RP Urged to Espouse Recycling Solutions at Climate Change Conference

Quezon City. With just few days left before the much heralded make or break negotiations in Denmark, groups championing Zero Waste urged governments, including the Philippines, to support recycling and waste avoidance solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

At the same time, the groups sought the approval of a Global Climate Fund that will invest in resource recovery programs, ensuring decent livelihoods for all workers and traders in the recycling economy.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), in a joint letter sent via e-mail and fax to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, exhorted the government of the Philippines to recognize and champion “the mitigation potential of recycling and waste reduction” at the UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Copenhagen on December 7 to 18.

“The outcome of the negotiations could make or break global efforts to ease the accelerating climate crisis, and we are asking negotiators to focus on winning solutions such as recycling that will not only cut emissions, but also ensure livelihood for the poor,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

“Negotiators should be wary about ‘waste-to-energy’ and landfill gas schemes that will directly undermine resource recovery efforts by the informal waste sector as well as by recycling households and communities, while burning or dumping valuable materials that should have been returned to commerce or nature,” he added.

“The proposed Global Climate Fund should be directly accessible to wastepickers and other members of the informal waste sector and should stop subsidies to polluting waste disposal technologies that redirect discards from recycling into incineration and landfilling which can lead to increased emissions and unemployment ,” commented Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The waste pickers or reclaimers at dumpsites or landfills, garbage crew, garbage truck jumpers, itinerant waste buyers and junk shops constitute the informal waste sector in the Philippines.

In their letter to PGMA, the groups ask climate negotiators to “recognize the critical and productive role that the informal recycling sector contributes to climate change mitigation and to a healthy economy.”

Citing scientific assessment of materials management options, the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA stated that cutting emissions by recycling costs 30% less than applying energy efficiency and 90% cheaper than through wind power.

To further get their message across, the groups cited figures from the “National Framework Plan for the Informal Waste Sector in Solid Waste Management” that was released by the National Solid Waste Management Commission in May 2009.

According to the Framework Plan, the informal waste sector in Quezon City as calculated by the Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines reduces greenhouse gas emissions from extraction, energy use and final disposal by as much as 194,280 metric tons CO2-eq (carbon dioxide equivalent), saving the City over 125 million pesos in avoided expenses yearly.

In terms of economic benefits, the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA stated that recycling provides employment to at least 15 million people in developing countries, stressing that even in developed countries, recycling provides 10 times the jobs per ton of waste as incinerators and landfills.

“Wastepickers working in the informal economy are at the heart of existing recycling systems in the developing world, and must play an integral role in any expansion of recycling,” the groups said.

“Evidence from a range of developing countries shows that when municipalities try to bypass wastepickers by granting contracts to private waste management companies, these programs often fail outright and lead to job loss, wasted public resources, lower recycling rates, and increased greenhouse gas emissions,” they emphasized.

At the Copenhagen climate conference, wastepickers’ groups working in collaboration with Zero Waste groups from the Philippines and 12 countries will promote and push for recycling as “one of the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed and developing nations alike.”


GAIA paper on wastepickers and climate change:

GAIA paper on zero waste for zero warming: