The Inflation Reduction Act: A pivotal opportunity to push back against false solutions

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) channels $270 billion in tax credits for climate investments but raises concerns about incineration—a false solution to waste disposal that could generate 637.7 million tonnes of CO2e emissions over two decades, further harming the environment and disadvantaged communities.

By: Marcel Howard (Zero Waste Program Manager, US/Canada) and Jessica Roff (Plastics & Petrochemicals Program Manager, US/Canada)

Key Highlights

  • The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is primarily a tax bill. Of the promised $369 billion in climate investments, $270 billion will come in the form of tax credits1
  • Incineration is one of the most polluting and expensive waste disposal systems. Industry2 often greenwashes incineration as  “waste-to-energy”3 despite producing minimal amounts of usable energy and massive energy input
  • By measuring the lifecycle climate impacts of incineration accurately, the Department of the Treasury can deny polluting facilities billions in tax credits intended for actual sustainable energy solutions and ultimately delay or block their construction or expansion
  • If industry succeeds in propping up incinerators for 20 years, they will produce 637.7 million tonnes of climate-change-inducing CO2e emissions and further exacerbate toxic pollution and environmental racism4
  • Pairing new subsidies for incinerators with incentives for EVs is perverse
  • Turning waste, including fossil fuel-derived plastics, into jet fuel is dangerous and does not decarbonize air travel 
  • Two-thirds of US incinerators are located in states that include incineration in their renewable energy portfolio
  • The IRA allocated billions of dollars in lending subsidies specifically meant to drive reinvestment in low-wealth and environmental justice communities. Environmental justice, frontline, and fenceline groups should consider applying for these IRA lending programs


The United States (US) has a waste problem compounded by a plastic problem. For decades, we have been handling our waste in ways that harm communities, our climate, and the natural world. Federal, state, and municipal governments continue to site waste incinerators of all forms in Black, brown, indigenous, and lower-wealth communities — plaguing them with decades of harmful air emissions, high levels of greenhouse gasses, toxic waste, accidents, and other health and safety-related concerns. From fossil fuel extraction to final waste product disposal, the entire production process damages these communities and numerous others. Across the board, incineration is one of the most polluting and expensive waste disposal systems.

Industry often greenwashes incineration as  “waste-to-energy” despite producing minimal amounts of usable energy and leverages this greenwashing to access billions of dollars in federal, state, and local green, renewable, and sustainable energy subsidies and tax breaks.
Against this backdrop, the Biden Administration signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) into law on August 16, 2022. Many agencies are already approving and funding false solutions under the IRA. The Department of Energy (DOE) is funding new carbon capture programs at nearly $3.5 billion and allocating $1.2 billion of Justice40 money to develop direct air capture facilities. We are in a pivotal moment where the US must decide if it will take critical steps to lower greenhouse gas and toxic emissions and move toward a truly sustainable future or will continue to subsidize the dirtiest industries to annually emit millions of tonnes of new CO2 and other dangerous air pollutants.

IRA Overview

The Biden Administration claims its 755-page IRA is the most comprehensive climate bill in US history that is supposed to “make a historic commitment to build a new clean energy economy.” Its provisions on climate change mitigation, clean energy, and energy innovation dominate headlines, as it raises nearly $800 billion from multiple sources. President Biden said, “With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost.” To ensure this is true and stop the incinerator lobby and other special interests from cashing in on a new pool of taxpayer money, the federal government must implement critical changes to its business-as-usual model.

The IRA is primarily a tax bill. Of the promised $369 billion in climate investments, $270 billion will come in the form of tax credits. Before the IRA, Congress awarded tax credits to specific technologies (including incinerators) regardless of greenhouse gas emissions or community harm. Beginning in 2025, however, their eligibility will depend entirely on the Department of Treasury (Treasury) determining that they are zero-emission technologies. By measuring the lifecycle climate impacts of incineration accurately, Treasury can deny polluting facilities billions in tax credits intended for actual sustainable energy solutions and ultimately delay or block their construction or expansion.

Threats & False Solutions

Lifelines to Old, Failing Incinerators

Corporate polluters are corrupting the IRA, lobbying to weaken its rules and definitions to qualify for billions in new subsidies to expand and retrofit existing incinerators, most of which have been operating for an average of 32 years. It is nearly impossible to construct new conventional incinerators due to cost and community opposition, so industry is focused on expansion and modification. If industry succeeds in propping up incinerators for 20 years, they will produce 637.7 million tonnes of climate-change-inducing CO2e emissions and further exacerbate toxic pollution and environmental racism. 

Codifying False and Greenwashed Definitions

The incinerator lobby’s goal is to maximize subsidies, profits, and expansion and to use the IRA and other climate bills as a subsidized path to an undeserved sustainable image upgrade. In the context of the IRA, federal agencies such as the Treasury, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can either categorize incineration as the dirty, expensive, polluting process it is or bolster industry’s claims that incineration produces sustainable energy. If the federal government supports industry’s definitions in the earliest stages of IRA implementation, they will frame agency action and provide billions in tax credits, likely being codified for many climate laws, including the IRA.

IRA Breakdown & Opportunities for the Incinerator Lobby 

The incinerator lobby is working to undermine all aspects of the IRA, specifically focusing on (1) the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), (2) Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), and (3) IRA lending programs. 

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)

In consultation with the Department of Agriculture and DOE, EPA implements the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program. The RFS program is a “national policy that requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace or reduce the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil, or jet fuel.” The four renewable fuel categories under the RFS are biomass-based diesel, cellulosic biofuel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel. Although long limited to liquid fuels like ethanol, Biden’s EPA is in the process of allowing electricity from certain types of bioenergy to generate eligible credits. Under the current proposal, electric vehicle manufacturers would contract with power producers to generate highly profitable RFS credits.

Pairing new subsidies for incinerators with incentives for EVs is perverse. While support for electric vehicles is vital, it must not be fueled by dirty energy nor sacrifice frontline and fenceline communities. Incinerator interests recently launched a lobbying campaign to secure these incentives. Fortunately, EPA is not required to allow incinerator electricity into the program and has recently tabled an industry-backed eligibility proposal. But, only public pressure on Biden’s EPA and key Administration climate deciders will ensure they don’t approve such proposals.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) 

As one of the most generous IRA incentives, the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Tax Credit (SAF) poses an urgent environmental justice concern. The credit increases in value for lower lifecycle emissions fuels. Treasury’s implementation will determine if this approach succeeds or fails. Industry interests are pushing to make the credit friendlier– and more lucrative–to a new generation of incinerators masquerading behind greenwashing like “pyrolysis,”  “chemical or advanced recycling,” and “plastic-to-fuel.” Turning waste, including fossil fuel-derived plastics, into jet fuel is dangerous and does not decarbonize air travel. 

Although the new aviation production tax credit theoretically excludes petroleum-based feedstocks like plastic, industry is pressuring the Administration to interpret the law to maximize benefits for incineration-based aviation fuels. President Biden and Treasury must decisively determine that plastic-derived fuel — including that derived from pyrolysis oil or any other product of chemical recycling/pyrolysis/gasification — is ineligible for these tax credits.

Lending Programs

The IRA allocated billions of new dollars to EPA and DOE, in particular, to expand existing lending programs and launch entirely new ones. Like the rest of the IRA, these programs’ climate and justice benefits depend on implementation. EPA is in charge of the new Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), arguably the most important non-tax provision of the IRA. Worth $37 billion, it will be divided into three separate programs. EPA released broad, unenforceable guidelines in April 2023, suggesting they will focus lending on distributed generation, building decarbonization, and transport. These guidelines will not ensure the money is appropriately allocated, so EPA must prioritize applicants working on proven zero waste approaches. 

DOE is in charge of The Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment (EIR) Program, a new loan guarantee program with $250 billion that must be spent before 2026. It can fund energy infrastructure upgrades and the reopening of defunct energy infrastructure, both of which industry could coopt to support their ongoing incineration and chemical recycling plans. DOE must refuse to consider any incinerator applications to guarantee industry does not use loopholes to access clean energy tax credits. 

In July, the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee passed the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies budget for Fiscal Year 2024. Their budget supports chemical recycling while cutting massive amounts from EPA’s budget and the IRA’s environmental justice efforts, including a nearly $4 billion EPA budget cut (a 39% reduction over 2023), reneging on the IRA’s $1.35 billion promised in environmental and climate justice grants.

Call to Action 

The incinerator lobby is so desperate for money and a government-greenwashed reputation that they launched a new, big-money–astroturf5 network, including DC power brokers and local government enablers. The combined movements6 for climate justice don’t have industry money, but we have people power, the truth, and a prime opportunity to fight against this industry push. There are three key areas in which to counter industry’s agenda: (1) Treasury engagement, (2) state-level renewable portfolio standards, and (3)  IRA lending subsidies. 

Treasury Engagement

As the Washington Post exposed in May 2023, the incinerator industry is among polluting industries racing to position themselves as green to access billions in subsidies and tax credits. In the last year alone, industry launched two trade groups to push their message: the Waste-to-Energy Association and the Circular Economy Coalition. Both have made comments to access benefits for incinerators under the Inflation Reduction Act, or considered prioritizing it. Industry is dedicated to getting Treasury to qualify incinerators as renewable, despite overwhelming evidence that incinerators are extremely polluting. 

It is critical to engage with Treasury as it develops policies, rules, regulations, and procedures to implement the IRA. If Treasury determines this most costly and polluting form of energy is zero emission, it will set an appallingly low bar within the IRA that will exacerbate rather than address the climate crisis, perpetuating and compounding the issues we currently face, and permanently scarring the Biden Administration legacy.

State-level Renewable Portfolio Standards 

The IRA has broad implications, reaching far beyond the federal level of government. Defeating federal government incinerator giveaways in the IRA and other federal climate initiatives will strengthen communities fighting state and local government incinerator giveaways. Currently, different states provide a patchwork of policies and incentives related to incineration. Perhaps most notable are state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and four US territories have an RPS. Each RPS has its own renewable electricity targets, defines what technologies qualify as renewable, designates particular technologies as higher or lower tier within the mix, and enables the trading or sale of renewable energy credits. Two-thirds of US incinerators are located in the 26 US states and territories that include incineration in their renewable energy portfolio. Showing industry’s power, scope, and connections at both the federal and state levels of government. It also shows an entrenched mentality that incineration is a clean energy solution. It is imperative that the IRA does not follow suit.

IRA Lending Subsidies

Along with Treasury engagement, environmental justice, frontline, and fenceline groups should consider applying to IRA lending programs. The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF) and DOE’s Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment (EIR) Program offers billions of dollars for projects specifically meant to drive reinvestment in low-wealth and environmental justice communities. Both programs provide an opportunity to fund proven zero waste solutions that push back against false solutions, like incineration. 

The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF): The GGRFis a $27 billion investment program designed to achieve the following: “ (1) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants;  (2) deliver benefits of greenhouse gas, and air pollution-reducing projects specifically to low-wealth and disadvantaged communities; and (3)  mobilize financing and private capital to stimulate additional deployment of greenhouse gas and air pollution reducing projects.” The GGRF is being implemented via three grant competitions, which include: (1) the National Clean Investment Fund, (2) the Clean Communities Investment Accelerator, and (3) the Solar for All Fund.”7 

The National Clean Investment Fund: “The National Clean Investment Fund competition will provide grants to 2-3 national nonprofit clean financing institutions7 capable of partnering with the private sector to provide accessible, affordable financing for tens of thousands of clean technology projects across the country.To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit Application packages must be submitted on or before October 12, 2023, at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) through

The Clean Communities Investment Accelerator: “The Clean Communities Investment Accelerator competition will provide grants to 2-7 hub nonprofits that will, in turn, deliver funding and technical assistance to build the clean financing capacity of local community lenders working in low-wealth and disadvantaged communities so that underinvested communities have the capital they need to deploy clean technology projects.” To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit Application packages must be submitted on or before October 12, 2023, at 11:59 PM (Eastern Time) through 

DOE Energy Infrastructure Reinvestment (EIR) Program: “The EIR Program provides $250 billion for projects that retool, repower, repurpose, or replace energy infrastructure that has ceased operations or enable operating energy infrastructure to avoid, reduce, utilize, or sequester air pollutants or greenhouse gas emissions.” To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit Individuals interested in applying should request a no-cost pre-application consultation with a member from DOE’s Loan Programs Office. 

USDA Empowering Rural America (New ERA) Program: “The ERA program provides $9.7 billion for projects that help rural Americans transition to clean, affordable, and reliable energy intending to improve health outcomes and lower energy costs for people in rural communities.” To learn more about the program and how to apply, visit Individuals interested in applying should submit a Letter of Interest (LOI) by September 15, 2023.  


On paper, the Biden Administration’s IRA may be the most comprehensive climate legislation in history, but it also has the immense potential to be a climate destroyer. We are at a crossroads where the Administration and all other levels of government have the power to use the IRA for its stated purpose to “confront the existential threat of the climate crisis and set forth a new era of American innovation and ingenuity to lower consumer costs and drive the global clean energy economy forward.” To make the promise a reality, the Administration — including all the executive agencies, particularly Treasury, Energy, and EPA — cannot succumb to industry greenwashing lobbying.

The Biden Administration must accurately measure the lifecycle climate and health impacts of all forms of incineration and its products (including pyrolysis and gasification) and unequivocally determine that it is not a source of clean energy or a safe way to make jet fuel. It will be up to our ever-expanding movement to hold the Administration accountable to the ideal of the IRA and ensure it is not another greenwashed handout to industry — and that its tax credits and funding go to sustainable solutions that benefit the Black, brown, indigenous, and low wealth communities as it initially intended. 

  1. As a tax bill, the categories and definitions of processes are critical because they will determine if a process is covered under it. Historically, there have been some good and some bad determinative definitions (including currently for chemical recycling). ↩︎
  2.  Industry refers to the plastics, incinerator, fossil fuel, and chemical industries who are all perpetuating the plastic waste problem ↩︎
  3.  Industry labels waste-to-energy (WTE) a number of different ways including: plastic-to-fuel (PTF), plastic-to-energy (PTE), refuse-derived-fuel, etc. ↩︎
  4.  This is entirely dependent on if the federal government places incinerators into favorable categories for purposes of massive amounts of tax credits and de facto subsidies. ↩︎
  5.  Astroturfing is the practice of hiding the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious, or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from, and is supported by, grassroots participants. ↩︎
  6.  The movement includes, but is not limited to – and is always open to expand – the environmental justice movement, climate movement, conservation movement, public health movement, plastics movement, etc. ↩︎
  7. The deadline for the Solar for All Competition has recently been extended to October 12, 2023. Please review this link for additional information:,%2C%20Tribal%20governments%2C%20municipalities%2C%20and ↩︎

Interview with Mahesh Nakarmi by Dan Abril

Mahesh Nakarmi, professionally a Disaster Risk Management Specialist, with a qualification of Masters degree in Civil Engineering  underwent a transformative experience that led him to embrace Zero Waste. While as a co-founder of the National Kidney Center, he personally encountered the improper disposal of hazardous waste, posing significant risks to communities and waste workers. Witnessing this first hand, he felt an urgent need to take action and promote improved methods for health care waste management which was neglected during those days.

He co-founded Health Care Foundation Nepal (HECAF) in 1994 to address this and ultimately, Mahesh’s efforts in advocating for proper health care waste management prevailed. In 1999, through his efforts, the NKC became the first hospital in Nepal to disinfect the waste generated during care of the kidney patients by using autoclave as a non burn technology. So when he developed a complete health care waste management system at the center, it ultimately  resulted in the reduced quantity of waste  being sent to the landfill. His path took another turn upon meeting GAIA Asia Pacific and Health Care Without Harm. Through these organizations, Mahesh learned about non-burn and no harm approaches including Zero Waste principles and realized that what he was doing is already  Zero Waste. 

In 2020, HECAF became the Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation (HECAF360) and today has a team of 20 people coming from diverse backgrounds such as engineering, environmental science, environmental engineering, biomedical engineering, nursing, public health, and healthcare. 

We had the opportunity to chat with Mahesh and we discussed HECAF360’s journey in becoming a Zero Waste pioneer in Nepal. 

The HECAF360 Team. (Photo courtesy of HECAF360)

What are HECAF 360’s top priorities?

We work on a lot of areas and we address the gaps. These include Zero Waste, healthcare waste, hygiene, and climate resilience. It’s all interrelated. When we talk about menstrual hygiene management, we talk about women’s health and also talk about waste management. But mainly it’s all about Zero Waste and advocating for zero toxins and zero burn approaches to waste management. 

We understand that waste management is a long-term process that cannot be resolved within a short period but by adopting a Zero Waste approach we will achieve our ultimate goal of not having to send any waste to landfills. To realize our objectives, we are trying to define the role of individual citizens in the management of the waste that they generate daily, so we are exploring smart waste management solutions. Through this, we ensure that different types of waste are appropriately handled: recycling is directed to designated recycling centers, landfill waste is appropriately disposed of in landfills, and food waste is routed to food processing facilities to be converted into compost. 

An essential aspect of this system is it provides employment opportunities to waste pickers and integrates them into the waste management process.

Photo courtesy of HECAF360

What are HECAF360’s ongoing campaigns?

We have campaigns on plastic waste and water-related campaigns but everything leads to Zero Waste. You simply cannot advocate for Zero Waste without taking these issues into account. When we conduct our education campaigns in hospitals and government offices, we talk about Zero Waste and we talk at all levels from kindergarten and up, as well as from municipality to federal ministries.

What are HECAF360’s biggest accomplishments/achievements?

We have a lot of stories to share! We’re proud to have introduced Zero Waste not only in hospitals but to the rest of Nepal. We are continuously creating Zero Waste coalitions. We do not only collaborate with hospitals but through coalitions, we also bring together schools, businesses, INGOs, the government, and those working on recycling and upcycling. 

Photo courtesy of HECAF360

What challenges are you currently facing and how is the organization impacted by the COVID crisis?

In 2020, we only had a staff of about 6 to 8 people. At that time, Nepal had not yet experienced the impact of COVID-19. Then, the Minister of Health reached out to us for assistance during the evacuation of 175 students studying in Wuhan, where the pandemic began.

We responded to the call and we took on the challenge and designed a comprehensive waste management system in collaboration with the army, police, the civil aviation authority, and airlines. Our efforts extended from managing waste at airports and handling quarantine centers. 

In this endeavor, we partnered with the Tzu Chi Foundation in Taiwan to facilitate the donations, which involved 10 charter flights. However, there are several challenges in the process. To provide support for waste management in hospitals and donate essential items like ventilators, oxygen concentrators, High Flow Nasal Cannula, and personal protective equipment (PPEs), we were required to have special permission from the government. Though it was a significant challenge, we persevered, and worked closely with authorities and handed over all these items to the Ministry of Health and Population.

With the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Population and with the support of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nepal, GiZ Nepal, and the Swiss Government; the HECAF360 team worked at the government health facilities around the clock to improve waste management systems.  Working around these challenges not only strengthened our resolve but also made life more interesting. Despite the risks brought by the pandemic, our staff felt a sense of fulfillment in being able to contribute to the community by providing food relief for needy people in different communities. It provided an opportunity to learn and collaborate with our waste pickers. We were successful in providing a little support to the waste pickers.

Overall, the experience of managing waste during the COVID-19 crisis offered unique learning experiences as we worked closely with both government offices and local communities.

Photo courtesy of HECAF360

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

The current waste management situation is connected with various environmental issues, including landfills, air pollution, and river pollution, these are related to the broader problem in waste management. Our specific concern now are the chemicals leaching out of Nepal’s landfills, this has worsened the waste management issue. This has directly impacted the public health of the people residing in surrounding communities near the landfill sites. So we need to find a better solution to minimize the quantity of waste to be disposed of at the landfill by integrating waste into a circular economy through the Zero Waste Cities program. And we are actively collaborating with the local, provincial, and federal governments in search of solutions.

How do you see your HECAF360’s work evolving in the next years? 

We have identified numerous areas to focus on, and we still have many plans in progress, including improving the way we communicate our work. Our goal is to be more proactive in implementing Zero Waste systems throughout the country.

Recently, the Ministry of Health began discouraging the use of incinerators in hospitals and encouraged the use of non-burn technologies. This indicates a growing awareness and commitment to the Zero Waste approach. As such, in the coming years, we look forward to Nepal becoming more Zero Waste.

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We establish partnerships wherever we go. We want to learn from partners and they want to learn from us. One example is when we went to Penang in Malaysia. At the Tzu Chi Dialysis Center in Penang,  Tzu Chi Foundation Volunteers run a waste recycling program  and the income from this program supports the operation of center and their outreach to communities in need. 

How does your work on waste relate to social justice?

We call on our right to health and a clean environment and we are also advocating for a just transition for waste pickers. Despite the challenges, we continue to push for the government to act. 

Who do you admire most in the environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

There is a lot of good environmental work being done in other countries. I have a lot of admiration for environmental groups in the Philippines for succeeding in banning incineration. There is also a lot of work being done in reclaiming rivers and bringing them to life again. That is commendable. 

HECAF360 always believes in action. That’s why we have action in our name. We don’t do a lot of writing or publishing. We don’t post a lot on social media but we have action. We have zeal for what we want to do and we will continue to do so until we bring the smile back. 

Call for funding: 

Currently, HECAF360 lacks the necessary resources to fund their policy work. Support HECAF360 and their goal of achieving a Zero Waste Nepal, email HECAF360 at or visit their website at

Interview with  Chong Tek Lee and Lam Choong  Wah by Dan Abril

Established in 2014, Gabungan Anti-Insinerator Kebangsaan (GAIK) is the result of different organizations uniting to oppose the construction of waste-to-energy (WtE) incinerators across Malaysia. 

These four organizations: Selamatkan Bukit Payong, Gabungan Anti Insinerator Cameron Highlands, Jawatankuasa Anti Insinerator Tanah Merah, and Jawatankuasa Bertindak Kuala Lumpur Tak Nak Insinerator (KTI) joined hands determined to convince the Malaysian Government to put an immediate halt to the development of WtE facilities and to instead adopt a more effective and sustainable waste management strategy: Zero Waste.

At the time it was founded, GAIK faced three mega-incinerators. The group managed to succeed  in halting the construction of one  of these incinerators. However, the Malaysian government hasn’t stopped pushing for WtE incineration and has plans to construct at least one mega- incinerator per state. Today, GAIK is an alliance of 10 individuals and 5 non-government organizations (NGOs) still united in their fight against incinerators. 

Photo courtesy of GAIK

We had the chance to sit down with GAIK Committee Member, Lam Choong Wah and one of GAIK’s founders, Chong Tek Lee and  during our discussion, we explored GAIK’s beginnings, their current actions, the difficulties they face,  and their goals and visions for the future. 

What are GAIK’s main campaigns?

We are primarily focused on anti-incineration campaigns and Zero Waste. 

We are still a small organization and there’s only one partner organization,  which is also a GAIA member, Zero Waste Malaysia, that works on Zero Waste so we’re also working on getting more non-government organizations (NGOs) and concerned individuals to get involved.

Since WtE incinerator proposals mostly happen in densely populated areas, we approach residents and help them mobilize against these “monsters”. For the Malaysian government, burning waste is the fastest solution to waste and people should oppose it – as much as we can. 

What are GAIK’s biggest achievements and accomplishments?

We successfully lobbied against the construction of a WtE incinerator in one state. In Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, after a series of protests, we managed to convince the authorities to not move forward with the project and  then in Johor, the authorities are still carrying on with but we lodged a report at the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and urged the commission to probe the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government over their awarding of contracts for incinerator projects. Then in 2019, We also organized a large forum focused on Zero Waste and anti-incineration and planned to have more similar events after. 

What challenges are you facing and how was your work impacted by the COVID crisis?

Since we are a very small organization, our resources are very limited. It can also be difficult to locate WtE proposals in the country. Currently, there are at least 13 WtE proposals – one for each region. When one proposal is rejected by residents, the government only moves to another location. 

Right now there is one being proposed in Selangor State and is planned to accept garbage from neighboring regions. 

It is not always easy to go against these proposals. People are not always ready to fight these “monsters”. People can be scared as authorities take the identification numbers of residents. 

The pandemic made it more difficult for us, all our activities were put on hold and so our targets were not met. It is only now – after three years – that we have become fully active again.

Photo courtesy of GAIK

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

We have a significant problem with single-use plastics (SUPs). We try not to use SUPs such as straws or plastic bags but some tourists and non-Malaysians still need to be aware about the immensity of plastic pollution. Yes, SUPs are used everywhere but you have to lose things to gain better things. There will be a ban on SUPs by 2025 but it needs to be developed further and we need to work with the government on that.  

Another issue is that the waste trade is still happening. We often receive news from WhatsApp groups but these are not widely publicized. China, a developing country, was able to ban it. Malaysia is also a developing country and we should also put a stop to this practice because we pay a lot more in terms of environmental damage. A lot of these waste exports end up in landfills. Some activists are trying to put a stop to it but owners of facilities accepting waste exports can have so much power and be able to prevent people from even entering their area. 

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

We need to increase the number of people and organizations joining us. There are a lot of people practicing Zero Waste but they are not organized. Currently, GAIA members The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4), Zero Waste Malaysia, and the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP)  are potential GAIK  members. We need to be united to be strong since  it is not easy to go against authorities. That is the solution that we would like to achieve: for GAIK to be a show of force. 

We are praying that the Malaysian government will listen to the people and work with them. You cannot go far if your government does not cooperate. 

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that many countries in your region (and in the world) are living in right now? 

What goes on in another country affects us. Like in Singapore, they burn waste and the smoke from their incinerator goes to Malaysia. Unfortunately, there are no organizations in Singapore to oppose incinerators – the government is too harsh. 

In some countries, people are too poor and are too worried about their bread and butter that they cannot think about environmental issues. We are hoping that soon, we can all work together as a region and address our persistent environmental issues. 

Photo courtesy of GAIK

Do you collaborate with partners in other regions? If so, how?

We work with organizations such as GAIA. We joined GAIA’s Regional Meeting in Vietnam last April.  We met up with a lot of GAIA members and saw we can build a coalition with other Southeast Asian countries to launch Zero Waste or anti-incineration campaigns. We believe that there is power in numbers and alliances such as GAIA are important. If you want to learn, you need to learn hand-in-hand with other people. 

How does your work on waste relate to social justice? 

This is really hard for me to answer but then also remember that rubbish is collected and transported to other areas. This is not healthy for receiving communities and so are the working conditions for those involved. Change cannot happen overnight and we think we are helping with our Zero Waste strategies. 

Who do you admire most in environmental work (in your country or in the world)?

We admire Greenpeace Malaysia. They work really hard! Mr. Heng Kiah Chun of Greenpeace is particularly admirable. If something comes up, it takes only one message to our group and all NGOs are quick to respond. 

To know more about GAIK and their campaigns, you can visit the We Anti Kepong Incinerator on Facebook. The group is actively engaged in campaigns and initiatives to oppose the construction of the incinerator and raise awareness about its potential environmental and health impacts.

18 September 2021, Philippines–After a year of successfully sustaining its Zero Waste efforts, Apo Island—a barangay (village) in Dauin municipality in Negros Oriental, Philippines—is now tagged as the county’s 1st Zero Waste Island Barangay. 

“The community is proud of what they have achieved in their first year of adopting Zero Waste system and practices,” said Merci Ferrer of War On Waste (WOW) Negros Oriental-Zero Waste Cities Project Manager. She hopes that a better normal will be on the horizon soon, to better celebrate both small and big victories in the war on wastes. 

In 2020, Apo Island adopted waste management systems and practices introduced by WOW Negros Oriental in their community. These systems and practices include the conduct of information campaigns to inform households about proper waste segregation at source, implementation of door-to-door segregated waste collection system, use of composting methods, establishment of a decentralized Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) where organic wastes are composted and recyclables are aggregated for junk shop sale, and community members training on waste assessment and brand audits to identify waste composition to help design a waste management system that will work for the island.

“We want to recognize Apo Island for their amazing work on their Zero Waste journey. We want to acknowledge their hard work and to encourage them to sustain it and do more. This is unique: Apo Island is the first Zero Waste Island Barangay  in the Philippines,” said Froilan Grate, GAIA’s Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator.  

To date, Apo Island has seven waste workers, four MRFs, and an ordinance regulating single-use plastics in the island. Moreover, residents in the island now rinse and dry out their plastic bottles, food cans, and other recyclables before throwing them away. Further, residents in Apo Island, including waste collectors and barangay  leaders, expressed their steady support for the Zero Waste Cities Project (ZWCP).

However, despite the consistent efforts of Apo Island, its residents continue to face challenges caused by the inaction of its neighboring communities. “Even if we keep the surroundings clean, because we live on an island, there are times when the strong winds and waves bring the trash from our neighboring towns and communities  onto our shores. This is because our current comes from the northeast of the island; sometimes, the garbage from those areas end up in our shoreline,” said Mario Pascobello, a village leader from Apo Island.  

This 2021, WOW – ZWCP is working to have at least one Zero Waste store and Zero Waste Elementary and High Schools. WOW Negros Oriental also continues to support  Apo women through its livelihood project which uses discarded clothing.

The ZWCP is an initiative of GAIA Asia Pacific and 10 member collaborators from India, Indonesia, and the Philippines and is funded by the Plastic Solutions Fund. The project was brought in Apo Island by WOW Negros Oriental in their village in 2020. It is aimed at promoting decentralized solid waste management, enabling waste reduction policies, identifying and reducing wastes, and creating jobs in collecting and handling recyclable materials and processing at local recyclers, waste depots, and compost facilities.

Apo Island is a tourist destination in the Philippines known for its white beaches, dive spots, and marine sanctuary. It also serves as a living marine laboratory to several universities inside and outside of the country. 

[All photos courtesy of War on Waste – Break Free From Plastic Negros Oriental]

Check out Apo Island Goes Zero Waste video.

Media Contacts:

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific  I I +63 917 5969286

Merci Ferrer,  Co-convenor, War on Waste Break Free From Plastic Negros Oriental – Philippines, Zero Waste Cities Project- Dumaguete – Negros Oriental, Philippines I I +63 917 6553498

About GAIA  |  Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. and

About War on Waste – Negros Oriental  | WOW is a collective of NGOs, academics and individuals brought together by our passion to help solve waste management challenges in Dumaguete and Negros Oriental.