Zero Waste Plastic-Free Southeast Asia (SEA) Games, we can do it!

Zero Waste Plastic-Free Southeast Asia (SEA) Games, we can do it!

We pose a challenge to organizers, athletes, and the public to go Zero Waste and plastic-free at the SEA Games.  Gold, silver, and bronze medals are good but the real winners are the environment heroes who bring with them their message of not polluting the environment. With the proper information, communication, and execution, reducing the event’s impact on the environment is a piece of cake.

There are many ways to host a Zero Waste plastic-free events:

For Organizers, sports venues, and hotels:

  1. Provide water-refilling stations.
  2. Encourage food concessionaires and food caterers to go plastic-free.
  3. Facilitate proper waste segregation by providing properly labelled trash bins.
  4. Do away with sachets—sugar, shampoo, conditioner… Provide dispensers instead.
  5. Avoid food wastage.
  6. Do not send the waste to incinerators or thermal waste-to-energy facilities. 
  7. Post signage to ensure that people understood what we are doing with the waste.
  8. Make sure the recycling and composting options are clearly stated during the event to ensure proper use of all containers.
  9. Staff each waste station with trained waste hero volunteers.
  10. Encourage carpooling among attendees.
  11. When sending out invitations, clearly advertise that one of the goals of the event is to reduce waste.
  12. If any, keep decorations to a minimum.
  13. Minimize the number of things people bring inside the venue. 

For Athletes, sports fans, and guests:

  1. Refuse Single-use disposables.
  2. Bring reusable water bottle so you do not need to buy bottled water.
  3. Bring reusable cutlery and food containers especially when eating out to do away with single-use plastic packaging.
  4. Bring reusable bags for any mementos you might want to purchase. 
  5. No food wasting.
  6. Choose hotels and eating establishments that encourage Zero waste practices.
  7. Do not litter.

 Finally, we saw photos of plastic food containers but we also saw photos of plastic-free food venues and even a water and ice cube refilling station.  There are many stories on the ground, we ask people to send in their photos of Zero Waste plastic-free initiatives whether it’s a system initiative at the venue or individual efforts from athletes and guests.  We strongly believe that this is possible. Other communities have hosted Zero Waste and plastic-free events, we can do this at the SEA Games. 

Send your photos to:   

Asia city officials, groups showcase solutions to plastic pollution 

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. //ends



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


Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 815 7570,


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.

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Recyclables such as plastic must be separated from wet garbage, dry garbage and hazardous waste under the new rules in Shanghai. Photo: AFP


  • The city’s ambitious waste and recycling rules took effect on Monday, aiming to emulate successes of comparable policies in Japan, Taiwan and California

  • President Xi Jinping has urged China – the world’s second-biggest waste producer after the United States – to sort rubbish better

At 9pm, Li Zhigang was sitting in front of his fruit shop on a bustling street in central Shanghai’s Xujiahui area, peeling the thin layers of plastic from rotten pears and mangoes.

“This is so much trouble!” he mumbled to himself while throwing the plastic into one trash can and the fruit into another.

In the past, Li simply threw away what could not be sold with the packaging on, but from July 1 he could be fined up to 200 yuan (about US$30) for doing so.

Like Li, many of the tens of millions of residents in the eastern Chinese city have been complaining in recent weeks that the introduction of compulsory household garbage sorting is making life difficult, but at the same time have been having to learn to do it.

Calls for garbage sorting have brought little progress in China in the past decade, but Shanghai is leading a fresh start for the world’s second-largest waste producer with its new municipal solid waste (MSW) regime, observers have said.

China generated 210 million tonnes of MSW in 2017, 48 million tonnes less than the United States, according to the World Bank’s What a Waste database.

“If we say China is now classifying its waste, then it’s Shanghai that is really doing it,” said Chen Liwen, a veteran environmentalist who has worked for non-governmental organisations devoted to waste classification for the past decade.

“It’s starting late, comparing with the US, Japan or Taiwan, but if it’s successful in such a megacity with such a huge population, it will mean a lot for the world,” she said.

A cleaner re-sorts household waste left at a residential facility in Shanghai. Photo: Alice Yan

Household waste in the city is now required to be sorted into four categories: wet garbage (household food), dry garbage (residual waste), recyclable waste and hazardous waste.

General rubbish bins that had previously taken all types of household waste were removed from buildings. Instead, residents were told to visit designated trash collection stations to dispose of different types of waste during designated periods of the day.

Companies and organisations flouting the new rules could be fined 50,000-500,000 yuan (US$7,000-70,000), while individual offenders risked a fine of 50-200 yuan.

The city’s urban management officers will be mainly responsible for identifying those who breach the rules.

Huang Rong, the municipal government’s deputy secretary general, said on Friday that nearly 14,000 inspections had been carried out around the city and more than 13,000 people had been warned on the issue since the regulations were announced at the start of the year.

As July 1’s enforcement of the rules approached, it became a much-discussed topic among Shanghainese people. A hashtag meaning “Shanghai residents almost driven crazy by garbage classification” was one of the most popular on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“My daughter took a box of expired medicine from her workplace to the trash collection station near our home yesterday because she couldn’t find the local bin for hazardous waste,” Li said.

While the measures force a change of habits for most people, they bring opportunities for some.

Du Huanzheng, director of the Recycling Economy Institute at Tongji University, said waste sorting was crucial for China’s recycling industry.

“Without proper classification, a lot of garbage that can be recycled is burned, and that’s a pity,” he said. “After being classified, items suitable to be stored and transported can now be recycled.”

Shanghai’s refuse treatment plants deal with 19,300 tonnes of residual waste and 5,050 tonnes of kitchen waste every day, according to the municipal government. By contrast, only 3,300 tonnes of recyclables per day are collected at present.

Nationwide, the parcel delivery industry used more than 13 billion polypropylene woven bags, plastic bags and paper boxes as well as 330 million rolls of tape in 2016, but less than 20 per cent of this was recycled, according to a report by the State Post Bureau.

Prices of small sortable rubbish bins for home use have surged on e-commerce platforms, while bin makers are also developing smart models in response to new needs.

Some communities are deploying bins that people are required to sign in with their house number to use, and are equipped with a “big data analysis system”. The system records households have “actively participated” and which have not, so that neighbourhood management can publicise their addresses and make house visits, according to a report by

In a residential community in Songjiang district, grocery store owner Nie Chuanguo has found something new to sell: a rubbish throwing service.

He has offered to visit homes, collect waste and throw it into the right bin at a designated time. He charges 30 yuan a month for those living on the ground and first floors, 40 yuan for those on the second and third, and 50 yuan for the fourth and fifth.

“This service will start from July 1. Many people have come to inquire about it,” he said.

According to Du, waste classification is not only about environmental impact or business opportunities. “Garbage sorting is an important part of a country’s soft power,” he said.

For China, it was an opportunity to improve its international reputation, he said. “In the past, Chinese people were rich and travelled abroad, but they threw rubbish wilfully, making foreigners not admit we are a respected powerhouse.”

He added: “It’s also related to 1.3 billion people’s health, since the current waste treatment methods – burying and burning – are not friendly to the environment.”

Shanghai’s part in tackling waste comes amid President Xi Jinping’s repeated calls for the country to sort waste better.

“For local officials, it is a political task,” said Chen, who heads a waste management programme in rural China called Zero Waste Villages.

Huang said the president had asked Shanghai in particular to set a good example in waste classification.

In March 2017, the central government set out plans for a standardised system and regulations for rubbish sorting by 2020, with a target for 46 major cities, including Shanghai, to recycle 35 per cent of their waste by then.

In early June, Xi issued a long statement calling for more action from local governments.

However, it was a long process that required input from individuals, government and enterprises, Du said.

“Japan took one generation to move to doing its waste sorting effectively, so we shouldn’t have the expectation that our initiative will succeed in several years,” Du said.

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports caused turmoil

“The lessons we can learn from Japan include carrying out campaigns again and again, and paying close attention to educating young pupils about rubbish classification.”

Chen echoed that Shanghai’s waste sorting frenzy now was only a beginning.

“What we can see now is that people are being pushed to sort waste by regulators, but what’s next? How shall we keep up the enthusiasm?” she asked.

She suggested that how well officials worked on garbage sorting should be included in their job appraisal, and that ultimately people should pay for waste disposal.

“The key to waste classification, going by international experience, is making polluters pay,” Chen said.

Most of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s dumped plastic bottles come from mainland

There is plenty of experience for Shanghai to learn from in California, where unrecyclable waste is charged for at twice the price of recyclables, and Taiwan, where people are charged only for disposal of residual waste, according to Chen.

Taiwan has one of the world’s most impressive recycling rates, with nearly 60 per cent of its waste between January and October last year having been recycled, according to the Taipei government.

The daily amount of garbage produced per person during that period was about 0.41kg – down substantially from 1.14kg in 1997 – the government said.

Hong Kong has tried to copy the Taipei model over the years but failed, with a recycling rate of MSW slightly above 30 per cent in recent years, according to official data.

The city has recently postponed a mandatory waste charging scheme until late 2020 at the earliest. Under its plan, 80 per cent of household waste will have to go into designated bags and will be priced at an average of 11 HK cents (1 US cent) per litre.

On Friday, Shanghai officials admitted that there were plenty of challenges involved in sorting and transport.

Zhang Lixin, deputy chief of the municipal housing administration, said: “Many property management companies fear the difficulties brought by garbage sorting or are reluctant to implement the new rules.”

The administration trained the heads of more than 200 companies across the city in April, he said.

“We do find that some cleaners and rubbish trucks mix the waste, despite residents being asked to throw different types in different bins,” said Deng Jianping, head of the city’s landscaping and city appearance administration – the government department spearheading the initiative.

In the interests of curbing such practices, they could face fines of up to 50,000 yuan or even have their licences revoked, he said.

U.S. weakens first global commitment on curbing single-use plastics

U.S. weakens first global commitment on curbing single-use plastics

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nations made their first global commitment towards curtailing the surging consumption of single-use plastics on Friday, but critics said it failed to confront the planet’s pollution crisis with the United States blocking efforts for more radical action.

After five days of talks in the Kenyan capital, ministers at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) agreed to curb items like plastic bags, bottles and straws over the next decade as part of moves aimed at creating a more sustainable planet.

“We will address the damage to our ecosystems caused by the unsustainable use and disposal of plastic products, including by significantly reducing single-use plastic products by 2030,” said a ministerial declaration at the end of the summit.

Countries would “work with the private sector to find affordable and environmentally friendly alternatives,” it added.

The nearly 200 environment ministers also made a host of other commitments – ranging from reducing food waste and marine litter to developing and sharing innovative technologies and consulting indigenous people when developing policies.

But environmental campaigners said the governments’ commitment on curbing plastic was disappointing and failed to urgently confront the ever-growing pollution crisis threatening the world’s waterways, ecosystems and health.

Negotiators said most nations, including the European Union, at the UNEA backed stronger action suggested by India which wanted governments to commit to “phasing-out most problematic single-use plastic products by 2025”.

But a few countries led by the United States – and including Saudi Arabia and Cuba – played “spoiler” by watering down the text, replacing it with a commitment to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics by 2030, said negotiators and campaigners.

“The vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance,” said David Azoulay from the Center for International Environmental Law.

“Seeing the U.S., guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening.”

Brian Doherty, a member of the U.S. delegation at the UNEA, told delegates there was a need to focus on waste management in countries which were major sources of marine plastic pollution, rather than focus on phasing out single use plastics.

“We support reducing the environmental impacts from the discharge of plastics, but we further note that the majority of marine plastic discharges comes from only six countries in Asia where improved waste management could radically decrease these discharges,” he said.

One million plastic drinks bottles are purchased every minute globally, while some 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year, said the United Nations.

Nearly a third of plastic packaging escapes waste collection systems, and at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the oceans each year, smothering reefs and threatening marine life.

Plastic also enters water supplies and the food chain, where it could harm humans in the long term, the U.N. added.

Action is gearing up around the world – from countries banning plastic bags to companies vowing to cut their usage of plastic – yet still more efforts are needed to both reduce and recycle plastic, environmentalists said.

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla and John Ndiso, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla and John Ndiso, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit
Greenpeace Ships Set Sail to Tackle the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

Greenpeace Ships Set Sail to Tackle the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

Corporations have created a plastic monster. More than 90 percent of the plastics ever produced have not been recycled, yet corporations have plans to dramatically increase their production of plastic packaging. With plastic production set to quadruple by 2050, recycling can never be enough to solve this problem.

But the global movement to hold these corporations accountable is growing. More than 3 million of you have joined us in urging companies to stop polluting our planet with throwaway plastic. And together with over 1,400 allies in the global Break Free From Plastic movement, we conducted 239 cleanups in 42 countries to identify the biggest corporate polluters.

In October, Greenpeace International released the Crisis of Convenience report, based on a survey to 11 of the biggest fast-moving consumer goods companies globally. Despite some of these companies publicly signing a voluntary, non-binding commitment to tackle the crisis, the report revealed that none of the companies surveyed currently have comprehensive plans to move away from single-use packaging; on the contrary, most of them have plans to increase the overall amount of plastic packaging they produce.

So now we are deploying the Greenpeace ships; the Rainbow Warrior and the Beluga, to tell the global story of where plastic pollution really starts and ends. We are rallying supporters worldwide to help hold these companies accountable and to make sure they follow up on their words with bold action. Because we don’t need more talk—we need concrete, urgent action to stop plastic pollution at the source!


Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has been surrounded by giant single-use plastic items in Mediterranean waters. The action seeks to make visible the invisible, and to denounce the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, especially in the Mediterranean Sea.

Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has been surrounded by giant single-use plastic items in Mediterranean waters. The action seeks to make visible the invisible, and to denounce the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, especially in the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s time for Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo., Colgate, Danone, Johnson & Johnson and Mars to be transparent about exactly how much plastic packaging they are producing, and make concrete plans to reduce. It’s time for these corporations to invest in alternative ways to deliver their products to us and phase out single-use plastic.

These companies have created a monster, and we are not willing to allow the plastic monster to grow anymore. We need concrete plans for reduction, and we need them now. We need corporations to slay the plastic monster.


Stay tuned for more details about Greenpeace’s ships’ whereabouts in the coming weeks and months and to see how you can get involved!

Graham Forbes is Greenpeace’s global seafood markets project leader. Originally posted in EcoWatch.

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

(Photo by MPCA Photos)


This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.

The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.

The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”

The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.



Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
 +32 2 736 20

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer, European Environmental Bureau

Alice Bernard, Lawyer, Chemicals, ClientEarth

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Read the proposal and the annex.

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