Low waste at Johannesburg

The Johannesburg Summit was successful in substantially reducing its waste, with a diversion rate of up to 80% at the Global Forum, a group of NGOs have announced.

In an attempt to improve on the 1992 Rio Earth Summit’s dismal record of wastefulness (see related story), Earthlife Africa and US-based GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) attempted to instil the principle of Zero Waste at the Johannesburg Summit, and the Global Forum of civil society representatives in particular. According to the group, the Global Forum far outperformed all the other summit venues with regard to minimisation and diversion of waste, with preliminary figures showing a diversion rate of 70 to 80%. The total for the entire summit is around 25% says the group.

Part of the scheme was to remove plastic packaging from the summit altogether, a feat that the Zero Waste team nearly achieved, although some organisations imported articles such as polystyrene containers, and one drinks manufacturer reneged on an agreement not to use plastic bottles, lids and straws.

“This not only dramatically shows the merits of Zero Waste as an organising principle, it shows that NGOs are also capable and competent agents of delivering innovative environmental services,” said Muna Lakhani of Earthlife Africa, Zero Waste project co-ordinator at the summit. “This innovative system has proven that, with comparatively minimal resources, but with a good plan and a dedicated team, large diversions of waste from landfills and incinerators can take place.”

The scheme also provided considerable employment, creating 90 part-time jobs for the duration of the summit, and creating 40 new permanent jobs in waste disposal in the area.

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