NON-GOVERNMENT organizations (NGO) working with 16 cities across Asia have pledged during the recently held “Our Ocean Conference” in Malta to prevent nearly one million tons of waste from entering the environment through zero waste programs.
More than 868,000 tons of waste annually—including more than 173,000 tons of plastic —are being released into the environment.
All belonging to Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the NGOs from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and India are working collaboratively to establish zero waste city projects in high-impact sites to reduce plastic and other pollution by 2020.
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, NGOs and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.
First held in 2014, the Our Ocean Conference is an annual gathering to press world leaders to address marine plastic pollution.
At this year’s Conference held in Malta on October 5-6, Zero Waste Europe (ZWE), GAIA’s European branch, expressed commitment to implement a zero waste strategy.
Joan Marc Simon, ZWE executive director, made the commitment before a high-level meeting attended by heads of states and environmental activists from all over the world.
Part of the commitment read: “Zero Waste Europe, in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives in the Philippines and nine other partners in Asia, announce the allocation of EUR300.000 to involve 16 cities in Southeast Asia to implement a Zero Waste strategy by 2020, preventing more than 868,000 tons of annual waste from entering the environment and including more than 173,000 tons of plastic waste annually from being released into the environment.”
The projects aim to localize zero waste systems in a wide variety of neighborhoods and cities. With focus on highly urban coastal areas where the potential for plastic pollution into waterways is high, the projects aim to reduce air, land and water pollution while growing local economies.
The partners for the effort are Mother Earth Foundation, Ecowaste Coalition, and Health Care Without Harm Southeast from the Philippines; Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group, Thanal, and Stree Mukti Sanghatana from India; Balifokus and Yayasan Pengembangan Biosains dan Bioteknologi from Indonesia; and Consumers Association of Penang from Malaysia.
These groups are also members of the #breakfreefromplastic, a global movement of more than 900 member organizations from across the globe envisioning a future free from plastic pollution, sharing the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work.
In the 2016 Our Ocean Conference held in Washington, DC, the solutions coming from Asia, particularly the Philippines, first came to the attention of world leaders.
Speaking as one of the panelists on marine pollution during the conference, Froilan Grate, GAIA Asia Pacific regional coordinator, cited the success stories of communities in the Philippines in implementing zero waste solutions.
Grate said the San Fernando in Pampanga, located north of Manila, implemented its zero waste strategies that involved waste reduction, job creation, waste separation at source, door-to-door collection, and investing in appropriate infrastructure and equipment that truly serves the needs of the community.
He said the implementation of the strategies has resulted in more than 80 percent diversion rates from landfills, produced green jobs, saved the communities millions of pesos, and changed the behavior of people toward waste.
“It was an honor to share zero waste models from the Philippines in the global stage. Our goal is to show that while waste is a problem in the region, communities and grassroots organizations have also successfully implemented working and viable models,” Grate said.
He said land-based solutions like zero waste systems, especially in coastal cities, are some of the fastest and most economical way to address the problem of marine plastic pollution.