Global South Voices: INC2 Media Briefing 

Listen to the Most Impacted Community and People Leading Solutions

Paris, France– The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) held a press conference along with representatives from Acción Ecológica México, Zero Waste Alliance Ecuador,, Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers, Kenya National Waste Pickers Welfare Association, and Community Action Against Plastic Waste to provide perspectives from civil society organisations in the global south as the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution commences today.  

Expert panelists from Africa, Asia Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean demanded the need for member states to negotiate a strong global plastics treaty that addresses the adverse impacts of plastics across its life cycle in the Global South. This includes key issues such as addressing waste colonialism, preventing false solutions and dangerous practices such as open burning, incineration, firing in coal-fired power plants and other waste-to-energy processes, co-processing in cement kilns, and chemical recycling that only exacerbate the harms from  the plastic pollution crisis. As well as putting an end to double standards whereby big brands package their products in cheap, unrecyclable single-use plastics, and guarantee a just transition for waste pickers and workers who are the backbone of recycling in the Global South. 

“The world has a historical debt towards waste pickers. Across the globe, our communities have been preventing and managing pollution of the environment from waste, and in particular plastic waste. Ending plastic pollution cannot happen without us, and this treaty negotiation process has to center our voices and expertise to achieve a Just transition towards that goal” John Chweya, Kenya National Waste Pickers Welfare Association. 

“In any country, waste pickers do not get fair returns for their work. Waste pickers know that there are toxic chemicals in plastic but we still make sure we recover them and save the environment. But nobody identifies us as environmentalists… and now with the changing plastic management system it will be a worse situation; that is the reason we are asking for a just transition, says Indumathi, Alliance of Indian Wastepickers. 

Furthermore, the press conference drew attention to the demands of civil society organisations for a strong plastic treaty. The demands entail mandatory targets to cap and dramatically reduce virgin plastic production, commensurate with the scale and gravity of the plastic pollution crisis, and aligned with planetary limits. Bans on toxic chemicals in all virgin and recycled plastics based on groups of chemicals, including additives (e.g., brominated flame-retardants, phthalates, bisphenols) as well as notoriously toxic polymers (e.g. PVC). Legally binding, time-bound, and ambitious targets to implement and scale up reuse and refill to accelerate the transition away from single-use plastics. Correspondingly, the treaty must reject false solutions. A just transition to safer and more sustainable livelihoods for workers and communities across the plastics supply chain, including those in the informal waste sector; and addressing the needs of frontline communities affected by plastic production, incineration, and open burning. Provisions that hold polluting corporations and plastic-producing countries accountable for the profound harms to human rights, human health, ecosystems and economies arising from the production, deployment and disposal of plastics. The treaty should also set publicly accessible, harmonized, legally binding requirements for the transparency of chemicals in plastic materials and products throughout their whole life cycle. And keep polluters out of the treaty process. 

Arpita Bhagat, Plastic Policy Officer for the GAIA Asia Pacific region, said: “Restricted and limited access issues disproportionately impact low-income, worse affected frontline and fenceline communities from the Global South who have the highest stake in the ongoing negotiations for an international agreement against plastic pollution.This is clear violation of UNEP’s own rules for stakeholder participation. Meanwhile, the access and influence of polluters, indicative of corporate capture of the process, are visible throughout, the recent Spotlight report being a good example. Our voices and concerns are unaddressed. We look for the support of the media to amplify our voices and demand justice for the Global South.”  

Moreover, the journey for Global South participants to the second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution has not been an easy one. The civil society organisations said that Global South participants, especially the ones coming from the most vulnerable groups that are highly affected by plastic pollution, are being asked to produce unreasonable requirements for the VISA process. These requirements include an employment contract and proof of sizable  income. The organisations argue that even for an applicant fully sponsored by an organization with all the necessary supporting documents it is still a barrier that jeopardizes the whole INC process.

On the other hand, organisations have also faced problems with restrictions on organising side events, further limiting civil society participation in the treaty negotiations.  Alejandra Parra, plastics and zero waste advisor at GAIA Latin America and the Caribbean comments, “All requests for co-organisation of INC-2 side events submitted by Latin American organisations were rejected, including those that contemplated the participation and leadership of Indigenous Peoples from the region. This is not only frustrating and unfair, but contradicts the global participation that the treaty itself proposes as a basic principle”.


Press contacts:

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

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

GAIA Latin America: Camila Aguilera, +56 9 5 111 1599; 

No More Excuses, ADB! Prioritize Sustainable Solutions and Stop Funding Harmful Waste-to-Energy (WtE) Incinerators

02 May 2023 –  The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is increasingly promoting waste-to-energy (WtE) projects in its energy and urban development portfolios as a way to achieve low-carbon economies and sustainable cities. However, according to GAIA Asia Pacific, this approach will have negative consequences for the environment and informal workers in the waste sector in the region. They are likely to be the hardest hit by the Bank’s preference for WtE incinerators as a waste and climate solution.

After months of civil society campaigning on the environmental and social risks of WtE, ADB has approved its Energy Policy aimed at supporting low-carbon transition in the region still identifying WtE as a priority investment but emphasizing that priority goes to reducing waste generation, then exploiting the options for reusing and recycling materials, then using waste to recover energy or usable materials and securing livelihoods . However, ADB approved a 20 million USD loan for a WtE project in Binh Duong Province, Vietnam without clearly following the order of priority. This is very disappointing because ADB’s previous 100 million loan WtE project in Can Tho (Vietnam) has failed to comply with its safeguards policy, particularly on dioxins monitoring — a highly toxic substance acknowledged by the Stockholm Convention and the World Health Organization (WHO).  WtE incinerators also figure as a replacement fuel in ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) for repurposing of early-retired coal-fired power plants. 

WtE incinerators displace waste pickers that provide important roles in the segregation, collection, transport, storage, and recycling of waste. WtE plants are designed to operate and burn resources for at least 20 years. They are highly dependent on dry, mostly recyclables, especially plastic — which is derived from fossil fuels.  They rely on income from selling recyclables and as a result, divert waste from landfills causing environmental pollution and methane emissions. “In some cases, the establishment of WtE incinerators can also lead to the displacement of waste pickers from their homes and communities, exacerbating their already precarious economic situation,” said Yobel Novian Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific’s Climate and Clean Energy Campaigner.  

The ADB must prioritize sustainable waste management solutions such as composting, recycling, and waste reduction programs. These solutions not only reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills or incinerators, but they also create local job opportunities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, prioritizing sustainable solutions empowers communities to manage their waste and supports the informal waste sector, creating a more equitable and just transition.

“Financing for WtE incinerators works against waste pickers. ADB must recognize the rights of waste pickers including their historical, social, and economic contributions they provide to society. To date, ADB’s WtE incinerator and waste management projects have not considered the impacts of their interventions on waste pickers’ livelihoods,” said Kabir Arora, National Coordinator of the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers. “Instead, they must support communities’ efforts towards recognition of waste pickers and a full range of programs to ensure that interventions are fair for waste pickers. 

AIW stressed that ADB’s just transition program must emphasize supporting waste pickers and other workers who are most vulnerable to occupation disruption from waste management investments and climate change. It must build and improve upon systems that waste pickers have already established while guaranteeing, better and decent work, social protection, more training opportunities, appropriate technology transfer, support for infrastructure and organizing of workers, and greater job security for workers at all stages of the waste sector. Arora further added that waste pickers groups must be part of the design, monitoring, and evaluation of projects. 

Putra stressed, “WtE incinerators are not a solution to the pressing issues of waste and energy. They release nearly 1.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere for every tonne of waste burnt. In many studies, an incinerator emits more greenhouse gas than a coal-fired power plant.” 

These emissions also pose serious health risks to nearby communities, emitting harmful pollutants such as dioxins, furans, and heavy metals, which can cause respiratory problems, cancer, and developmental disorders. Moreover, the toxic ash and other waste products generated by such facilities pose a significant challenge to safe disposal.

Investing in WtE incinerators comes at a significant financial cost, increasing waste management expenses, and posing a significant financial risk to cities and municipalities. Taxpayers bear the burden of these costs through false subsidies taken from national and local government budgets to sustain the operation of incinerators for 20-25 years.

Further, Deputy Director of GAIA Asia Pacific Mayang Azurin argued for the urgent need to redirect funding towards sustainable solutions. “Continued financing of WtE incinerators, carbon storage, and other false solutions is not the path to decarbonization and Asia’s recovery and energy transition,” she said. “There is no time to waste. It is urgent that we prioritize the health of our planet and communities over corporate interests.”

GAIA AP urges ADB to reaffirm its commitment to sustainable development and shift funding towards proven zero waste solutions. GAIA calls ADB to cease funding harmful waste-to-energy incinerators and prioritize sustainable waste management solutions that empower communities and protect the health of the environment and communities.


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