Southeast Asia Cities Collaborate to Showcase Solutions to Create a Zero Waste Cities
Zero Waste Cities representatives from Southeast Asia countries, local government officials, mayors, municipal leaders and non-government organizations (NGOs) meet in a two-day international conference in Penang to showcase solutions and discuss policies to create a Zero Waste Cities and Zero Waste Regions.
Cities and communities have a role in addressing the plastic pollution crisis as this affects every one of us.
What are Zero Waste Cities?
For communities and nations to live sustainably, together we must bring an end to plastic pollution by creating 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 gathered local government leaders to talk about Zero Waste solutions.
The event serves as a platform for city officials and groups to learn from best practices and experiences of how communities in the region work together to implement Zero Waste solutions.
Solid waste management is a major concern for all urban areas in the Southeast Asian region.
Zero Waste Cities and Zero Waste System Advocates
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.
GAIA Asia Pacific
Regional Coordinator of GAIA Asia Pacific, Froilan Grate emphasized the value of implementing Zero Waste programs in cities and communities.
Grate stressed that by implementing Zero Waste Programs, communities in the Philippines can prevent the leakage of plastics waste into the environment.
“Our experiences in Zero Waste Communities show that at-source segregation, decentralized collection, and management of organics, help to reduce the volume of waste that cities need to address,” he said.
The proliferation of single-use plastics (SUPs) is one of the biggest causes of plastic pollution and the biggest stumbling block to achieving Zero Waste Cities in the region and beyond.
“We can identify problematic products and packaging are beyond the capacity of our communities to manage.
In recent years, we have seen how sachets have been inundating markets in Asia.
Contrary to claims that they are pro-poor, they are 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.”
Tools like Waste Assessments and Brand Audits (WABA) identifies these problematic products and packaging are beyond the capacity of our communities to manage,” added Grate.
For advocates, many are looking forward to the day of plastic free grocery shopping with zero packaging.
Consumer Association of Penang (CAP)
CAP research officer Mageswari Sangaralingam said Asia has been wrongly portrayed as a poster child for plastic pollution.
“The 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 to Zero Waste.
The solutions are in our hands and already happening in Penang and other localities in Asia,” she said.
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA)
Associate Director of GAIA U.S., Monica Wilson believes that with every crisis comes an opportunity.
“The good news is that cities and citizens all over the world recognize that recycling is not the panacea to the plastic pollution problem and are taking a bold and visionary action to prevent plastic pollution before it starts through sound Zero Waste and wastes 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.
To prevent plastic pollution before it starts through sound Zero Waste and waste reduction policy.
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 one year, while also achieving significant savings in waste management costs.
Zero Waste Europe
Zero Waste Europe, Cities Programme Coordinator, Jack McQuibban 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 an increase in a 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.”
As cities continue to struggle in managing non-recyclable SUPs waste, the challenge to create Zero Waste Cities remains.
Cities, Municipalities, and Provinces – Zero Waste Cities
The City of San Fernando in Pampanga in the Philippines, headed by Mayor Edwin Santiago – is implementing a strict and effective plastic bag ban.
“Our city has realized the benefits of Zero Waste – reduced waste generation, a cleaner environment, and savings for the city.
We are enforcing policies like our plastic bag bans that will further reduce our residual waste.”
Reduce the Production of Single-use Packaging Items
GAIA maintains that businesses need to be part of the solution.
Businesses need to reduce plastic waste – by not producing single-use packaging items.
National government leaders must realize they have a crucial role to play by enabling a strong policy environment.
• mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies
• a national ban on single-use plastics
This fourth edition of the International Zero Waste Cities Conference looks into local and national policy actions.
The policies aimed at reducing single-use plastic, from material substitution by producers to outright bans in cities.
Speakers shared success stories of Zero Waste initiatives from the European Union and other parts of the globe.
Several cities in the region have hosted Zero Waste Cities events, including
- Manila, Philippines (January 2017)
- 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
- reduce waste volumes (problematic plastic)
- 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 https://zerowasteworld.org/