Asia city officials, groups showcase solutions to plastic pollution 

Penang, Malaysia  (13 October 2019) — Hundreds  of local government  officials and non-government organizations (NGOs) in Asia are meeting in a two-day international conference in Penang, Malaysia to showcase solutions and discuss policies that will help bring an end to plastic pollution—and usher in sustainable, Zero Waste Cities in the region. 


The conference organized by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific and the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) in collaboration with Seberang Perai City Council will gather local government leaders to talk about Zero Waste solutions that are currently spearheaded by local chief executives and communities. The event will also serve as a platform for city officials and groups to learn from best practices and experiences of implementation. 


Environmental groups contend that waste should not be addressed through harmful end-of-pipe technologies like “waste-to-energy” incinerators, but through Zero Waste systems. Zero Waste approaches address waste and resources throughout their entire lifecycle—from production to end-of-life—with the goal of waste prevention and resource conservation.


In a press conference held a day before the conference, Froilan Grate, Regional Coordinator of GAIA Asia Pacific emphasized the value of Zero Waste: “Cities and communities have a role in addressing the plastic pollution crisis.  By implementing Zero Waste programs, we are able to prevent the leakage of waste, particularly problematic plastics, into the environment. Our experiences in our Zero Waste communities show that through at-source segregation, decentralized collection, and management of organics, we are able to reduce the volume of waste that cities need to address. Most importantly, we are able to identify problematic products and packaging that are beyond the capacity of our communities to manage.“


The proliferation of single-use plastic is one of the biggest drivers of plastic pollution and the biggest stumbling block to achieving Zero Waste. Tools like Waste Assessments and Brand Audits (WABA) identifies these problematic products. 


“In recent years, we have seen how sachets have been inundating markets in Asia. Contrary to claims that they are pro-poor, they are actually anti-poor as they externalize the burden of managing them to cities and communities, instead of the companies who profit from them.  Long before single-use plastics (SUPs) were introduced into the market, better solutions like refill systems have already been working well in many Asian communities,” added Grate.  


For her part, Mageswari Sangaralingam of CAP said:  “Asia has been wrongly portrayed as the poster child for plastic pollution. The actual fact is that we have become the world’s dumping ground, arising from countries exporting their plastic problems. Many countries have started taking action to protect their borders from foreign plastic pollution. A lot of communities in Asia are already going Zero Waste. The solutions are in our hands and already happening in Penang and other localities in Asia.”


Monica Wilson of GAIA US believes that, “With every crisis comes an opportunity.  The good news is that cities and citizens all over the world are recognizing that recycling is not the panacea to the plastic pollution problem, and are taking bold and visionary action to prevent plastic pollution before it starts through sound Zero Waste and waste reduction policy.”


Several local governments in Asia are pioneering Zero Waste programs through cost-effective investments in decentralized waste collection, composting, recycling markets, and waste management infrastructure. Experiences of these Asian cities have shown that as long as the right strategies are in place, cities can set up Zero Waste systems that will enable successful implementation within a period of one year, while also achieving significant savings in waste management costs.


Jack McQuibban of Zero Waste Europe emphasized that there are many reasons to be hopeful with the initiatives from individuals, NGOs, and government and inter-government regulations that have moved the Zero Waste system forward. 


“In recent years, we have seen a huge rise in the number of cities and communities taking a stand against the rise of waste and pollution. In Europe, nearly 400 municipalities have now committed to becoming zero waste. Based on citizen-centered models, local-level zero waste policies can lead to a substantial decrease in waste generation and increase in separate collection and recycling. What we are seeing today is that Zero Waste Cities are increasingly becoming hubs and catalysts for innovation, creating new and sustainable business models where waste is not generated in the first place.”


However, cities continue to struggle in managing non-recyclable waste, mostly single-use plastics such as sachets and other packaging. The City of San Fernando in Pampanga in the Philippines, for example, is implementing strict and effective plastic bag ban, but challenges remain. 


Mayor Edwin Santiago of the City of San Fernando, Pampanga shared: “With strong political will and stakeholder engagement, our city have realized the benefits of Zero Waste, like reduced waste generation, a cleaner environment and savings for the city. But we’re not stopping here, we also have policies like our plastic bag bans that will further reduce our residual waste. But  we need to do more.” 


GAIA maintains that businesses need to be part of the solution of reducing plastic waste by not producing single-use packaging items and packaging in the first place. National government leaders must also realize they have a crucial role to play by enabling strong policy environment; for example, through mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies, and a national ban on single-use plastics.


Organized ahead of the World Cities Day Celebration (October 31), this fourth edition of the International Zero Waste Cities Conference will look into local and national policy actions aimed at reducing single-use plastic, from material substitution by producers to outright bans in cities. Speakers from different countries will also talk about success stories of Zero Waste initiatives from the European Union and other parts of the globe. 


This year’s International Zero Waste Cities Conference is part of several collaborative dialogues among local government officials in the Asia Pacific region to share experiences on Zero Waste implementation strategies. Several cities in the region have hosted Zero Waste Cities events including Manila, Philippines (January 2017) and Bandung, Indonesia (March 2018). GAIA, in partnership with grassroots organizations and local government units, has been supporting cities in pursuing ecological strategies to promote segregation and reduce waste volumes, specifically problematic plastic, to reduce and eventually eliminate dependence on harmful end-of-pipe waste disposal systems.


At the press briefing, GAIA Asia Pacific and its partners under the Zero Waste Cities Collaboration Project also launched a compendium of Zero Waste Cities Asia Series Case Studies and a Zero Waste Cities microsite.  www.zerowasteworld.org //ends



Sonia Astudillo, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 5969286, 



Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 815 7570, sherma@no-burn.org


The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a global network of more than 800 grassroots groups, NGOs and individuals. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. We work to catalyze a global shift towards ecological and environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. www.no-burn.org

Moving away from single use: guide for national decision makers to implement the single-use plastics directive

Moving away from single use: guide for national decision makers to implement the single-use plastics directive

A guide to outline and analyse the main provisions of the SUP Directive, providing civil society recommendations for its ambitious and timely implementation, together with examples of best practice.

A shared collaboration by Rethink Plastic alliance and Break Free From Plastic.

Plastic pollution affects even the most remote areas on the planet, with between five and 13 million tonnes of plastic estimated to end up in the ocean every year. With global production of plastics already having increased more than 20 times in the past 50 years and estimated to double again by 2035 and quadruple by 2050, the issue is ever more pressing. Single-use plastics – those designed to be used only once, often for a very short period – make up a significant proportion of these plastics.

The “Directive on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment” (commonly referred to as the Single-Use Plastics (SUP) Directive) entered into force on 2 July 2019. It aims to tackle pollution from single-use plastics (and fishing gear), as the items most commonly found on European beaches.

This guide outlines the key elements of the SUP Directive and makes some recommendations on how national decision makers can best implement its provisions on single-use plastic.

(A further guide will follow on fishing gear and sea-based plastic pollution.)

Download the report here

Greenpeace report exposes how multinationals are pretending to solve the plastic crisis

Greenpeace report exposes how multinationals are pretending to solve the plastic crisis

Washington DC, United States – A Greenpeace USA report released today, Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution “Solutions,” warns consumers to be skeptical of the so-called solutions announced by multinational corporations to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. These false solutions, such as switching to paper or ‘bioplastics’ or embracing chemical recycling, are failing to move us away from single-use packaging and divert attention away from beneficial systems that prioritize refill and reuse.

“Despite the increasing scientific understanding of the irreversible damage plastic can cause to our environment and communities, plastic production is projected to dramatically increase in the coming years,” said Greenpeace USA Senior Research Specialist Ivy Schlegel, who authored the report. “Multinational consumer goods companies continue to promote so-called sustainable alternatives that would put unacceptable pressures on natural resources such as forests and agricultural land, which have already been overexploited. To solve the plastic pollution crisis, companies need to rethink how products are delivered to consumers and invest significantly in reusable and refillable delivery systems.”

Many of the world’s largest global consumer goods companies, including Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, have signaled their intent to make plastic packaging more recyclable, reusable, compostable, or from recycled content. Meanwhile, they are aiming to continue, and even increase, the manufacturing of products wrapped in single-use plastic or disposable packaging made from other materials.

The report finds that companies are investing in risky emerging chemical conversion “recycling” technologies, which offer false hope and lock in demand for plastic packaging. Companies have obscured the true impacts of packaging behind confusing marketing terms, sustainability language, and industry alliances, hoping that consumers will continue to believe the false promise that plastic can be improved. These misleading claims that a product is compostable, biodegradable, or made from plants, does not mean that product is good for the environment or will reduce plastic pollution.

“Due to public concern about the plastic pollution crisis worldwide, we are witnessing a parade of corporations scrambling to look greener by putting forward false solutions to justify their addiction to single-use packaging,” said Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader Graham Forbes. “Moving to bioplastic, paper, 100% ‘recyclable’ packaging, incineration and chemical recycling all but guarantee this environmental crisis will get worse. And consumers need to be wary of groups with flashy names like the Alliance to End Plastic Waste—comprised of oil companies, plastics producers, and multinational corporations—which have emerged to help maintain the world’s dependence on plastic. We will only see real change when companies like Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo, which profit from single-use models, end their expanding plastic use and invest heavily in systems that prioritize reuse.”

By the end of 2019, globally, plastic production and burning will emit the carbon equivalent of 189 coal-fired power plants. And it is estimated that by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic waste in natural environments. As companies recognize the threat of plastics, Greenpeace is demanding that they not simply embrace a quick fix that harms the planet elsewhere.

To date, more than 4 million people around the world have demanded that corporations take action to end the plastic pollution crisis by signing Greenpeace’s International petition.

Header photo from Greenpeace.

73 corporate polluters identified in Davao del Sur, Philippines for #BrandAudit2019

73 corporate polluters identified in Davao del Sur, Philippines for #BrandAudit2019

The brand audits were the collective effort of a coalition of 1101st Army Reserved Group, Sarangani Divers, Brgy. Almendras and SMSP Batch 80’s Advocacy for Environmental and Cultural Preservation, Inc. from Davao del Sur, Philippines


I coordinated with a dive buddy in General Santos City, Philippines for an underwater clean-up and introduced him and his team to #breakfreefromplastic and #BrandAudit2019.

After two meetings and few calls, we were able to get the management of London Beach Resort on board, who provided us with a space for brand auditing and even treated the volunteers to a sumptuous lunch. Sarangani Divers led the underwater clean-up with volunteer divers from the Philippine National Police, Mindanao State University, and Sox Divers. The local news station, ABS-CBN covered the event. 

We conducted two dives on that day in poor visibility conditions, as silt was stirred up while picking up the trash. In spite of these conditions, we were able to collect around 40 bags of trash and audited 73 brands. The biggest percentage of trash collected was unnamed plastic cups, followed by Coke products and fishing lines. 


Simultaneously, Barangay Almendras in Padada, Davao del Sur, mobilized by their active Chairman, also organized a clean-up on land. Volunteers went out and picked up trash along the streets and deposited the collection at the Barangay Hall for brand auditing. 

23 September 2019 

We started the brand audit of the trash collected by Barangay Almendras residents at 8:00am and finished around 3:30pm. The top three audited polluters using single-use plastics are Maxx Candy, Wings Detergent, and Hansel Biscuit respectively. 


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