#StopWasteColonialism | Africa Day 2022

Kenya Waste Pickers, in Nairobi, at  Dandora Dumpsite (2022)

The term decolonisation describes the process of indigenous people achieving sovereignty over their land, culture, political and economic systems. African countries have largely achieved political independence from colonial powers, and have attempted to dismantle political systems and symbols of oppression. Sadly, in the 21st century, we are facing a new wave of neo-colonialism from Multinational Corporations. 

Colonial settler objectives are rooted in principles of gaining control and exploiting indigenous territories. Likewise, corporations have taken over public space, destroyed consumer choice and displaced individuals from their traditional mechanisms of subsistence. 

In the waste sector, colonialism is evident in several ways. It can be described as the export of waste from economically powerful countries to lower-income countries, where there is a clear lack of infrastructure to manage problematic waste streams. This is further compounded by the double standards that corporates have by sending cheap, single-use products to African countries- under the guise of development while boasting effective sustainable waste management practices where they operate in the Global North. Petrochemical plants which are part of the plastic production process are often placed in poorer communities at the expense of their health and wellbeing. Waste colonialism is also evident when corporations propose false solutions like Waste-To-Energy incineration (WTE), which disregards and will displace waste pickers and their contribution to the local economy. Fundamentally, these practices of waste colonialism treat people as disposable and that is unacceptable.

In Ghana, a German company McDavid Green Solutions has proposed to construct a facility in the Ashanti region.3  Waste workers in Ghana have helped increase waste management services across the 261 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to 80%, across the country.4 A facility like this risks displacing waste workers who are integral to the country’s waste management system. Since there is a high level of organic waste in the African waste stream, in order to meet the quotas of waste needed to be burnt to make incinerators financially feasible, it would need recyclable materials to be burnt as well.

The way forward |

We need African governments to:

  • Uphold existing legislation like the Basel and Bamako conventions, which prohibit the illegal exportation of waste from economically powerful countries. 
  • Invest in the ongoing discussions around a global plastic treaty, and ensure this mandate reflects the local plastic pollution realities within the region and attempts are made to address the problems of plastic across its entire value chain with significant emphasis on slowing down production.
  • Avoid false solutions like WTE, and rather empower individuals with local solutions to waste management by adopting zero waste practices. 

Last year we commemorated  Africa Day on the 25 May 2021, by releasing a solidarity video on Waste Colonialism.  This year we continued creating awareness on the different impacts and forms of waste colonialism by holding an online meeting with our African member organisations, with presentations from expert speakers. In addition to the online meeting, we developed a sign-on letter on waste colonialism directed to African government, which was launched on 01 June 2022.  

To quote Griffins Ochieng, director of the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development in Kenya: “When waste is within your boundaries, it is your responsibility to deal with it, and assess how you manage this waste. You don’t export this to other countries to live with your problem.”

Ends 

La asamblea de Bierzo Aire Limpio ratifica sus denuncias: “No consentiremos un abuso de la Justicia con denuncias inventadas para intimidar a cientos de personas preocupadas por nuestra salud”. Es un caso claro de SLAPP: denuncia infundada y abusiva para silenciar las voces críticas ante sus delitos ecológicos.

Ponferrada, 10, V.- La multinacional Votorantim Cimentos —antes Cementos Cosmos— ha presentado una denuncia intimidatoria, claramente infundada (SLAPP), contra la ong Bierzo Aire Limpio, según denuncia en un comunicado la organización que desde hace más de quince años forma parte del movimiento ecologista berciano y lidera la lucha contra la incineración.

La denuncia —tramitada por el Juzgado de Instrucción nº 7 de Ponferrada— se refiere a hechos extemporáneos —abril 2017 y junio 2019— que ya han sido juzgados y archivados por la Audiencia Provincial de León, “por lo que Bierzo Aire Limpio considera que se trata de una denuncia falsa y abusiva con la única intención de amedrentarnos. La denuncia es un disparate, carece de sentido jurídico, pero sirve de amenaza y advertencia. Votorantim Cosmos nos quiere calladitos”.

“Ante esta agresión, Bierzo Aire Limpio pide la solidaridad del movimiento ecologista berciano y el apoyo activo del movimiento contra la incineración. Nuestra respuesta será contundente: estamos ante un intento de silenciar las voces críticas contra presuntos delitos ecológicos, pero Votorantim Cimentos debe saber que Bierzo Aire Limpio no se callará. Este es un caso claro de SLAPP, que hemos denunciado ante Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) y en el que pediremos el amparo de la Unión Europea”.

Bierzo Aire Limpio ha iniciado en migranodearena una campaña de crowdfunding para sufragar su defensa jurídica contra la denuncia falsa de Votorantim.

Finalmente, Bierzo Aire Limpio anuncia una amplia movilización: la asamblea de socios y socias —reunida en Ponferrada la semana pasada— acordó ratificar todas las denuncias presentadas por BAL contra Cementos Cosmos: funcionamos democráticamente; todas nuestras decisiones se someten a la asamblea; si Votorantim insiste, tendrá que denunciarnos a todos; no consentiremos un uso espúreo de la Justicia con denuncias inventadas para intimidar a cientos de personas preocupadas por nuestra salud.

“La amenaza para El Bierzo —concluyen los ecologistas— es Votorantim Cimentos, que pretende quemar ruedas y neumáticos contaminantes y cancerígenos; y la sociedad berciana debe saberlo. No traen riqueza, sino desgracia”.

Más información:

EARTH Thailand: Banking on citizen science towards environmental activism and protection

Interview with Penchom Saetang by Sonia G. Astudillo and Dan Abril

Filing an EIA lawsuit. Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

For Penchom Saetang, Executive Director of EARTH Thailand, it all started in the 1991 chemical explosion in the port of Klong Toey in Bangkok that ripped chemical warehouses and shanties in the area.  With over 23 kinds of chemicals stored in the warehouses and a newly established military government, “the Thai officers could not handle the explosion, nor identify the kind and volume of chemicals present.”

Together with like-minded friends, Penchom organized a public seminar to explore the situation and demand the government to release information about the explosion and provide assistance to the victims.  By the end of 1991, a Toxic Chemical Committee was formed to assist victims, discuss industrialization issues, assess existing industrial policies, and provide support for banning hazardous chemicals. 

From the committee, this Liberal Arts and Journalism graduate, set up the Campaign for Alternative Industrial Network (CAIN) in 1998 and eleven years later in 2009, CAIN gave way to Ecological Alert and Recovery or simply, EARTH Thailand which was registered as a foundation. 

From 3 to 4 staff, EARTH now has 10 regular employees and while it has the same objectives and mission as CAIN’s, the work has greatly expanded with more activities like environmental monitoring in communities, tools to analyze chemicals in the environment, and more experts in the field who can provide assistance including legal assistance to the community.

GAIA sat down with Penchom to talk about EARTH’s project, plans, challenges, and successes. 

What are EARTH Thailand’s top priorities?

We promote social and environmental justice to communities affected by bad waste management, illegal dumping, and communities that are being affected by hazardous waste recycling. We also work with communities affected by the waste trade of plastic scraps and other scraps. In 2008, the Thailand and the Japanese government were entering into a contract on economic partnership or the form of free trade agreement.  We learned that the draft bipartite contract would allow waste trade and that once we enter into the partnership, Japan can send in their waste to Thailand.  We could not stop the partnership because a number of Asian countries already signed it.  That was the first time we had a campaign against the waste trade. Since then, we wanted to know the impacts related to waste imports.  We found that Thailand imported huge volumes of plastic waste from other countries and there was an increase in this importation in 2018 when China signed the Sword Policy banning the import of plastic and other materials.

Ban Plastic.  Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

What are EARTH Thailand’s main and ongoing campaigns? 

We work on the waste importation issue.  This includes plastic, electronics, metal scraps, and other hazardous waste.  We are also opposing the recycling of electronics and hazardous waste and also pushing for the Basel ban amendment ratification.

There are several waste-to-energy project proposals in the country and we are opposing that too.  

We have several citizen science projects on environment, health, and reducing industrial pollution.  What we do is we provide support to communities to have environmental monitoring and sampling and support them by producing reports that they can use to push the government to solve environmental issues in the area.

We also work with partners on other issues such as mercury and sustainable development.  

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

What we do is strengthen the community and give them a better solution / stronger negotiation to their problem. Our role in supporting the communities has stimulated/encouraged the actions of the environmental and health agencies.

Some concrete achievements like in 2002, we succeeded in the campaign in calling for additional health damage compensation provided to the chemical explosion victim of 1991 from the government.

We are also a part of the social movement to support the Minamata Convention and Basel Convention. We supported the government to ratify the Minamata Convention and the Thai government now had accession to the Minamata Convention. This year the government is considering ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment. And now we are campaigning to end the plastic scrap importation to Thailand and we hope it will succeed.

Using the citizen science approach, we have set up environmental monitoring activities in different communities. This can empower the communities in their fight with industrial pollution and toxic waste problems in a number of communities.

We do research to support lawsuits of communities against the hazardous waste recycling case and in 2020 one community in Ratchaburi Province which had fought for almost 20 years against the recycling company won a class-action lawsuit against the recycling company

There are three levels to our work:

  • Community which includes training, consultancy, data gathering, and simplifying information for their use in environmental movement
  • Connecting with international network such as IPEN, GAIA, and CSOs in Thailand
  • Policy Advocacy and law improvement which involves advocating for environmental law.
Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

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

There are many.  There are external factors such as in the earlier period of our activities, we found that we cannot coordinate with agencies such as environmental agencies that should be working on industrial pollution. There was no collaboration there.  Recently, it is getting better but still challenging because the biggest environmental policies are being dominated by industrial investors or big businesses.  It is difficult to overcome them, particularly in the legal & policy areas.

With regards to waste management, plastic waste is very challenging, especially at the policy level.  Local political parties and authorities didn’t want to enforce measures to encourage the general public to reduce plastic waste. Plastic reduction is still on a voluntary base.  We still have a lot to do to solve the plastic issue.

With environmental justice, our problem is the mentality and attitude of the government and judicial authority. The process takes a long time.  We need a platform for dialogue to change attitudes and mindsets on environmental justice.  We need to think about how we can enter into their way of thinking.  Corruption is also a big challenge.

Internally, EARTH has a big problem with staff turnover.  Most of the staff stay short term and often move to other fields such as the government or private sectors or pursue higher education.  Every time it happens, I have to start again and train new staff on how to analyze data, do advocacy work…  It is hard for us to continue working efficiently and to conduct effective campaigns. In fighting the hazardous waste and pollution issue, we still need more knowledge and technical things to strengthen our action and campaign.

The budget is also difficult because we have to raise funds.  Projects last for four years at most and we have to comply with all the requirements of the funding agencies and it is difficult to handle everything.

With the pandemic, we cannot move and do environmental monitoring, particularly in impacted areas. Project implementation could not happen and there are an increasing number of online meetings and conferences. 

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

There are big issues such as environmental contamination/deterioration by industrial pollution, the state of marginalized people and their land rights and then there are dam constructions and climate change related to deforestation.  Lots of things but now the big challenge we have in Thailand is about special economic development.  It is a  big and tough challenge for CSOs and many communities.  Thailand just declared 3 provinces under the Eastern Economic Corridor (ECC) when they will receive a special period in investment and we know those industrial investments do not always go well with environmental protection.  The government also announced more than 20 special economic zones across the country and those have all become pollution hotspots.

KhonKaen hotspot. Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

Farmers and agriculturists are affected, then the marginalized groups who are discriminated against under different laws but even more so with the special economic zone, and then labour groups discriminated against on their daily wage and no risk protection to chemical exposure, and then migrant workers who are the worst of.

Tha Thum Hotspot.  Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

These economic zones bring in big investors and corporations and all types of investments from multinational corporations.  We observe from 2018 that there have been an increasing number of waste recycling being promoted and constructed in the EEC area.  We launched a campaign against dirty recycling this 2021 and call for more regulations and measures to control toxic emissions.   Beyond air pollution, other problems from waste recycling are wastewater, land contamination, and illegal dumping.  Waste recycling is now one of the big problems of EARTH Thailand aside from WTE projects and waste dumping.

Lawsuit against dirty recycling.  Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

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

We try to promote the citizen scientist team to have better technical knowledge with some scientific tools which can help them provide environmental monitoring and analyzing contamination in areas, provide good reports, and teach negotiating power to communities to policy and decision-makers.

We hope to develop local communities to campaign against dirty recyclers.  We can build the citizen scientist team to provide training support and provide consultancy to affected communities.  In parallel, we have to move on and advocate for other policy changes such as the modification of the environmental laws.

We will also campaign for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and continue working on it along with the circular economy.

Photo courtesy of EARTH Thailand

Citizen science is very important because when we talk about health, the environment, and science, people have the belief that those things fall in the hands of scientists, economists, and academic institutions.  When we want to do environmental monitoring, the community doesn’t have the skill to do that.  But we have to fight environmental problems.  Citizen scientists need to work with the community.  If we don’t have a device, we can’t do anything and we can’t ask for assistance from academic institutions for free.  People need to depend on people.  If we’re fighting pollution, we need to strengthen citizen science and use our knowledge and provide support to affected communities.

Citizen science approach is used by many countries to empower the negotiation skills of the people.

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

Waste importation from the west is still happening.  Thailand and other countries in the region are targets for dumping due to corruption in these countries and the low labour cost. 

Plastic waste is related to consumption and economic “development”.  We have to keep watching this issue because it will be a big crisis in the future even if countries have policies and similar goals to reduce.  

I call this the crisis of recycling.  Low-income countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and other low-income countries in Africa are dealing with the plastic waste trade because richer countries can send their waste to them in the guise of recycling and there are no environmental regulations to control this.

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

I respect and admire those who contribute to public interest and social well being, no specific idols. I learned from some teachers and friends during my schooling and undergraduate life and I wanted to do something related to public interest like them. After graduation, I initially was not interested in environmental work.  But later, I realized that in this area, I can do something for the greater good.  

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Interested to support the work of EARTH Thailand?  Visit www.earththailand.org/en/

En una reciente investigación de organizaciones miembro de GAIA en México, Ecuador, Argentina y Chile, se alertó que en 2020, en plena pandemia, las exportaciones de residuos plásticos desde Estados Unidos hacia algunos países de América Latina aumentaron en más del 100%. 

Por eso, las organizaciones que conforman la Alianza Global por Alternativas a la Incineración (GAIA) en América Latina y el Caribe declaran su rechazo y estado de alerta ante esta amenaza, que convierte a nuestra región en un destino emergente de la basura plástica mundial luego de que China detuviera en 2018 ese tipo de importaciones para proteger su territorio de la contaminación.

A escala mundial, existe una creciente preocupación sobre el envío de residuos plásticos desde potencias como Estados Unidos, el mayor exportador de residuos plásticos, hacia naciones con débiles legislaciones y controles. Ante esta situación, vemos con preocupación que: 

  • Según la base de datos de libre comercio internacional de Estados Unidos, USA Trade Online, entre enero y agosto de 2020 llegaron 44.173 toneladas de desechos plásticos procedentes de Estados Unidos a 15 países latinoamericanos. Eso significó el envío de aproximadamente 35 contenedores diarios a la región con estos materiales. 
  • Pese a las normativas y a las iniciales acciones gubernamentales, en los países investigados aún se desconoce el estado en que ingresan, a través de puertos y fronteras, miles de toneladas de desechos plásticos cuyo principal origen es Estados Unidos, que además no es parte firmante del Convenio de Basilea.
  • Actualmente, el comercio de residuos plásticos se realiza a través de partidas, subpartidas y fracciones arancelarias amplias y ambiguas, que no permiten el seguimiento de estos materiales hasta su uso final. Por las experiencias de países asiáticos, existe amplia evidencia de que estos desechos llegan contaminados o son difíciles de reciclar, lo cual causa un impacto en los países receptores. 
  • GAIA no es la única organización que ha observado con preocupación el aumento de los flujos de desechos plásticos hacia la región. Un informe de Interpol de 2020, alertó que el sector del reciclaje está creciendo en América Latina, con inversores chinos que han mostrado su interés en nuestro continente para instalar sus fábricas debido al acceso a mano de obra barata y la cercanía con Estados Unidos.
  • México, El Salvador y Ecuador son los principales importadores de desechos plásticos en la región. Solo entre enero y agosto de 2020, llegaron 32.650 toneladas a México; 4.054 toneladas a El Salvador; y 3.665 toneladas a Ecuador, según los datos recopilados por The Last Beach Cleanup.

Alertamos que estamos ante un peligro inminente de contaminación de la naturaleza y vulneración de los derechos de las comunidades de vivir en un ambiente seguro para su salud y la de sus territorios. Asimismo, representantes de distintas organizaciones han manifestado su adhesión y preocupación indicando:

“El comercio transfronterizo de desechos plásticos es quizás una de las expresiones más nefastas de la mercantilización de los bienes comunes y de la ocupación colonial de los territorios del sur geopolítico para convertirlos en zonas de sacrificio. América Latina y el Caribe no somos el patio trasero de los Estados Unidos, somos territorios soberanos y exigimos el cumplimiento de los derechos de la Naturaleza y de nuestros pueblos” – Fernanda Soliz, directora área de salud, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Ecuador.

“Que Estados Unidos no haga nada para que las empresas dejen de exportar residuos plásticos a América Latina y el Caribe, así como a todo el Sur Global, es irresponsable e inmoral. En vez de aplicar en su país las medidas adecuadas de reducción, Estados Unidos está perpetrando un colonialismo de residuos al depositar esta contaminación tóxica en otros países. Solidarizamos con nuestros socios y aliados latinoamericanos que les están exigiendo a sus gobiernos que dejen de aceptar las importaciones de residuos, y exigimos al gobierno de EE.UU. que se responsabilice de encontrar soluciones reales y equitativas a la crisis de la contaminación por plástico.” – Melissa Aguayo, Coordinadora, Break Free From Plastic, Estados Unidos.

El problema de la contaminación por plástico no es sólo una cuestión de acumulación de residuos, es también un problema de justicia medioambiental y un factor que alimenta nuestra crisis climática. Este informe muestra que las desigualdades y los daños causados por la contaminación plástica no tienen fronteras y, en última instancia, perjudican a las comunidades de color. Nuestras comunidades latinxs en Estados Unidos y en los países latinoamericanos, viven esta contaminación todos los días, desde la extracción hasta la incineración. Este informe realmente pone de manifiesto que no existe tal cosa como “lejos” – y que tenemos que empezar a abordar el problema de la contaminación con soluciones concretas.” Mariana Del Valle – GreenLatinos 

Las organizaciones firmantes exigimos con urgencia que :

  • Los países de América Latina y el Caribe adapten sus legislaciones para aplicar el Convenio de Basilea (del que todos son suscriptores, menos Haití) y su Enmienda de Plásticos.
  • Las autoridades transparenten la información respecto a las importaciones de residuos plásticos y reforzar sus controles.
  • Deben existir registros aduaneros que permitan saber con exactitud el tipo y el estado de los desechos plásticos que ingresan a los puertos latinoamericanos.
  • La protección de nuestro territorio y sus comunidades sean prioritarios ante acuerdos bilaterales o multilaterales como tratados de libre comercio que podrían abrir puertas al ingreso de desechos plásticos.

Estamos ante una crisis de los residuos que muestra que para alcanzar el éxito en los esfuerzos hacia una gestión de residuos realmente sustentable, se deben priorizar políticas de reducción, y en segundo término asegurar la reutilización y reciclabilidad de los envases, asegurando que su reciclaje se realice en sitios cercanos a donde se generan. Rechazamos tajantemente que las altas cifras de reciclaje que muestran los países ricos sean a costa de convertir nuestro continente en un basurero.

Adhieren:

Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
Acción Ecológica y Academia Mexicana de Derecho Ambiental
Agrupación Aitué de Huillinco, Chile
Alianza Basura Cero Chile
Arnika, República Checa.
Asociación Ecológica Santo Tomás, México.
Ban SUP (Single Use Plastic), Estados Unidos.
C-CUBED, Nigeria
CAAN Glens Falls, Estados Unidos.
Cafeteria Culture, Estados Unidos.
Climate Reality Project Philippines, Filipinas
Colectivo VientoSur, Chile.
Community Research, Estados Unidos.
CREPD, Camerún.
CT Coalition for EJ, Estados Unidos.
Digital Data Standards LLC, Estados Unidos.
East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Estados Unidos.
Ecoton, Estados Unidos.
Ecoviable, Colombia.
Evestico Ltd, Reino Unido.
FoCo Trash Mob, Estados Unidos.
Fronteras Comunes, México.
Fundación Basura, Chile,
Fundación El Árbol, Chile.
Fundación Lenga, Chile.
Galena Green Team, Estados Unidos.
Gili Eco Trust, Indonesia.
Greenpeace Finlandia.
Health and Environment Justice Support (HEJSupport), internacional.
Humusz Waste Prevention Allience, Hungría.
ICA Agro SpA, Chile.
INTA, Argentina.
JA!Justica Ambiental, Mozambique.
Just Goods, Estados Unidos.
KY Environmental Foundation, Estados Unidos.
Local Futures, Estados Unidos.
Love Plant Nourish by Ike & Eli’s Organic Farm, LLC , Estados Unidos.
Mingas por el mar, Ecuador.
Missouri River Bird Observatory, Estados Unidos.
MN BIPOC Environmental Justice Table, Estados Unidos.
Nipe Fagio, Tanzania.
PCC Environmental Club, Trinidad y Tobago.
Plastic Free Society, Francia.
Plastic Oceans International
Plastic Pollution Coalition, Estados Unidos.
Plataforma Antiincineración de Montcada, España.
Public Environmental Centre for Sustainable Development, Bulgaria.
Purge Plastic, Reino Unido.
Red de Acción por los Derechos Ambientales RADA, Chile.
SAISOCA, Venezuela.
Sea Hugger, Estados Unidos.
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Tailandia.
StopPlastics, Canadá.
Sustainable Environment Development Initiative, Nigeria.
Sustainable Mill Valley, Estados Unidos.
Taller de Comunicación Ambiental (Rosario), Argentina.
Taller Ecologista, Argentina.
TECHshare – Technik, Bildung, Solidarität, Suiza.
The Last Beach Cleanup, Estados Unidos.
The Last Plastic Straw, Estados Unidos.
The Ocean Project, Estados Unidos.
UANL, México.
UDD, Chile.
Universidad Santo Tomás, Colombia.
UUFHCT, Estados Unidos.
VMCH, Australia.
WasteLess, India.
Whole Vashon Project, Estados Unidos.
Wonderfil, Estados Unidos.
Zero Waste Association of South Africa, Sudáfrica.
Zero Waste Lab Portugal.

Opinion by Yasmine Ben Miloud, Zero Waste Tunisia

Zero Waste Tunisia (ZWT) believes that environmental education, more specifically climate education, is essential to mitigate climate change and ensure a sustainable future. Ignoring climate change and keeping the ‘business as usual’ approach has caused irreversible changes to our world, which we have witnessed over the past century.  It is time to think and act differently!

Raising awareness on climate change and mainstreaming actions possible at an individual level for a better tomorrow, is key.

Through climate education, we will ensure that future generations will think sustainably, by acknowledging the social and economic aspects of the environment in their decisions and daily lives, and hopefully integrating the climate notion into their career aspirations. We need everyone to be engaged and aware, to transition toward a sustainable way of life. 

ZWT has dedicated a lot of time and effort to climate education, over the years. We hold workshops and trainings for kids, teenagers, and college students. Our organisation offers two types of training. The first type is a ‘Zero Waste Do It Yourself’, during this training, we do art and clothing upcycling sessions, sorting, recycling, composting and zero waste kitchen recipes. The second type is a ‘Zero Waste Reflection‘, which starts by asking individuals what they know about climate change and trying to constitute the message with their own ideas and thoughts.

We then address the role that human activities play to cause these changes, with a focus on plastic pollution.

Moreover, we reflect on what we can do better as humans. This is when we introduce the reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose model, and its importance to reduce our carbon footprint as individuals, as well as on how we can apply it in our daily lives for our water and food consumption, and any type of shopping needs. 

We have noticed over the years how helpless individuals feel at the beginning of the workshop to mitigate climate change, and how hopeful they are at the end. This feeling is what has kept us going and encouraged us to maintain these workshops, even during the pandemic.

For the coming years, the ZWT team aspires to design a curriculum for Tunisian youth on climate education, focusing on shifting behaviours to mitigate climate change, while mainstreaming the circular economy principles. We also want to support young leaders to establish Zero Waste Clubs in Universities. ZWT believes that partnerships and collaborations with different environmental organisations will strengthen the movement and help to achieve the change needed for a sustainable Tunisia.

Ends

***

Yasmine Ben Miloud is the President of Zero Waste Tunisia. 

FCPEEP responds to the needs of affected communities in DRC

One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experienced a resurgence of infections and dramatic loss of human life, as a result of a third wave that colossally hit many Africa countries in the past months. Moreover, challenges of limited medical and personal protective equipment and job losses were further exacerbated by the detrimental eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, a volcano in the DRC that caused thousands of individuals to flee their homes on May 22, 2021. 

Through GAIA’s COVID-19 relief and advocacy funds, the Front Commun Pour La Protection De L’environnement Et Des Espaces Proteges (FCPEEP), were able to provide support to community members and waste pickers in the South Kivu in Kavumu and North Kivu in Goma, who have no access to medical care and have lost their livelihoods.

“During the pandemic, waste pickers were unable to provide for their families, because of the restrictive lockdown measures in the DRC. When they could return to work, they were at risk of being exposed to the virus without the necessary protection. This has negatively impacted households. With the COVID-19 relief funds, we were able to support waste pickers in challenging circumstances,” said John Ciza, National Coordinator for the FCEEP.

The organisation also distributed sanitary kits, as well as food and medical supplies for those impacted by the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo. This support reached 25 waste pickers, 50 hospital patients, 30 women who gave birth to newborns, as well as other vulnerable individuals like the elderly. 

While the organisation states that these materials brought much-needed relief to the targeted individuals, they admit that much of the population is experiencing great difficulties because of the lack of access to basic necessities. 

“Despite the difficulties that our organisation sees in the field, we see our partnership with GAIA as one that will help us succeed in our goal to serve our community and build a society that is united, with respect for human rights and the environment”, said John. 

Ends.

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Follow FCPEEP on Facebook for more updates on their work!

El Instituto Polis Instituto de Estudios, Formación y Asesoramiento en Políticas Sociales – fue creado en 1987 por un conjunto de instituciones de la sociedad civil, líderes de movimientos populares y organizaciones  para promover el desarrollo local en la construcción de ciudades más justas, sostenibles y democráticas.

A través de la investigación, formación y asistencia técnica el Instituto busca fortalecer la acción de la sociedad civil para preparar la intervención en el debate público, en los procesos políticos y culturales de la sociedad, colocando siempre la agenda del Derecho a la Ciudad como punto central en la proposición de políticas públicas.

Beth Grimberg, coordinadora del área de residuos del Instituto, ha sido además impulsora de la Coalición Nacional contra la Incineración de Residuos y de la Alianza Residuo Cero en Brasil, además de otorgar grandes contribuciones a GAIA en América Latina.

  • ¿Cuáles son las principales áreas de trabajo de Polis?

Derecho a la ciudad, derecho a vivienda y seguridad alimentaria y nutricional, cultura, gestión sostenible de residuos sólidos. 

  • ¿Cuáles han sido sus mayores logros?

El reconocimiento público del Instituto y varias reivindicaciones de derecho a la ciudad fueron integradas al estatuto de la ciudad. También contribuyeron con otras instituciones para incluir alimentos agroecológicos en la merienda escolar a nivel nacional.

En la gestión de Residuos Sólidos se incorporaron varios instrumentos y directrices como la Responsabilidad de los productores y la logística reversa, los derechos de los recicladores de base, el cierre de vertederos con ciudadanía, inclusión de los recicladores en cooperativas. 

En São Paulo se desarrolló un foro, que fue muy importante para la creación de las primeras 5 cooperativas en firmar un convenio con la alcaldía de la ciudad.

  • ¿Cuáles son las principales campañas que están desarrollando?

Desalojo cero en la pandemia, regularización fundiaria con más de 56 organizaciones aliadas.  El instituto se envuelve bastante y lidera campañas que dicen no a la incineración, residuo cero, programas y políticas para el aprovechamiento integral de los residuos e inclusión de los recicladores de base.

  • Recientemente están liderando la Campaña Sao Paulo Composta y Cultiva ¿en qué consiste?

La campaña Sao Paulo Composta Cultiva intenta afirmar para una gran ciudad la viabilidad de mudar el modelo de gestión de residuos aprovechando el 50% de orgánicos y utilizarlos como materia prima en forma de nutriente para su reaprovechamiento como compost, teniendo en cuenta el principio campo – mesa – campo.  

También para promover la circularidad en tiempos de pandemia y mejorar el acceso de sectores vulnerables a nutrientes para la tierra y la producción de alimentos, sustituyendo fertilizantes importados con precios en dólares. Además, se promueve la creación descentralizada de compostaje comunitaria, asociada al uso de huertas, con la participación de recicladores de base.  La apuesta se basa en que São Paulo consiga avanzar en un modelo de recolección selectiva en 3 fracciones y se vuelva una referencia para Brasil y América Latina.

  • El actual alcalde de Sao Paulo firmó el compromiso de la campaña para avanzar en el tratamiento de orgánicos ¿cómo impacta eso en la campaña? ¿en qué están ahora? 

El alcalde de São Paulo firmó la carta compromiso, pero desafortunadamente falleció recientemente. Ahora están evaluando cómo abordar al alcalde sustituto. Ahora la campaña participó en 24 audiencias públicas junto con varias organizaciones aliadas, aportando al programa de metas para la ciudad de Sao Paulo. La campaña fue reconocida en el nivel ejecutivo.

Otro nivel de incidencia es la discusión en la cámara de vereadores con un proyecto de ley para obligar a la alcaldía a implantar la recolección selectiva  en 3 fracciones, destinar los residuos para compostaje, prohibir destinación para rellenos sanitarios y prohibir incineración. Si ese proyecto se convierte en ley, será un instrumento más fuerte para la renovación del contrato de concesión de limpieza urbana que ya completa 20 años, así los nuevos contratos podrían absorber esos puntos de la ley.

  • ¿Cuáles son los principales desafíos que están enfrentando en Brasil relacionados a su trabajo?

Las desigualdades sociales y la lucha interseccional que involucra, clases sociales género y raza. Un gran desafío que Brasil enfrenta en la cuestión de los residuos, es el lobby muy fuerte que promueve la incineración de residuos urbanos liderada por la ABREN – Asociación Brasilera de Recuperación Energética, que junto con gobiernos municipales están promoviendo la implantación de esta tecnología. Esa iniciativa ha crecido mucho durante la pandemia en alianza con gobiernos municipales y estatales.

Conoce más sobre el Instituto Polis:

Emmanuel Aidoo, winner of WOD infographic competition

Opinion by Betty Osei Bonsu, Green Africa Youth Organisation

The Green Africa Youth Organisation (GAYO) and the Centre for Coastal Management (CCM) joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Oceans Day, on the 8th of June 2021, with a call on individuals, organisations, industries and world leaders to protect world oceans. 

The fight for climate justice through source reduction of plastics with continuous education and community engagements on illegal and indiscriminate plastic waste disposal is crucial! About 300 million tons of plastic waste are produced annually, but only 10% get recycled, with around 10-20 million tons of plastic entering the ocean every year. The United Nations Environment Programme predicts that if our bad practices are not curbed, there will be more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050. This means there is a severe need to attend to plastic waste management globally. 

Celebrating World Oceans Day, on the theme, The Ocean – Life and Livelihoods, GAYO and CCM hosted a webinar to raise public awareness about ocean conservation and resource management. The webinar highlighted the importance of protecting the oceans for our survival and that of the marine ecosystem. This occasion was commemorated with a call to youth to participate in an infographic competition that portrays the most innovative and creative design to illustrate the plastic problem in Ghana, and how it affects the marine ecosystem. The activity was successful, as it was an opportunity to create awareness of our dying ocean and the need for action.

A total of 55 participants joined the webinar, where a clarion call was made to individuals to adopt pro-environmental behaviours on plastic waste management in the workplace and our environments. Some of these practices include; posting waste reduction prompts and segregating unavoidable waste to reduce the menace of plastics in the environment that eventually end up in the oceans.

From the webinar, it was highlighted that while waiting on governments to implement and enforce a ban on the manufacture and distribution of plastics, individuals were encouraged to bridge the value action gap that serves as a barrier to pro-environmental protection behaviours. Attitudes such as, ‘it is not my duty’, ‘I don’t have the capacity’, ‘my actions are negligible’ and ‘I can’t change the next person’, must be addressed if ocean lives are to be protected.

Currently, plastic waste in the ocean affects over 2.7 million people whose livelihoods are tied to marine ecosystem sustainability. The direct and extended impacts of plastic pollution on oceans jeopardise the income of fisher folks, processors and transporters alike. While some island communities in Africa adopt the innovation of using plastic wastes to create a sea defence to stay resilient against coastal erosion, the strategy is inherently deficient in standing high tidal waves that create sustainability challenges in dealing with plastic waste. 

 In atomisation of the current problem and ascribing the needed solutions, some relevant yet important factors have been overlooked. The culture of impunity, lack of infrastructure and lack of accountability from relevant stakeholders are some of the major causes of the problems. However, cosmetic products with microplastics as active ingredients were identified as contributors to the disruption of the marine ecosystem, with extreme negative impacts on the aquatic food chain.  

Several ocean activists made these remarkable contributions during the webinar, including Dr Noble Asare, the Head of Department of Fisheries Sciences for the University of Cape Coast Ghana, Ofoe Amagavie, Photographer in Coastal Marine Pollution and Ivy Akuoko, Center for Coastal Management and Aquatic Representative. 

At GAYO, our work prioritises the empowerment of young people to be environmental leaders and stewards in their local communities. Protecting our oceans is central to our duty towards environmental sustainability. By implementing our zero waste project in Cape Coast Metropolitan Assembly and the La-Dade Kotopon Assembly, GAYO is working with informal waste workers and youth to prevent plastic pollution (from single-use plastics) and marine debris. 

The highlight of the webinar was the announcement of the best artistic work that illustrated the plastic menace within coastal bodies. Emmanuel Aidoo, a 23 years old University of Ghana student, was outstanding among the rest of the eight artistic works received. The selection was made based on the quality, content and creativity of the work. The second and first runner up was Ben Collins and Sir Bonney. 

To end the event, Success Sowah and Nii Omaboe, who served as the moderators, commended the GAYO Eco Club in their outstanding services to the event’s organisation and thanked all who made it to the event. They ended with the quote saying: Ignorance is mostly projected to cause all the global problems. If humanity realises that, ‘Ocean is life, if you preserve the ocean, you preserve life’, all aquatic habitats would be protected accordingly.

Ends.

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Betty Osei Bonsu is a project coordinator at the Green Africa Youth Organisation.

Environmental groups: further delay is unacceptable

Photo credits: Réseau Tunisie Verte

Tunis, Rome and Brussels, 3 May 2021 – Forty-four Tunisian, Italian, European and international environmental groups have demanded today that Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and European Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius cease delay and order the immediate return of Italian municipal waste illegally shipped to Tunisia last year. According to the groups, EU and international environmental law make it plain that Italy should have taken its waste back at least three months ago.

In 2020, Italian company Sviluppo Risorse Ambientali illegally exported 282 containers of mixed municipal waste to Tunisia under deceptive claims that the waste was processed and would be recycled. In fact, it was mixed municipal waste, with little chance for recycling. 

The exports quickly became the subject of a national scandal in Tunisia when it was revealed that certain officials had approved the shipments. The shipments cost the former Minister of the Environment his position and resulted in his prosecution and detention. Despite the furore, however, Italian national authorities have still failed to repatriate the wastes, three months after the 8 January deadline as is required under the Basel Convention.  

Under the Basel Convention, the Bamako Convention and the Izmir Protocol of the Barcelona Convention, the export from Italy to Tunisia was illegal trafficking and a criminal act.  Further Italy is required to repatriate the waste within 30 days of the discovery of illegal traffic. 

On 3 March the organizations Réseau Tunisie Verte, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Basel Action Network and Zero Waste Europe published a short report examining the legality of these shipments and called for their repatriation. Following a complete lack of action on the port of Rome, on April 1, Tunisian groups protested outside the Italian embassy demanding that Italy takes its waste back. On 29 March, Italian MEPs Piernicola Pedicini and Rosa D’Amato (Verts/ALE) also raised European parliamentary questions asking the European Commission how they will ensure that the Italian government fulfills its Basel Convention obligations and guarantee this does not happen again. 

While a court in Rome is currently considering the fate of the financial guarantee that the Italian exporter had provided for the shipments, with the court adjourning until 15 June, there is no evidence that the Italian national government has acted to remove the wastes as required. 

“Court squabbles between the Italian exporter, the insurance company and government authorities are entirely irrelevant to the obligation to repatriate,” said Sirine Rached of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “The Italian national authorities must assume the immediate costs now, and remain at liberty to recover costs from the guilty parties later.”

“The postponed repatriation increases the risk of harm that Tunisians bear from these illegal shipments, as the toxic mix of Italian garbage continues to putrefy in the port of Sousse,” said Hamdi Châabane of Réseau Tunisie Verte (Green Tunisia Network). 

“We don’t understand why the Italian government sits on their hands in this case. And we cannot understand how the European Commission allows Italy to sit on their hands. The law is clear, the shipments were unlawful and Italy must bear initial responsibility,”  said Semia Gharbi of Réseau Tunisie Verte. 

Press contacts:

Berta Corredor, Zero Waste Europe

berta@zerowasteeurope.eu  | +32 478093622

Carissa Marnce, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

carissa@no-burn.org | +27 76 934 6156 

Jim Puckett, Director, Basel Action Network

jpuckett@ban.org | +1 (206) 354-0391

Semia Gharbi, Réseau Tunisie Verte

semia.tgharbi@gmail.com | +216 98 997 350

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