from the waste thrown in the river. (Read the full report in Bahasa.

We are also suing the governor in East Java because they are not prioritizing waste management in the river despite Policy 22-2021 stating that all rivers must be without waste. 

At ECOTON, we write stories, we visit rivers, we make documentaries, and we talk to the media because we want the information that we have to become common knowledge. 

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

For one, we are still alive after 22 years. ECOTON has now become more publicly known by the people and the government. It makes it easier for us to make educational programs and reach the public. We have more networks now, so it is easier to find support. Joining a global network also helped us develop our campaigns and gave us access to more funding, knowledge, and even volunteers. 

After we did the Stop Waste Export campaign, we got support from other NGOs in Europe and Australia and a response from developed countries that they will reduce waste trade. (Watch Take Back – a documentary on smuggling waste in Indonesia)

We have developed partnerships in communities in more than 68 rivers in Indonesia.

When we first released the dioxin report, the government said the report is not valid and said they will make their own report to counter ours. To this day, they have not released their report. But, it raised people’s awareness about plastics and its dangers. 

The relationship with the government is still not good but some officers are already warm and welcoming. Some cities welcome us but that is not the case in the provinces, especially after the dioxin report.

What challenges are you facing?  How is your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

Many people don’t think that the environment is an important issue to take care of. Indonesia is still a developing country. People still have low economic status. The priority for most is to earn money for living. That makes it difficult to educate them and stop them from dumping trash in the river. 

We need law enforcement. However, environmental management is not a priority for the government. There is very low funding and lack of personnel to enforce the law and respond to public complaints.

We also need more information or evidence of pollution. We do not have local evidence and no proper laboratory to conduct more tests and studies. Even if we want to know about dioxin pollution in Indonesia, we are unable to do so because of a lack of facilities. We need scientific data to make people understand.  People don’t have knowledge and information.  Evidence must be local. 

The university cannot speak even if they have the data. They are afraid to speak. Environmental activists are harassed and even criminalized. Even journalists are targeted especially when it comes to military members. That is why we need scientific evidence. 

What are the main environmental issues that your country/region is facing?

Harassment of environmental journalists, lack of scientific evidence, and extinction of freshwater fish, are just a few.

The latter can be blamed on microplastics because of its effect on the reproductive hormone. We have research showing that male and female fish don’t have the same time of maturation so they cannot reproduce.  Microplastics can also feminize fish.  Plastic polymers can influence the fertility of both fish and humans. The composition of male and female in a non-polluted river is 50-50 but it is 20-80 in polluted rivers. Given all these, it is safe to say that plastics can cause extinction in both fish and humans. (Watch Plastik Pulau/Plastic Island.)

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next years? 

We have new programs such as the Besuk Sungai or visit the sick. Our river is sick so we must visit them.  People must visit the river and when you visit, you must do something.  

We provide tools so people can monitor and measure the microplastic in the river.  We collect water samples and use a microscope to see the presence of microplastic. We want to encourage people to learn by doing, to see and smell the river, and to grow empathy towards the river.

We will have our national elections in 2024 and we want to push the candidates to speak about plastics pollution. We also want to push our findings on microplastics to go viral. We want to give full information on the state of 68 rivers in Indonesia and we want people to feel that they are cool if they know about river pollution.

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now?

The Plastics crisis is everywhere. There are problems with mismanaged waste and leakage but developed countries don’t have the capacity to recycle and then developed countries continue to send us their waste.

The solution: we need to have a global agreement – the Global Plastics Treaty. It is good progress because we are starting to deal with plastics, not as a waste issue, but as a material that should be addressed from production so we can achieve circularity and once and for all, solve the problem.

Our grandmothers used to use refills and we need to go back to that so we can reduce production and consumption.  

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

Community participation and global citizenship are important. We are one. We have the same responsibilities and the same rights. In developing countries, the right to speak and the freedom to get information is very limited. We want to fight that. As an NGO, we must produce information and strategize on how to get those information to the people.

We have produced 20 documentaries.  We try to transfer this knowledge to our modern culture, make it popular, and easy to receive. We must replicate a strategy to produce more information and get it outside our circles. We must change as an NGO, engage grassroots communities, and build movements not programs.

Currently we have good relations with the communities where we work not just in Surabaya but also in river communities from 17 cities all over East Java.

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

Through the sustainable use of wetland resources and ecotourism and fishery, we encourage the government to establish protected areas in Surabaya. We proposed a conservation area to the mayor because once it is properly managed, it becomes a source of income for the local community.

We also promote social justice in our biodiversity programs because local people need to develop their economy by using their biodiversity resources sustainably. We discourage the use of destructive fishing equipment and teach the community how to harvest in a sustainable way, both in rivers and forests. 

We also use citizen science as a tool to monitor forest destruction. In every city and river we visit, we establish a community of mostly youth. We have tools to monitor water quality. We identify herbal plants and we promote fishers sanctuary.  We believe that we can live in harmony with the river. In some rivers, we show connections between upstream and downstream – water flow from upstream to downstream so money will flow. If people upstream are cruel, then that will affect those downstream and vice versa. We build connections so they can harmonize.

Who do you admire most in the environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

Silent Spring writer Rachel Carlson because she used scientific reasons. Her evidence made people move and we were inspired. Another is Che Guevara because he went around Latin America in a motorbike to know the condition of the people and then engaged them. 

Photo courtesy of ECOTON

ECOTON is currently raising funds for Besuk Sungai. Visit the Ekspedisi Sungai Suntara Fund Raising Page to know more.

This post is written by plastics campaigners at Greenpeace UK and guest authors from UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), and originally published on greenpeace.org.uk

Earlier in July, the long-awaited results of The Big Plastic Count – the UK’s largest ever investigation into household plastic waste – were revealed. The citizen science project sought to discover how much plastic we throw away, where it actually goes once it leaves our homes, and how much of it gets recycled.

Turns out it’s not a lot. Sadly, just 12% of the 100 billion pieces of plastic leaving our homes every year is actually recycled in the UK. What happens to the rest of it? Well, most ends up in an incinerator.

Incineration is bad for the climate

Plastic is almost entirely made from oil and gas. So burning it is essentially burning fossil fuels. In fact, for every tonne of dense plastic burned more than two tonnes of CO2 is released into the atmosphere.

Now, let’s consider the fact that UK households throw away nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic packaging a year, and nearly half of that is ending up burned. Incinerating this plastic releases around 750,000 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere each year. That’s the same as adding 350,000 cars to our roads here in the UK.

To make matters worse, global plastic production is set to triple by 2060. This means that, without a big change, the amount of plastic incinerated will also increase.

Those profiting from incineration often call the energy from burning waste “green”. This greenwash would be laughable if it wasn’t so utterly frustrating. The reality is, electricity from plastic incineration is even dirtier than coal.

We’re in a climate crisis. We urgently need to stop extracting fossil fuels. We need to transition to renewable energy, such as wind and solar. We do not need to worsen climate change by burning plastic under the guise of being “green”.

It’s bad for air quality and our health

Burning plastic waste also releases a range of toxic gases, heavy metals, and particles into the air. These can be bad for our health.

Dioxins are just one of the many harmful emissions from incinerators. They are highly toxic and can cause cancer and damage to the immune system. Dioxins are also known to interfere with hormones. This can trigger problems in our brain, reproductive and nervous systems.

Even state-of-the-art incinerators can give off potentially dangerous amounts of dioxins. Because, while incinerators are fitted with technology to capture such toxins, some get through the filters.

Research has found chicken eggs within 2 kilometres of a modern incinerator were unsuitable for consumption due to contamination. A 2021 study found high levels of dioxins near incinerators.

Far better solutions exist to tackle the plastic crisis. Corporations and governments should not sacrifice the health of local communities with poor plastic waste management.

It’s costing us money

For decades, incinerators have been releasing harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the burning of plastic without compensating society for the climate harm it’s causing.

Last year alone, the incineration of plastic in the UK was responsible for nearly £2 billion of unpaid climate harm. And this staggering figure doesn’t even include the associated health costs.

It’s racist and classist

Incineration is also a prime example of environmental injustice. Incinerators are three times more likely to be built in the UK’s most deprived neighbourhood and more than 40% of existing incinerators are in areas with higher diversity than their local average.

An infamous example of this is the Edmonton ‘EcoPark’ – an incinerator located in one of the most deprived areas in England, where 65% of residents are people of colour. In the words of Enfield Black Lives Matter campaigner, Delia Mattis:

“We need to be calling this what it is; racism. These industries know that when they place an incinerator in an area like Edmonton, one of the most deprived constituencies in the country, people won’t get involved in campaigns against it because they are already tired from fighting against racial oppression and injustice all their lives”.

The recent decision to expand the Edmonton incinerator, despite strong objections from local communities, is in stark contrast to the decision made by Cambridgeshire County Council, where “the incinerator was rejected because it wasn’t in keeping with the listed and historic buildings in the area. In Cambridgeshire buildings are important, in Edmonton, lives are not.”

It competes with recycling and we’re already over-capacity

Incinerators can’t be easily switched off and on, so they need constant feeding to keep running. This means incinerators compete for plastic and other waste with recycling and composting facilities. Incinerators are expensive to build, and as incineration companies want a return on their investment, these facilities tend to be run for decades.

This often means waste companies secure long-term contracts with local councils who promise to pay for capacity whether they use it or not. Councils often then go on to tell local residents that they can’t afford to invest in waste education or recycling because, even if it resulted in less waste being burned, they would still need to pay for the incinerator.

It should therefore come as no surprise that regions with the highest rates of incineration also tend to have the lowest recycling rates. Incinerators in the UK are relying on burning recyclable material to keep going. We already have far too much incineration capacity and we certainly do not want any more.

And no, simply increasing recycling capacity isn’t the answer either. Plastic reduction is the key.

So what can be done?

Incineration is not a viable option for solving the plastic crisis, and is making the climate crisis even worse. So what needs to be done? And what can you do to help?

One obvious action that needs to be taken is the phasing out of incineration, and some parts of the UK are already leading the way.  In June this year, Scotland introduced a ban on new incinerators – meaning no further planning permissions will be granted for new Scottish waste incineration capacity. This follows Wales introducing a ban in 2021. Both countries acknowledge that new incinerators act as a barrier to achieving zero waste, net zero and a circular economy.

The rest of the UK must now follow in their footsteps.

The UK must also focus on reducing single use packaging, and transitioning towards reusable options – alternatives that cost less both financially and environmentally. Reducing the amount of plastic produced in the first place, means less plastic being burned, less carbon in the atmosphere and less toxins in our air. Greenpeace is demanding that the government halves single use plastic by 2025.

For the sake of our health and our planet, burning plastic needs to end.

Help UKWIN reach over 125.000 signatures calling for an incineration moratorium

SIGN THE PETITION to the UK Government calling for them to “Fix the UK’s plastic waste crisis: reduce single use plastic by 50% by 2025, ban all waste exports, ban new incinerators being built, and roll out a deposit return scheme.”

“Incinerators in the UK are relying on burning recyclable material to keep going. We already have far too much incineration capacity and we certainly do not want any more.”

UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN)

Ocean Conservancy commits to working with GAIA Network to address damages done to impacted communities

September 14, 2022 – Today the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) in the Asia Pacific and its member organizations have concluded the first step of a restorative justice process with the U.S.-based organization Ocean Conservancy (OC). The process aims to address the years of damage brought about by its “Stemming the Tide” report (now removed from OC’s website) by correcting the narrative and agreeing to restorative actions requested by communities and sectors most impacted by the report. 

In contrast to the 2015 report which placed the responsibility for plastic waste solely on the shoulders of five Asian countries (China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam) while ignoring the role of the Global North in plastic overproduction and waste exports, this process is leading to new common ground. Agreements include prioritizing plastic reduction policies, moving resources to Zero Waste solutions, denouncing false solutions like burning plastics in so-called “waste to energy” (WTE) incinerators and “chemical recycling,” and accountability mechanisms.

”This unprecedented report retraction is an opportunity to interrupt decades of waste colonialism,” shares Froilan Grate, GAIA Asia Pacific Coordinator. “Ocean Conservancy is in a position to raise awareness among other organizations and policymakers about the false narrative propagated by the report. We call on all organizations to adhere to democratic organizing principles when interacting with communities in the Global South, and to respect solutions that are grounded in the real situation of the communities.” Grate encourages advocates to reinforce the restorative justice process.

First coined in 1989, waste colonialism is the process by which rich and developed countries show dominance over other lesser-developed countries through toxic waste exports, leaving the receiving (and often, ill-equipped) countries to deal with the waste, thus severely affecting their communities and environment. 

Christie Keith, GAIA International Coordinator, expounds,  “The five Asian countries mentioned in the report are not to be blamed for plastic waste. That fault lies with the corporations that make and push out ever-increasing quantities of plastic – and those fighting for Zero Waste community solutions deserve to be honored and celebrated, not attacked. We welcome OC’s commitment to repair the harm done, and uplift Zero Waste solutions. ”

Aditi Varshneya, GAIA US Membership Coordinator, adds, “‘Stemming the Tide’ also harmed communities in more ways than one. The report’s findings have undermined long-standing community efforts to achieve sustainable policies on health, waste management, and funding.”

Rahyang Nusantara of Aliansi Zero Waste Indonesia emphasizes that “The report (‘Stemming the Tide’) has harmed our communities but we are not victims because we have the solutions.” David Sutasurya of Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB) adds,  “We have Zero Waste solutions to counter waste.”  Sutasurya shares that in the first year of YPBB’s Zero Waste pilot areas in Bandung, the districts successfully diverted 950 kg of waste away from landfills daily and managed to save about IDR 63 million (USD 4,300) in waste transportation costs. 

According to Satyarupa Shekhar, #breakfreefromplastic movement Asia Pacific Coordinator, “OC’s report, which was drafted by McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm whose clientele includes some of the world’s top plastic polluters, diluted existing restrictions on incineration and opened the doors to false solutions and controversial techno-fixes to deal with the plastic pollution crisis. Some of the glaring examples are: in the Philippines, where a national ban on incineration is threatened by new proposals to allow WTE incineration plants, and in Indonesia, where the government continues to push for waste incineration despite the fact that the Supreme Court ruling revoked Presidential regulation No. 18/2016, which speed up the development of waste-based power plants or incinerators.“

Aside from retracting the report, OC acknowledged its mistake in focusing on plastic waste management and reconsidered its position on WTE incineration and other similar technologies to deal with the burgeoning plastic waste crisis. OC has also admitted its error in failing to look at the work of local communities and the subsequent effects of the report on them. 

Welcoming OC’s change of position, Aileen Lucero of Ecowaste Coalition in the Philippines and Daru Rini of ECOTON in Indonesia illustrated that the current plastic crisis is not a waste management issue, but instead, the problem should be addressed by looking at the entire lifecycle of plastic. Rini states that “the problem begins the moment fossil fuels are extracted to produce single-use plastics (SUP).”  

Fighting False Solutions to Plastic Pollution

In recent years, several false solutions have been offered to counteract the plastic crisis,  from burning waste to “chemical recycling,” which in no way addresses the full lifecycle of plastic. 

For Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, “Each country should be responsible for the waste it generates and not export them under the guise of ‘trade’. Burning waste is not an option as well. WTE could as well mean “waste of energy.”

Looking at the current end life of SUPs, Xuan Quach, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance chairman, highlights that, “WTE and chemical recycling are not sustainable.” To which, Nindhita Proboretno of Nexus 3 Foundation in Indonesia adds,  “Those technologies are not environment-friendly solutions and have no place in a world struggling against climate change.”  

Xavier Sun,  organizer of the Taiwan Zero Waste Alliance, agrees, stating that such strategies only  “cause further toxic pollution (such as bottom ash, fly ash, and greenhouse gases (GHGs) that damages our climate and human health. Additionally, they encourage further plastic production, and undermine real solutions.”

Moving toward Zero Waste

Meanwhile, Merci Ferrer of War on Waste-Break Free From Plastic (WOW-BFFP) – Negros Oriental in the Philippines, adds that “This  process with OC would bring justice and recognition to the work of communities engaged in Zero Waste work.”

Summarizing the sentiments of all key leaders, Nalini Shekar of Hasiru Dala in India, adds, “The report has influenced decision makers to divert valuable resources meant for decentralized Zero Waste solutions to centralized, highly-mechanical unsustainable practices and caused other harm to communities. However, the report retraction is a step towards healing and reversing the damages done –  showing once again that Zero Waste is the only sustainable solution.”

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About GAIA – GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 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. 

Media Contacts:

Sonia Astudillo, GAIA Asia Pacific Senior Communications Officer  | sonia@no-burn.org | +63 9175969286

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Bahasa Indonesia:

Kemajuan Bersejarah dalam Perang Melawan Kolonialisme Sampah

Ocean Conservancy berkomitmen untuk bekerja sama dengan GAIA Network untuk mengatasi kerugian yang terjadi pada masyarakat yang terdampak

14 September 2022 – Kemarin, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pasifik dan anggotanya telah menyelesaikan langkah pertama dari proses keadilan restoratif dengan Ocean Conservancy (OC) organisasi yang berbasis di AS. Proses ini bertujuan untuk mengatasi kerugian yang sudah bertahun-tahun  yang ditimbulkan oleh laporan “Stemming the Tide” (saat ini sudah dihapus dari situs web OC) dengan mengoreksi narasi, dan menyepakati tindakan restoratif yang diminta oleh masyarakat dan sektor yang paling terkena dampak atas laporan tersebut.

Berbeda dengan tahun 2015, dimana lima negara Asia (China, Indonesia, Filipina, Thailand, dan Vietnam) dinobatkan sebagai negara yang bertanggung jawab atas sampah plastik namun mengabaikan peran negara-negara Global Utara dalam produksi plastik dan ekspor sampah yang berlebihan, saat ini proses keadilan restoratif mengarah ke kesepakatan baru. Kesepakatan termasuk memprioritaskan keb akan pengurangan plastik, mentransfer sumber daya ke solusi Zero Waste, menolak solusi palsu seperti pembakaran plastik yang disebut insinerator “Waste to Energy”, daur ulang bahan kimia’, dan mekanisme akuntabilitas.

Pencabutan laporan yang belum pernah terjadi sebelumnya ini untuk menginterupsi puluhan tahun kolonialisme sampah,” kata Froilan Grate, Koordinator GAIA Asia Pasifik. “Ocean Conservancy berada dalam posisi untuk meningkatkan kesadaran di antara organisasi dan pembuat keb akan lain tentang narasi palsu yang disebarkan oleh laporan tersebut. Kami meminta kepada semua organisasi untuk mematuhi prinsip-prinsip pengorganisasian yang demokratis ketika berinteraksi dengan masyarakat di negara-negara Global South, dan untuk menghormati solusi yang didasarkan pada situasi nyata masyarakat lokal,” tambah Grate mendorong para advokat untuk memperkuat proses keadilan restoratif.

Pertama kali diciptakan pada tahun 1989, kolonialisme sampah adalah proses di mana negara-negara kaya dan maju menunjukkan dominasi atas negara-negara kurang berkembang lainnya melalui ekspor limbah beracun, membiarkan negara-negara penerima

(dan seringkali, tidak dilengkapi teknologi yang baik) untuk menangani limbah, dengan demikian mempengaruhi dalam memperparah dampak yang dialami masyarakat dan lingkungan mereka.

Christie Keith, Koordinator Internasional GAIA, menjelaskan, “Lima negara Asia yang disebutkan dalam laporan tidak dapat disalahkan atas sampah plastik. Kesalahan itu terletak pada perusahaan yang membuat dan mendorong jumlah plastik yang terus meningkat – dan mereka yang berjuang untuk solusi Zero Waste Community layak untuk dihargai dan dirayakan, bukan diserang. Kami menyambut baik komitmen OC untuk memperbaiki kerusakan yang terjadi, dan meningkatkan solusi Zero Waste, ” ujarnya.

Aditi Varshneya, GAIA AS Koordinator Keanggotaan, menambahkan, “‘Stemming the Tide juga merugikan masyarakat dengan lebih dari satu cara. Temuan laporan tersebut telah merusak upaya masyarakat lokal untuk mencapai keb akan berkelanjutan tentang kesehatan, pengelolaan limbah, dan pendanaan,” tambahnya.

Rahyang Nusantara dari Aliansi Zero Waste Indonesia juga menekankan bahwa, “Laporan (‘Stemming the Tide’) telah merugikan komunitas kami tetapi kami bukan korban karena kami memiliki solusinya.” Begitu juga dengan David Sutasurya dari Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB), dia menambahkan, “Kami memiliki solusi Zero Waste untuk mengatasi sampah.” David menjelaskan bahwa pada tahun pertama daerah percontohan Zero Waste YPBB di Kota Bandung dan kabupaten-kabupaten tersebut berhasil mengalihkan 950 kg sampah dari tempat pembuangan sampah setiap hari dan berhasil menghemat sekitar Rp 63 juta (USD 4.300) untuk biaya transportasi sampah.

Sementara itu, menurut Satyarupa Shekhar, Koordinator gerakan #breakfreefromplastic Asia Pasifik, “Laporan OC, yang disusun oleh McKinsey & Company, sebuah perusahaan konsultan manajemen global yang kliennya mencakup beberapa pencemar plastik terbesar di dunia, melemahkan pembatasan penggunaan teknologi insinerator yang ada dan membuka pintu untuk solusi palsu dan perbaikan teknologi kontroversial untuk menangani krisis polusi plastik,” jelasnya. Satyarupa memaparkan beberapa contoh mencolok adalah: di Filipina, di mana larangan nasional terhadap insinerator terancam oleh proposal baru yang mengizinkan pembangkit listrik tenaga sampah menjadi energi, dan di Indonesia, di mana pemerintah terus mendorong insinerasi sampah meskipun keputusan Mahkamah Agung telah mencabut Perpres No. 18/2016, yang mempercepat pembangunan pembangkit listrik berbasis sampah atau insinerator.

Selain mencabut laporan tersebut, OC mengakui kesalahannya yang hanya fokus pada manajemen pengelolaan sampah plastik dan mempertimbangkan waste-to-energy atau insinerasi dan teknologi serupa lainnya untuk menangani krisis sampah plastik yang sedang berkembang. OC juga mengakui kesalahannya karena tidak melihat apa yang sudah dikerjakan oleh masyarakat lokal dan bagaimana dampaknya terhadap mereka akibat laporan tersebut.

Menyambut perubahan posisi OC, Aileen Lucero dari Ecowaste Coalition di Filipina dan Daru Rini dari ECOTON di Indonesia mengilustrasikan bahwa krisis plastik saat ini bukanlah hanya masalah manajemen pengelolaan sampah saja, melainkan masalah yang harus diatasi dengan melihat seluruh siklus hidup plastik. “Masalah dimulai saat bahan bakar fosil diekstraksi untuk menghasilkan plastik sekali pakai (PSP),” pungkas Daru.

Memerangi Solusi Palsu terhadap Pencemaran Plastik

Dalam beberapa tahun terakhir, beberapa solusi palsu telah ditawarkan untuk melawan krisis plastik, mulai dari pembakaran sampah hingga ‘daur ulang bahan kimia’, yang sama sekali tidak membahas siklus hidup plastik secara penuh.

Bagi Sonia Mendoza, Ketua Mother Earth Foundation di Filipina, “Setiap negara harus bertanggung jawab atas limbah yang dihasilkannya dan tidak mengekspornya dengan kedok ‘perdagangan’. Membakar sampah juga bukan pilihan. Waste to Energy (WtE) juga bisa berarti: pemborosan energi.

Melihat umur akhir PSP saat ini, Xuan Quach, ketua Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance, menyoroti bahwa, “WtE dan daur ulang bahan kimia tidak berkelanjutan.” Untuk itu, Nindhita Proboretno dari Nexus 3 Foundation di Indonesia menambahkan, “Teknologi tersebut bukanlah teknologi yang ramah lingkungan dan tidak memiliki tempat di dunia manapun yang saat ini berjuang melawan perubahan iklim.

Senada dengan Nindhita, Xavier Sun, pengurus Taiwan Zero Waste Alliance, menyatakan bahwa “Strategi seperti itu hanya menyebabkan polusi beracun lebih lanjut (seperti bottom ash, fly ash, dan gas rumah kaca (GRK) yang merusak iklim dan kesehatan manusia. Selain itu, mereka mendorong produksi plastik lebih lanjut, dan merusak solusi nyata.”

Bergerak menuju Zero Waste

Sementara itu, Merci Ferrer dari War on Waste-Break Free From Plastic (WOW-BFFP) -Negros Oriental di Filipina, menambahkan bahwa “Proses dengan OC ini akan membawa keadilan dan pengakuan atas pekerjaan masyarakat yang terlibat dalam pekerjaan Zero Waste.

Merangkum sentimen dari semua key leaders, Nalini Shekar dari Hasiru Dala di India, menambahkan, “Laporan tersebut telah mempengaruhi para pengambil keputusan untuk mengalihkan sumber daya berharga yang dimaksudkan untuk solusi Zero Waste yang terdesentralisasi menjadi terpusat, praktik tidak berkelanjutan yang sangat mekanis dan menyebabkan kerugian lain bagi masyarakat. Namun, pencabutan laporan adalah langkah menuju penyembuhan dan membalikkan kerusakan yang dilakukan – menunjukkan sekali lagi bahwa Zero Waste adalah satu-satunya solusi yang berkelanjutan.

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Tentang GAIA – GAIA adalah aliansi di seluruh dunia yang terdiri dari lebih dari 800 kelompok, organisasi non-pemerintah, dan individu di lebih dari 90 negara. Dengan pekerjaan kami, kami bertujuan untuk mengkatalisasi perubahan global menuju keadilan lingkungan dengan memperkuat gerakan sosial akar rumput yang memajukan solusi untuk limbah dan polusi. Kami membayangkan dunia tanpa limbah yang adil yang dibangun dengan menghormati batas ekologis dan hak-hak masyarakat, di mana orang bebas dari beban polusi beracun, dan sumber daya dilestarikan secara berkelanjutan, tidak dibakar atau dibuang.

Kontak Media:

Sonia Astudillo, Senior Staf Komunikasi GAIA Asia Pasifik | sonia@no-burn.org | +63 9175969286

Vancher, staf komunikasi AZWI | vancher@aliansizerowaste.id | +62 812-8854-9493

Kia, staf komunikasi AZWI | kia@aliansizerowaste.id | +62 852-1580-9537

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Vietnamese

Bước nhảy vọt lịch sử trong cuộc chiến chống chủ nghĩa thực dân chất thải

Ngày 14 tháng 9 năm 2022 – Hôm nay, Liên minh Toàn cầu về Giải pháp Thay thế Lò đốt (GAIA) ở Châu Á Thái Bình Dương và các tổ chức thành viên của nó đã kết thúc bước đầu tiên của quy trình phục hồi công lý với tổ chức Ocean Conservancy (OC) có trụ sở tại Hoa Kỳ. Quy trình này nhằm mục đích giải quyết những thiệt hại trong nhiều năm do báo cáo “Stemming the Tide” gây ra (hiện đã bị xóa khỏi trang web của OC) bằng cách sửa lại câu chuyện và đồng ý thực hiện các hành động phục hồi theo yêu cầu của cộng đồng và các lĩnh vực bị ảnh hưởng nhiều nhất bởi báo cáo.

Trái ngược với báo cáo năm 2015 đặt trách nhiệm về rác thải nhựa lên vai 5 quốc gia châu Á (Trung Quốc, Indonesia, Philippines, Thái Lan và Việt Nam) trong khi bỏ qua vai trò của các nước phát triển trong việc sản xuất thừa nhựa và xuất khẩu chất thải, quá trình này đang dẫn đến điểm chung mới. Các thỏa thuận bao gồm ưu tiên các chính sách giảm thiểu nhựa, chuyển nguồn lực sang các giải pháp Không Chất thải, lên án các giải pháp sai lầm như đốt nhựa trong cái gọi là lò đốt “biến chất thải thành năng lượng” (WTE) và “tái chế hóa chất” và cơ chế trách nhiệm.

Froilan Grate, Điều phối viên GAIA Châu Á Thái Bình Dương chia sẻ: “Việc rút lại báo cáo chưa từng có tiền lệ này là một cơ hội để ngăn chặn chủ nghĩa thực dân chất thải nhiều thập kỷ qua”. “Ocean Conservancy có nhiệm vụ nâng cao nhận thức của các tổ chức và nhà hoạch định chính sách khác về câu chuyện sai sự thật được tuyên truyền bởi báo cáo. Chúng tôi kêu gọi tất cả các tổ chức tuân thủ các nguyên tắc tổ chức dân chủ khi tương tác với các cộng đồng ở các nước đang phát triển và tôn trọng các giải pháp dựa trên tình hình thực tế của cộng đồng”. Grate khuyến khích những người ủng hộ củng cố quy trình phục hồi công lý.

Được hình thành lần đầu tiên vào năm 1989, chủ nghĩa thực dân chất thải là quá trình các nước giàu và phát triển thể hiện sự thống trị so với các nước kém phát triển khác thông qua việc xuất khẩu chất thải độc hại, khiến các nước tiếp nhận (và thường là thiếu cơ sở hạ tầng) phải đối phó với chất thải, do đó ảnh hưởng nghiêm trọng tới cộng đồng và môi trường của họ.

Christie Keith, Điều phối viên Quốc tế của GAIA, giải thích, “Năm quốc gia châu Á được đề cập trong báo cáo không nên bị đổ lỗi cho rác thải nhựa. Lỗi đó nằm ở các tập đoàn đã sản xuất và đưa lượng nhựa ra môi trường ngày càng tăng – và những người đấu tranh cho các giải pháp không rác cộng đồng (Zero Waste Community) xứng đáng được tôn vinh và trân trọng, chứ không phải bị tấn công. Chúng tôi hoan nghênh cam kết của OC trong việc khắc phục những tác hại đã gây ra và đề cao các giải pháp Không Chất thải.”

Aditi Varshneya, Điều phối viên Thành viên GAIA Hoa Kỳ, cho biết thêm, “Stemming the Tide” cũng gây hại cho cộng đồng theo nhiều cách. Các phát hiện của báo cáo đã làm suy yếu những nỗ lực lâu dài của cộng đồng nhằm đạt được các chính sách bền vững về y tế, quản lý chất thải và tài trợ”.

Rahyang Nusantara của Aliansi Zero Waste Indonesia nhấn mạnh rằng, “Báo cáo (‘ Stemming the Tide ’) đã gây hại cho cộng đồng của chúng tôi nhưng chúng tôi không phải là nạn nhân vì chúng tôi có các giải pháp.” David Sutasurya của Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB) cho biết thêm, “Chúng tôi có các giải pháp Không Chất thải để chống lại chất thải”. Sutasurya chia sẻ rằng trong năm đầu tiên của các khu vực thí điểm ở Bandung, các quận đã chuyển thành công 950 kg rác khỏi các bãi chôn lấp mỗi ngày và tiết kiệm được khoảng 63 triệu IDR (4.300 USD) chi phí vận chuyển rác.

Theo Satyarupa Shekhar, Điều phối viên Châu Á Thái Bình Dương của phong trào #breakfreefromplastic, “Báo cáo của OC, được soạn thảo bởi McKinsey & Company, một công ty tư vấn quản lý toàn cầu có khách hàng bao gồm một số nhà gây ô nhiễm nhựa hàng đầu thế giới, đã làm loãng các hạn chế hiện có về đốt rác và mở ra cánh cửa cho các giải pháp sai lầm và các bản sửa lỗi công nghệ gây tranh cãi để đối phó với cuộc khủng hoảng ô nhiễm nhựa. Một số ví dụ rõ ràng là: ở Philippines, nơi mà lệnh cấm đốt rác trên toàn quốc bị đe dọa bởi các đề xuất mới cho phép các nhà máy đốt rác phát điện và ở Indonesia, nơi chính phủ tiếp tục thúc đẩy đốt rác bất chấp phán quyết của Tòa án Tối cao đã thu hồi Quy định của Tổng thống số 18/2016, trong đó đẩy nhanh sự phát triển của các nhà máy điện hoặc lò đốt rác thải.”

Bên cạnh việc rút lại báo cáo, OC thừa nhận sai lầm của mình trong việc tập trung vào quản lý chất thải nhựa và xem xét lại quan điểm của mình về đốt rác phát điện và các công nghệ tương tự khác để đối phó với cuộc khủng hoảng chất thải nhựa đang gia tăng. OC cũng đã thừa nhận lỗi của mình khi không xem xét công việc của các cộng đồng địa phương và những ảnh hưởng sau đó của báo cáo đối với họ.

Hoan nghênh sự thay đổi quan điểm của OC, Aileen Lucero của Liên minh Ecowaste ở Philippines và Daru Rini của ECOTON ở Indonesia đã minh họa rằng cuộc khủng hoảng nhựa hiện nay không phải là vấn đề quản lý chất thải, mà thay vào đó, vấn đề cần được giải quyết bằng cách xem xét toàn bộ vòng đời của nhựa. Rini nói rằng, “vấn đề bắt đầu từ thời điểm nhiên liệu hóa thạch được chiết xuất để sản xuất nhựa sử dụng một lần (SUP).”

Chống lại các giải pháp sai lầm đối với ô nhiễm nhựa

Trong những năm gần đây, một số giải pháp sai lầm đã được đưa ra để chống lại cuộc khủng hoảng nhựa, từ đốt chất thải đến “tái chế hóa học”, chúng không giải quyết được toàn bộ vòng đời của nhựa.

Đối với Sonia Mendoza, Chủ tịch Quỹ Đất Mẹ tại Philippines, “Mỗi quốc gia phải chịu trách nhiệm về chất thải mà mình tạo ra và không xuất khẩu chúng dưới chiêu bài‘ thương mại ’. Đốt chất thải cũng không phải là một lựa chọn. Biến chất thải thành năng lượng (đốt rác phát điện) cũng có thể có nghĩa là: lãng phí năng lượng.”

Nhìn vào vòng đời của nhựa dùng một lần, Xuân Quách, Điều phối viên Liên minh Không rác Việt Nam, nhấn mạnh rằng “Đốt rác phát điện và tái chế hóa chất không bền vững”. Nindhita Proboretno thuộc Tổ chức Nexus 3 ở Indonesia cho biết thêm, “Những công nghệ đó không phải là giải pháp thân thiện với môi trường và không có chỗ đứng trong một thế giới đang đấu tranh chống lại biến đổi khí hậu”.

Xavier Sun, người sáng lập Liên minh Không chất thải Đài Loan, đồng ý, nói rằng các chiến lược như vậy chỉ “gây ra ô nhiễm độc hại hơn nữa (chẳng hạn như tro bụi, tro bay và khí nhà kính (GHG) gây hại cho khí hậu và sức khỏe con người của chúng ta. Ngoài ra, chúng khuyến khích tiếp tục sản xuất nhựa, và phá hoại các giải pháp thực sự.”

Hướng tới Không Chất Thải

Trong khi đó, Merci Ferrer chiến binh của Chống Rác thải (WOW-BFFP) – Negros Oriental ở Philippines, nói thêm rằng “Quá trình này với OC sẽ mang lại công lý và sự công nhận cho công việc của các cộng đồng tham gia vào công việc Không Chất thải”.

Tóm tắt ý kiến của tất cả các nhà lãnh đạo chủ chốt, Nalini Shekar của Hasiru Dala ở Ấn Độ cho biết thêm, “Báo cáo Stemming the Tide của OC đã ảnh hưởng đến các nhà hoạch định chính sách để chuyển hướng các nguồn lực có giá trị dành cho các giải pháp Zero Waste phi tập trung sang các hoạt động không bền vững tập trung, mang tính cơ học cao và gây ra những tổn hại khác cho cộng đồng. Tuy nhiên, việc rút lại báo cáo là một bước hướng tới việc chữa lành và khắc phục những thiệt hại đã gây ra – một lần nữa cho thấy rằng Zero Waste là giải pháp bền vững duy nhất”.

——

GAIA là một liên minh trên toàn thế giới gồm hơn 800 nhóm cơ sở, tổ chức phi chính phủ và cá nhân tại hơn 90 quốc gia. Với công việc của mình, chúng tôi đặt mục tiêu thúc đẩy sự thay đổi toàn cầu hướng tới công bằng môi trường bằng cách tăng cường các phong trào xã hội cấp cơ sở nhằm thúc đẩy các giải pháp chống lãng phí và ô nhiễm. Chúng tôi hình dung một thế giới công bằng, không rác thải được xây dựng dựa trên sự tôn trọng các giới hạn sinh thái và quyền của cộng đồng, nơi mọi người không phải chịu gánh nặng ô nhiễm độc hại và các nguồn tài nguyên được bảo tồn bền vững, không bị đốt cháy hoặc đổ bỏ.

Interview with Kabir Arora and Haris Najib by Dan Abril 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

Founded in  2008, the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers (AIW) was established by four organizations working on the issues of waste pickers:  Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP), Chintan, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and Stree Mukti Sanghatana (SMS). These organizations allied to ensure that the collective voice of waste pickers is represented at the national public agenda. 

As an organization representing waste pickers, AIW has been actively involved in advocating  the cause of waste pickers by conducting training for member organizations, development of policy analysis and recommendations, generation of research studies, and organizing of the waste-pickers in India 

We had a chance to talk with the alliance’s National Coordinator, Kabir Arora and his associate, Assistant Coordinator, Haris Najib on the challenges and joys of handling such a noble organization. 

What are the priorities of the Alliance?

Currently, we are working on a  database. Many of our members have been keeping rudimentary data of organized waste-pickers. Still, we need a more detailed database to provide us with an overview of the membership and the condition of waste pickers in India.  As such, the database shall also serve as a resource for our present and future advocacy work. 

We also keep a tab on programmes and policies when it comes to many aspects such as plastic waste management. The Indian policy landscape is very dynamic and we have to keep negotiating with authorities so models created out of years of struggle of waste pickers won’t be disregarded simply because there is a change in guard.  

The Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) has also come into focus since many organizations worked to have the role of waste pickers recognised in the discussions. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

What are the main ongoing campaigns of AIW? 

As we are an alliance engaged in organizing of informal workers, our key work is to ensure that waste pickers have access to social protection measures such as medical care and state insurance programs and benefits like scholarships for their children, and skill-building courses.

In addition, our focus has been on the involvement of waste-pickers in Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) and the integration of waste-pickers in the Solid and Plastic Waste Management Systems.  

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

One of our major achievements was in 2016 with the inclusion of waste pickers and informal waste collectors in the Solid and Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016. This was borne out of the years of advocacy work that started with the Alliance’s inception in 2008. Since that win, we have been engaged in high-level campaigns and have pushed for the participation of waste pickers in discussions on issues that impact the sector. 

Municipalities now understand that waste pickers need to be involved in the process. Before the alliance was set up, people’s approach to waste and waste pickers and understanding of the informal recycling sector was very generic. Now they see the intricacies of waste picking and are able to deal with it in strategic ways through different programs in the community.  It gives us a bigger space to work as a coalition. We are happy that we have reached this status.

What challenges are you facing?  How is your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

As an alliance of waste pickers, we face a number of challenges. First, as a network composed of more than 25 members, it takes us time to reach a consensus on issues. Consensus requires multiple consultations, and as a network, we do not shy away from that process. Members face many challenges including municipal authorities changing their policies and we have to keep negotiating with the authorities to keep policies favourable to waste pickers. 

Second, not all waste pickers get the benefits outlined in various laws and policies. Given the extensive size of the sector and our limited resources, we can only reach a limited few.  

The outbreak of COVID-19 brought more challenges. Waste pickers were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Aside from the loss of income under lockdown rules, several waste pickers faced domestic violence and it was quite sad that we could not provide support for everyone who needed the assistance. On the other hand, some cities – like Bangalore, and Delhi gave waste pickers passes so they can continue collecting waste door-to-door.

Overall, the COVID-19 tragedy brought by the pandemic held us together. The network became strong and the number of people holding the network together increased. Our present goal of creating a database is a result of the pandemic.

What are the main environmental issues that your country/region is facing?

Incineration is not a big challenge at this point since the union government refuses to fund waste incineration projects. Currently, the state governments are asked to look for the funds by themselves if they want to construct one in their area. 

However, we face other issues such as climate change and plastic pollution. Both are horrible and they are interconnected. Waste pickers’ settlements are littered with no-value discards since there are no collection facilities set up by the municipality. Technically, the government should be the one collecting materials that have no value but unfortunately, they don’t do this function. Waste pickers are left with no other option but to burn them as keeping the discards costs waste pickers’ money. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next years? 

We will continue to advocate for the inclusion of waste pickers and focus on organizing and strengthening the network. Overall, we have a positive outlook as the law is on our side – but even though we have the law on our side – we have to be on guard as the privatization of waste management would displace waste pickers and we have to ensure that waste pickers are not removed and would continue to have a place in the waste management system. 

The ongoing national and international discussions on the production, management, and recycling of plastic -have placed a new set of questions regarding just transition for waste pickers, finding the answers to those questions would be a new quest. 

Another area of work would be exploring structures and systems for waste pickers to handle the ever-increasing frequency of extreme weather events. 

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now?

The crisis of waste is also the crisis in how our local governments function.  For waste pickers, waste is a livelihood and it is an opportunity to feed their family. There is a great book, “Rubbish Belongs to the Poor” by Patrick O’ Hare, the book argues that waste should be seen as a common  for vulnerable populations to support itself and this is something we should look into as governments move to the privatization of waste management, leaves waste-pickers out of work

We also look at waste from a very technical point – this includes incineration to dispose of waste. These technical solutions lack human participation. It does not look at the concern of labour, the concern of workers, and the concern of communities surrounded by waste. There is a justice concern there.  Without the emphasis on of labour and workers’ rights and entitlements, you cannot come up with solutions to deal with such complex problems. 

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We are a member of the India Plastics Pact and we are leading the discussion on the inclusion of the informal sector in the process of recovering and recycling plastic.  We collaborate regularly with other organizations working on informal workers’ rights such as the Working People Charter and Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO).

We also have exchange programmes with waste-pickers organizations in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. If resources permit, we get in touch with waste pickers’ organizations in other countries and we ask them to visit us and check how the work is done or vice versa – And finally, we collaborate with environmental organizations such as the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF- India), GAIA, and GAIA members in India. 

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

The quest for dignity for waste pickers. We organize waste pickers to articulate their aspirations and hopes for the future and work together for their realization.  We as a network have a policy that nothing about waste-pickers or waste management, without waste-pickers, and ensure that waste-pickers represent and speak for themselves.  This has been very clear to us since day one.

Internally we invest a lot on training and workers’ education as it is a central reference point to ensure that all our waste pickers are represented and listened to. 

[Photo courtesy of the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers]

Who do you admire most in environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

Three organizations are pioneers and serve as an inspiration for AIW. First is SMS. We applaud their skill in stirring the conversation towards the involvement of waste pickers in waste management and actually putting it into practice. Then there is Hasiru Dala. Their immense creativity when it comes to waste management and looking at the reuse economy as an alternative source of livelihood for waste pickers is remarkable. Also, there is Chintan in Delhi for their regular reporting in regards to air pollution and their opposition towards waste incineration. 

We would also like to cite a group of sisters from Shillong who organized themselves and is currently managing organic waste and a composting plant –  and they were the ones who approached us! They are an inspiration as they organized themselves. 

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For updates, check out the Alliance of Indian Waste-pickers at https://aiw.globalrec.org/. If interested in supporting the creation of their database and their continuing education and training for waste pickers, you may reach them at: aiw@globalrec.org.

Photo Credits: CFEW, Nigeria (2022)

By Zamawela Shamase

Center For Earth Works (CFEW), a research-driven youth-led non-governmental organisation that is passionate about securing the Earth, held a two-day training for young volunteers on the 9th and 10th of June, 2022, at the Center for Earth Work office in Jos, Plateau State Nigeria.

The training was created to involve youth in addressing the adverse effects of climate change, as they will be impacted in the future. It also aimed to train youth to drive change in their communities and share basic knowledge of volunteerism. Furthermore, in light of the increasing climate anxiety youth are facing, in conjunction with social isolation and burnout, CFEW identified that there was a need to delve into wellness topics in the training. 

“The goal is for advocates to learn tools to care for themselves and colleagues, reduce stress, improve relationships and leadership performance while promoting a sense of well-being and renewed strength,” said Benson Dotun Fasanya, team lead at CFEW.

The volunteer training was promoted on social media and targeted youths. The majority of the trainees consisted of undergraduate students from the local university. In total, nine youths were trained to become volunteers. In addition to this, there were three facilitators from supporting NGOs in Nigeria in attendance. 

The agenda for the training was centred around the following topics: the concept of volunteerism, community and resource mobilization, storytelling, monitoring and evaluation, SDGs for climate, reporting and documentation of project activities, volunteer self-care, support and avoiding burnout. 

These sessions were discussed comprehensively, and at the end of the training, the volunteers had a clear understanding of what volunteerism entails its advantages and disadvantages. As well as the importance of monitoring and evaluation in helping an organisation achieve the goals and objectives of a programme and measuring the success of programmes carried out. The session on storytelling and its use in communicating relevant information about particular issues was also greatly appreciated by the participants.

After the training, the trainees were incorporated into the CFEW volunteer network, where they will implement what they learned from the training through practical work experiences in the organisation and engagements with the community, both online and physically.

The volunteers have been assigned to various departments in the organisation, such as communications, programmes and research. They have also been engaged in various advocacy visits creation of programs and content for our various social media handles. 

The training was funded by the Wellness and Contemplative Practice Support from Global Alliance for incinerator alternatives (GAIA). For more updates on CFEW’s work, follow them on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

Ends. 

End Plastic Pollution, Uganda

By Zamawela Shamase & Merrisa Naidoo

“It’s all around us, in our homes, offices, social gatherings – you can’t help but notice the presence of plastic bags everywhere. The #BagIsStillHere in Africa, but it is not here to stay.” Weyinmi Okotie | GAIA Nigeria | Interview on Instagram | 25 July 2022.

Single-use plastic (SUP) bags represents one of the key contributing sources to plastic pollution that was initially intended for storage to make life easy and convenient for all, but has come at a heavy cost to to the environment and livelihoods of people through unsightly litter, threats to wildlife and livestock and risks posed to public health. This is a stark reality even for Africa – a leader in plastic bag policies – that has made incredible strides in the fight against plastic by championing strong enforcement and bans to stop the production and importation of single-use plastic.

With this in mind, this Plastic Free July month, GAIA Africa, along with the support of our members, launched the #BagIsStillHere campaign. This campaign sought to not only pay homage to and foster appreciation for existing plastic bag laws & policies in Africa but also to highlight the challenges and threats that hinder and undermine Africa’s progress on plastic policies and bans; and drew attention to members’ ongoing efforts and campaigns on single-use plastics.

Each week, the campaign highlighted the plastic bag laws and policies of a specific subregion in Africa.

Overview of Existing Plastic Bag Laws and Policies, Challenges and Future Recommendations in Africa:

East Africa has set the gold standard for single-use plastic bag laws and policies on the continent and globally, with 17 of the 18 East African countries passing a law banning plastic bags and have implemented it or intend on implementation, making East Africa environmental leaders at the forefront of plastic bag legislation. However, a lack of regional cooperation and regional instruments to support the efforts to stop illicit trade of plastic across all borders as well as limited availability of affordable alternatives to plastic bags and plastic packaging and the desire for convenience undermines the plastic bag legislation in East Africa. Ways around this would be for East Africa to develop and harmonise regional laws and enhance regional cooperation, source more sustainable packaging alternatives and innovative ways to redesign that are subsidised and increase awareness by educating the public on the implications of continued use of single-use plastic bags on human health and the environment at large.

In Southern Africa, interventions on plastic bag reduction policies vary in stages of implementation with limited evidence of their enforcement or effectiveness. These policies are challenged by the influential power of the plastics industry; top-down policy development approaches that pay little to no heed to consulting civil society and all stakeholders, coupled by a lack of national awareness-raising campaigns and internal political disagreements that are associated with plastic bag related policies. There is a need to, therefore, establish effective multi-faceted engagement strategies with all stakeholders alike, from civil society to plastic manufacturers, at the onset of policy development. This will lead to policies that are more in tune with the reality of each country. Additionally, developing sustainable national campaigns that lobby buy-in from multiple stakeholders and lead to long-term change and strengthening the bodies responsible for enforcing and implementing the bans against any undue political pressures should be a priority.

Many countries in West Africa have welcomed legislative SUP bans, especially for plastic bags, which marks their commitment to dealing with SUP pollution. The main drivers of plastic bag bans in West Africa have been for environmental protection, sanitation, livestock protection and farmer’s livelihoods and maintaining the tourism industry’s standards. However, these bans have been characterised by poor enforcement regimes, which has resulted in a reduced desired impact across the West African sub-region.

In West Africa, there is a strong dependence on single-use plastic bags to serve food to clients by food vendors and hawkers and a lack of plans and provisions for reusable alternatives. Bans are also characterised by very short lag times between announcement and implementation, often in the same year the ban was announced. This gives businesses and consumers very little time to adjust their behaviour and can open up to black market use and distribution of plastic bags and other SUPs. The plastic manufacturing sector also fears potential job losses, leading to bans in certain West African countries being revoked.

Governments should, therefore, identify, incentivise and make provisions for alternative delivery systems at prices that are affordable to the populace. This will mainstream the transition from SUPs to reusable alternatives and refillable systems. Ample time should be given to policies on plastic bags and other SUPs to allow the players in the plastic value chain and the public to adjust appropriately. This will prevent opposition to bans that could jeopardise its success. Subsidies, revolving funds and loans should be provided that assist firms to transit from SUPs to reusable alternatives. This will prevent job loss and opposition to policies that reduce SUPs and ensure a just transition.

North Africa was unfortunately home to the second highest per capita consumer of plastic bags in 2015, which has motivated the sub-region to crack down on plastic and attain greener policies. In North Africa, retailers are afraid of losing clientele if they stop distributing plastic bags, which causes plastic bags to reappear in markets and in small shops despite bans progressively. False alternatives (such as non-woven bags that are made of 100 percent plastic, using a polypropylene fabric, which are often masked as “fabric bags” which have become as disposable as previous bags) are promoted which strongly limits the potential of reducing plastic pollution. Monitoring systems are also inconsistent.

It is recommended that efforts are concentrated to check and dis-incentivise the informal sector producing and distributing plastic bags to the marketplace. False alternatives should also be debunked, and the use of effective and creative alternatives should be promoted instead of continuing to subsidise alternatives that are, for the most part, still made out of plastic. Lastly, stricter monitoring indicators by law enforcers should be set up, such as routine checks to educate users and illegal traders about the negative impacts of plastic bags, conduct more foot patrols, develop strong connections and continually improve social networks in communities where there are no bonds and share policies, information, investigative results, and other important information about legislation.

Member Activity during Plastic Free July:

Our members played their part during #PlasticFreeJuly. We have created videos with members during the month talking about plastic bags. East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa: Ghana, West Africa: Nigeria , North Africa.

Our East African members ran a petition to ban single-use plastic bags. We also promoted Break Free From Plastic’s virtual toxic tour with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA). Centre For Earth Works (CFEW) in Nigeria has also been running a campaign on #PlasticFreeJuly throughout the month. And End Plastic Pollution visited a school and created awareness through their #PlasticFreeCampus program.

Now that Plastic Free July has drawn to a close, there is still much work to do to realise the vision of a #SUPfree Africa!

“We should not lose momentum in our fight against plastic pollution and continue to be strong in our advocacy efforts whilst remembering that plastic pollution is a systemic problem that can only be solved with systemic solutions to ultimately bring about systemic change and that starts with reducing the amount of plastic that is produced and that enters the markets.” – Ana Rocha | Nipe Fagio | Live Chat on Instagram | 04 July 2022

Ends.

Youth Protest, Durban South Africa, 2021.

June 16 is an important day in South Africa’s history. In 1976, more than 20 000 students from the township of Soweto stood united in protest against the passed laws oppressing their education during the Apartheid regime. The directive from the Bantu Education Act stated that  Afrikaans had to be used on an equal basis with English as a language of instruction in secondary schools. This was in addition to the already segregated schools and universities, poor learning facilities, overcrowded classrooms, and poorly trained teachers.

Many young people lost their lives in this fight for fair education. The day is commemorated annually as a national holiday in South Africa. In the present day, the youth still plays a role in bringing about revolutions in the country. In 2016, South African students led a protest movement called #FeesMustFall. The protest aimed to stop the increase in university fees and urged the South African government to increase its funding of universities. Another recent example of the youth leading a movement, is the Global Climate Strike, known popularly as the Global Week for Future, where the youth demanded that world leaders address the threat of climate change.

I believe that the youth, if appropriately engaged, could bring about change in the environmental sector. Schools in South Africa are not adequately teaching about environmental issues. I am 22 and before joining the GAIA team, I did not know about the social justice implications of the environmental challenges we are facing. 

My perception of waste pollution was that the public littered too much and our city was underfunded to implement proper waste management solutions. I never considered that the solution to the plastic problem is to stop producing so much plastic in the first place. 

It was also the first time I heard the word “Incinerator”, and I have been learning about the effects of incinerators on the communities they are built in. In addition to this, I have learned that zero waste is more than the lifestyle approach I have seen on Instagram. The idea is that before we start encouraging reusing and recycling waste, measures need to be taken to ensure that we do not have that waste in the first place. 

There are also tangible ways that we can make change, like through holding corporations accountable for their packaging with brand audits, and demanding legislation changes for waste dumped in Africa, under the guise of development. I have also seen waste pickers, the real heroes on the ground dealing with the waste crisis. They recover reusable and recyclable materials and re-entering them into the economy. And yet they are marginalized and under-supported in the country. 

South African youth need to get involved in the environmental justice movement. This is not only a topic reserved for the upper-class kids, who are ‘woke’ enough  to care. It’s something we should all be invested in. All schools, including mainstream public schools, who are often in communities most impacted by pollution, are an excellent space to facilitate discussion on these hard topics

I believe that we are a generation of youths that have proven to be revolutionary. Like the youth of 1976, I believe that if we were to show a united front, worldwide, a revolution could be started and we could unite in creating awareness that could ensure we all live on a planet that we are able to enjoy and live peacefully in for many more years to come.

ENDS.

Zamawela Shamase is a communications associate for the GAIA Africa team, based in Durban, she is also a journalism student at the Durban University of Technology.