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Zero Waste and Economic Recovery: The Job Creation Potential of Zero Waste Solutions

By John Ribeiro-Broomhead and Neil Tangri - Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, February 16, 2021

Employment opportunities are important in any economy, and especially in times of economic downturn. As governments and the private sector invest in economic recovery strategies, particularly “green” or climateneutral approaches, it is important to evaluate their employment potential. C40 estimates that the waste management sector has the potential to create 2.9 million jobs in its 97 member cities alone. Zero waste—a comprehensive approach to waste management that prioritizes waste prevention, re-use, composting, and recycling—is a widely-adopted strategy proven to minimize environmental impacts and contribute to a just society. In this study, we evaluate its job generation potential.

The data for this study came from a wide range of sources spanning 16 countries. Despite the diversity in geographic and economic conditions, the results are clear: zero waste approaches create orders of magnitude more jobs than disposal-based systems that primarily burn or bury waste. Indeed, waste interventions can be ranked according to their job generation potential, and this ranking exactly matches the traditional waste hierarchy based on environmental impacts (Figure 1). These results demonstrate the compatibility of environmental and economic goals and position zero waste as an opportune social infrastructure in which investments can strengthen local and global economic resilience.

This study also finds evidence for good job quality in zero waste systems. Multiple studies of zero waste systems cite higher wages and better working conditions than in comparable fields, and opportunities to develop and use varied skills, from equipment repair to public outreach.

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Radical Realism for Climate Justice

By Lili Fuhr and Linda Schneider - P2P Foundation, October 4, 2018

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial is feasible, and it is our best hope of achieving environmental and social justice, of containing the impacts of a global crisis that was born out of historical injustice and highly unequal responsibility.

To do so will require a radical shift away from resource-intensive and wasteful production and consumption patterns and a deep transformation towards ecological sustainability and social justice. Demanding this transformation is not ‘naïve’ or ‘politically unfeasible’, it is radically realistic.

This publication is a civil society response to the challenge of limiting global warming to 1.5°C while also paving the way for climate justice. It brings together the knowledge and experience of a range of international groups, networks and organisations the Heinrich Böll Foundation has worked with over the past years, who in their political work, research and practice have developed the radical, social and environmental justice-based agendas political change we need across various sectors.

Download a complete PDF of this collection of documents.

A Brief History of Anti-Capitalism, Pulled from a Dumpster

By Alex V. Barnard - Discard Studies, June 6, 2016

“Seeing all the waste exposes very clearly the priorities in our society, that making a profit is more important than feeding people, than preserving the environment, than making use of resources, than honoring peoples’ time, labor, love, and effort. What we see with waste is that once something cannot make money, it is discarded and of no value.”

The denunciation above came from a member of the group “freegan.info,” a group which since 2005 has led “trash tours” through New York City with the aim of exposing and the wealth of waste produced by our food system and—as they claim—capitalism itself. While the freegan group I studied never had more than a dozen members, their evocations of “waste” echo widely across other contemporary movements. At Occupy Wall Street, authorities and activists battled over whether it was the occupiers or the financial system that were a waste of human effort and needed to “clean up” (Bolton, Froese, and Jeffrey 2016; Liboiron 2012). The encampments’ (re)use of waste and refuse, adopted the model of longer-running networks like Food Not Bombs: to repurpose capitalism’s detritus to provide food, housing, and transport for those living, voluntarily or involuntarily, on the margins of market society (Giles 2013; Heynen 2010).

Waste may be particularly symbolically and materially visible in contemporary anti-capitalism, but claims that capitalism is “wasteful” have haunted the economic system from the beginning. What the meaning behind movements’ evocations of “waste,” though, have varied across different capitalist “waste regimes” (Gille 2008): the configuration of modes of producing, representing, and politicizing waste that dominate in a particular historical moment. Only by seeing the long-running but evolving evolving politicization of capitalism’s waste can we see the specificity of how waste is used in contemporary anti-capitalist movements—which, in my new book (Barnard 2016), I describe in terms of the use of “ex-commodities” to challenge a neo-liberal “fetish of waste.”

Cultivating Climate Justice: Brazilian Workers Leading the Charge Toward Zero Waste

By Beverly Bell - Climate Connections, November 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

This is part 1 of a four-part article series “Cultivating Climate Justice” which tells the stories of community groups on the front lines of the pollution, waste and climate crises, working together for systems change. United across six continents, these grassroots groups are defending community rights to clean air, clean water, zero waste, environmental justice, and good jobs. They are all members of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a network of over 800 organizations from 90+ countries.

This series is produced by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Other Worlds.

The streets of Belo Horizonte were filled with singing, dancing, chanting, and marching. It was not a holiday or an election day or a soccer game. The chant was: “We don’t want incineration! Recycle! Recycle!”

It was September 19, 2014, and this was the launch of a national Zero Waste Alliance, Brazil style. Exuberant, celebratory, and led by recycling workers.

The recycling workers of Brazil have long been a powerful force in protecting their communities and the climate. Now they are on the forefront of a nation-wide movement for zero waste.

The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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