Zero Waste to Zero Emissions
How Reducing Waste is a Climate Gamechanger
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.
“This report demonstrates the huge importance of aligning our waste systems with climate goals. It shows how cities are already working to eliminate GHG emissions from waste while building climate resilience and creating livelihoods. The report highlights the absolute necessity of reducing root sources of waste through changing our production and consumption patterns – using all the tools at our disposal to achieve the deep emissions reductions we need.”JANEZ POTOČNIK, Co-Chair of the International Resource Panel of the UN Environment Programme; former European Commissioner for the Environment
“They did it again! Through an extremely comprehensive and in-depth report, GAIA tells the world why zero waste solutions with the inclusion of grassroots communities and organized waste pickers are the way to change our current polluted world. Let’s read this carefully– it is a weapon for change!”LUCÍA FERNÁNDEZ, Waste-pickers Global Coordinator, WIEGO Institute of Urban Studies and Territory; Faculty of Arquitecture, Design and Urbanism Universidad de la República, Uruguay
“Currently, 62% of the greenhouse gas emissions are related to the production of goods and the management of land. Therefore, there is a clear nexus between the generation of waste and tackling climate change. This excellent report addresses in detail the key role of the implementation of zero waste strategies not only for climate mitigation and adaptation but also to achieve crucial environmental, social and economic co-benefits. This rigorous research is necessary to understand the complexity of the climate change problem and justify how zero waste systems can help to solve this crisis.”DR. ALEJANDRO GALLEGO SCHMID, Co-Lead of the Tyndall Centre’s Reaching Zero Emissions Theme; Senior Lecturer in Circular Economy and Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment at the University of Manchester
“This comprehensive report on the multiple benefits of Zero Waste, with a focus on climate mitigation and adaptation, is a must-read for policymakers worldwide dealing with waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and public health. Its message is timely as we face urgent global crises of climate change and plastic pollution.”DR. JORGE EMMANUEL, Adjunct Professor of Environmental Science and of Engineering, Silliman University
“This is a timely report to emphasise why waste should be considered as a mainstream climate agenda. In addition, this informative report showcases how to foster zero-emission targets through zero-waste practices.”DR. ATIQ ZAMAN, Zero Waste Expert, Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute, School of Design and the Built Environment, Curtin University, Western Australia
“GAIA’s zero waste report underscores the multiple climate and related benefits of reducing and eliminating waste, with an important emphasis on organic waste and methane. Zero waste represents an essential element of sustainability.”KEN ALEX, Director, Project Climate at the UC Berkeley Center for Law, Energy, and Environment
“The Zero Waste to Zero Emissions” report just released by GAIA represents one of the most comprehensive studies of the climate implications of zero waste solutions. The report documents the climate mitigation, adaptation and environmental justice benefits of adopting zero waste approaches around the world. As the climate crisis continues to bear down on the world’s most vulnerable communities, we must turn to ambitious, hopeful strategies like zero waste to achieve climate justice.”DR ANA BAPTISTA, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, Environmental Policy & Sustainability Management Program, and Co-Director, Tishman Environment & Design Center (TEDC)
“GAIA’s report, Zero Waste to Zero Emissions: How Reducing Waste is a Climate Gamechanger effectively communicates the urgency in moving communities towards zero waste to combat climate change. Zero waste policies and programs are in our reach and should be prioritized in our climate plans.”ALEXA KIELTY, Senior Coordinator | Residential, Zero Waste San Francisco Department of the Environment
“I applaud this groundbreaking report that shows cities the critically important role that zero waste strategies can play to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The key strategy of separate organics collection and composting to reduce potent methane emissions and draw down and sequester carbon in soil, along with mitigating climate impacts such as drought and creating healthier food and jobs has been a great benefit to San Francisco and beyond for the last 25 years.”JACK MACY, Zero Waste Manager, San Francisco Environment Department
“Thank you GAIA for this timely and valuable report. Understanding the connection between zero waste and climate justice is especially urgent. We must work at all levels of government to implementing the zero waste vision contained in this report.“FRANK HORNSTEIN, State Representative, Minneapolis Minnesota
“The report supplies important inputs for convincing competent authorities to incorporate waste management, especially organic waste treatment in their climate change action plan.”XUAN QUACH, National Coordinator, Vietnam Zero Waste Alliance
“This report is a very important and relevant resource in the climate conversation. Zero Waste Solutions (community organizing, source segregation, composting, recycling) are the fastest and most economical in solving solid waste problems and is a climate mitigation measure; solid waste is the third largest source of methane emissions, a powerful GHG causing global warming and climate change. Implementing Zero Waste programs results in huge reduction of waste management costs, cleaner and greener surroundings, better public health, and better livelihood for waste workers and is a climate adaptation measure – It lowers flood risks, prevents diseases, improves soil structure and nutrients through composting.”SONIA MENDOZA, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippines
“The Himalaya is burdened by climate crisis impacts and the waste crisis that requires systemic and intersectional action for mitigation and resilience building.This GAIA report is most timely and comprehensive that offers pathways for real solutions that are of critical importance in the climate crisis conversations and negotiations.”ROSHAN RAI, Core Member, Zero Waste Himalaya
“Zero Waste to Zero Emissions contributes to an urgently-needed waste production and management paradigm shift. Eight case studies illustrate how zero waste systems and approaches reduce climate change vulnerabilities and why they are central to the implementation of climate action strategies. Clear guidance is provided toward inter-generational, toxic-free, zero waste solutions that are supportive of biodiversity, human health and justice, soil quality, poverty reduction, job creation, zero carbon emissions, and climate change adaptation. Zero Waste to Zero Emissions is essential reading for state and community representatives looking for effective zero waste and zero emissions systems and approaches that will not only meet, but exceed, national and international social and environmental obligations and targets.”TRISIA FARRELLY, Associate Professor, Political Ecology Research Centre, Massey University, Aotearoa New Zealand
“This report clearly shows how zero waste is an important climate solution, and that we must ensure zero waste creates safe, union jobs.”CHUCK STILES, Solid Waste & Recycling Division Director, Teamsters
“GAIA’s zero waste report represents the type of paradigm shifting visioning and dreaming that is so necessary for imagining real and reciprocal alternatives in how we relate to the land and each other.”K. MALULANI CASTRO, Graduate Student Instructor, The University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability
City Case Studies
GAIA’s report modelled potential emissions reductions from eight cities around the world. They found that on average, these cities could cut waste sector emissions by almost 84% by introducing zero waste policies, with some, such as São Paulo and Detroit, able to reach net-negative emissions by 2030.
The major source of greenhouse gas emissions in the city is from organics in landfills.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
In the Road to Zero Waste scenario, Dar es Salaam would achieve an increase in overall diversion rate from 0%-50%, avoiding annual climate emissions by 1,889,583 tonnes in 2030.
Through employing zero waste practices, Detroit could achieve net negative sector emissions by 2030.
Durban, South Africa
In the Road to Zero Waste scenario, eThekwini would achieve an increase in its overall diversion rate from 11% to 47%, avoiding annual GHG emissions by 1.5 tonnes by 2030.
Zero waste activists in Lviv, Ukraine are aiding in emergency response. The city could reduce it’s sector GHG emissions by 93% in 2030.
São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo could achieve net negative emissions in the sector by 2030, while creating thousands of good jobs for the informal waste sector.
Seoul, South Korea
The majority of Seoul’s waste sector emissions come from waste incineration.
Temuco would achieve an increase in overall diversion rate from 2% to 55%, avoiding annual GHG emissions by 64,000 tonnes in 2030.