On the Road to Zero Waste. Successes and Lessons from Around the World

Zero waste is both a goal and a plan of action. The goal is to ensure resource recovery and protect scarce natural
resources by ending waste disposal in incinerators, dumps, and landfills. The plan encompasses waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse, changes in consumption habits, and industrial redesign. But just as importantly, zero waste is a revolution in the relationship between waste and people. It is a new way of thinking that aims to safeguard the health and improve the lives of everyone who produces, handles, works with, or is affected by waste—in other words,
all of us.

GAIA Asia Pacific, in partnership with Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) Philippines, has been conducting a capacity-building workshop to capacitate members of the network and government officials to implement a community Zero Waste program since 2017.

Called Zero Waste Academy (ZWA), the workshop is an immersive 10-day course aimed at capacitating members and other stakeholders on how to implement a Zero Waste program in their respective cities and communities. Putting emphasis on experiential learning, the course provides a well-thought out mix of lectures, hands-on exercises, site visits and community engagements, demo-sessions, and networking opportunities.

Thus far, five in-person ZWAs have been conducted from 2017 to 2019.

In 2020-2022, GAIA Asia Pacific and MEF conducted other iterations of the academy, albeit virtually because of the lockdowns imposed by governments. Yaksa Pelestari Bumi Berkelanjutan (YPBB) Bandung likewise held other Zero Waste Academies on their own to support AZWI members in implementing Zero Waste in their communities.

As in any workshop, an essential measure of success of the workshop is how the graduates apply in their own contexts the lessons and skills they gained from their participation. GAIA Asia Pacific is immensely proud that five years since the first in-person ZWA, and three years since the last one, many of our graduates continued to champion Zero Waste in their own communities and countries, and many of them even spearheaded innovative and impactful Zero Waste initiatives and/or led campaigns such as plastic-free and anti-waste-to-energy (WtE) campaigns.

This publication is an initial attempt to document our graduates’ work to understand the academy’s impact on their work and their communities. This volume is not exhaustive — our intention is to periodically check on our graduates to celebrate their success in their own communities.

May you be inspired by our initial offering. Our graduates, without a doubt, are making the world a better
place. But do not take our word for it; read the pages of our publication and see for yourself!

A publication highlighting the work and realities of waste pickers in India.

El presente informe se organiza en torno a tres beneficios generales que conlleva incorpora la estrategia basura cero a los sistemas actuales de gestión de residuos. Estos son: mitigación del cambio climático, adaptación, y beneficios sociales adicionales (también llamados cobeneficios). En el úlitmo capítulo, se presentan estudios de casos que exponen los beneficios de las estrategias de basura cero en ocho ciudades diferentes, demostrando que este sistema no solo es muy eficiente, sino también fácilmente adaptable a diferentes necesidades y circunstancias.

Waste is the third largest source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas over 80 times as potent as CO2. Most waste sector methane emissions come from landfilling organic waste. This paper discusses how diverting organic waste from landfill is one of the fastest and most affordable ways to lower methane emissions.

A new report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) provides the clearest and most comprehensive evidence to date of how better waste management is critical to the climate fight, while building resilience, creating jobs, and promoting thriving local economies.

En 2021 GAIA presentó gracias al trabajo de sus miembros en cuatro países, una investigación crítica con información inédita sobre las importaciones de residuos plásticos que estaban ingresando a países de América Latina. En esta oportunidad, compartiremos los principales hallazgos de la segunda ronda de reportes investigativos realizados por dichos miembros de GAIA en cuatro países de la región: México, Ecuador, Chile y Argentina.

Además, se incluyen mapas que grafican las importaciones y exportaciones de residuos plásticos, siendo este último un elemento nuevo dentro de las investigaciones debido al hallazgo de cifras de exportación dentro de América Latina e incluso hacia Estados Unidos, el mayor exportador de plásticos a nuestro continente.

Se requiere un esfuerzo a nivel internacional para que las emisiones de metano disminuyan significativamente a escala mundial, y en los tres sectores que más emisiones generan : agricultura, energía y residuos. Según la Evaluación Mundial del Metano (GMA) del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, las emisiones de metano deberían reducirse en al menos un 45% durante esta década, la cual es decisiva para la acción climática.

Fuelling Failure is the first report to highlight the dangers fossil fuels and plastic production pose to every single UN Sustainable Development Goal. The 17 SDGs, whose 169 targets aim to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all by 2030,” touch on a diverse range of issues and challenges such as biodiversity, work, health, inequality and food. The goals apply to all countries, rich and poor, with the aim of ensuring that “no one will be left behind.” In contrast, plastic reduction and zero waste strategies would help us meet the world’s SDG’s, fast.

The paper was produced by researchers at the University of Sussex on behalf of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative and key civil society partners with expertise across the SDGs: 350.org, ActionAid, REN21, Stand.earth, CAN South Asia, UNRISD, Food and Water, Rapid Transition Alliance, Leave It In the Ground Initiative, GAIA, CAN International, Center for Biological Diversity, Stamp Out Poverty, MOCICC, Power Shift Africa, WECAN and Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development.