As the third session of the UN Environment Assembly gets under way in Nairobi, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) calls for global action on the waste problem to end pollution, restore social justice and transform the world’s economy.
World leaders, civil society organizations and business representatives gather today in Nairobi to address the environmental, social and economic consequences of pollution and resource waste.
The EEB is the largest network of European Environmental NGOs.
Momentum is growing for policy makers to rethink consumption and production patterns, shift to reuse and recycling and empower local communities, says the EEB.
According to the 12th UN Sustainable Development Goal, the wasteful production and consumption of resources is leading to increasing air, soil and ocean pollution. This translates into social injustice when those with economic power exploit the planet’s resources to the detriment of poorer communities or the average citizen.
The EEB urged UN leaders to implement binding measures to transition to a plastic-free society and circular economy, where waste is prevented and products reused or recycled for the benefit of all. Measures include increasing producer responsibility, the adoption of the polluter pays principle and strong targets to reduce waste.
Jouni Nissinen, President of the EEB, said:
“We need to start thinking of waste prevention as an economic opportunity to trigger local jobs and savings for citizens and businesses. Why waste valuable products and materials when we can recover scarce resources through reuse or recycling?”
The EEB is hosting a side-event on Monday to discuss the impact of waste dumping on local communities, where it will report on its visit to Dandora, 10km from Nairobi and home to one of the world’s largest and most harmful dumpsites.
The situation in Dandora is indicative of the magnitude of the problem. The fumes coming from the dumpsite have made the air barely breathable, destroyed the soil and impoverished local communities.
Piotr Barczak,Waste Policy Officer at the EEB, said:
“From the north to the south of the world, policy makers need to work alongside local communities to put an end to waste dumping, burying and burning.
“Incineration and landfilling are false solutions to the waste problem. Not only are they a waste of valuable resources and taxpayers’ money, they are also a source of pollution and hazard. Investments should be redirected towards more community-based solutions such as separate collection of waste, reuse and recycling facilities.”
On Tuesday, at a side-event in Nairobi, European Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella is also expected to discuss his plan for a circular economy in Europe, including the much awaited EU Plastics Strategy that is currently being drafted in Brussels.
Facts and Figures
The UN Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. This year’s theme is pollution in all its forms.
Diseases caused by pollution were responsible for around 9 million premature deaths in 2015—16% of all deaths worldwide (Lancet 2017)
The world generates about3 billion tonnes of municipal waste per year, which are expected to become 2.2 billion by 2025 due to economic growth, particularly in India and China (World Bank 2012)
In Europe, increasing recycling rates and reusable materials can trigger up to 867,000 new jobs and €72 billion a year in societal costs, and avoid over 420 million tonnes of C02 equivalent(EEB 2014)
Waste collection rates range from a low of 41% in low-income countries to a high of 98% in high-income countries (World Bank 2012)
Waste collection is an important aspect in maintaining public health in cities around the world
From December 2015 to June 2016, in only seven months, ISWA recorded more than 750 deaths globally related to poor waste management in dumpsites and several incidents with important health impacts (ISWA 2016)
For more information:
Mauro Anastasio, Communications Officer - Resource Efficiency, European Environmental Bureau