Dear GAIA Members and Friends!
Welcome to the latest GAIA News! We're so glad to be able to share with you these examples of the exciting work of our members and allies. From the joyful energy of the flashmob anti-incinerator protest in Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Country in Spain to the deep determination of those who recently marked the two-year anniversary of their successful blockade of the Ecoltec plant in Apaxco, Mexico that mixed hazardous waste into fuel for use in cement kilns, I am consistently inspired by our movement's creativity and commitment. This passion for the struggle is reflected in the work of Pat Costner—a remarkable GAIA founding member and a true leader in the movement against toxic pollution—interviewed in this newsletter.
I am also heartened by the work we have done in close partnership with allies around the world in the informal recycling sector to push for real change at the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol—supposedly a resource for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but too often a supporter of bad waste projects such as incinerators, which contribute to worsening climate change while threatening the livelihoods of grassroots recyclers. Together, we and our allies are challenging the methodologies by which the CDM approves such damaging projects.
Through the diversity of our members and our strategies—protesting incinerators, promoting Zero Waste and compost, building alliances and capacity at the grassroots level, supporting greater recognition for informal waste workers, and tracking the funding and financing behind unsustainable waste management approaches, just to name a few—we are building a truly inclusive movement for real solutions.
Europe - Spain: "I Want to Breathe Clean Air"—Flashmob against Incineration in Guipuzkoa
New Zero Waste groups are organizing in the Basque Country in Spain. However, the region of Gipuzkoa still insists on building an incinerator and, in view of the success of the Zero Zabor experiences, has sped up the work on the incinerator plan to stop other municipalities from joining the Zero Waste model.
Moreover, the Gipuzkoa region refuses to increase the current composting capacity of only 2,500 tons. As a result, the 4,400 tons of high quality organic waste that it separately collected has no place to be composted—the preferred strategy under the European waste hierarchy. But the Zero Waste philosophy counts on the support not only of some engaged municipalities but also of citizen groups that are tirelessly working to spread the word that sustainability is not only necessary, but also possible. Read more and watch the video.
Global Policy: Kicking off the Revision of CDM Rules for "Waste-to-Energy" (WTE)
As part of a global coalition including grassroots recyclers and allied groups, GAIA is campaigning to stop the flow of carbon credits to incinerators and landfills. For the past several months we have been pushing for the revision of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) rules that apply to waste projects.
In May, the CDM board formally agreed to revise these methodologies. This is great news that reaffirms the critical opportunity we have to question and cease the inclusion of WTE under the carbon market umbrella.
At the moment, there are 25 incinerators within the CDM project cycle, 16 of which are under discussion for approval. Landfill gas systems—predominantly in Latin America but also in the Asia and Pacific region—are another major technology that is increasingly found in the CDM pipeline. Projects that capture landfill gas to flare or to produce energy account for 85% of all projects affected by the rules revision process that the CDM is undertaking. Read more.
Photo: Meeting questioning the proposed Timarpur-Okhla incinerator in India, currently under discussion for CDM approval.
Asia - Philippines: Yuyun Ismawati Advocates Composting to Solve Philippine Garbage Woes
Speaking at a March 21 workshop organized by GAIA, Yuyun Ismawati, a 2009 recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize (informally dubbed the "Green Nobel Prize") made a strong pitch for composting to effectively tackle the garbage disposal crisis faced by developing countries, including the Philippines
"Composting organics serves multiple purposes—it minimizes the waste we generate by making them useful again, it reduces conditions in dumpsites and landfills conducive for methane production, and it returns carbon and micro-nutrients back to the soil," she explained.
The forum was intended for local officials, specifically the member cities/municipalities of the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Board, tasked to design a more strategic plan/system for managing Metro Manila's wastes. Since organic wastes make up more than 50% of the average household's daily waste, this workshop was designed to drive home the economic, environmental, and climate benefits of diverting organic wastes for composting. Read more.
Latin America: Grassroots Recyclers Celebrate Their Day
On March 1, Latin America celebrated Recyclers' Day. Informal sector recyclers from several countries including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Chile marched in the streets and raised their demands for different public policies on waste.
These grassroots recyclers pushed for inclusion in formal waste systems and an end to abuses. They also spoke out about the importance of recycling in mitigating climate change.
Read more about activities in various countries.
Photo: Celebrations in Chile for Recyclers' Day.
North America - United States: Challenging Incineration in Massachusetts and California
A bid to convert an old coal power plant into a plasma gasification facility in Somerset, Massachusetts, was prevented by local residents with support from GAIA member Toxics Action Center. Massachusetts activists and industry whistleblowers have also secured a critical victory against Wheelabrator, forcing the incinerator company to pay a record settlement of $7.5 million.
In California, GAIA member Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice has been organizing community opposition to a plasma arc proposal in the Salinas Valley, where the Plasco Energy Group wants to burn municipal waste.
Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Coalition for Clean Air/Naomi Roth
Europe: Meeting in Brussels of NGOs Promoting the Zero Waste Strategy for Europe
On March 14, more than 30 people from 13 European countries—Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Romania, Spain, and Hungary—came together for the first time to define a Zero Waste strategy for Europe. The event was organized by GAIA and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
Throughout the day there were debates about the meaning of Zero Waste in Europe and the need for the NGO community to set the agenda for waste and resource management for the future. That is, moving the focus beyond becoming a recycling society towards becoming a Zero Waste society. It was emphasized that Zero Waste is a journey, not a destination. Read more.
Latin America: Challenging Incineration in Mexico and El Salvador
In February, Eduardo Giesen of GAIA's staff had an opportunity to visit members in Apaxco, Mexico, who have been challenging the mixing of toxic waste as a cement kiln fuel by Ecoltec, a Holcim subsidiary, in their community for nearly two years, and to meet about campaigns and issues with other members in the region.
The visit in Apaxco was followed by a trip to Tecámac, a Mexican community threatened by a series of megaprojects with serious environmental and social justice effects. GAIA is especially concerned about the threat of a possible new waste treatment plant, which several times has been officially identified as an incinerator.
Eduardo and a number of GAIA members also participated in workshops convened by CDM Watch in Mexico and El Salvador to share information on the negative impact of Clean Development Mechanism projects and discuss advocacy and campaigns focused on resisting CDM projects that harm communities and the environment. Read more.
Photo: CDM Watch meeting, El Salvador.
Europe: GAIA Documents the Need for European Biowaste Targets
Following the stakeholder consultation launched by the European Commission on the need to establish biowaste collection and recycling targets at the EU level, GAIA has assembled evidence that the current EU waste legislation is diverting biowaste from landfills into incineration and not to recycling (composting or biogas).
GAIA members in Europe have helped to document particular cases in which biowaste recycling has been threatened by incinerator overcapacity, including waste management investment decisions and plans in Estonia, Spain, and the UK.
While implementation of the Landfill Directive is driving biodegradable waste away from landfills, there is no clear directive for recycling biowaste—so it ends up being incinerated. GAIA is advocating for meaningful collection and recycling targets for biowaste. Read more and access the report.
Interview with Pat Costner
In her many years as a scientist activist, Pat has written and contributed to numerous important reports and books, such as We All Live Downstream, "Playing with Fire" (about hazardous waste incineration), and "Incineration and Human Health." Since retiring from Greenpeace, she has continued to act as Science Advisor for GAIA and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) as well as a member of the expert group that reviews and revises the UNEP's Dioxin Toolkit, which is relied on by most countries in preparing their dioxin inventories as required by the Stockholm Convention on POPs. You can read more about Pat's work in this 1991 article from Rachel's Hazardous Waste News.
Interview Excerpts (Read the full interview online.)
The composting toilet is one of your passions—what lessons can we learn from this intimately local solution to a waste problem?
I am of the opinion that, until we learn to deal rationally with our own excreta and use water wisely and well, there is blessed little chance that we will figure out how to live peaceably and sustainably. Composting toilets embody the lessons we need to learn: they don't use water and they transform excreta into a safe, valuable resources. Read more.
What makes you most hopeful for the future?
Nothing makes me more hopeful for the future than my grandchildren. They and their cohorts seem to have an innate understanding of complexities that I have yet to fully grasp.
The daily flurry of messages on GAIA's listserve makes me hopeful. Yes, there are many, many struggles . . . so many more than there were 30 or 20 or even 10 years ago, but I can only take that as a good sign, even if many of these are lost for now. It shows that more people are willing to stand up and speak out. Read more.
Photo courtesy of Pat Costner