Stories of Environmental Justice Values and Principles for Climate Action: Movimento Nacional de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis – Brazil

Contributed by Movimento Nacional de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis (MNCR)

The fight for environmental justice is strong in Brazil, and a powerful example is the social movement MNCR (Movimento Nacional de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis or the National Movement of Waste Pickers), which has been organizing recyclable material collectors throughout Brazil for roughly 20 years. They seek to uplift waste pickers as important members of society, and fight for recognition, inclusion and appreciation of the work that they do.

Aline Sousa, CENTCOOP


For two decades, MNCR has played a crucial role in organizing waste pickers across the country. Their main platforms are advocating for independence and solidarity for the oppressed class, fighting against incineration and privatization of waste, minimizing environmental impacts, and building popular power to sustain the planet. 


Currently, it is estimated that there are between 800 thousand and 1 million waste pickers in Brazil. Around 1664 municipalities throughout the country have adopted separate collection, where waste pickers are responsible for 30% of the total mass collected. Also, 42% of these municipalities exclusively rely on waste pickers to carry out this activity. These professionals clearly play an essential role in waste management in Brazil.

One of the most prominent heroes of the movement is Aline Souza, who is currently serving her third term as President and Director of the Central das Cooperativas de Trabalho de Catadores de Materiais Recicláveis do Distrito Federal – CENTCOOP, and is a state representative of the National Movement of Waste Pickers of Federal District (MNCR-DF) and the National Secretariat for Women and Youth of Unicatadores.

The verb to rebuild and preserve has been part of Aline’s life since she was a child. At the age of 14, she started helping her grandmother with her recycling work, and since then she has worked in the sector, making recycling a way to transform her life and the lives of the people who work with her. She is part of the third generation of waste pickers in her family and is the mother of seven children. As a teenager, she dreamed of studying law. During the pandemic, she managed to get a 90% scholarship to study law, but today she has stopped her studies due to personal and professional demands.

Her grassroots organization is called CENTCOOP, made up of 23 waste picker cooperatives. The CENTCOOP advocates for the social recognition of waste pickers, strengthens environmental education on recycling and the shared solid waste management, and contributes to the development of waste picker-led collection systems. 

In 2023, CENTCOOP launched CREAR/DF – Centro de Referência em Educação Ambiental do Distrito Federal (Reference Center for Environmental Education in the Federal District), to educate the public on waste separation, engaging civil society, the private sector, public authorities and waste picker cooperatives to increase the quality of the solid waste that arrives at the cooperatives. Approximately 60% of the waste that the cooperatives in the Federal District currently receive is contaminated, and becomes refuse. Therefore educating and informing the population is key to improving segregated collection and municipal solid waste (MSW) management for a circular economy.

Proper waste management is not only an essential municipal service,  but a lynchpin for the climate. Today, Brazil collects 65.6 million tons of MSW yearly. Although 45.6%of waste collected is organic, only 0.4% is composted. Currently, only 2% is diverted from disposal: landfills receive 71.6% of the total waste collected and dumps 26.4%. The country emits 5.5% of global methane emissions, with the waste sector accounting for 16%, placing organic waste disposal as the second largest source of methane emissions in Brazil.

With this in mind, CENTCOOP has been developing a project to divert organic waste from the landfill in order to mitigate emissions from this sector, through the creation of a composting plant and a organic waste separate collection scheme, supported by the Pólis Institute and the Global Methane Hub (GMH). 


Today, composting systems operated by waste pickers generate three to five times more jobs than landfills, highlighting the potential for expanding these operations. Composting not only has a positive impact on the local economy, but also recognizes organic solid waste as an economic asset with social value. This generates work and income and promotes citizenship, as advocated by the National Solid Waste Policy (PNRS). 

In addition to valuing the main players in the MSW management system and the most vulnerable population, the new MSW management models– which include waste picker-led composting operations– are part of a just transition and have a positive impact on the economy. The role of waste pickers is fundamental, not only as a legal priority in MSW management, but as drivers of social technologies that increase recycling and boost local development. The Environmental justice principles demonstrated by MNCR provide dignity and job creation for marginalized groups, while reducing methane emissions from the waste sector and promoting a circular economy.


Contributed by Trivandrum Municipal Corporation (TMC)

The Zero Waste Story of Trivandrum, India

Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. In 2011, the city was hit hard by the shutdown of its only municipal landfill at Vilappilsala (in the city outskirts) after locals protested the mismanagement of waste at the site. It was then that the city’s local body decided to shift its waste management practices to a decentralized system. The Trivandrum Municipal Corporation (TMC) is the largest local self-government institution with 100 wards, about 1 million in population, and an area of 214.86 sq. km.  Being the capital city, there is also a floating population of 200 thousand per day. The city produces around 423 tons of waste per day out of which more than 70 percent is organic waste.

The decentralized waste management system of TMC introduced segregated collection of waste ensuring source-level composting and decentralized resource recovery. This is done with the help of 1,139 ‘Haritha Karma Sena’ (Green Action Force) members who are tasked to collect non-biodegradable waste materials from each household. For this, they earn a user fee of Rs.100 per month from each house that they visit. The Haritha Karma Sena (HKS) members, 90 percent of whom are women, visit every house twice a month for plastic collection. The municipal corporation also has a calendar made for non-biodegradable waste collection according to which the people should hand over different types of waste material to HKS in allotted months (for example, old cloth, bags, and sandals in October). The collected non-biodegradables are then sent to authorized recyclers.

The city follows source-level composting for organic waste. Each household has access to bio-waste management facilities provided by the local body, such as composting bins or kitchen bins, pipe compost, biogas plants, etc. which are provided at a highly subsidized cost. Communities or households who do not have enough space to plant such source-level composting facilities can drop their bio-waste at the nearby aerobic bins. There are close to 60 aerobic bins distributed to the 100 wards in the city. These aerobic bins have trained staff who process the waste to convert it to compost that is used for urban farming. Bulk generators like hotels, restaurants, commercial establishments, community halls, and institutions are also responsible for segregating their waste at source. They then have to hand over their non-bio waste to the HKS and wet waste to authorized pig farmers or plant owners who process and use it for animal feed.

The city also introduced a ‘Green Protocol,’ (a set of measures to reduce waste generation), the first in India to do so. A large group of youth leaders called the Green Army volunteers assist the city corporation to enforce the Green Protocol at all major events and festivals, raise awareness against littering, promote alternative products, and many more vital activities. 

This formalization of decentralized resource recovery, source-level segregation, and composting are examples of zero waste solutions that are based on the principles of environmental justice:

  1.     The Green Protocol measures and promotion of alternative products through Green Army youth volunteers’ awareness campaigns are meant to advance the commitments of governments, the public, and private institutions to reducing consumption, thereby reducing their carbon footprint. This is a major step towards respecting planetary boundaries and ensuring intergenerational equity.
  2.     The HKS helps to keep the city clean and aids every household to manage their waste responsibly. The mandatory user fee payment to HKS, forming the HKS consortium, pays for green uniforms, necessary equipment for safe waste collection, and training sessions to HKS to convert them to Green Technicians who can provide technical assistance to every household and institution in using source-level composting technologies. These initiatives show how the city corporation ensures and promotes respect for workers in the field of waste management. They are not seen as waste pickers but as a part of the city corporation’s enforcement force.
  3.     Trivandrum’s decentralized waste management infrastructure also enhances inclusion– many HKS members and Green Army volunteers are from different social backgrounds. The city corporation also makes sure that all communities in the city have access to the facilities and technologies for waste management.
  4.     The officials of the corporation’s health wing have a day and night patrolling squad to prevent littering. The squad acts as an enforcement agency that imposes a fine for non-compliance. The state has introduced a new scheme that rewards 10 percent of the punishment fine to responsible individuals who report such violations, with evidence, to the squad. These measures ensure that there is accountability for environmental harm.
  5.     These practices’ combined yields generate income for waste management facilitators or HKS, leading to a just transition. It ensures a sense of responsibility among the public, especially the youth, in managing waste. The program also promotes a critical narrative shift amongst the general populous– that what we see as trash is actually a resource. This systemic point of view has led to increased adoption of holistic solutions for zero waste.

The TMC has ensured stakeholder participation in solid waste management and has adopted creative and scientific methods for methane reduction, which undoubtedly make the city a model in solid waste management that can be followed by other states and nations through necessary modifications that suit their local characteristics.






Contributed by Mahesh Pandya, Paryavaran Mitra

Paryavaran Mitra’s Efforts to Promote Zero Waste

India’s remarkable journey of economic growth and development has brought with it a modern dilemma – an escalating plastic waste crisis. The rapid industrialization and urbanization of the country have significantly increased the consumption of plastic products leading to dire consequences on the environment.

When we dive into statistics it shows us the real picture of the problem and the urgent need for sustainable solutions:

  • India has an annual production of plastic of over 20 million tonnes.
  • Single-use plastics account for a substantial portion of the plastic waste generated in India. These items often end up in landfills, water bodies, and streets.
  • According to estimates, India recycles only about 60% of the total plastic waste generated.
  • With over 60,000 tons of plastic waste entering the marine ecosystem annually.
  • Burning of plastic waste releases harmful toxins into the environment risking biodiversity.

The characteristic appearance of Paryavaran Mitra on plastic waste awareness and working with stakeholders are some small yet efficacious steps towards the abatement of plastic pollution.

Waste Connect on 20th January 2023 was a stakeholder meeting organized by Paryavaran Mitra in which waste pickers, environmentalists, and experts from various fields participated. The discussion was regarding regular stable income, better working conditions for rag pickers, upliftment of the waste picker community, and ensuring a better linkage between different stakeholders. The final decision was to represent each issue to the municipal corporation together.

Due to the intervention of Paryavaran Mitra, the Government of Gujarat declared a welfare policy for waste pickers. If they collect single-use plastics and multi-layer plastic then they will get 3 Rs. per kilo up to 15 kg per day maximum for 15 days in a month. But that’s not sufficient and we are trying our best to increase the limits of days, volume, and price.

Paryavaran Mitra is demanding the government to segregate waste at its source. As in most cities of Gujarat, segregation does not happen at the source.

Ahmedabad Zero Waste Fair on 22nd January 2023 was organized on the occasion of “International Zero Waste Month 2023”, as a series of events in collaboration with Gujarat Pollution Control Board. At this fair, students from 15 schools in Ahmedabad City participated and presented their projects. Paryavran Mitra also invited stakeholders to a seminar in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce, Gujarat Pollution Control Board to create awareness about plastic pollution among stakeholders.

Green Catalyst, the youth wing of Paryavaran Mitra organized 10 community awareness programs titled: Lifestyle for Environment – Challenges, Solutions and Initiatives in different localities of Ahmedabad in May – June 2023 with Lok Manch and St. Xavier’s Social Service Society. The attempt was to take aim at some common environmental issues such as waste disposal, solid waste management, plastic waste generation, water pollution, climate change, and air pollution with a special focus on Lifestyle for the environment i.e., how we as individuals can bring change in our day-to-day lives that is sustainable and helps in conserving and protecting our environment. Green Catalyst volunteers of Paryavaran Mitra worked collectively to put together a 10-minute skit. The program was started by asking questions to the audience. The skit advocated towards the use of cloth bags rather than plastic ones. It was made interesting for the audience by familiarizing cloth bags as gifts on answering correctly the series of questions about the skit.

GC volunteers are in regular communication with waste pickers. The role of Paryavaran Mitra is to sensitize GC for human rights. Waste pickers are generally climate refugees who migrated from BanasKantha district (North Gujarat) to the big city of Ahmedabad. As the region is semi-arid and agriculture depends only on monsoon and is uncertain these days due to climate change, they shifted to picking plastics in the city.

Paryavaran Mitra also aided the waste pickers during Covid-19 by providing them with ration kits according to their needs and requirements.

In summation, the indefatigable efforts of Paryavaran Mitra are contributing to ameliorating the scourge of plastic pollution and promoting zero waste. Through assiduous advocacy, relentless awareness campaigns, and collaborative initiatives, we have caused a metanoia in society’s perception of plastic waste, fostering a nascent era of eco-consciousness.

Contributed by Dr. Shahriar Hossain, Environmental and Social Development Organization


Empowering Communities: A Tale of Methane Reduction through Zero Waste Approaches

In a world grappling with the consequences of climate change, it is imperative to celebrate the success stories that pave the way toward a sustainable and toxic-free future. Today, we share a remarkable journey of environmental stewardship and community empowerment, spearheaded by the Environmental and Social Development Organization – ESDO. This story illuminates the transformative power of zero-waste approaches, demonstrating how they not only reduce methane emissions but also exemplify the core principles of Environmental Justice.

Distributing bin and composters for organic farming to local people in Rangpur, Bangladesh

A Vision Turned Reality: Zero Waste Community at Rangpur, Bangladesh

We, at ESDO, envision zero waste as a solution to reduce food loss, as well as waste management, and as a strategy to build an organic, eco-friendly and sustainable future. Therefore, we embarked on visionary initiatives, establishing a biogas plant and educating people of organic food production and sustainable soil management, ensuring soil and environmental health and ultimately, public health in Rangpur, Bangladesh. This approach utilized a proper waste management system to support two families. By converting organic waste into biogas, this project not only provided energy but also significantly contributed to reducing methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas responsible for climate change. Furthermore, ESDO encouraged 300 families (150 families in Betgari Union and 150 in Rangpur) to use ‘Twin Pit Earth Composter’ to manage waste effectively for organic food production, and soil health management, while ensuring sustainable agricultural practices. We aimed to make the rural people in Bangladesh aware of the necessity of waste segregation through the 4R strategy (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refill). We also set out to inform the communities on how they can mitigate environmental pollution impact through their daily activities, and build their adaptation potential in the emerging changing climate situation the world is facing. 

‘Twin Pit Earth Composter’ at Betgari Union, Rangpur, Bangladesh

Uplifting Environmental Justice Values

Equity, democracy, sustainability and community empowerment – these are the foundational pillars of environmental justice that our project embodies. By building zero waste communities in Rangpur District, we champion the idea that every individual, regardless of socio-economic status, can actively contribute to mitigating climate change and act as a change-making agent. This project fosters equitable access to resources and opportunities, ensuring that vulnerable communities are not left behind in the fight against the climate crisis. They can potentially participate in climate change action and significantly contribute to a single step in organic crop production through composting, changing the food production system and preventing food loss with the burgeoning population in Bangladesh.


Positive Impact and Success Metrics

Global methane emissions have increased by roughly 25 percent since 1990 to almost nine billion metric tons of CO₂ equivalent. During this period, the average annual atmospheric methane abundance has increased by 11 percent and reached a record high of 1,895 parts per billion (ppb) in 2021.[1] In this case, the impact of ESDO’s zero waste initiatives is tangible and far-reaching. Apparently, 47 percent of Dhaka’s methane emission is caused by waste. The study identifies 13 dumps where garbage is left in the open to decompose leading to methane emissions.[2] Through the implementation of the biogas plant and waste management programs, an impressive amount of organic waste can be diverted from landfills, thereby reducing methane emissions substantially. Moreover, our zero waste project in the Rangpur District has not only reduced greenhouse gas emissions but has also created job opportunities within the community. By providing employment, zero waste projects empowered individuals, fostered economic resilience and enhanced overall community well-being. If sufficient funds are available, ESDO will establish biogas plants in every possible district in Bangladesh to send a message to world environment leaders that positive change is possible if we work together, cultivating a pollution-free tomorrow for posterity.

Biogas Plant at Betgari Union, Rangpur, Bangladesh


Inspiring Change, Building More Zero Waste Communities

The success of ESDO’s initiatives serves as a beacon of hope, inspiring not only the communities directly involved but also national governments, local authorities and decision-makers worldwide. These stories are not just tales of environmental triumph but also testimonials of the efficacy of Environmental Justice Values and Principles in action.

By building zero waste communities, ESDO showcases the transformative potential of grassroots initiatives. These endeavors emphasize the importance of inclusive, participatory approaches in mitigating climate change. As we approach COP 28, it is crucial for all stakeholders – governments, funders, practitioners, and think tanks – to recognize and adopt similar principles in their methane reduction plans.





The island Province of Siquijor serves as a success story in the global fight against plastic pollution

14 November 2023 – Nairobi, Kenya – As the third intergovernmental negotiations (INC-3) on plastic pollution go underway in Nairobi, Kenya; delegates and environmental advocates are made aware of the island Province of Siquijor in the Philippines as a success story in the global fight against plastic pollution and as a reminder for the need for a strong global treaty to address plastic pollution beyond local actions.

Known for its stunning scenery and attracting a significant number of tourists annually, Siquijor has not been immune to the environmental impact of plastic pollution. However, in 2017, the government embarked on a mission to combat this issue head-on. Collaborating with organizations such as the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) Philippines and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific, they reached out to various sectors, launched informative campaigns, and implemented laws banning styrofoam products while regulating the use of other single-use plastics (SUPs).

During a Global Plastics Treaty side event, “Visions for an Ambitious and Just Treaty” organized by Bloomberg Philanthropies in Nairobi, Vice Governor Dr. Mei Ling Quezon-Brown of Siquijor Island highlighted the success of the island’s efforts in combating the plastic crisis. Emphasizing the significance of local solutions, Quezon-Brown pointed out that the island’s initiatives are anchored in national policies, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Republic Act No. 11038, laws that mandate proper solid waste management and the protection of designated areas.

 Quezon-Brown emphasized the initiation and subsequent extensions of the No Single-Use Plastic Provincial Ordinance, emphasizing the island’s dedication to comprehensive solutions. The ordinance signifies a proactive measure in tackling the plastic problem locally, aligning seamlessly with broader national policies.

The Province has made remarkable strides, achieving proper waste segregation for the whole island and an impressive 58% waste diversion rate achieved through composting and recycling. As a tangible result of these efforts, waste collection frequency has been significantly reduced, reflecting a substantial decrease in plastic waste.

 She states, “At the core of Siquijor’s initiative is the passion and dedication of the Provincial Zero Waste Task Force leaders, who have undergone capacity-strengthening training and advocacy for improved working conditions. The establishment of the Waste Workers Association solidifies its pivotal role in the island’s Zero Waste initiatives.”

 The success story of Siquijor also unfolds through multi-stakeholder collaboration, exemplified by the Siquijor Provincial Zero Waste Management Council and partnerships with civil society organizations through the Provincial Zero Waste Task Force. Together, these collaborations have played a crucial role in implementing effective solid waste management plans.

 Sustainable interventions, such as the introduction of innovative reuse systems and the establishment of pilot Zero Waste stores and eateries, underscore the island’s commitment to fostering a culture of sustainability and environmental responsibility.

 The urgency of the global plastic crisis is not lost on Siquijor Island. Recognizing the interconnected nature of environmental issues, the island advocates for a comprehensive approach.

 With Siquijor Island’s multi-stakeholder approach as an example, Vice Governor Quezon- Brown stresses, “Active participation in the ongoing Global Plastics Treaty negotiations reinforces the island’s commitment to seeking legally binding solutions, including a total ban on SUPs and increased promotion of Reuse and Refill systems. We have the solutions.  We didn’t start the plastic crisis, but together we can end it.”

 As a pioneer member of the Zero Waste Cities Network, Siquijor Island extends an invitation to all other cities and INC-3 delegates to embrace similar initiatives. The island acknowledges that the battle against plastic pollution is a collective endeavor that requires global cooperation and a paradigm shift towards real Zero Waste solutions.

“May the success of Siquijor Island inspire governments to invest in real solutions in tackling the plastic crisis. However, we hope it will also be a timely reminder for all that while real solutions are already happening – the problem is much bigger and urgent that only an ambitious global plastics treaty could address,” says Froilan Grate, Director of GAIA Asia Pacific.  

He adds, “These local solutions should be supported, but we need to ensure that we are addressing the systemic problems, including the unabated production of plastics. Otherwise, Siquijor and other islands and cities will continue to bear the brunt of both the impact of plastic pollution and the cost of managing it. The Global Plastics Treaty should ensure that the burden and cost of managing plastic pollution is borne by those most responsible for it – the plastic-petrochemical companies and the fast-moving consumer goods companies .” 



Media Contacts:

GAIA Asia Pacific: Sonia G. Astudillo, +63 9175969286,

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

Global South Representatives at INC-3 Media Briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Media Contacts:

GAIA Africa: Carissa Marnce, +27 76 934 6156,

GAIA Asia Pacific: Sonia G. Astudillo, +63 9175969286,

GAIA América Latina: Camila Aguilera, +56 9 5 111 1599; 

About GAIA:

GAIA is a network of grassroots groups as well as national and regional alliances representing more than 1000 organizations from 92 countries. With our work we aim to catalyze a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. We envision a just, Zero Waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped.

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

Interview with Sue Coutts by Dan Abril

Zero Waste Network Aotearoa’s Hui (Annual Meeting) in 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Zero Waste Network Aotearoa)

In pursuing a greener and more sustainable future, Zero Waste Network Aotearoa (ZWNA) has emerged as a pioneering force. They opened the first community recycling center in Kaitaia in 1989, then in the late 1990s ZWNA pioneers Warren Snow and Gerry Gillespie built the Zero Waste movement in New Zealand. Since then the network of Zero Waste hubs has grown steadily over the last 20 years. 

Today, there are 1400 employees in member organizations across the network and with its Zero Waste roadmap, ZWNA is tirelessly advocating for practical projects across the country. We recently had a chat with Sue Coutts, environment advocate and ZWNA’s External Affairs Officer, who shared insights into the organization’s mission and ongoing initiatives.

What are ZWNA’s top priorities?

We wear two hats. One is a Zero Waste promotion hat and the other hat is for assisting the local scale businesses that make up the network. We also work closely with communities and provide support through social enterprises. It’s like building a network that operates as a collaborative club where everyone helps one another. This mutual support is essential because we can collectively achieve our goals by supporting each other’s causes. 

As a network, our services encompass behavior change repair, composting, recycling, and reuse.  Our approach is not about preaching or imposing a Zero Waste philosophy; instead, it’s about encouraging a domino effect and sharing knowledge. Additionally, our sister organization, Para Kore, is an organization focused on Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and they provide opportunities for IPs across the nation to promote Zero Waste and Māori culture. Taking these steps becomes more manageable when we collectively maximize our skill sets to make a meaningful difference in our communities.

Community March against an incinerator proposal in Te Awamutu, 07 October 2023. (Photo courtesy of Zero Waste Network Aotearoa)

What are the main ongoing campaigns? 

Over the past two decades, we’ve diligently advocated for implementing a  Container Return Scheme and put in a significant amount of effort to persuade the public. Our mission is to provide the necessary information for individuals to make well-informed decisions. This same approach guides our interactions with government officials.

Currently, we do not have waste-to-energy (WtE) facilities in the country but there are ongoing proposals for incinerators. Out of the three proposals, the pyrolysis project in Fielding has been withdrawn after undergoing an extensive evaluation process. Whether waste is buried or burned, we believe it still contributes to the same underlying issue. Our commitment lies in assisting both government and local communities to understand the implications of these proposals. With the coming general elections, we are hoping that the elected government will be more receptive to our cause. 

What are your biggest accomplishments/achievements?

For nearly three decades, we’ve been advocating for sustainability. In those early days, our efforts were often met with skepticism, but today, it’s heartening to see that nearly half the country is fully committed to sustainable practices. One example of this growing support is the Container Return Scheme, with an astounding 89% of the population backing its implementation. 

Our journey has been a lengthy process that involves a great deal of groundwork. We take pride in the fact that over the past 30 years, New Zealand has witnessed a significant shift towards a Zero Waste lifestyle, with a growing number of people opting to buy second-hand items and supporting Zero Waste stores. 

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

While the COVID crisis did not have a massive impact and is not a major factor in our current situation, it did bring about some concerns. At the height of the pandemic, driven by fear, we witnessed a surge in single-use masks and containers. 

Today, our challenges are more towards the implementation of effective product stewardship like the Container Return Scheme and the ongoing mission to persuade individuals to reduce their waste. These efforts, however, face formidable opposition from various corporate interests. For example, there is a push by the glass industry to exempt glass bottles from specific regulations.

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

Water is becoming a concern now with issues related to both water pressure and quality. The demand for water resources is further worsened by intensive farming practices, leading to waste entering streams and the loss of valuable agricultural soil. The recent torrent of heavy rains has also triggered erosion, which is a considerable challenge for a country heavily reliant on agriculture.

Some areas rely on snowfall for their water supply, but much of it flows out to the sea due to a lack of proper storage. As such, many cities and towns face water scarcity issues, with more frequent droughts and hot, windy weather patterns. Additionally, the situation is intensified by varying opinions on how to strike a delicate balance between development and environmental protection. 

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

We see ourselves as strengthening our network extensively. We believe in the importance of sharing and learning and we are dedicated to building strong relationships with other organizations such as GAIA Asia Pacific and Zero Waste Europe. With these networks, we look forward to connecting local sustainability groups with others worldwide. 

Unloading reusable goods at one of Auckland’s Zero Waste Hubs. (Photo courtesy of Zero Waste Network Aotearoa)

How does your work relate to social justice? 

If you can empower people to tackle problems within their own communities it can have a ripple effect and allow them to address various issues. By fostering collaboration and building a resource base focused on local initiatives, community empowerment becomes a powerful force for positive change.

In Auckland, there’s a plan to establish more material recovery centers, and we’re actively connecting with individuals to make this a reality. This initiative not only generates jobs but also provides support to those undertaking this work, creating opportunities for both employment and resource development. This was already realized with the establishment of 10 centers including the Onehunga Community Recycling Centre, operated by Onehunga Zero Waste (OZW). Through this joint project between two social enterprises, Synergy Projects Trust and Localized Limited, OZW aims to inspire local communities to embrace a Zero Waste lifestyle, with a primary focus on practices like reuse, repair, repurposing, and upcycling. The project also seeks to generate local job opportunities and provide valuable training prospects for the community

This approach effectively bridges the gap between business models and community needs, opening doors for job opportunities and resource utilization. The commercial aspect of our work often involves collaborative ventures with communities and this integration of business and community efforts is vital for achieving sustainable change.

(L-R) Sei Brown, Zero Waste Network Aotearoa and Localised, Sue Coutts, Zero Waste Network Aotearoa, and Matthew Luxon, Localised. (Photo courtesy of Zero Waste Network Aotearoa)

Who do you admire most in environmental work?

Today, I want to give a special shoutout to our General Manager, Dorte Wray, who plays a crucial role in keeping our collective efforts running smoothly. Nevertheless, it is incredible how I encounter new heroes within environment work.

Environmental organizations are hard at work in every country and discovering what each of them is doing is a constant source of inspiration. I feel fortunate in my job as every day brings an opportunity to meet a new hero and that is a testament to the power of our shared mission. 


Discover more about Zero Waste Network Aotearoa and their initiatives at Support their mission to promote Zero Waste practices and sustainability in Aotearoa (New Zealand) by becoming a member or by participating in their online and offline trainings and events. Visit their Facebook page: Zero Waste Network Aotearoa or connect with them through this link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Nipe Fagio Staff

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

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

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

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

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