Interview with Kalyani Rani Biswas by Samina Khondaker

Aparajita began with the goal of empowering women and ensuring that they had equal environmental rights. On March 8, 2017, Kalyani Rani Biswas, the organization’s founder, embarked on this path with little manpower and a heart full of dreams, ambition, and drive to empower women economically, mentally, and physically. 

Aparajita founder, Kalyani Rani Biswas. Photo courtesy of Aparajita.

Kalyani Rani Biswas noticed many women living in poverty and uncertainty. She recognized at that point that this could not happen. So, in order to make them self-sufficient, she began working with them, starting with sewing and gradually progressing to preparing spices and vermicomposting. Vermicomposting was chosen since the majority of the ladies were from a farming background and found it simple to cope with, and cow dung is one of the greatest raw materials for vermicomposting, with which they are already accustomed to. 

Currently, around 37 active individuals are working for Aparajita in various parts of Magura in order to help women become psychologically and physically independent.

GAIA sat down with Kalyani to know more about their work.

What are the top priorities of Aparajita?

Aparajita is now focused on sewing, spice preparation, and vermicomposting, although vermicomposting is their major priority. Work has been done in Magura Municipality Wards 4, 7, and 8, as well as Changardanga village in Magura Sadar Upazila. We are trying to spread the word about vermicomposting across Magura Zilla and, if feasible, the entire country.

The spices come next. Women from the organisation prepare around 1,500 kilos of vermicompost each month, which are purchased by the local Spice Research Institute and the Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA). The organization also retails these spices to the local community.  

What are the main ongoing campaigns? 

One of our continuing campaigns involves waste workers. We are training them to separate the waste they collect every day into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste and to dispose of it in a specified location. The biodegradables are later used in vermicomposting.

Sewing is another one of our ongoing initiatives. We stitch clothing and sell them at the local market, and people make a livelihood from it.

And spices are already an active campaign for us, since we prepare and sell them on a daily basis.

At Aparajita’s Training Center. Photo courtesy of Aparajita.

What would you consider are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

One of our organization’s most significant successes is that around 25 houses in our neighborhood are effectively doing vermicomposting. Because of this, the soil fertility of that area has grown significantly, as has the soil’s water holding capacity, and fertilizer needs are being satisfied. After viewing the results, many farmers are interested in doing vermicomposting. As a result of this successful endeavor, Aparajita was awarded the best organization award, and I was honored for entrepreneurship by the Department of Cooperatives. 

Receiving the Best Entrepreneur Award from the District Administrator and Upazila Chairman. Photo courtesy of Aparajita.

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

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Aparajita suffered tragically. Earthworms with a BDT 3 Lac value (approx US$3,233) perished due to a lack of staff and extreme heat! During the pandemic, lockdowns were implemented around the country, preventing individuals from going out to work. The organization’s workforce was dwindling at the time. In the midst of the pandemic, we had to endure a loss of BDT 3 Lac.

Aside from COVID, we faced several hurdles such as the difficulty of persuading community members to work with earthworm and cow dung, two key vermicomposting supplies. We had to convince them that 10 kilos of raw cow dung may yield 7 kilos of fertilizer. If this is sold in the market for BDT 20 (US$0.22) or at retail for BDT 15 (US$0.15), they may make a respectable profit and transform their lifestyle for the better.

People were eventually convinced after our persistent campaigning, and they are now working and earning more than before!

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

Because of climate change, we are facing many issues such as untimely rain which is creating waterlogging that is completely destroying our field and the products it contains such as paddy, rice, etc.

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

Aparajita views the organization’s growth through vermicomposting not just in Magura Zilla, but throughout the country. This would benefit not just the country, but also the farmers who are living in poverty. This choice will allow them to generate a respectable income for themselves while also creating opportunities for others.

Production of earthworm manure in the trainee’s own home after receiving the training.
Photo courtesy of Aparajita.

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

Waste has become a major issue for all of us. If our administration does not handle this properly, the implications might be disastrous especially when it comes to our respiration. This will not only impair human health but will also have a negative impact on the ecosystem. It is about time to properly manage waste, all types of waste. This will not only result in a healthy environment, but also in a habitat environment.

Sorting waste at its source is highly crucial and effective. Wastes are effectively handled, waste workers’ health and the foul odor of waste will not affect the environment.

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

Aparajita collaborates with ASD Bangladesh. Together we conduct different training and events related to organizational projects. ASD Bangladesh, also based in Magura, provides manpower and conducts training sessions for Aparajita.

At the Aparjita Training Center. Photo courtesy of Aparajita.

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

We have always tried to work for the betterment of the community and society. We try to make people aware of the negative impacts that an issue might have. We have a theater group when we go on awareness campaigns in villages. Drama or play is one easy method that works because it has both audio and visual. This helps us gauge the community’s opinion on the issue and see their enthusiasm towards the advocacy.  

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

Aparajita always admires work related to soil and farmers. We are interconnected and these days, it is a growing concern that we need to work on. One of the organization’s motto is ‘Krishok Bachle, Desh Bachbe’ (If the farmer survives, the country will survive)’

We also admire those working against plastic pollution. We would love to contribute to this movement in the near future.

Interested in supporting the work of Aparajita?  They need additional support for:

  • Vermicomposting (mostly with resources such as creating a shed for the compost, for buying earthworms, and other resources)
  • Collection and sorting wastes through 3 compartment vans which will help them to sort wastes easily and work safely.

Gear up and get ready, GAIA Asia Pacific will be bringing you exciting fellowship opportunities for media, CSO communications officers, and communications students this August!

Media Fellowship on Climate – South and East Asia

Exclusive for media practitioners in South Asia and East Asia – get to know the facts on how our climate is changing and how we are currently dealing with the problem. 

In this fellowship, 

  • You’ll learn about climate issues, policies, and conferences;
  • Make the connection between climate, Zero Waste, and waste pickers; climate and the plastics issue; and climate and waste burning;
  • Delve into climate reporting; and 
  • Be the 1st to hear about our latest report on climate and Zero Waste.

Climate and environment experts from across the globe will guide you through the ins and outs of climate change and Zero Waste and top-notch journalists will offer their insights on how to communicate these very important and timely topics. 

Criteria for Application 

  1. The Fellowship is open to early-career journalists (at least 3 years) from print, radio, or television.
  2. Applicants must have a keen interest in climate, environmental, and developmental journalism.
  3. The applicant must be willing to commit to the 5-month fellowship.  Failure to do so will result in disqualification in succeeding GAIA AP bootcamps, training, and fellowships.
  4. The applicant must secure an endorsement letter from the media outlet or a peer journalist.
  5. Other than the twice-a-month sessions, the participant must commit to regular consultation with the mentors. 
  6. The applicant must have experience in covering and engaging with CSOs.  Previous engagement with a GAIA member CSOs is a plus.  

Slots available: 

South Asia: India (3), Nepal (2), Sri Lanka (2), Bangladesh (2), Maldives (2), Bhutan (1), Pakistan (1)

East Asia: Hong Kong (2), Taiwan (2), China (3), Japan (2), Korea (2)

SEA Biodiversity Media Bootcamp

Join our  Southeast Asia Biodiversity Media Bootcamp where we bring together journalists, civil society organizations’ communications practitioners, and communications students to achieve the common good: communicating biodiversity conservation within the context of Zero Waste! 

There are no strenuous military drills here; instead, you will learn: 

  • Biodiversity terms and various international biodiversity conventions
  • Environmental issues in Southeast Asia especially the marine plastic pollution
  • Zero Waste contribution to biodiversity
  • Biodiversity reporting from knowledge building to persuasion and moving the audience to act
  • Waste pickers as biodiversity champions; and
  • Zero Waste communities as vanguards of biodiversity

And to top it off, you will be mentored by biodiversity and communications experts and top-notch journalists from Southeast Asia while working with other students, comms practitioners, and journalists. 

Criteria for Application 

  1. For Communication Officers, the applicant must be working as a Communications Officer for a GAIA AP member organization.  In the absence of a dedicated Communications Officer, a staff assigned to do communications work for the organization may qualify, provided that he/she is willing to write a biodiversity piece as part of the deliverables of the bootcamp.  He or she must be a regular employee of the member organization.  Interns and consultants with more than one year contract with the organization may apply.
  • For Journalists, the Bootcamp is open to early-career journalists (at least 3 years) from print, radio, or television.
  • For Communication students, the applicant must be a Communication college or university student and at least 18 years old. 
  1. Applicants must have a keen interest in science, environmental, and developmental journalism.
  2. The applicant must be willing to commit to the 5-month bootcamp.  Failure to do so will result in disqualification in succeeding GAIA AP bootcamps, training, and fellowships.
  3. The applicant must secure an endorsement letter from the organization’s head (for communication officers), media outlet or peer journalist (for journalists), and teacher or journalist mentor (for communication students) to attend the bootcamp and be granted time to attend the bootcamp sessions.
  4. Other than the once-a-month sessions, the participant must commit to regular consultation with the mentors. 
  5. The journalist applicant must have experience in covering and engaging with CSOs.  Previous engagement with a GAIA member CSOs is a plus.  
  6. Communication Students with volunteer experience with a CSO and involvement with the school paper are a plus.

Slots available:

  • 12 journalists: Cambodia (1), Indonesia (3), Malaysia (1), Philippines (3), Thailand (1), Vietnam (3)
  • 12 comms practitioners: Cambodia (1), Indonesia (3), Malaysia (1), Philippines (3), Thailand (1) Vietnam (3)
  • 12 comms students: Cambodia (1), Indonesia (3), Malaysia (1), Philippines (3), Thailand (1) Vietnam (3)

Twice-a-month online sessions for the Media Fellowship on Climate – South & East Asia and once-a-month online sessions for the SEA Biodiversity Bootcamp. Both fellowships will run from August to October with a two-month allocation for story writing.  Story grants are available.  

All sessions will be conducted in English.

Slots are limited so send your applications before July 19, 2022! 

Apply now 

Media Fellowship on Climate – South & East Asia

SEA Biodiversity Bootcamp

GAIA AP has a strict non-discrimination policy.  We believe everyone should be treated equally regardless of race, sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, national origin, native language, religion, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, pregnancy, or any other characteristic protected by law. 

Applicants will be screened based on completed requirements and may be called for an interview if needed. For more inquiries, email Sonia@no-burn.org

El 5 y 6 de mayo se desarrolló el IV Encuentro Nacional Basura Cero Ecuador, un evento que tuvo por objetivo aportar al diseño de estrategias y acciones para avanzar hacia el manejo sostenible de los residuos, la implementación de modelos basura cero y el desarrollo de mejores legislaciones en Ecuador. El evento fue organizado por la Alianza Cero Ecuador y  reunió a activistas, representantes del sector público, organizaciones sin fines de lucro, colectivos ambientales, recicladores de base, representantes de la sociedad civil y de la academia. 

Alejandra Parra, Asesora asesora en basura cero y plásticos de GAIA.

El primer día, en un encuentro abierto al público, hubo ponencias sobre comercio internacional de residuos, el desarrollo del primer censo nacional de recicladores, legislación ambiental y la situación de los residuos en Ecuador. Alejandra Parra, asesora en basura cero y plásticos de GAIA, presentó detalles sobre basura cero en Latinoamérica, el potencial que tiene implementar sistemas basura cero y algunas experiencias relacionadas, además de las amenazas de las falsas soluciones que se intentan introducir en nuestro continente como la incineración, pirólisis, gasificación, y los tradicionales rellenos sanitarios. Luego, en otra sesión,  Alejandra presentó más detalles sobre las falsas soluciones relacionadas a la incineración, sus riesgos para la salud de las personas y el ambiente, y cómo se está alimentando un sistema de producción lineal que daña los territorios en toda su cadena, desde la extracción de materia prima hasta cuando los productos de consumo masivo se transforman en basura y se disponen en rellenos sanitarios, vertederos o peor aún, se considera incinerarlos antes de encontrar soluciones desde la base del problema.

La segunda jornada fue un encuentro interno de organizaciones y comunidades miembros de la Alianza Basura Cero Ecuador, y se desarrollaron tres mesas de trabajo: manejo de residuos orgánicos, reciclaje de base y zonas de sacrificio. En la mesa de reciclaje, los aportes de las representantes de GAIA se centraron en la crisis del plástico, presentándole a dirigentes de recicladores de base detalles sobre la crisis ambiental producto del ciclo de vida completo de los plásticos, desde la extracción de los hidrocarburos para su producción, pasando por la fabricación y adición de sustancias tóxicas, el consumo y la disposición final; la sobreproducción de plásticos y los riesgos a la salud de las personas producto de los aditivos tóxicos que contienen; las falsas soluciones como la incineración WTE, reciclaje químico, plástico carbono neutral, ecoladrillos, madera plástica y bacterias que comen plástico; y el acuerdo mundial para redactar un tratado global que regule el ciclo de vida completo de los plásticos. 

Finalmente, se conformó un comité consultivo para apoyar a la coordinación ejecutiva de la Alianza, integrada por representantes de las cuatro líneas principales de trabajo: recicladores de base, territorios en sacrificio, manejo de residuos orgánicos y coprocesamiento. Asimismo, este nuevo encuentro permitió consolidar el trabajo de la Alianza Basura Cero Ecuador que se formó un poco antes de la pandemia, reafirmando la necesidad y ganas de unir esfuerzos para abordar temas relacionados a residuos en Ecuador, desde las soluciones generadas por las comunidades y organizaciones.

Más información

Ponencias disponibles en: https://fb.watch/d4R86bkcDU/

Association Zéro Déchet Sénégal was formally established in March 2018, when it opened its first branch in the capital city Dakar. The organisation’s top objective is to reduce waste and wastefulness by addressing the root cause of waste production and improving the reuse of what is produced.

To contribute to addressing the waste management issues across the country, Association Zéro Déchet Sénégal decided to open its second branch on the beautiful island of Saint-Louis. Despite the island’s incredible beauty, it also struggles with waste management challenges. 

“Sightseeing in Saint-Louis is very sad, as its banks and beaches are polluted with all kinds of waste. The island also has a technical landfill centre in Gandon, which is not up to standard,” said Alioune Banda, AZDS Saint-Louis branch coordinator.

The partnership between Association Zéro Déchet Sénégaland Saint-Louis began when young people from the island reached out to the organisation, inspired to address all the waste plaguing their environment. The branch started with a ‘Zero Waste Ambassador’ training at the Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis, followed by two other trainings at the French Institute of Saint-Louis and at the headquarters of the Association for Research Action Development and Environment in Sahel (ARADES).

To further celebrate this partnership, Association Zéro Déchet Sénégal held an official launch event on the 5th of February 2022. The event, which took place in Hub Nord by Jokkolabs, Rte de Khor, Saint-Louis, saw artists, vendors, partner organisations, civil society groups, members of the organisation, authorities and civilians in attendance. This gathering brought together different actors in the zero waste movement and even afforded local artists and vendors the opportunity and space to show how they are working toward zero waste at their various levels.

Follow them on social media and learn more about their work!

Por  Mariel Vilella, Directora del Programa Global sobre el Clima

Se acaba de publicar el informe del Grupo Intergubernamental de Expertos sobre el Cambio Climático (IPCC) sobre mitigación del cambio climático, que contiene el aporte del Grupo de trabajo III al Sexto informe de evaluación del IPCC.

Una vez más se nos recuerda que la emergencia climática se acelera: queda muy poco tiempo para evitar exceder la meta de máximo 1,5°C de aumento de la temperatura global. Si se supera esta meta aunque sea un poco, habrá efectos cada vez más catastróficos. Y como si fuera coordinado, hace apenas una semana, la temperatura en los polos norte y sur superaba la habitual por 30°C y 40°C, simultáneamente. 

Entonces, ¿qué debemos hacer? El informe sobre la mitigación presenta diferentes opciones para reducir las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero desde una perspectiva científica. Aunque el informe procura ser “relevante para desarrollar políticas”, sin proporcionar una guía política específica, sí ofrece algunas pistas, y si se lee entrelíneas, sus hallazgos pueden traducirse en acción.


¿Qué opina el IPCC sobre los residuos? Tal como señala el informe, el sector de residuos continúa siendo el que más contribuye a las emisiones urbanas después del sector energético, aún en las ciudades con bajas emisiones de carbono.

Las áreas urbanas en sí mismas representan la mayor parte de las emisiones globales y su contribución va en aumento: a pesar de que existen grandes variaciones en las emisiones de las zonas urbanas de diferentes países y regiones, su participación en las emisiones de GEI ha aumentado en todas las regiones y a nivel mundial entre 2000 y 2015.

En los países enriquecidos (que la ONU denomina ‘países desarrollados’), las áreas urbanas aumentaron su aporte al total de emisiones de 60% en el 2000, al 67% en el 2015. La variación más significativa en las emisiones se produjo en las regiones de Asia y el Pacífico en países en vías de desarrollo y desarrollados. 

Además, en un escenario en que las cosas siguen igual, el crecimiento esperado de las ciudades podría más que duplicar la demanda anual de materias primas, de los 40 mil millones anuales en el 2010, hasta alcanzar 90 mil millones en 2050, contribuyendo aún más al aumento de emisiones de GEI.

Tal como señala el IPCC, las ciudades pueden reducir sus emisiones de GEI de manera significativa, pero lograrlo requiere una transformación sistémica: la economía circular, la inclusión y equidad, y las tecnologías innovadoras son solo algunos de los elementos claves que deberían existir conjuntamente con otras estrategias que pueden contribuir a un desarrollo urbanístico con bajas o cero emisiones.

Aquí es donde las estrategias de basura cero pueden marcar la diferencia. Requerirá una integración coordinada de todos los sectores, estrategias e innovaciones, incluidas las ciudades de los países en vías de desarrollo.

Aquí destacamos los cinco puntos clave de este informe que son relevantes para la agenda de descarbonización de las ciudades, y qué oportunidades se pueden aprovechar al trabajar el sector de los residuos:


Por un lado, la economía circular tiene un gran potencial para reducir las emisiones. Como se sabe, la economía circular es aquella que elimina los residuos a través de medidas que evitan su producción (reducción en la fuente) o reutilizando, compostando, o reciclando todo. Las economías circulares disminuyen las emisiones al reducir la demanda de las materias primas y su procesamiento, así como al eliminar las emisiones de la gestión de residuos. Si Shanghai reciclara todos los residuos que genera, reduciría las emisiones de CO2 en 16,8 millones de toneladas al año. 

Lograr una economía circular requiere no sólo de una intervención aislada, sino un replanteamiento sistémico de cómo usamos los materiales, y es por eso que el IPCC pone mucho énfasis en el cambio sistémico. A pesar de la rápida urbanización es posible lograr cero emisiones en las ciudades, pero no se logrará con las mismas intervenciones que hemos visto hasta ahora – como los rellenos sanitarios e incineradores. Al contrario, requiere estrategias integradas de amplio alcance, que vinculen la eficiencia en el uso de materiales con la eficiencia en el uso y la generación de energía, los patones de uso del suelo, y la conexión de las áreas urbanas con las rurales. Un ejemplo de esto, es devolver el compostaje y sus valiosos nutrientes a los campos de cultivo que alimentan a las ciudades.


Enfrentar el problema del metano, el segundo GEI  más importante  después del CO2, responsable de alrededor de 0,5°C del calentamiento actual, es una medida fácil para reducir las emisiones del cambio climático en las zonas urbanas. El metano es un gas muy potente pero efímero, por lo que ofrece algunas de las oportunidades más prometedoras para reducir las emisiones a corto plazo. Aunque el informe del IPCC se centra principalmente en el dióxido de carbono, que es el principal causante a largo plazo del cambio climático, las oportunidades de reducción del metano se han analizado en el reciente informe: La evaluación global de metano

Dicho informe destaca los residuos, y en especial los residuos orgánicos: el sector de residuos constituye la tercera fuente más grande de emisiones antropogénicas de metano y está creciendo rápidamente. Afortunadamente, la eliminación de las emisiones de metano de los rellenos sanitarios es relativamente económica–: solo requiere la implementación de prácticas de separación en la fuente y tratamientos alternativos como el compostaje. Nuestro trabajo reciente indica que intervenciones sencillas pueden reducir las emisiones de metano generadas por los rellenos sanitarios en un 96%.

La foto es cortesía del Grupo para la Acción y Remediación de Rellenos Sanitarios en Brookhaven (BLARG)


Lamentablemente, en lo referente a la incineración de basura-a-energía, el informe del IPCC repite la propaganda de la industria en lugar de la ciencia sólida. La incineración, pirólisis y las tecnologías de gasificación son incompatibles con los escenarios de descarbonización, ya que son grandes emisores de gases de efecto invernadero. Además, existen mejores alternativas, tanto para el tratamiento de residuos como para la generación de energía. Sin embargo, el informe no aborda estos retos y complejidades.

La incineración de residuos es la manera menos ineficiente y más costosa para generar energía y gestionar los residuos. Es el método de producción energética que más intensivamente produce emisiones de GEI, emitiendo 1,7 veces más GEI por unidad de energía producida, comparado con las centrales termoeléctricas a carbón. La generación de energía desde la basura cuesta casi cuatro veces más que la energía solar y energía eólica terrestre, dos veces más que el gas natural y 25 por ciento más que las centrales termoeléctricas de carbón. A pesar de que la incineración de residuos resulta en una producción intensiva de emisiones de carbono, la industria del cemento — una de las principales emisoras GEI a nivel global — tiene como objetivo utilizar combustibles alternativos para cubrir el 22% de la energía empleada a nivel mundial en los hornos de cemento para el año 2030. De esta manera, es alarmante que tanto  la incineración de residuos como la co-incineración en hornos de cemento se incluyeron como una solución climática en 39 de las 99 contribuciones determinadas a nivel nacional (CDN) presentadas hace poco. 

Recientemente, la Unión Europea ha excluido la incineración de residuos de la taxonomía europea de finanzas sostenibles y su apoyo financiero. No se han construido nuevos incineradores en los Estados Unidos desde 1997. Sin embargo, sigue el auge de los proyectos de incineración en los países en vías de desarrollo – especialmente en Asia, donde Japón promueve el uso de incineradores mediante proyectos de desarrollo internacional.  Los bancos multilaterales de desarrollo como el Banco Asiático de Desarrollo y el Banco Asiático de Inversión en Infraestructura  también han financiado proyectos de incineración en Asia.


El IPCC señala claramente que la producción y consumo del plástico es un problema: “las proyecciones que aumentan la producción del plástico (…) no se alinean con la necesaria reducción de emisiones.”

De hecho, el plástico tiene una participación significativa y creciente del presupuesto global del carbono. Se estima el ciclo de vida completo de los plásticos tenía una huella de carbono de 1,7 mil millones de toneladas CO2 equivalente (CO2e) en 2015, que crecería a 6,5 mil millones de toneladas de CO2e en 2050 (equivalente a 1.640 centrales eléctricas de carbón) si continúa la actual trayectoria de crecimiento de la producción, disposición e incineración del plástico. También significa que para el año 2050, las emisiones producidas por el plástico por sí solas, constituirán más de la tercera parte del presupuesto de carbono restante para la meta de 1,5°C. Las emisiones de GEI de la producción de plásticos llegan cerca de las 2 toneladas de CO2e por cada tonelada de plástico producido. Esta es la primera vez que el IPCC aborda el tema del plástico, y hace un llamado claro a reducir la cantidad de plástico producido: los gobiernos deberían prestar atención.


Conferencia de prensa en el botadero de Dandoro en Kenia, por el Día Internacional del Reciclador, el 1ero de marzo de 2022.

El IPCC deja en claro que las ciudades requieren tanto de capacidades institucionales de gestión, como de acceso a financiamiento y tecnología. La gestión de residuos es un buen ejemplo: Las soluciones no son sofisticadas – separación en origen para la recolección, compostaje y reciclaje, prohibición de productos y embalajes problemáticos – pero requieren que los gobiernos municipales trabajen con sus constituyentes. En el sector de residuos, una mejor gobernanza puede abrir oportunidades para reconocer e integrar al sector informal en mejores prácticas de gestión de residuos, y así lo reconoció también el informe del IPCC. La gestión de residuos es una vía importante para incluir el sector informal en la economía urbana.

Esta es una fuente importante de “cobeneficios” tales como mayor empleo, integración social, reducción de la contaminación y de la pobreza. En este sentido, incluso las medidas vinculadas a los residuos pueden enfocarse principalmente a la mitigación del cambio climático en áreas urbanas, así como ofrecer beneficios para la adaptación y mejoramiento de la resiliencia urbana.

En resumen, el informe del IPCC sobre la mitigación nos hace recordar que el sector de residuos ofrece una enorme oportunidad para reducir las emisiones de manera rápida y económica, y al mismo tiempo aumentar la resiliencia, generar buenos puestos de trabajo, y promover economías locales prósperas. En todo el mundo, las ciudades comprometidas con el objetivo de basura cero están demostrando que reducir las emisiones en el sector de residuos es factible y deseable, y solo tenemos que hacerlo mucho más a menudo.

by Mariel Vilella, Director of Global Climate Program

The IPCC’s Mitigation report (formally, the 6th Assessment Report of Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has just been released. 

Again, we’re reminded that the climate emergency is accelerating: there is very little time left to avoid exceeding the 1.5C temperature goal, and even small increases beyond that will have increasingly catastrophic impacts. As if on cue, just last week, Earth’s North and South Poles were 30C and 40C above normal at the same time. 

So what should we do about it? Precisely, the mitigation report is all about options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the scientific point of view. Despite the report’s aim to be  “policy relevant” without providing specific policy guidance, it does offer some clues, and reading between the lines, its findings can be translated into action. 

IPCC on waste: the second-largest source of emissions in urban areas

What does the IPCC say about waste? As the report points out, the waste sector remains the largest contributor to urban emissions after the energy sector, even in low-carbon cities. 

Urban areas themselves represent the lion’s share of global emissions, and it’s increasing: despite there being large variations in emissions from urban areas across countries and regions, its share of GHG emissions increased for all regions and globally between 2000 and 2015. 

Amongst rich countries (in UN’s language called ‘developed countries’, the urban share of total emissions increased from 60% in 2000 to 67% in 2015. The most significant change in emission metrics occurred in Asia and Developing Pacific and Developed Countries regions. 

Moreover, the expected growth of cities under a business-as-usual scenario could more than double annual resource requirements for raw materials to 90 billion tonnes per year by 2050, up from 40 billion tonnes in 2010, which in itself will increase GHG emissions too. 

As the IPCC says, cities can reduce GHG emissions significantly, but this requires systemic transformation: circular economy, inclusion and equity, and innovative technologies are some of the key elements in conjunction with other strategies that can contribute towards low and net-zero urban development. 

This is precisely where zero waste strategies can make a difference. It will require a coordinated integration of all sectors, strategies, and innovations including cities in developing countries. 

Here, we highlight the five key takeaways from this report that are relevant for the decarbonisation agenda of cities and what opportunities can be seized by working on the waste sector:

1. Enhancing the circular economy in cities from a systemic perspective. 

For one thing, the potential of the circular economy to reduce emissions is huge. A circular economy, of course, is one that eliminates waste by upstream measures (source reduction) or reusing, composting, or recycling everything. Circular economies reduce emissions through reduced demand for raw materials and processing as well as eliminating emissions from waste management. If Shanghai just recycled everything it could, it would reduce CO2 emissions by 16.8 million tonnes per year. 

Achieving a circular economy requires not just one intervention but a systemic rethink of how we use materials, and this is why the IPCC puts a lot of emphasis on systemic change. Net zero for cities is possible despite rapid urbanization, but it won’t happen with more of the same kinds of interventions we have seen so far – landfills and incinerators. Instead, wide-ranging, integrated strategies are required that link material use and efficiency to energy use and generation, land use patterns, and by linking urban and rural areas. One example of this is returning compost, and its valuable nutrients, to the farms that feed cities. 

2. Methane emissions from waste: low-hanging fruit to make cities more climate-friendly. 

Tackling methane, the second-most important GHG after CO2  responsible for about 0.5°C of warming today, is a low-hanging fruit for reducing climate change emissions in urban areas. Methane is a very potent but short-lived gas, so it offers some of the most promising opportunities to reduce emissions in the near term. While the IPCC report focuses primarily on carbon dioxide, which is the primary long-run driver of climate change, methane reduction opportunities have been analyzed in the recent report, the Global Methane Assessment

In this report, waste – and particularly organic waste – is prominent: the waste sector is the third largest source of anthropogenic methane emissions and growing rapidly. Fortunately, eliminating landfill methane emissions is relatively cheap – it requires source separation practices and alternative treatments, such as compost. Our recent work indicates that landfill methane emissions can be reduced 96% with simple interventions to keep organics out of landfill. 

Photo courtesy of Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group (BLARG)

3. “Waste-to-energy” incineration: a losing strategy

Unfortunately, when it comes to waste-to-energy, the IPCC report cites industry propaganda rather than solid science. Incineration, pyrolysis, and gasification technologies are incompatible with decarbonization scenarios because they are major emitters of greenhouse gases. Moreover, better alternatives exist both for waste treatment and energy generation. Yet the report does not address these challenges and complexities. 

Waste incineration is the most inefficient and expensive way to generate energy and manage waste. It is the most emissions-intensive form of power generation, emitting 1.7 times as much greenhouse gases (GHGs) per unit of electricity produced compared to coal-fired power plants. The cost of energy generation is nearly four times higher than solar power and onshore wind energy, twice as much as natural gas, and 25 percent more expensive than coal-fired power plants. Despite the carbon-intensive nature of waste incineration, the cement industry — one of the top GHG emitters globallyaims to use alternative fuels to cover 22% of global cement kiln energy usage by 2030. Alarmingly, both waste incineration and co-incineration in cement kilns were included as a climate solution in 39 of 99 recently submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Recently, the European Union has excluded waste incineration from its Sustainable Finance Taxonomy and its financial support. In the United States, no new incinerators have been built since 1997. However, waste incineration projects are still rising in developing countries — especially in Asia where Japan promotes waste incinerators through international development projects. Multilateral development banks such as Asian Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank have also financed incineration projects in Asia.

4. Plastic is carbon.

The IPCC is very clear in pointing out that the production and consumption of plastics is a problem: “Projections for increasing plastic production (…) do not align with necessary emission reductions.” 

Indeed, plastic has a significant and growing share in the global carbon budget. The global carbon footprint of plastic throughout its full life-cycle was estimated at 1.7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) in 2015, which would grow to 6.5 billion tonnes CO2e (equivalent to annual emissions from nearly 1,640 coal-fired power plants) by 2050, if the production, disposal, and incineration of plastic continue on their present growth trajectories. This also means that, by 2050, emissions from plastic alone will take up over a third of the remaining carbon budget for a 1.5 °C target. GHG emissions from plastics production are around 2 tons CO2e per ton of plastic produced. 

This is the first time that the IPCC has addressed plastic, and it has issued a clear call to reduce the amount of plastic produced: governments should take heed. 

5. How to achieve all this? Governance, finance, technology and inclusion of waste pickers.

Press Conference at Dandoro dumpsite in Kenya on International Waste Pickers’ Day March 1, 2022

The IPCC makes it clear that cities need institutional and management capacity as much as they do access to finance and technology. Waste management is a case in point: the solutions – source separated-collection, composting and recycling, bans on problematic products and packaging – are not sophisticated but do require city administrations to work with their citizenry. 

In the waste sector, improved governance can open up opportunities to recognize and integrate the informal sector into improved waste management practices, which the IPCC report also acknowledges. Waste management is an important  pathway for inclusion of the informal sector into the urban economy. 

This is an important source of “co-benefits” such as greater employment, social integration, reduced pollution, poverty reduction. In this sense, even measures related to waste can be primarily aimed at urban climate change mitigation, they can also offer adaptation benefits and enhance urban resilience. 

In sum, the IPCC report on mitigation reminds us that the waste sector provides an enormous opportunity to cut climate emissions quickly and cheaply while building resilience, creating good jobs, and promoting thriving local economies. Cities committed to a zero waste goal are demonstrating all over the world that cutting emissions in the waste sector is feasible and desirable – and we just need to do a lot more of it. 

Opinion by Betty Osei Bonsu

The Green Africa Youth Organization (GAYO) has been working with the La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly (LaDMA) to implement the “Zero Waste Accra project”. This project aims to pilot a Zero Waste management strategy to deliver green jobs in the La Municipality.

On March 11 – 12, 2022, various stakeholders came together, including Sesa Recycling, La Tenu Radio, Ghana Environment.com, ChaiNT Afrique, La pleasure beach, and La Waste Workers. The stakeholders embarked on a door-to-door sensitisation campaign, “Zero Waste for all Communities”, under the theme of promoting citizen participation for effective waste management.

Waste management remains a huge problem in Ghana, and therefore, the sensitisation exercise responded to the lingering waste management problems most Ghanaian communities face. Over 200 volunteers participated in this activity. These volunteers trained and educated residents on properly segregating waste and the associated benefits of waste segregation. They also handed out segregation sacks to facilitate collection.

Before the sensitisation, volunteers were taken through virtual training to be equipped with skills to deliver campaign messages. Additionally, the volunteers disseminated questionnaires that targeted citizens’ perceptions on implementing the zero waste project. This engagement aimed to enhance the partnership with relevant institutions on waste management advocacy, championing waste reduction within the community, increasing collection and influencing the development of a strategic plan for effective communication on zero waste within communities.

The door to door sensitisation activity was carried out in three communities of the La Dade Kotopon Municipal Assembly (Mantiase, Adobetor and Adiembra). Through collective efforts, we reached 500 households and 13 schools, which had over 50,000 students. 

The buyback plastic centre was launched after the day’s sensitisation, this was led by our partner Sesa Recycling. We received 333 kilograms of PET plastic and 122 kilograms of water sachets for recycling and processing at the material recovery facility from the community. 

After this activity, participants and community members expressed their satisfaction with the events, and over 100 households registered to have their segregated waste collected. 

Several media houses, including Angel TV, Ghana Environment.com, and La Tenu Fm released reports on the engagement and highlighted the activity to other stakeholders. GAYO and LADMA look forward to engaging with other organisations and stakeholders to promote effective waste management practices within the community and beyond.

*Betty is the Project Coordinator for the Green Africa Youth Organisation, based in Accra, Ghana. 

About the Report

For decades, U.S. cities have collected mixed plastic in recycling programs in an unsuccessful attempt to solve the plastic waste crisis. Analyzing the municipal solid waste (MSW) streams of five U.S. cities, this new report sheds light on the different ways legitimate recycling efforts are undermined, and how the simplest and most ethical solution to our plastic problem is to remove all non-recyclable plastic from the system. A key finding of the study is that 64% of plastic in these cities’ MSW streams cannot be recycled. It’s time for policy and regulations to prioritize reduction and reuse over recycling, and to rethink public programs and budgets for healthier outcomes.


In five major U.S. cities, 64% of plastic collected is NOT recyclable.

Key Takeaways

Lack of data transparency obstructs solutions. Good data leads to good policy. Data on municipal waste flows is absent, old and difficult to find. This allows the plastic industry to exploit loopholes and push self-serving narratives, and creates challenges for cities and communities that want to shift to true zero waste systems.

Most plastic is designed to be dumped or burned, harming communities. Cities can reduce pollution by banning non-recyclable plastic. Only 8.8% of all plastic in the waste stream in the five cities is actually recycled. The remainder is incinerated, landfilled or could supply plastic-for-fuel or chemical recycling facilities, all of which are harmful to our health and environment.

Recycling rates are low because most plastic produced is not recyclable. Companies, not cities, should pay. 64.3% of all plastic in the waste stream in the five cities is not recyclable through municipal recycling or state redemption programs, and yet communities are paying for it with their health and their pocketbooks. 



People (understandably) don’t know what’s actually recyclable. Cities should prioritize collecting only plastic that can be recycled. In the five cities, only 24% of potentially recyclable plastic (#1, #2, #5) gets recycled; 76% gets incinerated or landfilled. Conversely, 12%-55% of all plastic that ended up in single-stream recycling programs was not recyclable.

While plastic recycling must be improved, it has its limits. Plastic reduction and zero waste systems must be prioritized.  Zero waste infrastructure like reuse, refill, and repair provides up to 200x as many jobs as disposal, furthers environmental justice, and improves sustainability.

The Project

Across the United States, waste incinerators have plagued communities for decades with harmful air emissions, accidents, and other health and safety-related concerns. As their contracts with these aging incinerators expire in the next few years, cities have a choice to make: they can choose to bind themselves to a new generation of incinerators that will cost millions and continue to pollute our most vulnerable communities, or they can make a just transition to a sustainable system that improves public health and saves money. Communities most impacted by these facilities are taking the lead to create livable communities that manage waste effectively for the health of generations to come.


The Campaigns

“Recycling is part of a zero waste future, but it isn’t the solution to the plastic crisis we find ourselves in.”
Whitney Amaya, East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice
“Because of a lack of data collection, communities are not fully aware of how serious this problem is.”
Natalia Figueredo, Ironbound Community Corporation
“We have been sold the myth that recycling is the solution to plastics and the waste that it produces.”
Akira Yano, Minnesota Environmental & Climate Justice Table
“The life cycle of plastic is harming communities all along the way; from extraction, to refinery, to single-use litter, to incineration.”
KT Andresky, Breathe Free Detroit
This is the default image

Baltimore, MD

Over 65% of the plastic collected through the single-stream program in Baltimore is trash, and likely ends up in the incinerator, threatening the health of the surrounding community. South Baltimore Community Land Trust (SBCLT) is working to change neighborhoods from dumping grounds surrounded by polluting industries to healthy zero waste communities. As a result of SBCLT’s work, in collaboration with other local organizations and institutions, the Baltimore City Council unanimously adopted the Fair Development Plan for Zero Waste.


Image by South Baltimore Community Land Trust

Detroit, MI

After decades of community activism, the Detroit Renewable Power Incinerator announced the facility’s immediate closure. Now that an end has been put to municipal waste incineration in Detroit, Breathe Free Detroit in collaboration with grassroots groups is working to build new zero waste systems for the city. One major hurdle is that only 1.3% of plastic collected in single-stream is recyclable, and residents have to foot the bill for the resulting waste.


Image by Breathe Free Detroit

Long Beach, CA

East Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, and Long Beach have been plagued with two of the three incinerators in California, as well as several oil and plastic production facilities. East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice (EYCEJ) is a community-based environmental health and justice organization that has succeeded in shutting down one incinerator, and is advocating for a zero waste plan that will eliminate single-use plastic and build a network of reuse, refill, and repair shops across the city and a transition away from fossil fuel extraction, refining, and distribution.


Image by East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice

Minneapolis, MN

Of all of the cities in the study, Minneapolis has the most effective municipal recycling program, due to strong citizen advocates and the work of mission-based recycler Eureka Recycling to highlight the importance of recycling with the goal of waste reduction. Nevertheless, a lot of non-recyclable plastic is still sent to the incinerator, located near where the majority of Minneapolis’ Black population lives, which has the highest asthma rate in the state. The Minnesota Environmental & Climate Justice Table is working to show the county that Minneapolis doesn’t have to choose between burning and dumping its trash because zero waste is possible, feasible, and affordable. 


Image by Grounding Minnesota

Newark, NJ

In Newark, the Essex County Resource Recovery incinerator burns about 2.8 tons of waste per day.  It emits more lead into the air than any other U.S. incinerator, in addition to dozens of other toxic chemicals. At least 89.2% of plastic collected is incinerated. The Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) has been fighting incineration and all other major sources of pollution for more than forty years. Last year,  ICC succeeded in passing an environmental justice bill for New Jersey designed to prevent the siting of new industrial facilities or the expansion of current facilities in communities like Newark that are already overburdened with pollution.


Image by Ironbound Community Corporation

By Marlet Salazar

Coming from a career in fashion and graphic design, Roxane Uzureau introduced in 2019 a novel food delivery idea—a membership-based service wherein customers can order their food in reusable containers using an app. 

Wanting to embrace the local culture but struggling with the disposable packaging and vast amount of waste from the takeaway way of life, Roxane realised that if she were to tackle one aspect first, it had to be food.  Hence, she founded barePack.

“I have always been quite sensitive to the notion of waste,” she said. “It’s something that genuinely upsets me. Everything has an environmental cost, even what you consider free.” 

The idea of membership-based service has been going around for years, but an app- and membership-based service that works across many delivery platforms is novel, making Singapore the world’s first to have a solution that caters for all its major delivery platformsFoodpanda, Deliveroo and Grab.

“There is an unmet need for those who don’t want to sacrifice the environment (and their health) for convenience,” Roxane explained.

The positive response from consumers encouraged Roxane to keep going. 

Roxane’s biggest challenge has been changing the mindset of restaurant owners, especially those that have been in business for a long time. 

“We had to convince restaurants that we had a solution that would work,” she said. “It was so different and novel. We had first adopters who we leveraged for social proof to get others who are less keen on board, and even big chains that typically would be averse to changing their operations.”

Roxane said the service is free for the businesses because the consumers, who are the members, are the ones paying for it, but they had to prove to restaurant owners that they could implement barePack without repercussions on their operations and that it would answer the needs of increasingly conscious consumers whose top complaint, according to restaurants barePack spoke with, pertains to unsustainable packaging.

To spread the word and raise awareness of the service, Roxane said that they did a fair bit of marketing and communications for the businesses—all at no cost—to show that they were ready to put in all the effort needed to convert customers and make it a fruitful collaboration.

But businesses have a bottom line to protect which prevented them from embracing sustainable operations. 

Adoption rates improved when the company introduced the rewards system and entered into partnerships. Finding like-minded businesses have been hard but barePack eventually found businesses that are willing to try something new.

Culture and beliefs are also some of the challenges barePack have to contend with. Some people feel that reusables are less hygienic than single-use containers. But Roxane argues customers cannot be too sure that single-use is cleaner than reusables.

“The WHO (World Health Organization) states that the best way to protect yourself from diseases is to wash your hands and surfaces with soap and water,” she said. “As such, reusable containers like ours that are cleaned by restaurants are almost guaranteed to be clean. Can you say as much about the single-use container?”

The COVID-19 pandemic that forced governments to impose lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus allowed barePack to promote their novel idea. Locked in their houses, people resorted to deliveries which significantly increased packaging waste. During the circuit-breaker months in Singapore, where Roxane and barePack are based at the moment, she realized that she needed to collaborate with the delivery service companies foodpanda and Deliveroo. 

“Bring your own schemes were halted in many restaurants because of the risk of contamination from accepting to handle customer containers but barePack doesn’t require taking in a container from a consumer by a food handler and as such we maintain our service in almost every single location,” Roxane said.

According to Roxane, the collaborations with foodpanda and Deliverooand the newest to come onboard: Grabwere pivotal in getting more visibility and buy-in from restaurants and consumers alike.

Like most businesses, barePack is also affected by the pandemic. Seeing that there was less foot traffic, Roxane said they upped their ability to offer food delivery in barePack containers. 

“With Deliveroo, we offered a deposit mode for customers who did not want to become members yet and made it free to use the service as a member during COVID-19,” she said. “Since then, we resumed pricing but kept a monthly free trial period and then a low 99 cents/month membership. We did more education on the safety of reuse versus disposables to really show how there is no science to back the safety of single-use and to crush that perception. We added over twice as many restaurants to be more accessible, in the COVID period alone, moving from just 30 locations to over 80 and now over 100.

Roxane said that they are guided by their mission of replacing the millions of disposables used every day in food and beverage takeaway and delivery.

“We want to empower consumers to change their habits for a healthier and more sustainable life without having to give up on the things they enjoy such as food on the go and late-night delivery,” she said. “We believe in kindness: to each other, the planet, our partners, our customers.”

Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/barePack.co/


This article is part of the book, BUSINESS UNUSUAL: Enterprises paving the way to Zero Waste, a collection of feature articles on select enterprises in Asia Pacific that practice and promote Zero Waste principles. Published by Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, the publication may be downloaded for free at no-burn.org/business-unusual

By Marlet Salazar