Green Groups Push for Zero Waste as Key Solution to Climate Change and Disaster Mitigation

Quezon City, Philippines. A global environmental health alliance has joined forces with a local citizens’ coalition in pushing the government to fully embrace Zero Waste as key component of
the country’s strategy to mitigate climate change and disaster.

The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), comprising of over 635 members from 88 countries, including the Philippines, pressed the Arroyo government to actively implement waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting programs, otherwise known as Zero Waste, as the country rises from the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy.

Together with the EcoWaste Coalition, a citizens’ network of more than 85 grassroots groups, GAIA pointed out that Zero Waste can dramatically reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that are widely blamed for the changing weather patterns, including extreme weather disturbances such as the recent “epic flood” that claimed almost 250 lives and put Metro Manila and 25 provinces under a state of calamity.

The two groups made the common plea in observance of this year’s “Global Day of Action against Waste and Incineration” on September 30 that coincides with the ongoing UN-sponsored talks on climate change in Bangkok, Thailand.

The groups commemorated the event today through a disaster relief and feeding program held at Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal in solidarity with Buklod Tao (a local group) and the survivors of the devastating flood.

Citing information from the group’s “Climate Change Survival Guide,” Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition, said that “the build-up of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere leads to the entrapment of heat and to subsequent changes in temperature and to shifting wind and
rainfall patterns.”

“Zero Waste is a doable strategy that can yield huge climate benefits that can help disaster-prone countries like the Philippines cope with the anticipated frequency and intensity of weather disturbances such as increased tropical storms and elevated floods,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

GAIA’s “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” clarified that avoided emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from reusing, recycling and composting discards can significantly cut the demand for virgin materials.

The reduced demand for virgin resources prevents the formation of GHGs from every step of the extraction, processing, manufacture, transportation, consumption and disposal trail, while saving the forests and mountains and safeguarding other essential life support systems.

Zero Waste, the groups further said, will strengthen current drive towards the ecological management of discards by stopping illegal dumping that blocks waterways and pollute water bodies as well as halting landfill incursion of watersheds and other critical ecosystems.

To support their views, the groups cited the newly-released report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which finds that 42 percent of U.S. GHG emissions are influenced by materials management policies. The report cites significant emissions cuts with waste reduction, recycling and improved product design.

The report “Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices,” estimates emissions savings of 150 million metric tons of carbon dioxide per year by doubling the U.S. national recycling of construction and demolition discards. Reducing U.S. product packaging by half could result to as much as 105 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA strongly favored Zero Waste over waste disposal technologies such as landfills and incinerators, including “waste to energy”, plasma, gasification, and cement kiln incineration.

They also expressed hope that government will agree and champion the civil society’s call to “stop trashing the climate,” support “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” and focus mitigation funds in the waste sector on recycling and resource recovery projects, excluding landfills and incinerators.