MANILA, Philippines (August 15, 2019)—Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced that they will stop export of recyclable waste amid rising global plastic pollution concern and pushback from Asian countries who are at the receiving end of the waste trade.

Green groups in and around the region are wary of the pronouncement that can be used as an opening to push for waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration which the Australian government has been silently supporting.  They are also pushing the government to take back waste that were already shipped to Asian countries.


Jane Bremmer, Coordinator, Zero Waste Australia (National Toxics Network): “The Prime Minister’s announcement and Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) support for a ban on waste exports should be cautiously welcomed and is long overdue following the embarrassing revelations of Australian illegal waste dumping in Southeast Asia. However, it seems certain that the announcement is designed to distract from a major government push to burn Australia’s waste in polluting incinerators: an industry it quietly supports. Waste-to-energy incineration has no place in a sustainable zero waste management and circular economy agenda. Burning finite resources in our residual waste stream—predominantly single-use, non-recyclable, fossil fuel-based plastic waste—is not only highly polluting but entrenches a linear economy, the very cause of global climate, pollution and health disasters and is the antithesis of a sustainable circular economy.”

Contact: Jane Bremmer, +610 3262387; acejane@bigpond.com


Enzo Favoino, Scientific Coordinator, Zero Waste Europe: “While we welcome Australia’s move to ban waste export, we are strongly against any plans by the federal government to use this to justify waste-to-energy incineration in the hope that it will power Australian homes. Burning plastics is one of the largest contributors to climate change, and energetic efficiencies of incinerators are appallingly low, let alone where heat finds little or no use. In Europe, a climate correction factor had to be adopted to artificially change calculation of energy efficiency and falsely show higher energy efficiency where heat is to no use, as it would be the case in most situations in Australia. However, Europe has disincentivized support to new incineration projects in the last few years, since reliance on incineration may be counterproductive for the ambitious recycling and reuse targets as defined in the Circular Economy Package. Most recently, a study in Nordic countries is showing that these countries are not on track to meet EU’s recycling target because of heavy reliance on incineration.  Australia should learn from the mistakes of Europe and not invest in incineration. Reusing and recycling saves remarkably more energy than what may be retrieved through incineration, and given the remarkably low energetic efficiency of incinerators, waste of energy is a more appropriate term to use than waste to energy.” 

Contact: Enzo Favoino, +39 335 355446; enzo.favoino@zerowasteeurope.eu


Beau Baconguis, Plastics Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific and Break Free From Plastic Asia Pacific coordinator: “There is a clear link between waste dumping by the Global North and the promotion of false solutions such as incineration to the waste problem in developing countries. Asia is now standing up against this injustice. Moreover, communities in our region, as well as in the global north, have demonstrated that the solution to the plastic waste problem is Zero Waste and that involves plastic waste reduction, alternative delivery systems, and ecological waste management programs. Governments need to listen more to its people rather than the profit-driven corporations peddling non-solutions.”

Contact: Beau Baconguis, +63 917 8715257, beau@no-burn.org


Yuyun Ismawati, Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) and co-founder & Senior Advisor of BaliFokus/Nexus3 Foundation: “We call for the Consulate General of Australia in Surabaya to apologize for saying that the Indonesian government approved Australia’s sending of nasty scrap. Our government never approved such importation. We also ask the Australian ports to improve and strengthen their monitoring and the work of the surveyors who confirm the impurities and content of “recyclables” inside containers that are sent out of Australia. Finally, we call on the exporting and importing companies to clean the messy dumpsites they have created in Indonesia and the rest of Asia. We also call for the Australian government to collaborate with the Indonesian government to use safe technology to treat historical plastic waste in dumpsites and avoid incineration.” 

Contact: Yuyun Ismawati, +447583768707, yuyun@balifokus.asia


Mageswari Sangaralingam, Consumers Association of Penang (Malaysia): “The Malaysian government announced in May that it will send back Australian plastic waste because it was too contaminated to recycle or had been falsely labelled and smuggled in. Now that the Australian PM made pronouncement to stop waste export, the Australian government must take back waste that has already been shipped to Malaysia. We want the Australian government to clearly state their plans and timelines in cleaning up their mess (waste take back) and in stopping waste export. Further, in the future we want assurances that wastes are not relabelled and exported as commodities or fuel.”

Contact: Mageswari Sangaralingam, +60128782706, magesling@gmail.com



Jed Alegado, Communications Officer, Break Free From Plastic, jed@breakfreefromplastic.org | +63 917-6070248

Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific, sherma@no-burn.org | +63 917-8157570

Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific, sonia@no-burn.org | +63 917-5969286

Alliance for Zero Waste Indonesia (AZWI) is an alliance of organizations and concerned individuals, campaigning to promote a correct term of the Zero Waste approach to enforce the existing activities, programs and initiatives that have already implemented in many Indonesian cities considering waste management hierarchy concept, material life cycle, and circular economy. https://www.aliansizerowaste.id/

Nexus3 Foundation (formerly known as BaliFokus) is a non-governmental organization working to improve community’s capacity, quality of life and advocating a toxics-free environment together with all stakeholders in sustainable way. https://www.balifokus.asia/ 

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) focuses on sustainable and ethical consumption and challenges current aggressive advertising industry that is unfettered and shapes people’s consumption to lifestyles and behavior that is unsustainable, unethical, and inequitable. https://consumer.org.my/ 

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration. www.no-burn.org

National Toxics Network is a community-based network working to ensure a toxic-free future for all. It is a national network giving a voice to community and environmental organizations across Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. https://ntn.org.au/

Zero Waste Europe is a fast-growing movement of communities, local leaders, businesses, experts, influencers, and other “change agents” working towards the vision of eliminating waste in our society.  https://zerowasteeurope.eu/ 


Australian waste export ban signals green light for dangerous waste incineration industry

Media release
12th August 2019

The Prime Minister’s announcement and COAG support for a ban on waste exports should be cautiously welcomed and is long overdue following the embarrassing revelations of Australian illegal waste dumping in South East Asia. However, it seems certain that the announcement is designed to distract from a major government push to burn Australia’s waste in polluting incinerators: an industry it quietly supports. As noted by some media reports on the announcement, the government “was exploring using waste in energy plants to power Australian homes.”

The National Toxics Network, through their lead campaign group, ‘Zero Waste Australia’ welcomes the Prime Minister’s support for an Australian recycling industry and a great leap forward towards a Circular Economy, where finite resources are reused, composted or recycled back into our materials production systems.

“The Prime Minister and COAG however must put the protection of our climate, health and environment ahead of global corporate industrial interests within the waste management sector that are driving dangerous waste to energy incinerators into Australia.

Waste to energy incineration has no place in a sustainable zero waste management and circular economy agenda. Burning finite resources in our residual waste stream – predominantly single use, non- recyclable, fossil fuel-based plastic waste – is not only highly polluting but entrenches a linear economy, the very cause of global climate, pollution and health disasters and is the antithesis of a sustainable circular economy.

Yet Australian state governments are fast tracking approvals for this industrial threat without adequate climate, health and environmental impact assessment processes, without any social licence to operate and without safeguards for vulnerable local governments.

It is a scandal that the waste to energy incineration sector is being allowed to take scarce renewable energy funds and grants from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency for an industry more toxic and climate polluting per unit of energy than coal, oil and gas. Australia is at risk of becoming the waste burning capital of the global south as this industry looks for new markets in vulnerable countries while the European Union and United States remove subsidies and support for waste to energy incinerators due to the adverse impact it has on the recycling sector and policies for a circular economy.

The announcement by the Prime Minister and COAG must be treated with scepticism unless they strengthen their mandate with a ban on the incineration of waste in Australia and the export of all types of Processed Engineered Fuel, and other ‘stealthy’ waste classifications to other countries, to bring Australia into line with international best practice waste management policy from comparable countries.” states Jane Bremmer, Coordinator Zero Waste Australia.

For more information – Jane Bremmer 0432 041 397, Jo Immig – 02 66871 527

Zero Waste Chennai: Planning for a garbage-free city

Zero Waste Chennai: Planning for a garbage-free city

The garbage piled up on the streets of Chennai. Photo by Shreyaa R

Launched earlier this month, Zero Waste Chennai is all about implementing a decentralized waste management system in the city and making Chennai sustainable and garbage-free in its 200 wards.

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) and the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding to kickstart the Zero Waste Chennai project, which is to be implemented for the first time in the city.

Speaking to Indianexpress.com about the MoU, Vamsi Shankar Kapilavai, a researcher at CAG says, “There is an emphasis for managing waste in a decentralised manner in Chennai since the two landfills, Kodungaiyur and Perungudi which are currently being used by the Greater Chennai Corporation have reached their maximum capacity, following which the idea for Zero Waste Chennai was conceived.”

The programme aims to individually cover all 15 zones in the city which comprise of 200 wards in total, following the success of the pilot which was implemented in Ward 100, Anna Nagar, earlier this month. Kapilavai says that they had conducted door to door campaigns during the pilot and is confident about the project.

Elaborating on the MoU, Kapilavai said that there are very few cities in India which have a decentralized waste management system and with this MoU, Chennai has now joined their ranks.

Managing waste in a decentralized manner involves dividing the waste management system into sub-systems among the 15 zones in Chennai, with each ward being able to manage the waste generated within the ward itself. This is where the Zero Waste Chennai programme kicks in.

“We break the system down into three parts – wet waste or organic waste, dry waste or non-biodegradable waste and sanitary waste. Our main target is to recycle 100 per cent of the wet waste through composting and 70 per cent of the dry waste. That part of the dry waste which cannot be recycled will have to be changed through design or by asking the producers to take back their products”, says Kapilavai. Currently, multi-layered plastic items which cannot be recycled are sent to incinerators and burnt, which is something that Zero Waste Chennai aims to change. As far as sanitary waste is concerned, they are being sent to the landfills since there are no facilities available to recycle sanitary napkins and diapers now.

“Either the design has to be changed or other sustainable menstruation methods need to be practised for managing sanitary waste”, he said.

CAG will be responsible for planning and managing the programme while the Greater Chennai Corporation will handle the execution. “Since we do not have the manpower to implement a programme of this scale, we will cross-check the implementation and monitor their performance through a review meeting which will be held once in two weeks”, he says.

Since this is the first time that waste segregation is being implemented in the city on a large scale, Kapilavai said that every morning, one woman, termed as ‘Animator’ under the Swacch Bharat Mission will accompany a tricycle on its rounds as it collects waste from 250 households a day. “Each ward has one animator and her task is to educate the residents about the segregation of waste and its importance and teach them to segregate waste”.

At present, CAG is focusing on ward 100 while the Greater Chennai Corporation is focusing on developing its infrastructure and getting them back on track for Zero Waste Chennai. Kapilavai says that once the system is in place, it will be handed over to the zonal officers to implement in their respective wards.

Going forward, Kapilavai says that apartment complexes should soon have their own waste management systems in places before getting a permit for construction. “An apartment which has more than 50 flats is considered to be a bulk waste generator, so as per the rule, they need to have their own waste management system in place. We are in talks with the Greater Chennai Corporation to implement this”, says the researcher.

While changing the mindset of people could be an arduous task, Kapilavai said that with continuous education, follow up and perseverance, waste segregation will become ingrained into the lives of the people. “It is all about ground contact”, he concluded.

Article originally posted in Indian Express.




July 31, 2019, at 11:00am ExxonMobil Olefins Plant, a petrochemical facility located in Baytown, Texas next to ExxonMobil refinery experienced an explosion at 11:00 am. A polypropylene unit erupted in flames from causes yet to be known.

Polypropylene is a plastic feedstock derived from the processing of natural gas. Natural gas goes through “gas separation” to create feedstocks (ethane, propane, butanes, field condensates). From here the feedstocks are sent to a steam cracker unit and processed into polypropylene and other petrochemicals.
– American Chemistry Council

According to EPA polypropylene is commonly used to make reusable food containers and beverage bottle caps. A precautionary shelter-in-place order was issued after ExxonMobil requested one for communities west of the plant at 11:47am. Goose Creek Independent School District stated that the GC Service Center, Robert E. Lee High School, Peter E Hyland, IMPACT ECHS, San Jacinto Elementary, Travis Elementary, and Baytown Junior were all included in the shelter-in-place.

Exxon plant Baytown

Baytown, Texas | Image: KHOU article: How to shelter in place, people who live near Exxon plant in Baytown are being asked to shelter in place. (July 31, 2019)

The health impacts reported from exposure from the vapors were dizziness or asphyxiation without warning.

Unfortunately, fires like Exxon’s happen too frequently in Houston Ship Channel communities. In fact, Exxon had another large fire just in March of this year big enough for Harris County to sue them over their unauthorized emissions. Soon after, there were major fires at ITC Deer Park and KMCO – both are known repeat violators of environmental laws. There are dozens of facilities along the Channel and in the Houston area that burden communities and perpetuate environmental health injustices. Despite this fact, the TCEQ doesn’t consider cumulative impacts when it permits these facilities.

Our communities need a strong national chemical security policy and for the Trump administration to stop trying to roll back the existing Chemical Disaster Rule. Instead, we need for our environmental regulators to close dangerous loopholes that allow more harmful pollution in our communities. But even now, the Trump administration is trying to allow Texas to keep a loophole that lets polluters, like Exxon, evade financial penalties when they say they have malfunctions.

Although air monitoring results have not been released the documented effects of exposure to these substances has a variety of information gaps including a lack of information registering from air monitors in the affected area and insufficient federally approved EPA monitors. All of these are repeated concerns that were raised during the ITC disaster when local news stations revealed the abundance of ozone monitors and lack of Air Toxics and VOC monitoring. A lack of information may be strengthened by existing exemptions such as the January 2019 Polymer Exemption under (TSCA) Toxic Substance Control Act, reducing industries “reporting burden”.

EPA UPDATE on fire August 1, 2019 – EPA is working with the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and Harris County to respond to a fire/explosion that occurred at the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant on July 31. EPA has deployed emergency response personnel and rapid assessment assets, including the ASPECT aircraft, to assist with the response. The fire was extinguished at 9:00 pm, (corrected by ExxonMobil to 9:30) but ExxonMobil will continue to apply water to the tower for vapor suppression and to prevent re-ignition. Air monitoring conducted along the perimeter and in adjacent community areas has not detected any contaminants of concern. EPA will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide additional response assistance as needed.

ExxonMobil Plastics Production Ramping Up

ExxonMobil is only one of many petrochemical facilities heavily investing in plastics production. Early this year the gas and oil giant revealed their $20 billion dollar Grow the Gulf Initiative. From 2013-2011 more than a dozen major chemical, refining, lubricants and liquified natural gas projects. According to the American Chemistry Council, U.S. chemical exports are expected to increase on average 7% through 2023. ExxonMobil is investing more than $20 Billion over 10 years to build and expand 11 manufacturing facilities.

ExxonMobil commenced operation at its 1.5-million-ton ethane steam cracker at the company’s Baytown Olefins plant in 2018. The new cracker, part of the ExxonMobil’s multi-billion-dollar Baytown chemical expansion project.

History of Non-compliance

The EPAs Enforcement and Compliance History Online has confirmed the following violations and is not a comprehensive list. In 5 years the states fledged two administrative formal actions against ExxonMobil Olefins. In 2017 the EPA raised a judicial action against the facility. The facility has numerous violations over air, water and hazardous waste.

March 4, 2016 – The first compliance investigation was filed by the state on with a total of $7,975 in penalties.

October 8, 2017 – The second action was filed on with a total of $11,625 in penalties.

June 6, 2018 – Baytown’s ExxonMobil Olefins Plant had 3 formal enforcement actions in the past 5 years with only one ending in a formal lawsuit brought on by EPA for violation of the Clean Air Act. Failure to properly monitor industrial flares at their petrochemical facilities (over 8 facilities), Exxon was required to spend $300 million to install and operate air pollution control and monitoring technology to reduce air pollution from 26 industrial flares. The federal penalty was set at $2,030,00, state penalty was set at $470,000.

March 16, 2019 – Fire erupted at the refinery, Harris County confirmed that toxic pollutants for eight days and were being sued for
violating the Clean Air Act. This was the day before the historical Intercontinental Terminals (ITC) Fire and KMCO Chemical Plant

Timeline of events

July 31, 2019
(11:00 am)- @CityofBaytown, the cities official twitter, alerts community members of a “fire” at ExxonMobil but no shelter-in-place at the

(11:11 am)- CAER releases information to community about fire occurring inside ExxonMobil.

(11:26 am) – @CityofBaytown notifies public that Exxon (@ExxonMobilBTA) has asked that a shelter-in-place be issued west of its plant and
south of 330 out of abundance of caution and that the fire contained polypropylene material.

(11:47 am) – @CityofBaytown issues precautionary shelter-in-place due to an emergency at ExxonMobil only for area west of ExxonMobil.

(1:04 pm) -ExxonMobil workers return to the facility, as the fire continues. They are seen entering without any personal protective equipment.

(1:39 pm) – @ExxonMobilBTA reveals that 6 people received medical attention and that air monitoring on the site and the fenceline was being
conducted by ExxonMobil’s Industrial Hygiene staff

(2:00 pm) – ExxonMobil holds press conference at Baytown Police Department. No official written statement on ExxonMobil’s Press Release

(3:00pm) – City of Baytown lifts Shelter-in-Place. Harris County states the Baytown Emergency Operations Center ordered and lifted the
shelter in place as a precaution.

(3:07pm) – reports reveal that 37 people were taken to an off-site clinic due to minor first-degree burns.

(3:20 pm) Harris County Public health announces the temporary closure of WIC Center in Baytown due to fire and cancels all appointments
for the day.

(4:13 pm) – City of Baytown issues an All-Clear for Shelter-in-Place and asks for residents with questions to call the hotline (281-666-8038)

(8:28 pm) – @ExxonMobil states the media reports of 66 injured are inaccurate, 66 employees and contractors were examined at an
occupational health clinic and released.
ReadyHarris the county alert system discloses that ExxonMobil reported that 66 employees/contractors went to the Houston Area
Safety Council for medical evaluation. Air monitoring by Harris County did not detect any levels of concern at the plant or
surrounding areas.

August 1, 2019

(1:03pm) – ExxonMobil Olefins Plant sets up a claims form for residents affected at (800-241-9010)

What does Shelter-In-Place mean?
Go inside immediately. Close and secure all doors and windows securely with a plastic tarp between 4-6mil in thickness and secure  with duct tape. Turn off all ventilation systems (air conditioning, heating). Listen to the radio or television and in this instance. It is important to consider the temperature conditions. Official SIP is declared by county and local officials. (Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services is not a government entity)

July 31, 2019 Baytown, Texas – Workers entering ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant after Evacuation/Photo courtesy of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services


Additional resources:
Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet

Fueling Plastics: Series Examines deep linkages between fossil fuels and plastics industries, and the products they produce

Plastic and Climate: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet

ExxonMobil Grow the Gulf Initiative


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