In Glasgow, world leaders are going to make decisions about major global issues at COP26 that will impact us all. Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. As outlined in the IPCC Working Group I report, Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, benefits for air quality would come quickly, while it could take twenty to thirty years to see global temperatures stabilize.
According to an analysis by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA,) a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries, more than a quarter of countries’ climate plans are neglecting an essential climate strategy: reducing waste. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified waste management as one of three sectors with the greatest potential to reduce temperature rise in the next ten to twenty years. As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, national governments agreed to submit plans that explain what strategies their country will employ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the 1.5˚C target.
In an open letter to COP-26 delegates, more than 300 GAIA member organizations demand that they close the emissions gap to ensure temperatures do not rise above 1.5ºC, exclude “waste-to-energy” incineration from climate plans, stop petrochemical expansion, fossil fuel extraction, and reduce plastic production, and avoid schemes like carbon trading and offsets under the guise of a “net zero” framework. World leaders must also hold the petrochemical and plastic polluter companies accountable for plastic pollution and climate change.
“The world’s top plastic polluting corporations claim to be working hard to solve plastic pollution, but instead they are continuing to pump out harmful single-use plastic packaging”, states Emma Priestland, Global Corporate Campaigns Coordinator for Break Free From Plastic states. “We cannot continue to rely on fossil fuels, including the significant amount of fossil fuels that are or will be turned into plastic.”
The reduction of GHG emissions in the waste sector can be maximized through zero waste strategies, a comprehensive waste management approach that prioritizes waste reduction and material recovery. Due to policy and business strategies to drive redesign of products and delivery systems the access to reuse, repair, recycling, and composting can be increase. The zero waste circular economy requires a transitioning from a single-use to a reuse-based approach to products and packaging.
“With the climate crisis growing more urgent and deadly every day, governments are missing an important chance to employ zero waste as a common-sense, affordable strategy toward zero emissions and a sustainable economy”, says Dr. Neil Tangri, Science and Policy Director at GAIA. “Ending bad practices such as the burning of waste and the overproduction of plastic will create new job and business opportunities in reuse, repair, recycling, and organics treatment.”
The WaterBear Network, a free streaming platform for eco-concious films, wants to help bring these critical conversations into the public. As a symbol for the urgent need to make the transition to a circular economy, they created an art project. Messy is a five metre-long, three metre-tall, sustainably-built sculpture shaped like the iconic Loch Ness monster. With ‘skin’ made from recycled jeans, she is “living” proof that, unlike the Loch Ness Monster, living a more circular lifestyle is easy and simple.
The sculpture is created by artist Billie Achilleos in collaboration with WaterBear and MUD Jeans, the circular denim brand. Made of recycled jeans, Messy can be met in London’s Grosvenor Square throughout COP26, from 1st November – 11th November. At the installation, visitors can donate their old jeans for upcycling.
Photos: © Courtesy of WaterBear: John Phillips/Getty Images, Shutterstock
Video: © Courtesy of WaterBear