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Empowering Our Communities To Redesign

Sign-on Letter to the Green Climate Fund

See bottom of page for the form to sign our open letter to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). 

photo: (cc-by-3.0)

Dear Members and Alternate Members of the Board of the Green Climate Fund:

We are writing to express our support for ambitious climate action in the waste management sector and urge you to prioritise resource-efficiency, sustainability and development of local economies, rather than projects aiming at using waste as a source of energy, such production of Refuse-Derived Fuels for waste-to-energy incineration or production of cement.

Our alarm has been triggered by the project “Sustainable Energy Financing Facilities”, funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Green Climate Fund. The project proposal, available at the Green Climate Fund website, includes as an example of renewable energy technology: “Advanced waste management with production of RDF (refused derived fuels)”, side by side to solar panels and wind turbines.

The production of Refuse-Derived Fuels is not a renewable energy project that deserves funding from the Green Climate Fund  – it is a false solution that is preventing the application of the Waste Hierarchy and appropriate waste management system aimed at preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting programs — that is, aiming for zero waste.

Refuse Derived Fuel is made of mixed municipal solid waste, typically composed of approximately one third plastics (made of fossils fuels), another third of biomass materials such as paper, textiles or wood (which could have been recycled or reused), and one third unknown materials1. Refuse Derived Fuel is often used as fuel in the production of cement, or other combustion plants.

The use of RDF in cement plants or other industries cannot be considered a renewable energy project or one that fosters climate ambition for the following reasons:

  • The use of materials that could have been recycled or reused as fuel, represents a subversion of the Waste Hierarchy.
  • The use of plastics as fuels cannot in any circumstance be considered renewable energy, given they’re made of fossil fuels.
  • Waste-to-energy incineration increases GHG and toxic emissions with most severe impacts to the public health and environment of vulnerable communities in clear exacerbation of climate injustice.

Moreover, RDF is often used as fuel for cement production, even though cement plants do not have the means to filter volatile heavy metals (mercury, thallium, cadmium, etc.) that are present in waste, neither they can filter the toxic emissions with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans (PCDD/PCDF), which are banned under the Stockholm Convention.  POPS pose a global threat to human health and the environment due to their specific characteristics. They are toxic and persistent in the environment, can travel long distances and accumulate in the food chain.

In contrast, preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling, and composting programs — that is, aiming for zero waste — is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies available for combating climate change.

A zero waste approach — based on waste prevention, reuse, recycling, composting, and anaerobic digestion — reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all of the following ways:

  • Reducing energy consumption associated with manufacturing, transporting, and using the product or material;
  • Reducing non-energy-related manufacturing emissions, such as the CO2 released when limestone is converted to the lime that is needed for aluminium and steel production;
  • Reducing methane emissions from landfills;
  • Reducing CO2 and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from incinerators;
  • Reducing pressure on virgin materials from forests and therefore increasing its carbon uptake, which absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and store it as carbon for long periods (thus rendering the carbon unavailable to contribute to greenhouse gases);
  • Increasing carbon storage in products and materials; and increasing carbon storage in soils by restoring depleted stocks of organic matter

In conclusion, we urge you to develop a sustainability criteria for the projects to be approved in relation to the waste management sector, and ensure the principles of the Waste Hierarchy and Zero Waste are given priority.

We enclose our latest policy briefing Climate Finance for the Waste Management Sector – Guidance for Policy-Makers and Project Developers, to ensure you have enough tools and examples to guide your decision-making process.

Thanks you very much in advance for your consideration of these matters.



Zero Waste Europe
Aire Valley Against Incineration
Kentucky Environmental Foundation
European Environmental Bureau
Friends of the Earth Europe
Environmental Assocation Za Zemiata
Friends of the Earth Croatia
Zero Waste France
Institute for Policy Studies
Zero Waste Montenegro
Zero Zabor ibe Basque Country
Ethiopian Society for Consumer Protection
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
Californian Communities Against Toxics
Work on Waste, USA
American Environmental Health Studies Project
Don’t Waste Arizona
CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
National Toxics Networks Austrailia
Asian People’s Movement on Debt and Development
Friends of the Earth U.S
Mother Earth Foundation Philippines
Center for Participatory Research and Development (CPRD)
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
Consumer’s Association of Penang
Returning Organics to Soil
Calerdale Green Party
Let’s Do It Foundation
Sound Resource Management Group, Inc.
VšĮ “Žiedinė ekonomika” (Zero Waste Lithuania)
Ekologi brez meja (Ecologists without Borders)

  1. Currie, J. (2011), The valorisation of SRF in cement kilns, Workshop and sitevisit: Production and utilisation options for Solid Recovered Fuels, IEA Bioenergy Task 32 and 36, Dublin, 20-21 October 2011.


Study shows climate benefits from separate collection of organics

Separate collection of organics is a key strategy for reducing climate change emissions, according to a study undertaken by Zero Waste Europe’s member Amigos de la Tierra Spain, Separate Collection: The Path to Composting”.

The study analysed and evaluated the waste management systems in 5 different Spanish cities with different collection system for organics, showing that door-to-door and community composting models, which involve greater citizen participation, result in the least unsuitable material content and a lower economic cost, thus these being the most effective.

The different models for separate collection of organics were classified according to the final quality of the compost, for example, as one key factor to take into account. The best collection systems obtain the best compost, determined by the level of residual waste contamination (pieces of plastic, metal or anything non-organic). The analysis also took into consideration the number of tons treated by each of the models, the level of contamination in the organic waste stream, the participation of citizens, the costs, and the reduction of emissions of gases that cause climate change.

The top 5 organic collection models

  1. The study gives the first place to the model of community composting, a system whereby neighbours take their organic waste directly to the local composter. This is a way to secure greatest climate benefit, as the compost is locally applied (saving Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions related to transport) and also applied locally in public gardens and allotments, which increases the carbon sink capacity of soils.
  2. The second best model is the door-to-door collection, which requires neighbours to be very careful with separation of waste streams and achieves great levels of non-contaminated organic waste stream.
  3. The third best model is the public container in the street only accessible with a key, so that only those neighbours committed to the separation of organic waste are allowed to open the container and put their organic waste there.
  4. The fourth best is the 2 waste streams collection ‘wet-dry’, where organic and inorganic waste are separated.
  5. Finally, the fifth best system it’s the open container, where even if organic waste is separated, there is a lot of improper residues and it generates a compost of very low quality.

The models analysed were the fifth container of Barcelona, ​​the door-to-door collection in Esporles (Majorca), the Wet-dry system in the community of Barbanza (Galicia), the community composting in Hernani (Guipuzkoa), the fifth container with key in Pamplona and a failed pilot project in Rioja.

The study also highlights that separate collection of organic waste is completely necessary to reach the objectives set by the EU – the recycling target of 50% by 2020. More and more regions and municipalities, such as the Foral Community of Navarra or the municipalities of Madrid and Valencia, have become aware of the need to implement separate collection of organics and are growing into the benefits of producing quality composting while reducing GHG emissions.

Matt @ Zero Waste Europe

I am the Communications & Programme Officer for Zero Waste Europe. I joined Zero Waste Europe in July 2015, moving to Manchester, UK after living in Bologna, Italy, and working as a freelance campaign communications consultant. Before Bologna I worked for People & Planet as a Corporate Power Campaigns Co-ordinator, supporting UK student groups campaigning around workers’ rights in the garments and electronics industries. I have been long been involved in grassroots social movements, and campaigns for social and environmental justice. I graduated from the University of Birmingham with a degree in Anthropology and Classical Literature & Civilisations.

The Italian recipe against food waste


It’s well known that Italian people consider food as one of the “pleasures of life” but maybe what is less known is that Italian consumers waste per year on average over 100 kg, more than their own weight!

To tackle this situation the Italian Parliament, has recently approved a law against food waste (19 August 2016, n.166), following the example of France. The main aims of the law are:

  • Promoting the recovery and donation of food surpluses for charitable purposes, using firstly for human consumption, secondly for animal consumption and finally for composting (or composting with aerobic digestion). It, thus, introduces an implicit food waste hierarchy.

  • Minimising the negative impacts on the environment and on natural resources, reducing waste generation, encouraging reuse and recycle, extending products life.

The operators of the food sector – both public and private, profit orientated or non-profit– now are able to give away for free their food surplus to the donors, which can then be directed first to people in need, reducing bureaucracy. This is a major step from former legislation that basically “forced” them to throw their surpluses in the garbage.

In addition to food surplus, it is possible to give up also medicine and unused pharmaceutical products, foodstuffs and bakery products (which otherwise, if remain unsold have to be thrown away after 24 h from the production).

Unlike France, Italy aims in toto for incentives, no penalties are provided for those who does not conform to it. Tax benefits are also provided. In fact, to encourage this practice the municipalities may apply a reduction on the TARI, the Italian waste charge, proportional with the quantity, duly certified, of goods and products withdrawn from sale and donated.

Beyond the noble charitable aims of this law, fight against food waste is also really important from the environmental point of view. It is an issue of high importance because of its high environmental impacts, above all related with energy and water consumption, climate change, availability of natural resources, land use and, eventually, waste management. Indeed, if food waste was a country, it has been calculated that it would be the third largest “emitter” of CO2 worldwide, just behind the USA and China! Moreover, 1/4 of Italian forests serve just to absorb carbon dioxide produced as a result of food waste, in Italy alone.

Reducing food waste around the world would mitigate climate change effects, according to a recent study made by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impart Research (PIK), up to 14% of GHG emissions from the agricultural sector could be avoided by managing better food use.

Local composting
Local composting

Around 88 million tonnes of food are wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros.

In this, Italy is going in the right direction… encouraging best practices, highlighting again the difference between “best before” and “use by” and reaffirming that all food discarded by the food supply chain for commercial or aesthetic reasons (like few packaging flaws), or proximity to the expiry date, are not waste but good food that can be safely consumed!

The winning “recipe”, that would be worthy of a 3 stars Michelin restaurant, consists of improving the food chain efficiency, promoting different models of production and, above all, sustainable consumption. This would allow not only a reduction in the cost of food, increasing the possibility of access for lower-income people, but also a significantly lower environmental and economic impact of this wastage!

The Potential of the Waste Sector to a Low Carbon Economy

Note: The organisers reserve the right to make changes to the programme.
13h00: Registrations
14h00 – 14h05: Opening speech by Céline Fremault, Brussels Capital Region Minister for Environment and Energy
14h05 – 14h35: Presentation of the Waste and Climate Report | Eunomia
14h35-14h45: Waste and Climate Policy in the EU: opportunities after COP21 | Zero Waste Europe
14h45 – 14h55: Contribution of a Circular Economy to a Low Carbon society | ACR+
14h55 – 15h15: Questions & Answers

15h15 – 15h45: Examples from European regional and local authorities engaged towards a low carbon economy

  • Porto (PT) | Filipe Carneiro, LIPOR
  • Brussels (BE) | Cédric Chevalier, Brussels Environment

15h45 – 16h30: panel debate: “How to transform the EU into a Low Carbon Economy”
Moderator: Françoise BONNET | ACR+

  • Julio GARCIA BURGUES| European Commission, DG Environment
  • Tom VAN IERLAND | European Commission, DG Climate Action
  • Claire ROUMET | Energy Cities

16h30 – 16h45: Questions & Answers
16h45 – 17h00: Closing remarks
17h00 – 17h30: Networking session (including small refreshments)

The Potential of the Waste Sector to a Low Carbon Economy – Programme

Strong Rhetoric, An Empty Promise: Together, We Must Fill the Paris Agreement’s Enforcement Gap

Statement from The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) delegation to the Paris COP21

The Zero Waste "Red Line" at the Eiffel Tower on the final day of COP21
The Zero Waste “Red Line” with the GAIA delegation at the Eiffel Tower on the final day of COP21 (Bruno Giambelluca)

Together we represent leaders in climate solutions from every continent. In our communities and countries, we are blocking dirty energy projects like waste-burning incinerators, forming zero waste cooperatives that create jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and advancing the redesign of unsustainable products and economic systems.

Our governments did not leave Paris with a legally binding commitment to protect us and the planet from climate chaos. As such, we renew our commitment to advancing grassroots-led climate solutions in our own countries while ensuring strong national policies on energy and waste that result in real reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

The scale of action needed is unprecedented. Millions of people, predominantly in the Global South, are already facing the disastrous effects of climate change, paying for unsustainable economic decisions with lost homes and lives, ravaged livelihoods, communities, and environments. It’s clear that the pollution that affects our health is also driving dangerous climate change, and that the root cause lies within a linear economic system that destroys dwindling finite resources, depends on dirty energy sources, and causes untold harm to human life and other living beings.

The climate deal reached in Paris is high-reaching but hollow. The agreement relies significantly on tended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which in our own countries have often been found to be inadequate or misguided. The agreement also fails to address climate debt and does not ensure sufficient financial support for vulnerable communities and clean energy initiatives. It opens the door to false solutions like so-called “waste-to-energy” incinerators, biomass burning, and carbon trading schemes. Finally, the agreement does not legally require countries—particularly those which have historically emitted the most greenhouse gasses—to cut back on their emissions.

GAIA Global Meeting
The GAIA Global Meeting, during the first week of the COP21 (Bruno Giambelluca)

Members of our delegation have looked in detail at their national INDC plans. We have seen that some of them promote burning our forests and our organic waste rather than returning this biomass to the soil where carbon can be sequestered, improve soil health and fight climate change. Others promote waste incineration over recycling, a process that releases more climate pollution per unit of energy than a coal plant. These policies would allow our governments to fulfill their commitments without any real pollution or emission reductions. They are dangerous for our health and they are not going to keep us below 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

The Paris Agreement means that the work of ensuring actual emission reductions and creative solutions will be performed by leaders in climate solutions such as GAIA members across the globe, who are changing local economies and moving the global system.  Zero waste solutions, alongside other community-led climate action, will contribute to achieving the proclaimed global target of a maximum of 1.5 degrees global warming, embracing the principles of conservation of materials, the reduction of toxics, equitable distribution, and access to resources. Standing in solidarity with grassroots and frontline communities around the world, we believe that the changes we need will come from our collective empowerment to hold governments to account and challenge corporate power.

Whilst the final agreement was under discussion, we were inspired to be part of the 15,000 people who took to the streets of Paris, despite a state of emergency and in defiance of a ban on protests, demonstrating an assertion that the future of our planet will not be left in the hands of a tiny number of ‘representatives’. This bottom-up pressure will form the backbone of any effective action on climate change and opposition to environmental destruction.

anti-incineration activists gather in-front of Ivry Incinerator
Anti-incineration campaigners in front of Ivry Incinerator, Paris (Bruno Giambelluca)

It will be up to us to block these false solutions and promote zero waste, clean energy alternatives. We need a rapid and just transition towards a sustainable and toxic-free circular economy, ensuring the protection of our earth’s finite resources for future generations. We need a complete paradigm shift that will take us from old unsustainable, toxic and linear systems towards solutions-based pathways. There is no more time to waste.

D12 Mass Mobilisation + Civil Disobedience Action

From the website:

We want to have the last word as the climate talks conclude. And we’ll get it by speaking in the language of movements: by putting tens of thousands of people into the streets of Paris, and making sure business as usual cannot proceed as long as world governments fail to do what’s needed.

This will be a day of mass mobilization and actions in the streets. We will take to the streets of Paris with our determination, our diversity and our creativity; to resist and to build. Our movement is here to last, and it will be shaped by every one of us. Everything we do, we will do together.

The Paris moment will be defined not by what happens in the negotiating halls, but in the streets of Paris and around the world. Politicians aren’t the only ones with power. If enough people agree that it’s time for the world to move in a new direction, and push together, the world will begin to move.

  • On Saturday morning, an act of civil disobedience: “red lines”, representing the minimum limits necessary for a planet that is fair and offers quality of life, will encircle le Bourget. Symbolising these lines, thousands of people carrying giant inflatable objects will surround the conference centre and occupy the public area


  • On Saturday afternoon, a mass gathering of people: several human chains will be formed around the Place de la République in Paris. These human chains will symbolise the alternatives, the resistance movements that form today’s movement for climate justice. They will show what the solutions are for a future with quality of life, respect for the environment and justice for all.

Press Release: Launch of map of European Zero Waste municipalities

At the conference “Zero Waste: A Key Solution Pathway for a low carbon future” that took place in Paris December 3rd Zero Waste Europe officially launched the ‘Zero Waste Cities’ map of European municipalities committed to moving towards zero waste.

This mapping exercise aims to increase the visibility and the accountability of those towns that have dared to step away from the outdated ‘recycle, burn and bury’ paradigm and into the new zero waste paradigm of ‘rethink, reduce, reuse and recycle’.

The first European municipality to adopt the zero waste goal was Capannori back in 2008, since then more than 300 municipalities from 7 countries have joined the network and many more are expected to join in the coming years.

Representatives from ZW Cities, ZWE, ZWF, ACR+ and Eunomia.

During the conference Zero Waste Europe recognised the towns of San Francisco (USA), Alapuza (India), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Treviso (Italy) for their outstanding results in implementing the zero waste strategy and it welcomed the interest of the cities of Paris and the unions SIRDOMDI and SMTC to follow suit.

“The network of European zero waste municipalities embodies the ambition that we miss in the Circular Economy proposal from the European Commission; some towns are already above 80% recycling and many others know they want to get there in less than 10 years. We look forward to welcoming new cities to the network” said Joan Marc Simon, Director of Zero Waste Europe.

“Commissioner Timmermans said that ambition means realism to justify lower recycling targets. These examples show that his decision has more to do with lack of political ambition than realistic technical feasibility” added Mr Simon.


Press Contact

Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director  – Zero Waste Europe +32 486 83 25 76

Zero Waste Europe – Zero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system.

Zero Waste: A Key Solution Pathway for a Low Carbon Economy – Conference

Conference “Zero Waste: A Key Solution Pathway for a Low Carbon Future”

3 December – Paris

This conference will demonstrate how cities around the world, visionary local leaders, recycling and reuse workers, and innovative practitioners are paving the way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve resources through zero waste strategies.

The event will feature leading-edge practitioners from Europe, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the United States, where cities, workers, environmentalists and entrepreneurs have come together to support truly sustainable approaches to waste and climate. They will present their achievements from along the road to zero waste and how they contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and preservation of resources.

Note: This is a draft programme. The organizers reserve the right to make changes to the programme.

8.30 Registrations
9.00 Opening
Ségolène Royal, French Minister of environment (subject to availability)
Welcoming words
Flore Berlingen, Director – Zero Waste France
9.30 Presentation of the report “The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy”
Dominic Hogg, Chairman – Eunomia Research & Consulting
10.00 Setting the scene : Zero Waste and the Climate Negotiations
Mariel Vilella, Associate Director and Head of Climate Policy Programme – Zero Waste Europe / GAIA
10.15 Coffee break
10.30 Cities for Zero Waste: Successful Implementation Experiences from around the World
This session will show how advanced waste management strategies implemented in zero waste cities have a benefit for climate change mitigation.
Deborah Raphael, Director of San Francisco Department of the Environment (US)

Marco Mattiello, Treviso Province representative (Italy)

Dr Thomas Isaac, City of Alappuzha representative at the Parliament of Kerala (India)

Janko Kramžar, Ljubljana representative (Slovenia)
Moderator: Françoise Bonnet, Secretary General – ACR+

11.45 Recognition Session for Cities Committed to Zero Waste

New-York, Roubaix, Barcelona, Paris, Ljubljana (tbc)
Moderator : Joan Marc Simon, Director – Zero Waste Europe

12.15 Free time for lunch
14.00 The Role of Reuse and Recycling Workers in the Zero Waste Path
This session will investigate how Zero Waste helps create jobs which preserve resources and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    • Do Huynh, Director – Carton Plein (Paris, France)
    • Kabir Arora – Indian Alliance of Waste Pickers (India)
    • Simon Mbata – South African Waste Pickers Association (South Africa)
    • Lor Holmes – CERO recycling cooperatives (Boston, USA)
    • Nohra Padilla – Goldman Prize 2014 Winner, Recycler’s Association of Bogota (Colombia)

Moderator : Janet Redman, Director of the Climate Policy Program – Institute for Policy Studies

15.15 Civil society: a key stakeholder for effective paradigm shifting
This session will aim to highlight the role of NGOs in developing new models for sustainable production and consumption, and accompanying communities in the implementation of Zero Waste strategies.

    • Flore Berlingen – Zero Waste France (France)
    • Mahesh Nakarmi – Health Care Foundation Nepal (Nepal)
    • Tian Qian – China Zero Waste Alliance (China)
    • Beth Grimberg – Aliança Resíduo Zero Brasil (Brazil)
    • Sonia Mendoza – EcoWaste Coalition Philippines (Philippines)

Moderator : Christie Keith, International Coordinator – GAIA

16.30 Coffee break
17.00 Entrepreneurship & Economic Development in the Zero Waste City
This session will clarify how Zero Waste can catalyse economic development & social entrepreneurship within the community. Our panel will discuss case studies and review new market opportunities that capitalise on the Zero Waste roadmap.

  • Natalia Alonso Movilla, Ecodesign PhD student  – G-SCOP laboratory, University Grenoble Alpes (France)
  • Gérard Bellet, Director – Jean Bouteille (France)
  • Benjamin Tincq, Co-founder – POC 21/OuiShare
  • Laura Caniot, Zero Waste entrepreneurial development officer – Zero Waste France
  • Olivier De Guerre, Chairman – PhiTrust (tbc)

Moderator : Camille Duran, Executive Director – Green White Space

18.15 Wrap-up & closing session
Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Advocacy officer – Zero Waste France


Press contacts:

Zero Waste Europe
Mariel Vilella
Associate Director and Head of Climate Policy Programme
+44 784 7079-154 –  

Zero Waste France
Delphine Lévi Alvarès
Advocacy officer
+33 7 89 85 06 58 –

The Global Climate March, Paris

The Global Climate March, Paris – Sunday, November 29th

Due to recent events in Paris, there will no longer be a March in Paris on the 29th.

However a Human Chain will take place instead. This human chain will take the route of the previously proposed climate march. This event will take place between 1200 – 1300.


International meeting of key struggles around waste incineration in cement kilns and zero waste



Jueves Día 26 de noviembre

Radiografia de un contenedor

Durante todo el día diferentes horas

  • En Sant Andreu a la plaça de Can Fabra a les 12h

  • Girona, A Badia, A Celrà, Sant Feliu Llobregat, Sabadell, Vall del Ges, Mallorca, Arenys de Mar.

Organiza CEPA-EdC (Catalunya)

Viernes Día 27 de noviembre

11.00 – 12.30 Conferencia de prensa.

Lugar: Federación de Asociaciones de Vecinos de Barcelona

Dirección: Carrer dels Obradors, 8, 08002 Barcelona, Espanya

11.00 – Conferencia de prensa para la presentación del informe sobre contaminación del aire de la incineración de residuos.

ENT – presentacíón del informe

Mariel – Zero Waste Europe

Montcada i Reixach group, presentación de las jornadas.

Comida colectiva y paseo por el centro de Barcelona

18.00 – 20.30 Acto público en Barcelona.

Lugar: Casal de Prosperitat

Dirección: Plaza Angel Pestaña s/n, Barcelona

18.00 – 18.15 Bienvenida – Plataforma anti incineración de Montcada, Zero Waste Europe y GAIA.

18.15 – 18.30 – Bienvenida institucional – Ayt. Barcelona.

18.30 – 19.30 Conferencia de Paul Connett

19.30 – 20.30 El movimiento de anti-incineración en cementeras en el mundo

Con presentaciones de:

  • Jorge Tadeo, Comunidades Anti-incineración en México – Campañas en Latino América

  • Mao Dao, Alianza de Residuo Cero China – La incineración de residuos en la China

  • Representante de Eko Krog – Slovenia – Campaña contra Lafarge en Tvrolje

  • Mercè Girona, CEPA-EdC (Catalunya)

Ronda de preguntas (15 min)

Traducción consecutiva o simultánea, pendiente de concretar

20.30 Cierre del evento.

9:00 Cena en Montcada

Sábado Día 28 de noviembre

9.00 – 13.00 Acto público en Montcada

Lugar: Kursaal

Dirección: Masía 39, Montcada i Reixac

9.00 – Llegada de participantes – registro, nombres.

9.30 – Bienvenida institucional – Ayuntamiento Montcada, Ripollet, Cerdanyola.

Pendiente de confirmar Barcelona

10.00 – 13.00 Presentación de 5 minutos de todas las plataformas asistentes (ordenados de más local a menos):

Montcada i Reixac, CAPS, Sant Vicents dels Horts, CEPA-EdC (Catalunya), Els Monjos, Palleja, Gob, Ponferrada, Toledo, Alsasua, Alcala de Guadaira, Morata, Residuo Zero Madrid, Slovenia, Rumania, Polonia, Barletta, Residuo Zero Italia, Residuo Cero Europa, Méjico , El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, China, Filipinas, Mauritas, Tanzania, India, GAIA

11.00 a 11.30 Pausa Café

11.30 – 13.00 Presentación de plataformas (continuación)

En el público – pregunta a la persona que está a tu lado – ¿qué es lo más importante que he aprendido?

13.00 – 16.00 –Comida con batucada, inauguración del mural.

Lugar: Casal de la Mina

Dirección: Avenida de la Unidad s/n

16.00 – 20.00 Asamblea y grupos de trabajo sobre el movimiento en contra de la incineración en cementeras

16.00 – 16.30 – Sesión para identificar objetivos comunes y herramientas que necesitamos para avanzar en nuestras campañas y mayor coordinación.

16.30 – 17.30 Panel de oportunidades y estrategias (5 min máximo cada uno, con tiempo para traducción consecutiva)

  • Ferran Rosa, Residuo Cero Europa – sobre la política europea en incineración de residuos

  • Residuo Cero Italia – sobre la experiencia en Italia de los movimientos de residuo cero y anti-incineración

  • Dharmesh Shah – sobre la experiencia de monitoreo de contaminación de aire en la India y el PNUMA

  • Eko Krog – sobre una posible campaña entorno al cemento como producto tóxico

  • Montcada y Reixac – sobre la lucha legal en contra de Lafarge

Ronda de preguntas

17.30 – 18.30 Trabajo en grupos para reflexionar sobre cuáles son nuestros objetivos, en qué plazos de tiempo, quiénes participan, qué necesitamos?

18.30 – 19.00 Pausa

19.00 – 20.00 – Plenaria

9.00 PM Cena. Aprobación del manifiesto.

Domingo día 29 de Noviembre

Lugar: Kursaal

Dirección: Masía 39, Montcada i Reixac

9.30 Llegada de participantes

10.00 – 10.30 Resumen / evaluación del día anterior.

10.30 – 12.00 Trabajo en grupos – próximos pasos.

12.00 – 13.00 Conferencia Paul Connet y lectura del manifiesto.

13.00 – 13.15 – Evaluación.

13.15 – Cierre

13:30 Comida colectiva.

Jueves Día 26 de noviembre

Autopsy of a container content

All day:

  • In Sant Andreu, Plaça Can Fabra at noon

  • Also populations – Girona, A Badia, A Celrà, Sant Feliu Llobregat, Sabadell, Vall del Ges, Mallorca, Arenys de Mar.

Organizes: CEPA-EdC (Catalunya)


Friday 27th November

11.00 – 12.30 Press Conference

Place: Federación de Asociaciones de Vecinos de Barcelona

Address: Carrer dels Obradors, 8, 08002 Barcelona, Espanya

11.00 – Press Conference – presentation on air pollution from waste incineration report.

ENT – presenting the report

Mariel – Zero Waste Europe

Montcada i Reixach group, presenting the gathering

Collective lunch and walk in the city centre of BCN.

18.00 – 20.30 Public event in Barcelona

Lugar: Casal de Prosperitat

Dirección: Plaza Angel Pestaña s/n, Barcelona

18.00 – 18.15 Welcome – Plataforma anti incineración de Montcada, Zero Waste Europe y GAIA.

18.15 – 18.30 – INsitutional welcome Barcelona City Council (TBC)

18.30 – 19.30 Conference Paul Connett

19.30 – 20.30 The movement against incineration in cement kilns


  • Jorge Tadeo, Comunidades Anti-incineración en México – Campaigns in LA

  • Mao Dao, Alianza de Residuo Cero China – Incineration in China

  • Representante de Eko Krog – Slovenia – Campaign against Lafarge in Slovenia

  • Mercè Girona, Fundació de Prevenció de Residus – Zero Waste Strategy

Ronda de preguntas (15 min)

Consecutive or simultaneous translation

20.30 Closing

21.00 Dinner in Montcada

Saturday 28th November

9.00 – 13.00 Public event in Montcada

Place: Kursaal

Address: Masía 39, Montcada i Reixac

9.00 – Arrival of participations, registration.

9.30 – Institutional welcome – Councils of Montcada, Ripollet

TBC: Cerdañola y Barcelona

10.00 – 13.00 Presentation of 5 minutes of each group (in order from local to international)

Montcada i Reixac, CAPS, Sant Vicents dels Horts, CEPA-EdC (Catalunya), Els Monjos, Palleja, Gob, Ponferrada, Toledo, Alsasua, Alcala de Guadaira, Morata, Residuo Zero Madrid, Slovenia, Rumania, Polonia, Barletta, Residuo Zero Italia, Residuo Cero Europa, Méjico , El Salvador, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, China, Filipinas, Mauritas, Tanzania, India, GAIA

11.00 a 11.30 Coffee break

11.30 – 13.00 Groups presentations (continuation)

In the audience – talk to person next to you – what’s the most important thing that you have learnt?

13.00 – 16.00 –Lunch with music, mural inauguration

16.00 – 20.00 Plennary and working groups on the movement against incineration in cement kilns.

Place: Casal de la Mina

Address: Avenida de la Unidad s/n

16.00 – 16.30 – Work session to identify common goals and tools that we need to advance our common campaigns and coordination.

16.30 – 17.30 Panel de strategies and opportunities (5 min máx each, with consecutive translation)

  • Ferran Rosa, Zero Waste Europe – about European policy on waste incineration.

  • Zero Waste Italy – about the experience of zero waste and anti-incineration movement

  • Dharmesh Shah – about the experience of community monitoring and the UNEP

  • Eko Krog – about a potential campaign on cement as a toxic product

  • Montcada y Reixach – about the legal battle against Lafarge


17.30 – 18.30 Working groups session to reflect on what are our goals, what’s our timing, who is involved, what do we need?

18.30 – 19.00 Break

19.00 – 20.00 – Plennary

9.00 PM Dinner. Approval of manifesto.

Sunday 29th de November

Place: Kursaal

Address: Masía 39, Montcada i Reixac

9.30 Arrival of participants

10.00 – 10.30 Summary of previous day

10.30 – 12.00 Working groups – next steps

12.00 – 13.00 Conference Paul Connet and reading of the manifesto.

13.15 – Closing

13:30 Collective Lunch

Press Release: New Report Finds, Municipal Solid Waste a Key Sector for a Low Carbon Economy

For Immediate Release 27/10/2015
Download full Press Kit


A newly released report has found the waste sector has a key role to play in the development of a low carbon economy and the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The report will be launched at a press conference, organised by Zero Waste France in Paris on Tuesday the 27th. This report comes in advance of the UN Climate Conference in Paris, which will take place in December.

The report was commissioned by Zero Waste Europe, in partnership with Zero Waste France and ACR+. The report finds that the role of waste prevention and improved waste management can play in reducing GHG emissions and the development of a low carbon economy has previously been significantly understated, partly due to the structure of the national inventories of the UNFCCC.

The report further provides an accurate examination of the true impact of waste management on climate change and carbon emissions. It confirms that actions at the top of the waste hierarchy – including waste prevention initiatives, reuse and recycling – have considerable scope to reduce climate change emissions.

As the report states “A climate friendly strategy, as regards materials and waste, will be one in which materials are continually cycling through the economy, and where the leakage of materials into residual waste treatments is minimised”. For example, recycling 1 tonne of plastic packaging can be a saving of 500 kg CO2 eq, whereas using one tonne less plastic packaging results in avoiding 6 times more emissions (3 tonnes CO2 eq).

In the report 11 key recommendations are made, calling for waste policies to be redesigned in order to prioritise the higher level options of the ‘Waste Hierarchy’ (waste prevention, reuse and recycling) and immediately reallocate climate finance subsidies which are currently supporting energy generation from waste. These recommendations put a strong focus on correcting methodological issues that are currently preventing Member states and the European union from implementing waste policies that are efficient in terms of GHG emissions.

The report shows that in the decarbonising economy required to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, technologies such as incineration will become less attractive options and ultimately present an obstacle to a low carbon economy.




Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director said “For far too long the climate impact of waste management has been overlooked. Now it’s clear that waste prevention, reuse and recycling are climate change solutions that need to be fully integrated into a low carbon economy. Both at the EU and international level, it is time to shift climate finance support to these climate-friendly options instead of waste incineration, which in fact contributes to climate change and displaces livelihoods of recyclers worldwide.”

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, Zero Waste France’s Advocacy Officer,said: “With France hosting the COP21 in December, it is a real opportunity to raise decision makers’ awareness about the real impact of waste management on climate change and the extent to which Zero Waste strategies have to be put on the agenda of solutions to climate mitigation supported by the French government.”

Françoise Bonnet, Secretary general of ACR+ said: “Efficiency and smart waste management is key for a low carbon economy. Still, it is only the tip of the iceberg as a much bigger impact can be achieved through resource efficiency and adopting a life-cycle perspective”.



Download the full report, executive summary, or technical appendices

Press Contacts

Zero Waste Europe

Mariel Vilella

Associate Director and Head of Climate Policy Programme

The Potential Contribution of Waste Management to a Low Carbon Economy: report cover page

+44 784 7079-154 – mariel -at-

Matt Franklin

Communications & Programme Officer

+44 792 337-3831 – matt -at-

Zero Waste France

Delphine Lévi Alvarès

Advocacy officer

+33 7 89 85 06 58 – delphine -at-


Françoise Bonnet

Secretary general

+32 474 412 653 – fb -at-

The partners

Zero Waste EuropeZero Waste Europe is an umbrella organisation empowering communities to rethink their relationship with resources. It brings together local Zero Waste groups and municipalities present in 20 EU countries. Beyond recycling, the Zero Waste network aims at reducing waste generation, close the material loop whilst increasing employment and designing waste out of the system.

Zero Waste France – Zero Waste France (formerly Cniid – Centre national d’information indépendante sur les déchets) was founded in 1997. As an independently funded NGO and a member of Zero Waste Europe, it has been advocating for waste reduction since then, talking to local and national public officials as well as citizens groups or businesses. In 2014 the organization changed its name to Zero Waste France to emphasize its ambition but also the links with the other groups involved in this issue worldwide. Zero Waste France works closely with local stakeholders – among them its 2,000 members (individuals and groups) to encourage and implement Zero Waste strategies at the local level.

ACR+ The Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management (ACR+) is an international network promoting sustainable resource management through prevention at source, reuse and recycling. Through its activities, ACR+ strives to develop the expertise and skills of public authorities in effective waste-product-resource policies. Building on a 20 year experience, ACR+ launched in November 2014, the Circular Europe Network, a multi-stakeholder platform aiming at supporting local and regional authorities in adopting aspiring circular economy strategies.


Sao Paulo Apuesta En Serio Por El Compstaje Domiciliario

Dan Moche, Claudio Spínola y Magdalena Donoso*

Septiembre, 2015

Sao Paulo llama la atención por sus grandezas: alberga el mayor parque industrial y financiero del Brasil, es su municipio más poblado y es la sexta ciudad más grande del planeta, donde viven más de once millones de habitantes. Esta grandeza genera también una cantidad de residuos difícil de dimensionar: se producen diariamente 12,3 mil toneladas de residuos domiciliares, de lo cuáles el 51% son residuos orgánicos compostables y el 35% son residuos secos reciclables.

Aunque no siempre los rellenos sanitarios fueron el principal destino de los residuos en Sao Paulo, esta práctica se fue expandiendo hasta llegar a una situación crítica donde el 100% de todo el residuo orgánico, 95% de todo el residuo seco y 100% de todo el rechazo eran, hasta hace 2 años, destinados exclusivamente a los dos rellenos sanitarios existentes, el Relleno CTL (Central de Tratamiento de Residuos Leste) y el relleno Caieiras.

Las motivaciones para revertir esta situación están relacionadas con obligaciones legalesi, pero también con la urgencia de economizar espacio en la región metropolitana extendiendo la vida útil de los rellenos sanitarios; de aprovechar la materia orgánica que aporta nutrientes y mejora las propiedades de los suelos en el estado de Sao Paulo; de unirse a los esfuerzos de reducción de lixiviados y de emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero (GEI) en la ciudad. El sistema de manejo de los residuos sólidos de Sao Paulo es el segundo más grande sector emissor de GEI (Inventario municipal, 2012), con 15,6% (14% proveniente de los rellenos). La práctica del compostaje puede disminuir en 5 a 10 veces las emisiones de metano en rellenos sanitarios.ii

Implementación participativa

La implementación de la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos (PNRS) dio sus primeros pasos con la participación ciudadana en 58 eventos y más de 7.000 participantes, organizados por la Administración Pública de Sao Paulo. 800 delegados elegidos por miles de paulistanos y apoyados por expertos y técnicos de la autoridad pertinente, acordaron los lineamientos principales respecto de qué hacer con los residuos generados en la ciudad.

Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo
Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo

Estos puntos constituyeron parte del Plan de Gestión Integrada de Residuos Sólidos de la ciudad de Sao Paulo – PGIRS, publicado a inicios de 2014, y que determinó la recuperación, en veinte años, del 80% de todos los residuos reciclables secos y orgánicos compostables. Entre los lineamientos aprobados destacan la segregación de los residuos orgánicos en las fuentes generadoras, su recogida selectiva universalizada, el compostaje, tratamiento mecánico biológico y fomento al compostaje doméstico.

Composta Sao Paulo”

El compostaje doméstico comenzó a ser alentado por el gobierno de Sao Paulo poco después de la publicación del PGIRS en junio de 2014, mediante la entrega de composteras a viviendas unifamiliares. En seis meses se recuperaron 250 toneladas de residuos orgánicos.

El proyecto llamado
“Composta Sao Paulo” entregó kits de compostaje doméstico con lombrices a 2.006 hogares en la ciudad de São Paulo. A través de una convocatoria pública, el proyecto consiguió en 40 días 10.061 inscripciones en el sitio web, de diversas regiones de São Paulo. Los seleccionados provenían de 539 departamentos y 1.467 hogares de ocho regiones.

La entrega de composteras fue acompañada por 135 talleres de capacitación para más de 5.000 participantes. También se alentó a los participantes a responder las encuestas programadas y asumir el papel de multiplicadores del compostaje doméstico.

Después de dos meses, los participantes del proyecto fueron invitados a otros talleres (88 talleres), donde recibieron consejos y técnicas de plantación en espacios pequeños para el uso del compost producido. Para resolver las dudas e inquietudes se optó por la creación de una comunidad virtual en Facebook. La comunidad de “composteros” terminó el primer año del proyecto con más de 6.000 miembros.

Delivery of compost kits to selected households
Delivery of compost kits to selected households

El levantamiento posterior de información relativo a los resultados del programa indicó que el 89% de los participantes disminuyó notablemente la entrega de residuos para la recolección. No hubo diferencias significativas en la evaluación de la práctica de compostaje entre clases sociales o entre los tipos de viviendas y sólo 47 hogares (2,3%) renunció a la actividad. En tanto, el 97% de los participantes de una encuesta realizada para medir el nivel de satisfacción (1.535 personas), se mostró satisfecho o muy satisfecho con la técnica, el 98% consideró una buena solución para los residuos orgánicos y el 86% la consideró fácil de practicar.

¡Económicamente conveniente!

En su análisis económico, la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo constató que los costos de entrega de composteras, monitoreo y asistencia técnica entregados por el Gobierno local podían ser cubiertos a través de los ahorros logrados en la reducción de la recolección, transporte y disposición final de los residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios. El estudio comparó los costos (estimados) de recolección, transporte y disposicion de residuos orgánicos en rellenos sanitarios con los costos (estimados) de entrega de composteras, comunicación, talleres, etc. Posteriormente, se realizó el cálculo con lo que efectivamente se invirtió para desarrollar las acciones antes mencionadas en el contexto de “Composta Sao Paulo”, trabajando con 2006 hogares. Considerado el efecto “contagioso” que se detalla más adelante, los costos serían igualados en menos de 5 años.iii

La estrategia de comunicación y el efecto contagioso

La vinculación de la práctica del compostaje doméstico con la participación y responsabilidad ciudadana fue una pieza importante de la estrategia comunicacional desarrollada para este programa en cuanto al involucramiento de la población. Además de la novedad del proceso del compostaje mismo, el uso de técnicas modernas de comunicación social despertó atracción por el proyecto, y el deseo de “ser parte”.

El efecto multiplicador no se hizo esperar. Los resultados de la encuesta indicaron que el 29% ayudó a otras personas que no recibieron composteras a hacer, instalar o gestionar una. Los participantes testimoniaron un efecto contagioso, que atrajo a 2.525 nuevos participantes que trataron de montar o comprar su propio sistema de compostaje.

El 27% de los participantes donó lombrices para que otros pudieran iniciar la práctica. Asimismo, los cambios de conducta en otros ámbitos también salieron a la luz: 84% afirmó haber ampliado mucho su conocimiento de la sostenibilidad urbana; 96% se consideró bastante más diligente en manejar adecuadamente los residuos que produce; el 54% dijo que comenzó a comer bastante más frutas y verduras.

Los nuevos “maestros composteros”

Los 2.525 nuevos participantes entusiasmados por los propios integrantes del proyecto son una muestra del potencial del ciudadano de convertirse de simple objeto de política pública a verdadero sujeto en el ejercicio de su ciudadanía: en este caso, de “capacitados” a “maestros composteros”. Al atraer a nuevos participantes y compartir sus aprendizajes, los integrantes del proyecto deben ser reconocidos por lo que efectivamente son: “Maestros Composteros”.

Por su parte, los gestores públicos están llamados a apoyar lo que las mismas personas pueden construir. Basta soñar en grande, empezar por lo pequeño y actuar ahora. El compostaje doméstico es un instrumento de política pública empoderador, forjador de compromisos colectivos, con un efecto multiplicador que alienta la conducta ciudadana responsable desde la alegría, el descubrimiento y el aprendizaje.

Alcalde de Sao Paulo entrega primera compostera


“Estoy muy atenta a mis residuos orgánicos y los residuos de los vecinos. Estoy más crítica con la cantidad de comida a comprar. Tengo afecto por las lombrices.”

“Nos dimos cuenta de que cada vez que íbamos a botar los residuos a la compostera sentíamos un bienestar profundo… algo así como si estuviéramos dejando de ensuciar la ciudad y convirtiendo la basura en flores. Intercambiamos ideas con otras personas que estaban haciendo compostaje y tenían la misma sensación! El compostaje es terapéutico!”

Testimonios de ciudadanos participantes del programa Composta Sao Paulo, 2014.

*Autores: Dan Moche Schneider. Coordinó el área de Residuos Orgánicos en el PGIRS de Sao Paulo. Claudio Spínola. Ideólogo y y operador de “Composta São Paulo”.
Magdalena Donoso, Coordinadora de GAIA para América Latina

i Obligación de recuperar los residuos establecida por la Política Nacional de Residuos Sólidos – PNRS, aprobada en 2010.

ii Inácio, Caio de Teves. O papel da compostagem de resíduos orgânicos urbanos na mitigação de emissão de metano. Caio de Teves Inácio, Daniel Beltrão Bettio e Paul Richard Momsen Miller. Embrapa Solos, 2010. 22 p.

iii Cálculos estimados por Dan Moche, ex Coordinador de Residuos Orgánicos en el PIGRS de Sao Paulo. Análisis económico interno de la Municipalidad de Sao Paulo.

Alternatiba: grass-roots alternatives to climate change

After 5,637 km of cycling, the Alternatiba Festival finally arrived in Paris on the 26th September, having left Bayonne in early June and travelled through Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Belgium and most of France and gathered in these four months, more than 300,000 people in 187 cities and towns.

Zero Waste France's stall at Alternatiba Paris
Zero Waste France’s stall at Alternatiba Paris

Alternatiba was born two years ago in Bayonne, in the French Basque Country, hoping to present real and grass-roots alternatives to climate change. Two years later, it has become the largest ever environmental festival in France and it has raised awareness about climate change as a systemic problem, requiring systemic changes.

The weekend in Paris consisted of 14 different “neighbourhoods”, from ‘Energy’ to ‘Zero Waste’, but also ‘Banking’,and ‘Agriculture’, emphasizing that the fight against climate change is diverse in itself and requires efforts from all sectors. More than 60,000 people visited the stalls of NGOs, associations and civil society, attended talks, ate ‘un-wasted food’ at the Feed the 5000 event, and generally enjoyed the good mood and atmosphere of the people mobilized and engaged for the betterment of the planet, our present and our future.

Alternatiba Paris
The Alternatiba Festival in Paris

Zero Waste was particularly visible aspect of the Paris Alternatiba Festival thanks to the efforts of our friends at Zero Waste France who provided their expertise on how to minimize waste at the event: deposit and return cups, increasing the segregation of biowaste and compostable products, ensuring proper information, etc. At the same time, the Zero Waste neighbourhood stressed the importance in the fight against climate change of shifting from wasteful societies to zero waste societies. Zero Waste France presented their Plan B’OM, a citizens-led alternative plan to the construction of a big incinerator in Ivry (Paris region), organized workshops on how to make fabric bags and another on the importance of buying in bulk, and how to do so. Their rubbish autopsy was also a success, showing that there are still many non-recyclable products that need to be re-designed.

Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth France) presented a guide on re-use and participated in a debate on ‘planned obsolescence’ along with HAP, a new organisation created to fight the artificial limiting of a products life. Other stands offered training in composting and vermi-composting or presented warnings about the most useless big investments in waste facilities in France (mostly MBT plants and incinerators). Repair café demonstrated how to empower citizens re-use their products and other groups showcased upcycled objects.

Waste management at Alternatiba Paris
Waste management at Alternatiba Paris

The Zero Waste neighbourhood was very well complemented by the ‘Water’ neighbourhood, where Surfrider highlighted marine litter and plastics, the ‘Banking’ neighbourhood advocating for the divestment from environmentally toxic projects, such as incinerators, and by the ‘Housing’ neighbourhood that underlined the importance of green building and recyclable construction materials.

Overall, the Alternatiba Festival was successful in making the case that there are alternatives to climate change in addition to energy transition and that without them, it will not be possible to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Alappuzha India, Zero Waste Town

This article is the third in our “Waste & Climate Solutions” series, detailing zero waste stories from around the world. We are releasing this series to mark the final push before COP21, and will release a different climate and waste solution from a different region for the next 2 days until 27 September. The other articles in this series are São Paulo’s Commitment to Household Composting, and Boston Builds Solutions.

In this article we hear about how the Indian town of Alappuzha, made drastic improvements in organic waste management, through the installation and community management of aerobic compost bins across the town. A move which will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions of landfilled organic waste. Whilst Alappuzha might be an exceptional case in India, it is hoped the model can be expanded to other towns and cities across the country. With the potential to revolutionise waste management as a climate solution in India.

Zero Waste Town – Alappuzha

Excerpts from Dr. T. M. Thomas Issac’s article on Alappuzha, an elected representative from the constituency of Alappuzha in Kerala. Edited by Zero Waste Europe & GAIA


No other Indian State has been able to revolutionise municipal solid waste management in the same way as Kerala. Kerala has historically enjoyed social advantages such as total literacy, better healthcare, effective land reform and decent housing for almost everyone. This may not be the situation in most parts of our country. Nevertheless, there are significant lessons to be learned from Alappuzha.


Alappuzha – A historic town

Alappuzha is a sleepy old town situated between the great Vembanad lake and the sea, nearly 60 kilometres south of Kochi. The port town, established by the king of Travancore in the late 18th century, had grown along the two trunk canals connecting the port to the great lake. The web of canals in the city and its surroundings earned Alappuzha the name, “Venice of the East”. It became the major port and industrial town in southern Kerala. But by the 1970s, it began to resemble a ghost town, as its port was eclipsed by Kochi’s and the coir industry moved out. This decline continued till the late 1990s, when backwater tourism gave it a new lease of life. But by then, the canals had got silted and become garbage pits. The town also began to rapidly lose its architectural heritage, a process that has been marvellously documented by Laurie Baker through his inimitable sketches and comments in Alleppey — Venice of the East (1991).

Photo by Evgeni Zotov licensed under creative commons
Alappuzha – Photo by Evgeni Zotov licensed under Creative Commons


The decline

The insanitary conditions made the town an abode of ill health. In the state with the longest life expectancy and lowest infant mortality, we had a paradox of high morbidity, dominated by environment-related traditional diseases. Alappuzha became notorious as one of the most unclean towns in Kerala, seriously jeopardising its future as a tourism centre. Things came to a head in 2001, when the transport of solid waste from the town to its central processing plant in the neighbouring Panchayat was disrupted. Though called a processing plant, it was really a dumping yard and an environmental hazard. The local population rightfully protested and blocked the movement of waste. The streets of the town were littered with garbage. Finally, an agreement was brokered with the protesters, reducing waste movement from 50 tonnes a day to five tonnes. The municipality pursued an aggressive policy of landfilling within the town, an evidently unsustainable policy.


With centralised processing ruled out, at least for the time being, what was to be done? Scavenger’s Son (1947), the first novel of the Jnanpith award winner, Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, an illustrious son of Alappuzha, held a clue. The novel, narrating the story of three generations of scavengers of the town, created such a social stir that it put an end to the century-old institution of manual scavenging in Alappuzha. The human excreta dumping yard in Sarvodayapuram was used for other solid waste from the town. The human excreta depot shifted to latrines within the town itself. Almost all the houses in the town now have latrines that are either inbuilt or in the compound. This raised a simple question. If human excreta could be processed in our own houses, why not the little bit of kitchen waste? The town folk usually lumped together all sorts of waste into a plastic kit and demanded that the municipal corporation collect and process the garbage. It was the duty of the present generation of sanitation workers in the municipality to segregate the waste. A new edition of Scavenger’s Son was in order.


Processing at Source

That was how a people’s campaign for processing waste at the source was born. A change in mindset was required. Normally, all government programmes consider sanitation to be merely an issue of technological choice. This was our major point of departure. Our pilot project for 12 wards was funded by the sanitation mission of the government of Kerala. But then it was converted into a popular campaign for better sanitation.

Coir Rope making - photo by Ajay Jain licensed under Creative Commons
Coir Rope making – photo by Ajay Jain licensed under Creative Commons


The approach was simple. Every household was to install a biogas plant or pipe compost to process its organic waste. Three wards have already achieved this. If, for some reason, a household was not able to process its waste, it should not be littering the street. Anybody caught doing so would be fined. The organic waste was to be brought to the collection points set up by the municipal corporation, which would compost it in aerobic compost bins installed in various parts of the city. The aerobic composting system in Alappuzha is an innovation by the Kerala Agricultural University where layers of organic waste and dry leaves are laid in a bin with sufficient ventilation. Inoculum cultured from cow dung is sprayed on dry leaves before a layer of organic waste is deposited over it. Each bin can process two tonnes of waste and in three months, high quality compost is ready. Instead of being garbage collectors and segregators, municipal workers now manage community compost bins.


Initial Opposition

Initially, wherever we attempted to put the compost bin, there was stiff local opposition and the plans had to be shelved. So we chose the worst garbage dumping areas in the town to set up our compost bins. Nobody objected. Nothing could be worse than the existing situation. These sites were cleared and the sheds housing the bins decorated with plants and murals. The artists of Kochi Biennale lent their support in setting up the largest community compost centre, WATSAN Park. All meetings of the sanitation campaign are normally held at this park. Visitors and curious onlookers are amazed that there is no smell. The place truly has been converted into a park, with a vertical garden, poly house and flower pots. Thus, we broke the backbone of the opposition to community compost bins.


There are two innovations worthy of mention in our biogas plant and pipe compost campaign. Heavily subsidised programmes have generally failed in Kerala and other parts of the country. There are two reasons for this. One, sufficient attention is not paid to user education. The service provider installs the plant, pockets the service charge and moves on. Even if user meetings are held, they are normally attended by the men who do not handle the waste processing. Because of faulty handling, most plants break down after some time. Second, there is no local maintenance team that could respond quickly to plant breakdowns. Sooner or later, the biogas plants and pipe composts are discarded and can become another hazard. Our campaign involves intense, targeted awareness programmes and also a maintenance team of two or three trained women in every ward.

Mural by Kochi Biennale artist (not one mentioned in article) - Photo by -Reji licensed under Creative Commons
Mural by Kochi Biennale artist (not one mentioned in article) – Photo by -Reji licensed under Creative Commons


Commercial establishments are to segregate their waste and either process the organic refuse themselves or enter into a contract with a service provider to remove it. Most of the waste is further segregated as feed for fish, chicken or pigs. The rest is composted. Just through systematic segregation, most of the organic waste can be transformed into inputs for agriculture. The plastic waste is periodically collected and given to contractors for recycling. We intend to collect the e-waste and store it till the government establishes a centralised processing plant.


Community Participation

The resident associations and the neighbourhood women’s groups of Kudumbashree are the main organisational support for the campaign. There is also a band of committed local resource persons, many of whom are experts with technical competency. Schoolchildren organised in WATSAN clubs are the main sanitation messengers to households. Every second Saturday, student leaders meet to chalk out certain simple activities that can be undertaken. Songs, street plays, exhibitions, marches and so on are effectively utilised for environment creation.


Currently, efforts are being made to scale up the Alappuzha experience to the rest of Kerala.


We cannot claim that we have achieved total sanitation in Alappuzha. But the difference between the situation two years back and the present is too marked for anybody to miss. Today, the transport of waste to the centralised processing plant has completely stopped. But the city is clean.

São Paulo’s commitment to household composting

Zero Waste Solutions to Climate Change

This blog is the first in our series on “Waste & Climate solutions” from around the world. We are releasing this series to mark the final push before COP21, and will release a different climate and waste solution from a different region for the next 4 days until 27 September. This edition covers the municipal composting scheme implemented in São Paulo, which gathered large numbers of participants and was responsible for preventing 250 tons of food waste from going to landfill and thereby preventing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the landfilling of organic waste. To find out more about the ‘Power of Compost’ have a look at our post for International Compost Awareness Week or our report back on our organics management training. Read our second post in the series, on Boston’s worker co-operative recycling company.

Dan Moche, Claudio Spinola and Magdalena Donoso*, September, 2015


Although landfills have not always been the main destination for waste in São Paulo, this practice was massively expanded until it reached  a critical situation in 2013. Until then, 100% of the organic waste, 95% of dry waste and 100% of all residual waste would go directly to two specific landfills, the CTL Landfill (Central Waste Treatment Leste) and the Caieiras Landfill.

The motivation to reverse this situation was triggered by changes in legal obligations within the new Solid Waste National Policy (PNRS)i, and the urgency of extending the life of these landfills to save land space in the metropolitan region. Moreover, the solid waste management sector in São Paulo was the second largest source of GHG emissions (Municipal Inventory, 2012), being responsible for the 15.6% of the total GHG emissions in the city, 14% of those coming from landfills. In this way, reducing the contribution of the waste sector to the carbon footprint of the city was critical, and composting was a particularly well-suited opportunity, as studies showed that the practice of composting would potentially decrease 5-10 times the emissions of methane in landfills,ii integrate efforts to reduce leachate while increasing the benefits from retaining organic matter to provide nutrients and improve soil properties in the state of São Paulo.


Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo
Composting workshop with officials from the city of Sao Paulo

Participatory implementation

The implementation of the Solid Waste National Policy (PNRS) began with citizens participating in 58 events with more than 7,000 participants, which was organised by the Public Administration of São Paulo. 800 delegates elected by thousands of São Paulo citizens and supported by experts and technicians from the authority ad hoc, agreed on the main guidelines as to what to do with the waste generated in the city.

These points formed part of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan of the city of São Paulo – PGIRS, published in early 2014, and determined the recovery, over twenty years, of 80% of all compostable waste and recyclable waste. Among the approved guidelines, source separation of organic waste, selective collection, composting, mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and promotion of home composting were included.

Delivery of compost kits to selected households
Delivery of compost kits to selected households

“Compost São Paulo”

Home composting began to be encouraged by the government of São Paulo shortly after the publication of the PGIRS in June 2014 by delivering compost bins to houses. In six months, 250 tons of organic waste were recovered.

The project called “Composta São Paulo” handed kits for home composting with worms to 2,006 households in the city of São Paulo. Through a public announcement, the project achieved 10,061 registrations in 40 days on the website, from various regions of São Paulo. Those selected were from 539 apartments and 1,467 houses in eight regions.

“Now I pay a lot of attention to my organic waste and also my neighbours waste. I’m more critical of how much food to buy. I have affection for worms”, said one of the participants in the “Composta São Paulo” 2014 program. 

The delivery of compost bins was accompanied by 135 training workshops for over 5,000 participants. Participants were encouraged to respond to scheduled polls and assume the role of multipliers of home composting.

After two months, the participants were invited to other workshops (88 workshops), where they received advice and techniques for planting in small spaces in order to use the produced compost. The questions and concerns raised were shared and addressed in a virtual community on Facebook. The community of “composters” (comunidad de “composteros”) finished the first year of the project with more than 6,000 members.

Subsequent information gathering on program results indicated that 89% of participants significantly decreased the amount of waste for collection. There were no significant differences in the evaluation of the practice of composting between social classes or between types of housing and only 47 households (2.3%) gave up the activity. Meanwhile, 97% of respondents of a survey to measure the level of satisfaction (1,535 people) were satisfied or very satisfied with the technique, 98% considered it a good solution for organic waste and 86% considered it easy to practice.

Strong economic basis

In its economic analysis, the Municipality of São Paulo found that the costs of delivery of compost, monitoring and technical assistance provided by the local government could be covered through the savings achieved in reducing the collection, transport and disposal of the organic waste in landfills. The study compared the (estimated) costs of collection, transportation and disposal of organic waste in landfills with the (estimated) costs that compost bins, delivery, communication, workshops, etc, would imply. Then, the calculation was made with what was actually spent to develop the above actions in the context of “Compost São Paulo”, working with 2006 households. Considering the “contagious” effect explained below, costs would be matched within 5 years.iii

The communication strategy and the contagious effect

The mayor of Sao Paulo at the first delivery
The mayor of Sao Paulo at the first delivery

Linking the practice of home composting with participation was an important part of the communication strategy developed for this program in terms of the involvement of the population. In addition to the novelty of the composting process itself, and the use of modern techniques of social communication aroused interest in the project, and the desire to “be a part”.

The multiplier effect was immediate. The results of the survey indicated that 29% helped others who did not receive compost bin, to make, install or manage one. Participants witnessed a contagious effect, which attracted 2,525 new people to try to assemble or buy their own composting system.

“We realized that every time we went to throw the waste into the compost bin we felt a deep sense of wellbeing … kind of like we had stopped making the city a dirty place and turned garbage into flowers. We exchanged ideas with other people who were doing composting and they had the same feeling! Composting is therapeutic!”, read the testimony of another participant at the “Composta São Paulo” 2014 program. 

27% of participants donated worms for others to start practice. Also, behavioural changes in other areas also came to light: 84% said they greatly expanded their knowledge of urban sustainability; 96% considered themselves far more diligent in handling properly the waste produced; and 54% said they began to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.

The new “master composters”: dream big, start small, and act now!

The 2,525 new participants, excited by the project members themselves, are a sign of the potential for citizens to transition from mere objects of public policy to true subjects in the exercise of their citizenship: in this case, transforming themselves from “trained” to “master composters”. By attracting new participants and sharing their learning, project members should be recognized for what they really are:  “master composters”.

On the other end, public managers are called to support what people can build. Just dream big, start small, and act now. Home composting is an empowering tool for public policy, and of collective commitments, with a multiplier effect that encourages responsible behaviour with base on joy, discovery and learning.

* Authors: Dan Moche Schneider, who coordinated the area of ​​organic waste in the PGIRS of Sao Paulo / Claudio Spinola, ideologue and operator of “Compost São Paulo” / Magdalena Donoso, Coordinator for GAIA Latin America

i Obligation to recover waste under the National Solid Waste Policy – PNRS, approved in 2010.  

ii Inacio, Caio de Teves. O papel da compostagem de resíduos orgânicos urbanos na mitigação de emissão de metano. Caio de Teves Inácio, Daniel Beltrão Bettio e Paul Richard Momsen Miller. Embrapa Solos, 2010. 22 p.

iii Calculations estimated by Dan Moche, former Coordinator at the Organic Waste PIGRS of Sao Paulo. Internal economic analysis of the Municipality of Sao Paulo.

Pope Francis Embraces Zero Waste

The Chief of the Catholic Church just published an encyclical warning about the risks of wasteful societies and calling for Zero Waste.

Two years ago, Pope Francis posted a video on youtube praising waste pickers for their task. At that time, he said that “we live in a wasteful culture in which, we not only waste stuff, but also people”. Alternatives to this culture of waste preserve the environment, create jobs and dignify human lives.

Pope Francis has expressed in several occasions its support to environmental fights.
Pope Francis has expressed in several occasions his support to environmental fights.

More than an isolated case, truth is that, in two years and a half as a Pope, Francis has met waste pickers of India, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, the Philippines, and has certainly addressed environmental issues in his speeches in the past. Early this year, visiting the Philippines he recalled the devastating effects of climate change and how environmental destruction is a source of global suffering. In his speech of January in Manila, Pope Francis warned about the negative implications of wasteful societies and stressed the need to care for the environment.

Today, the Vatican just published Laudato Si, an encyclical in which the Pope goes through major global environmental problems, calls for strong action on climate change, advocates for phasing out toxics and embraces zero waste.

According to the encyclical, “the Earth, our home, seems to turn more and more into a huge garbage dump”, which “is intimately linked to the culture of waste, affecting so much the human beings left behind when the things turn quickly into trash”. The Pope argue that natural ecosystems manage to create closed loops of nutrients and energy, while human beings “have not yet succeeded in adopting a circular pattern of production which ensures resources for all and for the future generations”. He calls, therefore, for limiting the use of non-renewable sources of energy, moderate consumption patterns and increase reuse and recycling.

The encyclical also pays particular attention to the role of toxics and their risk for human health and to the environment, and to climate change. In both cases, the Pope highlights how most vulnerable communities people tend to be affected the most by environmental problems, being, hence, not only an environmental problem but also a social justice one.

Zero Waste Europe welcomes the encyclical of Pope Francis and is pleased to see that there is a growing consensus on the need to transform our wasteful societies into zero waste ones. As Paul Connett once said, “God recycles, the devil burns”.


For further information:

Full text of Laudato Si here.

Side event: Effective stakeholder engagement in NAMA development and implementation

Invitation to side event

In the context of the intersessional conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in Bonn from 3-11 June, Zero Waste Europe participates in a side event that will be looking at climate finance, in the case of NAMAs, for the waste sector.

Effective stakeholder engagement is widely recognized as a key success factor for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs). In this event, experts from the civil society, business and the NAMA facility will discuss the role of civil society in development and implementation of NAMAs and share experiences and best practices.

  • NAMAs and civil society, Urska TrunkCarbon Market Watch
  • Measuring sustainable development in NAMAs, Karen Holm Olsen,UNEP DTU
  • Challenges and opportunities of NAMAs in the waste sector, Mariel VilellaZero Waste Europe
  • Gender sensitive and community driven NAMA in Georgia, Sabine Bock, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF)
  • Representative speaking on NAMA finance (tbc)
Download the invitation here
If you would like further information on this event, please email



Zero Waste France on its Way to COP21

France is preparing to host the 21st session of the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), a.k.a. the COP21, and so does Zero Waste France.


The COP21 will take place in Paris from November 30th to December 11th, and the French government will be in charge to facilitate this high-level international negotiation to bring governments to agree on a plan of action to tackle climate change; not an easy job, but certainly one that can’t be postponed, given the urgency to mitigate climate change and support vulnerable  countries and communities that are already suffering the consequences of climate change on the ground.


In this context, Zero Waste France is taking the chance to put waste issues in the climate change agenda and underline the important linkages between these two fronts of action. The team has published a monthly newsletter with a thematic focus on climate change and waste, a brief for MPs is on its way out, and since last week, it has started a series of training for communities and general public.

Delphine Lévi Alvarès, in charge of  Zero Waste France’s Institutional Relations said “Climate change and waste have been treated conceptually as two separate issues within environmental thinking, but in practice they are closely linked. We believe that it is essential for citizens and policymakers to understand better these linkages and the COP21 is an excellent opportunity to work in that direction ”.

Last 25th April 2015, three members of the Zero Waste France team, Delphine, Manon and Anna travelled to Lyon to provide training on Waste and Climate to a newly formed local Zero Waste group.



The aim of this training was to show the impacts of waste management on the climate and how zero waste strategies can help reducing GHG emissions and build a resource-efficient society to stop climate change. In a more practical sense, the training provided communities with tools to reduce waste while fighting climate change.

The training was attended by sixteen members of Zero Waste France Lyon. First, they were given a general explanation on the impact of waste management on climate change, particularly looking at waste disposal options (waste incineration, landfill and related transport), over-consumption and food and product waste. The potential of Zero Waste strategies to reduce  GHG emissions was also underlined. After breaking up in small groups, participants worked on the climate impacts of a product (a mobile phone, a plastic bottle, amongst others) and followed up with a planning session of actions to be carried out in Lyon.


Some of the participants expressed: “It’s very interesting to picture the lifecycle of everyday items” and “There is a lot to be done, it’s a huge responsibility but the COP will be a good opportunity to change things”.

The Zero Waste France team were very happy with this first experience and are planning to repeat this Waste and Climate training in May near Paris and Nantes.

Zero Waste – a Key Solution for a Low-Carbon Economy


Zero Waste to prevent Climate Change!

Management of waste has critical climate implications. While waste is not always seen as a critical frontline issue for climate change mitigation, it in fact offers particularly cost-effective and ready-to-implement solutions pathways that can draw support from diverse constituencies who may otherwise not engage in climate-related work. The impact of these solutions on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is far from negligible, particularly from a lifecycle perspective. As climate change economist Nicholas Stern has noted, “Recycling is already making a major contribution to keeping down emissions. Indeed, its scale is so little appreciated that it might be described as one of the ‘best kept secrets’ in energy and climate change….”[1]


Zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, extended producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.


7 Key Achievements of Zero Waste Solutions for a Low-Carbon Economy:

 1. Reduction of GHG emissions in every household. Programs that reduce, reuse and recycle municipal waste are effective and high-impact means of reducing GHG emissions.[2] When discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. This results in less demand for virgin materials whose extraction, transport and processing are major sources of GHG emissions. Zero Waste solutions thus reduce emissions in virtually all extractive industries: mining, forestry, agriculture, and petroleum extraction.



cartro reciclat

2. Reduction of GHG emissions at the production line. Additional energy and associated emissions are saved in the manufacturing process, as recycled materials generally require less energy to be turned back into products.[3] While “waste to energy” incinerators capture some of the energy embodied in materials that they burn, recycling the same materials conserves three to five times as much energy.[4] This is particularly notable in products such as aluminum, where the direct energy use is reduced by 88% from that required to produce primary aluminum.[5]





  1. Soil restoration with compost and increase of carbon sink capacity. Compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — avoids methane emissions from waste disposal
    organic waste
    Source-separated organic waste is key to produce high-quality compost to restore the carbon sink capacity of soils.

    and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. Research shows that if compost was applied to just 5 percent of the California state’s grazing lands, the soil could capture a year’s worth of greenhouse gas emissions from California’s farm and forestry industries. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.[6]



  1. Reduction of GHG and toxic emissions from waste disposal. Zero Waste solutions also directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both. Burning waste emits
    rugby cement plant
    CEMEX Cement plant in Rugby (UK), burning waste as fuel.

    carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O); and landfills and dumps are a primary source of methane (CH4), as well as CO2.[7In fact, incinerators produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity than coal-fired power plants.[8] The average trash incinerator in the U.S. directly emits an average of 2.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide per MWh and 2.8 tonnes of nitrous oxide per MWh—both greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.[9] Burning waste also drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators,landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns.





  1. Zero Waste Solutions are cost-effective and accessible. Recycling for example has been noted as an extremely cost effective method of achieving emissions reductions. Avoiding one ton of CO2 emissions through recycling costs 30% less than doing so through energy efficiency and 90% less than wind power.[10] As climate change economist Nicholas Stern has noted, “Recycling is already making a major contribution to keeping down emissions. Indeed, its scale is so little appreciated that it might be described as one of the ‘best kept secrets’ in energy and climate change….”[11]
  1. Zero Waste Solutions create green jobs and revitalize local economies. The recycling sector, with more than two million informal recyclers in developing country cities, offers climate-smart urban solutions to sustain and strengthen livelihood development, improve local environmental health, and strengthen local economies.

    By prioritizing people-led zero waste programs that are rooted in worker empowerment, community participation, and policies that are both farsighted and inclusive, zero waste solutions illuminate the path toward building sustainable waste management systems that work for both communities and the environment.

  1. It reinvigorates and develops our communities. Solving the waste and climate problem requires more than technical fixes: zero waste solutions are part of a larger web of decisions about health, equity, power, poverty, development, policy decisions and governance which require the participation and engagement of everyone. Waste is everyone’s business and zero waste programs can draw support from diverse constituencies who may otherwise not engage in climate-related work.


[1] Stern, Nicholas, A Blueprint for a Safer Planet. Bodley Head, 2009.

[2] USEPA, Solid Waste Management And Greenhouse Gases: A Life-Cycle Assessment Of Emissions And Sinks, 3rd Edition. 2006.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Morris, “Comparative LCAs for Curbside Recycling, Versus Either Landfilling or Incineration With Energy Recovery.” International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. (2005); 13(3) 226-234.

[5] Schlesinger, Aluminum Recycling. CRC Press, 2006.

[6] See for the latest bibliography on this work.

[7] IPCC, AR4, Working Group 3, Chapter 10.

[8] U.S. EPA,


[10] Skumatz, “What Provides The Biggest Bang? Comparing Carbon Footprint Effects And Costs from Diversion vs. Energy Programs” presentation at California Resource Recovery Association, August 2008.

[11] Stern, Nicholas, A Blueprint for a Safer Planet. Bodley Head, 2009.

Zero Waste is a Climate Solution at the COP20


The UN Climate Conference (COP 20) concluded in Lima last 13th December after 12 days and 33 extra hours of negotiations, with a far more disappointing agreement that the more sceptical-minded would have dared guessing. Yet still, this was an important space to bring up our community-led climate justice solutions for the waste sector, which as much as it is often part of the climate problem, it can definitely be turned into a great climate solution.


An agreement with no real teeth

Following-up on previous commitments, countries meeting in Lima were meant to frame the new legal, binding, global agreement that is supposed to be adopted in the next COP 21 in Paris. This new treaty is expected to ensure climate action from 2020 onwards to keep the planet’s temperature rise below 2Cº.

The outcome from Lima, far from bringing countries closer to a legally binding global treaty, delayed all the important and most controversial decisions and produced a shy ‘Lima Call for Climate Action’, a document that puts forward a number of key recommendations, without any real mandate for countries to pursue them.[1]

Apart from the big picture negotiations, the COP20 was a very relevant space to monitor and analyse specific country efforts to implement climate action in the waste sector. Precisely, several experiences have shown that whereas waste is part of the climate problem as a source of GHG emissions, it can definitely be turned into a key climate solution with greatest emission savings and further co-benefits.

ZWE Blog post 7

Zero Waste – Key Solutions for Climate Justice

“Zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.” (Excerpt of the GAIA Declaration towards the COP20)

As done in previous years, GAIA organized a delegation of representatives of grassroots recycling workers, visionary local leaders, and innovative practitioners that showed that zero waste is a key strategy for climate justice and to develop a low-carbon economy. Throughout a week of action both inside the COP and also outside at the People’s Summit for Climate Change, the delegation engaged in promoting community-led climate solutions in the waste sector and also challenged the misleading assumptions around waste burning as a clean energy and/or renewable energy source.

Starting the week with a colourful and exciting public action at the heart of the COP, the delegation pointed out at the current lack of environmental criteria in climate finance, most noticeable in the under-construction policies of the Green Climate Fund. This institution, which has received financial pledges from developed countries to up to 10 USD billion during the COP20 and that may be approving project proposals as early as next summer 2015, has refused so far to commit to an ‘exclusion’ list of projects which would ensure that none of this eventual money ends up burning fossil fuels, municipal solid waste, biomass or producing any sort of dirty energy. Several civil society organizations have joined efforts to raise this demand, yet to be considered by the GCF Board.

ZWE Blog post 6


Specific action was taken to put the Mexico government on the spotlight, as it has recently granted permission to use municipal solid waste as fuel in cement plants all over the country. Doña Venancia Cruz, representative of the Indigenous Community of Santiago de Anaya in México, appealed directly to the government representatives bringing the testimony of her impacted community by this polluting practice.

As mentioned above, the COP20 was an excellent context to show the key achievements of zero waste strategies in reducing GHG emissions, air pollution, providing livelihoods and restoring the soils. A press conference was held to showcase the specific examples.

Dan Moche and Beth Grimberg from the Aliança Resíduo Zero Brazil presented the progress made in Sao Paulo, which as recently implemented source separation of organic waste and domestic composting for 10.000 homes. Compost from green waste — everything from household food scraps to dairy manure — avoids methane emissions from waste disposal and most importantly, it contributes to soil restoration and helps increase its capacity to act as carbon sinks. The effect is cumulative, meaning the soil keeps absorbing carbon dioxide even after just one application of compost, as compost decomposition provides a slow release fertilizer to the soils leading to an increase in carbon sequestration and increased plant production.[2]

Special attention was given to the contribution of the recyclers community, represented by Denisse Moran from REDLACRE. The recycling sector, with more than two million informal recyclers in developing country cities, offers climate-smart urban solutions to sustain and strengthen livelihood development, improve local environmental health, and strengthen local economies.

Last but not least, representatives from the Coalición Anti-incineración Argentina stressed the need to work at the local and national level and root climate solutions on the basis of communities and national coalitions of civil society organizations.

ZWE Blog post 4

Monitoring national climate policies in the waste sector.

As mentioned above, the COP20 is a very useful space to monitor and analyse national climate mitigation policy – aka NAMAs, Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, in the UNFCCC jargon. As the global agreements have not offered any solid environmental guidance, the current situation shows a wide variety of climate mitigation policies, often in the wrong direction. This is particularly obvious when looking at the waste sector in countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Dominican Republic.

Colombia for example, which is known to host one of the most vibrant grassroots recyclers movements recognized internationally, presented a climate mitigation policy that will entail the implementation of an MBT plant in two cities, with the subsequent production of Refuse-Derived Fuel to be burnt in cement plants as an emission reduction strategy. The polluting impacts of waste burning in cement kilns have been thoroughly reported.

Worryingly enough, Dominican Republic also presented a climate mitigation project with the support of GIZ consisting in burning of used tires in cement kilns, arguing that it would not only reduce GHG emissions but it would also benefit the local population via job creation. Likewise, the climate mitigation policy presented by Indonesia also makes a reference to developing 5 waste-to-energy projects in 5 different cities, even thought it’s unclear what kind of technology it will be.

On the other hand, the Dominican Republican also presented a project to apply anaerobic digestion to pig farming, which could indeed contribute to GHG emissions if done appropriately. In this sense, it was made clear that when it comes to climate mitigation policies in the waste sector, the UNFCCC is unable to provide any solid environmental and social criteria and it needs close monitoring to discern the good, the bad and the ugly.

In conclusion, as Mariel Vilella, Zero Waste Europe’s Associate Director, put it in her presentation about climate policy in the waste sector in the People’s Climate Summit: “Let’s not rely on misleading concepts. Biomass and waste cannot be the “new coal” because they are not clean energy, and they are not renewable. There is a critical need to develop environmental and social criteria for climate action in the waste sector, to ensure that we take advantage from its enormous opportunity to mitigate climate change and reach further co-benefits in air pollution reduction, green jobs, and the empowerment of resilient communities,”


ZWE Blog post 5


Next steps – toward Paris COP21

The COP21 in Paris will take place next December and the National Climate Coalition 21 is already gearing up to it. International networks had a chance to discuss plans at the People’s Summit in Lima and put forward a calendar of decentralized mobilizations for the whole year. Once again, community-led zero waste solutions will be at the front of the mobilizations, showing the work done throughout the whole year at the local and national contexts.


[1]For a comprehensive analysis of the COP20 outcomes, we recommend the following article by Oscar Reyes, at Institute for Policy Studies, and also this article by Lili Furh, Liane Schalatek and Maureen Santos at Heinrich Boell Foundation.

[2] See for the latest bibliography on this work.

Waste – the controversial side of climate change mitigation in the latest IPCC report

Waste is contributing to climate change but it can also be part of the solution if true Zero Waste principles are implemented. Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on mitigation of climate change, an attempt to provide a state-of-the-art on strategies and technologies available to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change. What did the IPCC say about waste?

As the Zero Waste Europe team has been able to confirm, the report has turned up with shocking controversies.

On the one hand, the report does confirm once more the 101 bases on waste and climate change – basically, that waste reduction, reuse and recycling are the most effective options for emission reduction in the waste sector.

It also acknowledges that zero waste strategies do exist and offer visionary development for waste reduction strategies. But apart from these, the report devotes little attention to elaborate on the current state of the best practices on upstream solutions and focuses mostly on downstream industrial options.

IPCC launch room
The IPCC Working Group III launched the report on mitigation of climate change in Berlin, after a week of negotiations.

Following this narrow-focused vision, the report includes the misleading consideration of burning waste as replacement of fossil fuels in combustion plants, i.e. cement plants, as a climate mitigation strategy for the waste sector –considering that burning waste is better than disposing it in landfills and that this is the best option we can aspire to. This perspective is out of touch with reality. Zero Waste towns prove on an everyday basis that prevention, reuse and recycling are better options and can be implemented rather quickly.

In the Summary for Policy Makers, the specific text argues that replacing fossil fuels with waste may be a significant mitigation option since ‘reuse and recycling levels are still very low’ at the global level. Again, this appreciation ignores the daily experience of Zero Waste municipalities and regions that are achieving recycling targets above 80% and that have substantially reduced their waste generation. Moreover, since waste management is a dimension of public policy generally dealt with at the local level, why should a global rate be taken as the key reference?  This seems to be just inappropriate reasoning. The point is further referenced in the full report (Ch. 10.14, Ch. 10.4).

ipcc report cover
IPCC Report on Mitigation of Climate Change

Interestingly enough, some of the claims are quoted to authors such as Holcim or CEMBUREAU (Ch.10, p. 26), which, as cement producing companies, should be considered very invested parties and thus biased. Other authors that have contributed directly to the report are publicly known for promoting waste as fuel and incineration technologies in general, which also raises questions about whether the IPCC has or should have a conflict of interest policy to its own authorship.

GAIA– Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives has responded with this letter to such misleading claims and it has urged the IPCC to correct and amend this language.

“We feel compelled to urge the WGIII to amend its support for using waste as a fuel to reduce the demand for fossil fuels. This is not a sustainable climate mitigation strategy, but a highly controversial and ultimately misleading suggestion. If we are to change our energy system and decarbonise our electricity supply, waste cannot be taken as the new coal“, said Mariel Vilella, Climate Policy Campaigner with GAIA.

waste not in berlin
Climate activists in Berlin stressed the need to transform our energy systems and stop polluting sources of energy such as waste incineration


Precisely, the IPCC fails to report on the most innovative approaches to waste reduction, reuse, recycling and energy recovery through composting and anaerobic digestion within zero waste strategies that are taking place all over the world, which do not necessarily or exclusively come from the industrial sector but from the redesign of our resource management systems.

Furthermore, it is important to realise that in the US, for example, 42% of emissions come from resource management – that is, considering all the life-cycle of products in their extraction – production – distribution – consumption – and disposal stages of stuff. This reality requires social innovation to stop waste reaching the landfills and incinerators in the first place. Limiting our vision to industrial options on how to deal with landfill emissions it is not a useful approach; even worse, it will only accentuate the tendency to allocate the least resources and effort to waste prevention, which is found at the top of the Waste Hierarchy.

It is not too late for the IPCC to amend the report before the final publication in October 2014. If the IPCC is committed to fight climate change it is vital that it looks into solutions that really reduce emissions and starts working with unbiased experts.

At the end of the day, the relevance of the IPPC depends on its usefulness to fight climate change and currently, in the waste sector, it seems to be more a part of the problem than a part of the solution.