Possible Together: GAIA Against The Odds

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.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to build a resilient economy is more pressing than ever. Today, waste management is a sector that typically uses up to 4-19% of municipal budgets. While zero waste systems are known for their wide-range of environmental benefits, they are also an affordable and practical strategy to waste management that is greatly economically advantageous.

Parma is located in Emilia Romagna, the top waste producer among Italian regions, with 636 kg of waste per capita in 2014. This led the Province to propose the construction of an incinerator in 2012. However, thanks to social mobilisation, the need for a new model of waste management became a central element during the local council elections who removed the pro-incineration mayor and elected a new one that was committed to start a journey towards Zero Waste.

In 2014, Ljubljana became the first European Capital to move towards Zero Waste. The city has managed to multiply its separate collection of organic waste and to reduce the amount of waste sent for disposal by 95% while maintaining waste management costs among the lowest in Europe.

Mumbai’s rapid growth, high density, and sheer size present significant challenges for its waste management system. The enormous quantity of waste generated in the city makes largescale, technologically driven “solutions” tempting. However, the opposite approach—a highly decentralized, people-powered model of waste management—has proven successful.

The public company Contarina is responsible for the waste management in the district of Priula and Treviso in Northern Italy, serving 50 municipalities and more than 554,000 inhabitants. The decision taken by the local administration in 2005, to keep incineration out of the system, was the pre-condition for maximising recovery of value, and pushed the province to become the best performer in Europe.

One of the biggest challenges of waste management programs in Philippine cities and municipalities is sustainability, Ofte, a change in leadership comes with a change in priorities. Despite this, the City of San Fernando proves that with strong leadership and political will, a change in authority does not mark the end of a program, but rather an opportunity to improve it. (2019)

The city of Sălacea, located in the north-west of Romania, not only managed to quickly rise from almost no waste recycling to 40% in 3 months but also how the community reduced their overall waste generation by 55%.

The case of Bruges shows how a medium-sized city can effectively tackle food waste by developing a comprehensive strategy that includes all local stakeholders. In 2015, after assessing that 750,000 kg of edible food per year were wasted by retailers, the city of Bruges launched an ambitious Zero Food Waste strategy.