Africa Anti-Incineration Series | Resistance in Drakenstein, South Africa

In 2012, the Drakenstein municipality signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Interwaste, a waste management company, to construct a municipal waste incinerator to address the municipalities waste issues.

The resistance to this municipal incinerator involved several key actors, this included the Drakenstein Environmental Watch (DEW), Wellington Association Against the Incinerator (WAAI), groundWork (gW), South African Waste Pickers Association (SAWPA), GAIA, community residents, vulnerable groups that
would have been affected by the project, water experts, engineers and legal clinics were just some of the agents that supported the resistance of the municipal waste incinerator.

Waste pickers from South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco and Zambia have demonstrated the common need for official recognition from national and municipal governments, better working conditions, PPE, improved payment for their recovered materials and collection and processing service, and an end to social stigmatisation.

The experience of organising shows that these needs are achievable through building representative organisations that will ensure that their voices are heard in negotiations with governments and demonstrate their value to society.

This requires waste pickers to work collaboratively and embed the principles of democracy, equality and environmental justice in their organised structures. Furthermore, municipalities and national governments need to recognise the value that waste pickers play in diverting waste from the landfills, encouraging recycling where materials re-enter the economy and addressing poverty by providing an income for individuals that have been excluded from the formal economy.

GAIA US Canada’s Community Tools for Anti-Incineration Organizing resource designed to support community organizers and advocates in both new and existing incineration campaigns. The toolkit is informed by the experiences of GAIA members around the world who have mobilized their own communities and allies to fight for a world without waste-burning. 

In 2019, GAIA Asia Pacific members gathered in Penang, Malaysia for a series of activities, which culminated in a regional meeting where we set our objectives for the next three years (2020-2023).

Just months after the regional meeting, the world confronted the uncertainty and threats of the COVID-19 pandemic, making work on the ground doubly difficult, as the pandemic also exacerbated the already widespread and systemic injustices that we have long been fighting. 

In the face of these challenges, GAIA members remained steadfast in their commitment for a better world. This publication, “POSSIBLE TOGETHER,” is a proof of that.

As written by GAIA International Coordinator, Christie Keith, in her message, “The organizing stories in the publication are a testament to how hard GAIA members have worked since early 2020 – despite great personal risk – to create visionary Zero Waste solutions and oppose toxic pollution. These are stories of cultural survival, fierce resistance, and local transformation.”

It takes a network to have a fighting chance when faced with challenges of this magnitude, and collectively, GAIA members rose to the occasion. They extended each other a helping hand and made sure that their communities would not be left behind. 

The work may be daunting; and the times, challenging. But difficult can become easy; and the impossible, possible when when people work together.

En el año 2005, la Asociación de Municipalidades para el Desarrollo Económico Local (AMDEL), de la que Santa Juana forma parte, trata la problemática de los residuos sólidos urbanos (RSU), concluyendo que cada comuna presenta una realidad distinta, surgiendo la necesidad de conseguir recursos para el estudio de la situación comunal.

Zero Waste is a move away from this unsustainable linear industrial system into a circular system—a system where unnecessary extraction and consumption is minimized, where waste is reduced, and where products and materials are reused or recycled back into the
market.

In Zero Waste, the resources that we use can be safely and economically recycled, reused, and composted, or turned into biogas anaerobic digestion. Zero Waste also means avoiding the use of disposable products and redesigning products that are toxic-free and built to last. Zero Waste involves:
• Reducing consumption
• Reusing discards
• Product redesign
• Shift to alternative delivery systems
• Comprehensive recycling
• A ban on waste incineration
• Comprehensive composting or biodigestion of organic materials
• Citizen and worker participation
• Policies, regulations, incentives, and financing structures to support these systems