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World Summit to be a Zero Waste Event

The United Nations, the World Summit on Sustainable Development Secretariat, and the South African Government have agreed to "green" the Johannesburg Summit following Zero Waste principles.

The Johannesburg Summit will bring together tens of thousands of governmental officials, nongovernmental organizations, businesses and other civil society members from around the world to discuss the global environment and develop a plan of action for sustainable development. Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary General of the United Nation responsible for the WSSD in Johannesburg this August, met with Earthlife Africa's Zero Waste team to highlight his support.

"I support this project, and encourage all to reach as close to Zero Waste as is possible." The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Earthlife Africa (Johannesburg Branch) are leading the campaign to make the Johannesburg Summit a "Zero Waste" event. GAIA and Earthlife Africa have called on the event sponsors and organizers to conduct the event with an aim to divert 90% of the waste from being sent to landfills and to ensure that none is sent to incinerators.

Muna Lakhani, Zero Waste Project Coordinator for Earthlife Africa said, "Zero Waste refers to a range of policies and practices designed to achieve a sustainable use of materials and the minimum of waste discarded. We want to design waste out of this event, and reuse, recycle and compost everything else."

The benefits to having the summit be organized as a Zero Waste event include:

  • Zero Waste is consistent with the recent Stockholm convention’s goal towards elimination of POPs, including incinerator by-products dioxin and furans.
  • Conducting a Zero Waste event demonstrates South Africa’s and the U.N. Environment Programme’s leadership on this issue.
  • Zero Waste systems will minimize the environmental impact of the WSSD itself and set the highest standards for future events.
  • Official commitment to Zero Waste now will help mobilize the resources needed to make this happen.
  • A Zero Waste Summit demonstrates its logistical and economic feasibility and launches South Africa on the path to becoming a Zero Waste society in the future with a legacy of redesign, minimisation, reuse, recycling and composting practices that others can follow.
  • A Zero Waste Summit will train people in the civil society secretariat, catering, hospitality and restaurant business, as well as other people involved in the Greening of the Summit, in applying Zero Waste principles.
  • Zero Waste practices and systems at the event will educate many thousands of South Africans and visitors on concepts of sustainability in action in very tangible ways that they can bring back to their own countries and implement after the Summit.
  • It will minimize waste dumping costs for the WSSD, as well as minimize landfill usage, and avoid incineration.
  • Zero Waste also holds great potential for livelihood generation and poverty alleviation as reuse, recycling and composting produce far more jobs than wasting.

    "Zero Waste is indeed a significant milestone in the path to sustainable development," says Reshaad Ismail, Manager in the CEO's office within the Civil Society Secretariat. " Applying International Best Practice within the Global Forum will lead the way to showcasing truly sustainable development. The support by the United Nations is welcome indeed."

    "GAIA members around the world congratulate the WSSD sponsors and organizers for committing to Zero Waste. Holding the decade’s premier environmental gathering as a Zero Waste event provides a real life example of the kind of solution needed to save the global environment at this critical time." said Ann Leonard, GAIA’s International Co-coordinator.

    GAIA is an international alliance working on waste reduction, with over 265 members in more than 55 countries. Earthlife Africa is a volunteer driven South African organization that has been active on environmental and social issues since 1988.

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