Please introduce yourself and your organisation?
Hello, my name is Sofia, I am a head of the Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine, which is based in, you will never guess - in Ukraine! At the moment, the Alliance consists of 3 founding organisations - Zero Waste Lviv (Lviv, Ukraine), Zero Waste Society (Kyiv, Ukraine) and Zero Waste Kharkiv (Kharkiv, Ukraine). I co-founded the Alliance back in 2018, and I love the story of how we got together and created this union.
At the time I was a part of the Zero Waste Lviv team, and in October 2018 we organized a Zero Waste Weekend - a two day event full of lectures, meetings and brainstorms on the topic of “How do we make zero waste a normality in Ukraine”. We invited many participants from different towns, and even counties and we were lucky to host Helene Patterman, who was a part of Zero Waste Austria team. After the many official meetings, some of us decided to do one more activity - bar hopping!. And as usually happens, after the second cider we decided to create an Alliance. On a more serious note, the need for creating a united national zero waste front in the waste management system in Ukraine, was made clear a long time ago. In 2016, Lviv witnessed a great tragedy at one of the landfills - four people died during a landfill fire and the question of waste management became very urgent and visible. With very little information about different approaches toward waste management in cities, we desperately needed more information that we could share amongst us and other stakeholders. And so we founded one great organisation and one great network:- Zero Waste Europe and Break Free From Plastic. We were amazed by the number of people who joined and we were inspired by the amount of knowledge and resources this network holds. We knew that this was a community we wanted to be a part of. So in the fall of 2018, three Ukrainian zero waste NGOs got together, created an Alliance and later on joined Zero Waste Europe and Break Free From Plastic.
As an Alliance a big part of our work consists of campaigns and advocacy work. We are lucky to have an opportunity to join the international campaigns such as We Choose Reuse, Brand Audit, EnvironMenstrual Week, Plastic Free July. We advocate for solutions such as Extended Producers Responsibility, collecting and composting organic waste systems. Last but not least a big part of our work is dedicated to the Zero Waste Cities Programme since two Ukrainian municipalities, Lviv and Lubotyn, joined the programme.
Why is plastic pollution an important issue for your organisation? What’s the story?
For all of us who created the Alliance, we have at least one thing in common - the desire to use resources rationally. We just don’t understand why we rely so much on single-use plastic if it can easily be substituted by a reusable item. Why would we buy a 10th pair of jeans, if we don’t really need them? Why is the emphasis on recycling so strong, instead of on reusability first? All these issues and questions bring us a great deal of discomfort and we continue to wonder why environmental issues are still not a priority (at least not in Ukraine). With all that is happening in the world, floods and fires there is still a very passive approach towards accepting the fact that there is an environmental crisis and we actually need to do something about it! “Oh well, what can we do!” - they say. Well, there is a lot that we can and need to do. This is why we are who we are, and why we do what we do.
Tell us more about your ongoing campaigns and activities
We are insanely excited but during the next few weeks, the door to the Alliance membership will become open and we expect 5-7 new members. This will give the Alliance so much in terms of creating impact. For instance, just recently the new draft law on single-use plastics was put out to the public, so we are working on an analysis and preparing a policy-paper. and we want these documents to be spread wide among the stakeholders of our current and future members.
We are continuing our work through the Zero Waste Cities Programme by preparing an informational campaign on organic waste composting and strengthening our work with Lviv and Lubityn’s municipalities. We are also planning an EnvironMenstrual campaign, and future activities within the #WeChooseReuse campaign. Last but not the least, we just conducted seven brand audits in seven Ukrainian cities, so we are getting ready to prepare various case-studies from different waste perspectives which we will share and spread across our network!
When did your organisation become a core member of BFFP? What difference has being a part of Break Free From Plastic made for you?
Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine became a BFFP core member on our second birthday in the spring of 2020! BFFP has given us a strong community. To be a part of such a great group of people from all around the world showed us that we are not alone on our journey. Everyday it gives us a tremendous amount of motivation.
By being a member ofBFFP we have also gained access to a huge amount of resources and information. Unfortunately, as the research base in Ukraine is not that strong yet, we were missing a lot of data to support our arguments. With the BFFP we could find the resources we needed to support our work.
The last one might sound silly, but we do experience a non-EU country mentality, where everything that happens in EU-countries is automatically seen as positive and should be replicated in Ukraine. On the one hand it gives us some trouble (incineration, for example), but on the other hand, whenever we mention that we are a part of this international community, we always get a “wow, that is so cool!” response, which very often opens the doors for communication with different stakeholders.
What is the most ridiculous plastic product or packaging that you have seen?
Single-use plastic lid for a single-use cup packed in a single-use plastic bag! My friend sent me this picture with the message “this planet is doomed!”. Well, there is still so much we need to do and change, but I believe that we can and we will do it. It will take a lot of time, a lot of patience and a lot of nerve-cells. But with the right people on your side there is nothing you cannot do, right?