Asian Development Bank Asked to Stop Funding Fake Climate Solutions
Cebu City, Philippines – As the Asian Development Bank (ADB) convenes for its 54th Annual Meeting with the theme “Collaboration for Resilient and Green Recovery,” environment and climate activists and informal waste pickers in Cebu, Philippines affiliated under Sanlakas, No Burn Pilipinas, and EcoWaste Coalition staged a symbolic wreath laying protest action in the controversial and foreclosed Barangay Inayawan Sanitary Landfill to demand the withdrawal of ADB on all WtE incinerator projects in the city. “The ADB is engaged in doublespeak calling for resilience and green recovery amidst the pandemic while actively promoting WtE incineration, particularly in Cebu by granting a Technical Assistance (TA) project to the Cebu City Government that paves the way for the establishment of incineration projects in the city despite a clear prohibition in the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 (Republic Act 8749) banning incineration to treat municipal, biomedical, and hazardous wastes,” according to Auxilium Olayer, a member of the EcoWaste National Executive Committee. Barangay Inayawan Sanitary Landfill was the original site for the ADB-funded WTE project but was forestalled due to legal and technical issues. Through a Writ of Kalikasan, the Court of Appeals ordered a complete landfill rehabilitation pursuant to EMB standards. There were also different land claimants to a part of the barangay where the project is to be established. These project issues show that WTE projects increase existing environmental and social vulnerabilities because of the lack of government regulations and capacity to ensure community health standards, land use management and meaningful consultations on the ground. While protests were staged in the ADB-funded project site in Barangay Inayawan on wastepicker displacements, environmental and community and safety issues, the ADB has expressed continued funding for WtE. In a live online meeting with civil society on the first day of the ADB’s annual meeting, Hemanthana Winthanage, International Coordinator of NGO Forum on ADB asked the ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. ”Can ADB show real climate leadership by excluding thermal waste-to-energy from all its financing instruments?” to which the ADB President responded that WTE is an option and is also likely to continue depending on the results of the new ADB energy policy. WtE provides opportunities for integrated cross-sectoral projects. More displacements of waste pickers Informal waste pickers in Barangay Inayawan have been displaced as a result of the permanent closure of the city owned Inayawan Sanitary Landfill emanating from the Writ of Kalikasan decision of the Court of Appeals on December 15, 2016, later affirmed by the Philippine Supreme Court. These informal waste pickers have existing organizations but were never integrated into the city’s waste management system nor provided with adequate assistance to cope up with their loss of livelihood. The ADB PFS recommends to subject to further investigation the health status of individuals involved with waste picking. The PFS describes the waste picking community in Barangay Inayawan as “highly vulnerable to any changes in the status quo”. Advocates believe that the ADB support on the WtE project will magnify existing economic displacements. Environmental and social risks Despite a standing ban on incinerators in the Philippines, the ADB technical assistance pursued the development of a Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS) of solid waste management Public Private Partnership (PPP) projects in Cebu City in 2018. It included a menu of waste treatment options, all incineration and thermal-based technologies, such as incineration with energy recovery (no pre-treatment); mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) bio-drying followed by incineration; and MBT bio-drying followed by solid waste recovered fuel (STF) to cement kilns. The same study identified potential environmental and socials risks and impacts associated with the above-mentioned waste treatment options including hazardous air emissions containing particulate matter, acidic gases, dioxins and other unknown toxic substances which may have potential health implications from incorrect operation or maintenance of equipment; land contamination from incorrect disposal of bottom ash or air pollution control residues; loss of livelihood by formal and informal sector; poor local acceptance of technology; and nuisance odour from bio-drying if not operated or maintained correctly. The risks and impacts enumerated in this ADB-funded PFS corroborates with the findings of experts that all thermal waste to energy technologies produce poisonous and toxic substances, such as particulate matter, toxic metals, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated dioxins and furans which are among the most toxic chemical substances known to science. Communities and waste pickers need to be consulted on the risks and to their livelihoods and community health. ADB safeguards on meaningful consultation, pollution mitigation and community health standards must apply in all of its projects ” Olayer, also a senior official of Sanlakas in Cebu, further added that anything less than an exclusion of WtE incineration from ADB policies will not promote resilience and recovery from the current pandemic as communities with pre-existing health conditions already suffering from the impacts of badly mismanaged private landfills will experience more vulnerabilities if this ADB-initiated WtE incineration plant pushes through in Cebu City or in other parts of the Cebu Island. The protest action is part of the global civil society demand led by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the wider climate movement for ADB to divest from WTE projects and stop urging the developing member countries to pursue thermal-based technologies of energy conversion from waste, including the provision of technical assistance in Asia due to its proven health, social, environmental, and climate risks. In a letter signed by 53 international, regional, and national organizations, GAIA has raised its demands ahead of the ADB meeting, to exclude WtE incineration and other thermal-based technology from ADB Energy Policy and all its climate and green investment policies and financing instruments. It also demanded for the review of the environmental and social safeguards implementation in all WtE incineration projects including technical assistance projects in the Philippines that are currently paving the way for establishing incineration projects with the private sector despite existing national law banning all forms of incinerations. “ADB’s response on WtE will delay the achievement of our climate goals and even post-pandemic recovery in the region. We demand ADB to stop wasting public resources and empowering polluters in the guise of climate action”, says Yobel Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific Climate Clean Energy Campaigner. Sanlakas, No Burn Pilipinas, and EcoWaste Coalition are members and affiliates of GAIA calling for the withdrawal of WtE incinerators supported by the Break Free From Plastics Project in the Philippines. _______________________________________________________________________ Contact Persons: (on-site) Auxilium Olayer, EcoWaste Coalition & Sanlakas: 09156228999 (off-site) Lito Vasquez, EcoWaste Coalition/Break Free From Plastic PH Project: 09551805627 (for additional information on ADB involvement in the proposed WtE projects in Cebu, Philippines
Paryavaran Mitra Demands Indian Government to Formalize Gujarati Waste Picking, Provide Workers Adequate Livelihood and Benefit
Waste pickers in India are an integral part of the healthcare and sanitation sector, yet are largely unrecognized by the very systems they support. In the state of Gujarat, #breakfreefromplastic member Paryavaran Mitra, an environmental organization that aims to increase public participation in government decision-making, is appealing to authorities to acknowledge the essential role waste pickers have in keeping the environment clean and safe, especially as COVID-19 continues to spread. The group is demanding that the government provide waste pickers livelihood and policies that will help protect them. Unregulated rates and inadequate policy In a conversation with environmental and human rights activist Mahesh Pandya, director of Paryavaran Mitra, shared that informal waste pickers in Gujarat are in dire need of assistance. He points out that many of them come from outlying areas going into cities looking for jobs, and would end up collecting discards to sell. “They do not have a residence to stay, and so they stay on the roadside or in open land, no roof above them. They are collecting plastic waste from the city without any hygienic instruments, haphazardly going without gloves as they collect waste. It is a very risky job that without a mask or without gloves [they get exposed] not only to the coronavirus but other bacterial diseases that are there.”Paryavaran Mitra’s Falguni Joshi adds, “The living conditions are very bad. They don’t have proper housing facilities and sanitation facilities. And because they don’t have any recognition from the government, they are not entitled to get any social sector help.” Pandya says that many of these workers would end up involving their entire families in collecting waste, and would only receive about fifty to a hundred INR (around 00.69 to 1.39 USD) in total for an entire day’s work. In India, the minimum wage per individual is around 268-293 INR for unskilled/semi-skilled/skilled workers (roughly 3-4 USD). He says that this is largely due to the informal nature of the trade. Informal waste pickers aren’t able to sell to recycling centers directly and so would sell to those willing to buy at unregulated prices. “They are collecting the plastic waste, they are helping my state, my country, and the whole world. And they are doing this kind of humble work. The government should come forward and give designated minimum salary, minimum wages, and minimum livelihood facility to them,” says Pandya. Then there is also the issue of the insurmountable trash in Gujarat. “There is no systematic mechanism to reduce the waste. We are working a little bit but not up to the mark, and particularly plastic we are not able to have a plastic waste collection center. There is no plastic separation waste system and all,” he adds.
Pirana Landfill in the city of Ahmedabad
Pirana Landfill as seen from afarThe waste has accumulated in dumpsites like those in the Pirana Landfill found in the city of Ahmedabad, which has been gaining infamy due to the many dangers that threaten the safety not just of informal pickers within but also the surrounding areas. People living inside the city have gotten used to the sight of the massive mounds of trash that even children now assume it’s a normal mountain found within. Joshi recalls an incident in the past where two children, unfortunately, got buried when a mound of waste collapsed. Formalizing Recognition and Going Zero Waste Paryavaran Mitra has been sending recommendations to the chief minister of the Gujarat state and the prime minister of India to address these issues. Part of their appeal is to provide waste pickers facilities to bathe and wash up to keep themselves clean and safe from diseases. They also hope the government can provide them some shelter and food. Ultimately, they are fighting to formalize the occupation. One suggestion that was raised is for the government to cover waste picking under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. The act, passed in 2005, secures livelihood for individuals in rural areas, guaranteeing them the “right to work”. The law mandates that adult members of a household will be provided at least a hundred days of wage employment if they volunteer for unskilled manual work, which Pandya believes can easily include waste picking. They also suggest that if the government can’t provide these, then they can look to corporations within Gujarat for funding. “We also stated a number of examples to the government that you can collect money from the industries under corporate social responsibility (CSR) or under the extended responsibility of industries who are generating the plastic. Collect the sales from them, and with this, you can use it for the plastic waste pickers. That is our simple demand.” Part of formalizing this is also to create a proper structure for waste collection within Gujarat, which means investing in infrastructure and manpower. However, Paryavaran Mitra recognizes that even with the proper collection, much of the waste cannot be resold or recycled. So their longer-term goal is to help cities in the state become zero waste -- a goal that the city of Ahmedabad has already promised to achieve by 2031. The zero waste pledge by the city was made in 2013, but Joshi notes that they have yet to see concrete action from the government. Paryavaran Mitra believes there need to be opportunities for stakeholders to express their concerns on the matter, and so their group has been hard at work to pull in representatives from the sectors involved -- waste pickers included. “Our focus is on increasing the public participation in the decision-making process. So when we found out that there was a recent document for becoming a zero-waste city [from the government], we were surprised because we were never consulted as civil society members. So we are thinking that if possible they can consult the waste pickers,” says Joshi.
Paryavaran Mitra training photo taken January 2020
Paryavaran Mitra Youth Mega Event taken July 2018About Paryavaran Mitra Paryavaran Mitra is a Gujarat-based organization that fights for social justice, focusing on environmental issues. The organization also has a publication meant to educate the academe, the legislative and judiciary arms of the government, and the general public. Their work began when their team noticed harmful fluorochemical contaminations in their water sources, traced back to the factories of corporations within the state. They are a volunteer-based, non-profit NGO. This article was written by Julian Carlos Cirineo based on an interview with Mahesh Pandya and Falguni Joshi of Paryavaran Mitra. You may reach Julian at firstname.lastname@example.org. To get in touch with Paryavaran Mitra directly, you can email them at email@example.com.
Members in the Spotlight: Global 2000
Q1 - Please introduce yourself(-ves) and your organisation? GLOBAL 2000 is an independent environmental protection organisation in Austria based in Vienna. It all started in 1982, when six activists took an environmental study of the time, the first environmental report in history called "Global 2000", as a model and began to shape Austria's environmental policy. Since then, a lot has happened and we work on a wide variety of environmental issues: climate protection, biodiversity, ecological agriculture and against genetic engineering, anti-nuclear power and a reduced consumption of resources. I am responsible for a sustainable use of resources and among other things also plastic reduction. My name is Lena Steger and I am a campaigner for resources working for GLOBAL 2000 since September 2019. Q2 - Why is plastic pollution an important issue for your organisation? What’s the story? Trash in nature is a worldwide problem, and plastic in particular has become ubiquitous, not only in the world's oceans. But how much of the "dirt" is actually in our nature? For this purpose, GLOBAL 2000 has developed a few years ago the “DreckSpotz” app. With the app everybody can help to collect data for our "Trash in Nature" report. The results provide us with the basis for political demands such as reusable systems, deposits and consistent waste avoidance. In Austria in particular, we have an above-average consumption of plastics and resources and therefore have a lot to do to improve this situation. Q3 - Tell us more about your ongoing campaign(-s)/activity(-ies) Last year, we launched a major campaign on single-use deposits and mandatory reuse quotas in Austria. The campaign is called "Pfand drauf - Stoppt den Einwegmüll" ("Put a deposit on it - stop single-use waste"). As part of the campaign, we published a survey showing that 83% of Austrians want a deposit system. In addition, in a report with the Changing Markets Foundation, we exposed the plastic pollution lobby that is doing everything it can to prevent stricter legislation in Austria. A highlight was certainly the publication of our littering report and subsequent actions focusing on the main polluter among beverage containers: Red Bull. In the process, we published a number of videos about the austrian energy drink producer that doesn’t want to take responsibility for its product (1, 2) and also a short documentary on the problem of littered cans and plastic bottles for cows. But we also nominated the 2nd place, the Brau Union, with the satire plastic pollution award due to Covid-19 by video . To stay active we got inventive and visited the big institutions that try to prevent the deposit system at their headquarters in a bike tour. The video and press release about the tour led to Lidl Austria publicly supporting a deposit system for the first time as the first supermarket chain in Austria. Finally, we also projected the petition signatures onto the Federal Chancellery, thereby making it clear to the federal government that action must now finally be taken. Since the campaign launch, we have significantly advanced the public debate and put the issue on the highest political agenda. At the moment we are still wading on the Waste Management Act amendment but it could be any moment now. In any case, the last year was filled with many actions to get the deposit through in Austria. Further links: https://www.global2000.at/pfandsystem-oesterreich https://www.global2000.at/einweg-pfandsystem https://www.global2000.at/mehrwegquote-steigern We also support the #WeChooseReuse campaign. In Austria, we are working with Zero Waste Austria to make the campaign more visible and find supporters at the community or city level as well as among businesses. We want to see reusable systems flourish throughout Europe and would like to see binding legislation as a basis for this - that’s what we are campaigning for. https://www.global2000.at/wechoosereuse Q4 - When did your organisation become a core member of BFFP? What does it mean for your organisation to be part of the BFFP movement? GLOBAL 2000 has already been a core member of Break Free From Plastic since 2018 and we greatly appreciate the work we do together. Especially for me (Lena), the exchange on current political issues is extremely relevant, as I am the only one working on the topic within my NGO. Also, it's just always super fun to work with the Break Free From Plastic team. The good vibe is reflected in the whole BFFP movement and I am happy to be a part of it. Q5 - What is the most ridiculous plastic product or packaging that you have seen? There is a whole range of plastic packaging that really gets my goat. The highlights were certainly peeled bananas in a Styrofoam container with plastic wrap and I have already seen individually wrapped in plastic carrots (see photo). I see it almost as an attack on evolution when people fabricate such nonsense.
“What We Waste” Report: Top Asian Countries With Sharpest Decline Of Market Share Of Refillables In The Beverage Industry Identified In Landmark Global Report
MANILA/JAKARTA/BANGKOK/NEW DELHI (April 29, 2021) --- Single-use beverage containers are rapidly displacing refillable systems in many parts of the world and resulting in massive increases in wastage and pollution, according to a new landmark report by international non-profit organisation Reloop[1}, which was released in a media briefing together with Changing Markets and #breakfreefromplastic. According to the report, What We Waste, beverage container sales have practically doubled between 1999 and 2019 across 93 countries worldwide . Over the same 20-year period, the proportion sold in PET plastic has also more than doubled -- from 17% to 41% - resulting in a corresponding spike in wastage especially in countries which saw an increasing rise in sales of single-use plastics or one-way containers. Furthermore, the data from the report indicates that countries with greater market share for refillables had lower wastage figures. However, the market share for refillables has consistently shrunk over time, Of the 93 countries cited in the report, the 10 countries with the highest usage of refillables in 2019 have experienced a sharp decline in refillable market share down from 60% to 29% over the last 20 years. In Asia, the largest contributor to these numbers is China, whose refillable market share dropped from 52% in 1999 to 22% in 2019 despite its stronger than average refillable sector. Other countries in the region like India, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam have also experienced a sharp decline in refillable market share over the previous 20 years. What We Waste draws on data from 93 countries to establish the decline in refillable drinks containers over the past 20 years. The report also gives for the first time a comprehensive understanding of the positive impact of deposit return systems (DRS) (4) on reducing drinks container wastage. It outlines how these systems can reduce waste and divert materials from being littered, landfilled, or incinerated. The report also recommends governments to protect and expand the refillable market share in the beverage sector in order to avoid worsening the plastic pollution crisis as well as institutionalize real recycling programs to avoid wastage especially on recyclable materials like metal cans and glass. The What We Waste Report includes specific information on how refillable and DRS have reduced waste generation (whether plastic, glass, or metal) in some countries. The data, however, can be applied to estimate the effect of changes to refillable market share in a given country, and to see the effect of changing national recycling rates on wastage, especially in countries where no such data is publicly available. For example, if the entire Southeast Asia region had the same refillable market share as that of the Philippines, (highest in the region), about 15.4 billion plastic bottles could be avoided from ending up in landfills or dumpsites, burned in incinerators, or otherwise polluting the environment. Clarissa Morawski, CEO and co-founder of Reloop, said: "In most Asian countries, the crucial next step policy-makers should consider will be how to support existing refillable markets, and to consider how to expand them, with the right regulation and incentives. Every single percentage point of market share that switches to refillables across the region will substantially reduce wastage. This same infrastructure can also, in time, be developed into full deposit return systems to capture those remaining non-refillable cans and bottles." Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of Break Free from Plastic, said: “The future is not disposable and plastic pollution is not inevitable. In countries like China, India, Vietnam and the Philippines, where there is still a significant market share for refillables, governments must provide the right policy signals not only to protect what’s left of the refillable sector but to expand and bring it back to a position of dominance. Companies that produce ever-increasing amounts of plastic pollution should be held accountable, while systems that avoid plastic waste must be encouraged and strongly supported. This is the kind of direction required to reverse the plastic pollution crisis and avert catastrophic climate change.” Shania Cheng, Coordinator of Plastic-Free China, said: “As part of the government’s effort to curb wastage from single-use plastics, it should look at instituting deposit return schemes in order to preserve and expand the markets for refillables. Instead of promoting problematic alternatives that result in more wastage, the government can invest more in this type of proven alternative solution.” Download the full report here Watch the full media launch here END CONTACT: Jed Alegado Senior Communications Officer for Asia Pacific firstname.lastname@example.org +(63) 917 607 0248 Notes: 1. The datasets used include proprietory sales information purchased from GlobalData, which Reloop is unable to publish directly: however, publication of information which combines that data with other datasets, e.g. recycling rates, is permitted. The sales data available covers 93 countries, including all G20 countries and more than 80% of the world's population, although recycling data is only available for a subset of 34 countries, including America, Canada, most of Europe, plus PET-only information for some Asian countries. More information about GlobalData is available here: https://www.globaldata.com 2. Reloop is an international non-profit organisation that brings together industry, government and NGOs into a broad network that seeks to bring about positive change at all levels of resource and waste policy. https://www.reloopplatform.org/ 3. The report is available here: https://www.reloopplatform.org/what-we-waste/ 4. Like refillables, deposit return systems rely on consumers paying a small deposit which is refunded in full when the can or bottle is returned. Unlike refillables, these systems collect for recycling rather than reuse, and typically operate at a national or state/provincial level, although many countries in this dataset use the same collection infrastructure for both systems. 5. The first table shows the top 10 Asian countries by total refillables sold (2019).
|Country||Market Share Refillable 1999||Market Share Refillable 2019||Percentage DIfference 1999 - 2019|
|Country||Market Share Refillable 1999||Market Share Refillable 2019||Percentage DIfference 1999 - 2019|
Guilt and frustration sometimes lead to positive change
Nine of us took part in a household audit of plastic waste. We were a group of neighbours and friends, many of us living alone or with one other person. All of us used supermarkets to do some of our shopping. We knew that plastic was damaging the environment and we’re trying -- in different degrees -- to reduce plastic in our own daily lives. While we were already trying to reuse cartons and plastic wraps, one of our friends Jenny (a gardener), made the point that there’s a limit to the number of seed trays she needs. Another friend Jess, stored plastic wraps in a canvas bag hoping there would be a chance to reuse them, but the bag just got too full and she ended up tipping all the wraps into the bin. Feelings ranged from guilt to frustration and to anger. Guilt, because we were buying the stuff in the first place; frustration that we were stuck with all of it; anger that we were part of a system that made it hard to find affordable and easily accessible alternatives. So we decided to volunteer for the #breakfreefromplastic’s brand audit. As we were counting the plastic items we were throwing away (or trying to recycle) we were really confronted by the scary quantity and types of plastic that surround us. So much of it can’t even be recycled (not that recycling is the answer!). We didn’t realise how many types of plastic there were. As for all those items that are made up of layers of different types of plastic that can’t be separated - unbelievable! We collected 552 plastic items in our audit – that meant that more than 8 plastic items were being disposed of every single day by each of our small households. We were shocked! Of the 552 items, 39% were supermarket-owned brand products. We contacted those supermarkets to tell them and see their responses. We are still waiting to hear from two of them– after several emails have been sent. So much for customer service! The speediest and best response came from Aldi – the supermarket which featured well in the recent Environmental Investigation Agency and Greenpeace report. The report found that Aldi jumped from 9th place to 2nd in terms of their plastic footprint and their commitment to making further plastic reductions. In response to our email, they had a ready, customer-friendly reply which started disarmingly with, “It’s encouraging that our customers are as passionate as we are about reducing our impact on the environment!” But their answer covered many of the bases – Specific targets that were also Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-limited. Positive thinking has gone on somewhere. Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle featured in the response from Tesco. Can’t argue with that! But all the supermarkets need to ‘walk the walk!’ They should be the ones feeling guilty and not us. As one friend Josie from the group noted, supermarkets are likely to be driven by market forces rather than a desire to save the planet. Thank goodness that market forces are becoming more vocal! For another friend Connie, the change can’t come soon enough; she’s stopped buying yoghurt because of the useless plastic pots (she said that one day she may learn to make yogurt but she shouldn’t have to. It can’t be so hard to provide reusable pots!). Tina, who is also from our group, has stopped buying pump hand-wash in containers because she realised she was using so many of them. She has bought a Beginners’ Guide to making soaps and may also embark on making bars of shampoo. Now that is impressive! [gallery ids="8646,8648,8647"] In different ways, this whole experience has changed our group, and now we are all doing more to support firms that are reducing plastic packaging. We are using ‘refill it’ local shops. We are shopping less for fruit and veg in the supermarkets and going to independent shops that pack apples in paper. One of the friends Chris, is even exploring other options like The Good Club who deliver a range of products and take away empty containers for reuse. We are lucky. We are in the position to make some good choices – often more expensive in the short term, but so, so important. We need to continue to vote with our feet. We need those with the power – the supermarkets – and the government – to take responsibility and make it easier for everyone to live in a world where plastic is not seen as a cheap and cheerful disposable wrap.
Newly launched Plastic Atlas Asia edition provides an Asia-focused overview of the plastic pollution crisis
COVID-19 and the False Promises of Plastics
Plastic Flood Amid the Pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically caused an increase in plastic consumption globally. This has been necessitated by the need to safeguard ordinary people and communities from the transmission of COVID-19. The result, however, is a dramatic increase in masks, syringes, gloves, and other PPEs. Recently, plastic syringes have been found on beaches, posing public health issues in communities. To add insult to injury, strict lockdowns and quarantine measures lead to an uptick in food delivery and e-commerce, further aggravating the increase of plastic utensils, cups, and plastic bags that have proliferated in Asia Pacific. Coincidentally, lockdowns and strict quarantine measures have weakened waste management regulations and suspension of bans on single-use plastics in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines. Governments, businesses and ordinary citizens alike have justified switching back from disposables and plastics because of hygiene. Since plastic packaging can be disposed of shortly after consumption, plastic packaging was generally perceived to protect the consumer from virus transmission. This has been a misconception, especially at the onset of the pandemic. The plastic and petrochemical industries work together to capitalise on the narrative that food and other goods are safer when wrapped in plastic. They have used this angle to spread misinformation, halt single-use bans and regulations, and stoke demand to boost their plastic production exponentially. Misconceptions on the Plastic Safety Indeed, during a medical crisis, public safety is of utmost importance. However, our decision-making must be based on expert opinion from medical professionals. We must turn to our medical professionals who have consistently educated us about the crisis we are facing. Last year, scientists, academics, and doctors released a statement declaring that reusables are safe even under pandemic conditions, so long as they are washed properly. The science is clear. Plastic is not any safer than reusable alternatives in terms of COVID-19 transmission. According to research, coronavirus survives for two to three days on plastic almost the same time as steel and 24 hours on cardboard. Across numerous COVID-19 studies, human-to-human contact (through skin or cough) will more likely transmit coronaviruses than “infrequently handled reusable grocery bags”. A study even went further and claimed that “in terms of single-use options, paper bags at the checkout may be incrementally safer than plastic due to shorter SAR SCoV half-lives on their porous materials”. Aside from COVID-19, plastics are particularly hazardous to the environment and human health. According to the recently released UNWRAPPED Project report, “many of the chemicals used in plastic packing to achieve the ideal flexibility, colouring, fillers and durability to preserve food can have adverse effects on the nervous, endocrine and immune systems”. Moreover, Environmental health and toxicology experts agreed that the same chemicals found in plastic packaging can transfer into the food we consume and beverages we drink which can cause chronic diseases or interfere with reproduction and development. Oil’s Second Life with Plastics With the pandemic halting oil consumption and ushering a record-low drop in oil prices, oil companies are now covering their losses by leveraging plastic production. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that the petrochemical industry will account for half of the oil demand growth from now to 2050. Plastics are not commonly associated with climate change, primarily because it is a less known fact that 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions throughout their lifecycle - extraction, production, use and disposal. Moreover, most chemicals needed to produce plastics are sourced from fossil fuels. The global carbon dioxide emissions from plastics are estimated to reach 1.34 gigatons of carbon dioxide by 2030, equivalent to close to 295 coal-fired power plants. If planned plastic production persists, annual emissions will consume at least 10% of the carbon budget and overshoot the 1.5 degrees Celsius target. Recycling Industry Takes the Hit The decline of oil prices has caused a reduction in plastic value, making new or virgin plastic production attractive while the recycling sector has taken a hit. Limited operation from quarantine measures have caused financial troubles and threatens recycling across the entire Asian region. Companies now find replacing segments of their packaging or products with recycled plastics less viable. Similarly, waste pickers have been one of the most vulnerable sectors to the pandemic. Despite working at the frontline in keeping cities and communities litter-free, most waste pickers are still part of the informal economy. Waste pickers account for 15 to 20% of waste collection globally and turn discarded reusable and recyclable wastes into value. With such significance, waste pickers are considered the backbone of plastic waste management. Yet, waste pickers are often left without adequate protective gear or unemployed from the lockdowns and limited recycling operations relying on government relief. The life cycle of plastic has a manifold impact on both human health and the environment. As countries are slowly transitioning towards just recovery, one of the many lessons we should learn is how the plastic industry has placed itself on the wrong side of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must hold them accountable for the blunder of compromising the environment and climate in a time of global crisis.
Green groups urge ADB to stop lending for Waste-to-Energy incinerators as response to climate and health crises
More than 50 environmental and human rights groups have urged the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to stop funding waste-to-energy incinerators as the world faces climate, health, and economic crises.
In a letter addressed to the Bank, the groups called on ADB to exclude waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration and other thermal-based technologies from the list of renewable energy sources and climate mitigation activities in its Energy Policy and other financial instruments. They recommended ADB to align itself with government-led climate action commitments made during the Climate Ambition Summit 2020.
“There is no reason why international financial institutions (IFIs) like the ADB should classify WtE incinerators as climate mitigation. Science and experience show that these dirty, waste-of-energy machines are contributing to global warming as much as fossil fuel-based sources of energy, and are causing harmful effects on human health,“ Froilan Grate, GAIA Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator, said. “The ADB has been ignoring scientific evidence, government policies, and community sentiments critical to WtE incineration.”
The letter, sent ahead of the ADB’s major policy review processes on energy and safeguards on 8 March 2021, was facilitated by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. It was signed by non-profit organizations and social movements such as GAIA, Greenpeace, Oceana, Center for International Law , Zero Waste Europe, —all members of the global movement Break Free From Plastic— and International Accountability Project, 350.org Asia, NGO Forum on ADB, and regional and national Zero Waste movements.
The ADB is undertaking major revisions in two of its policies—Energy Policy and the Safeguard Policy Statement—that will impact on the region’s immediate needs to both recover sustainably and act on the climate crisis. Aside from demanding ADB to divest from WtE incineration, the groups are also calling for better implementation of ADB’s social and environmental safeguard standards in developing member countries such as Maldives and the Philippines, where WtE incineration projects are underway.
ADB’s so-called “clean energy” financing in the last decade is valued at over $23 billion. The portfolio includes WtE incineration, which has been excluded in the latest EU Taxonomy Report—a listing of economic activities that are considered “'sustainable finance.” WtE incineration has low resource efficiency and high loss in economic value of potentially recyclable materials.
Under the ADB Strategy 2030, the Bank committed to shifting 75%of its operations towards supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as providing $80 billion for climate financing, by 2030.
“The growing interest in making recovery packages stimulating not only for the economy but also for the environment is a welcome progress in addition to the increasing number of green funding mechanisms. But we should be prudent in identifying which green activities deserve incentives and public guarantees as we are currently facing multiple crises,” Grate said.
The groups asserted that WtE incineration is not an efficient source of energy. Waste in developing countries have a high moisture content which reduces the energy recovery efficiency of waste incineration.
They added that WtE projects pose irreversible and long-term fiscal, environmental and social risks for ADB and its borrowing countries which are already saddled by recovery loans. The letter outlined these risks.
The letter also debunked WtE as a climate mitigation activity, saying that on the contrary, it is a hindrance toward decarbonization. It cited experiences of the European Union and the United States showing WTE incinerators’ contributions to GHG emissions.
The letter also highlighted that the graver and long-term consequences are externalized by communities and the environment for generations. “WtE incineration burn various materials which contain hazardous and toxic content such as heavy metals, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and brominated polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS) which are proven to cause neoplasia, congenital anomalies, infant deaths and miscarriage, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses,“ the letter stated.
To date, ADB has not responded to the letter.
Global Day of Action
GAIA is mounting a series of protests in the region toward a Global Day of Action (GDA) on March 31 with Zero Waste advocates, climate justice movements, and communities affected by WtE incineration projects.
Waste pickers and workers are also joining the GDA to call for better representation in consultation processes involving solid waste management and incineration projects because of the latter’s impact on livelihoods and work spaces. A full list of demands can be found here.
This year’s GDA carries the theme #BeyondRecovery to challenge world leaders to do more than just recover from the devastating impacts of its single economic growth-driven models without considering the environmental and social consequences of policy and investment decisions.
It is a day to call on IFIs to divest from incinerators and invest in local solutions in its recovery plans, and on governments to put communities first by being fully transparent and inclusive with regards to how taxes are being spent in this time of crises, not least by ensuring that meaningful consultations are held with civil society and affected communities early on in the process of developing recovery roadmaps and legislations.
Link to the full letter https://www.no-burn.org/wp-
For more information, please contact:
Sonia Astudillo, GAIA Asia Pacific Communications Officer email@example.com, +63 917 5969286
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organisations, and individuals in over 90 countries. The organisation works to catalyse a global shift towards environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution.