EU is investing in toxic waste projects in developing world, GAIA claims

Gosh! Who knew the earth goddess was in fact an anti-incinerator flake?

The EU is threatening waste-pickers’ livelihoods and backing projects that may actually increase emissions, says report

The EU’s clean development mechanism (CDM) is supporting waste projects in developing countries that threaten livelihoods and cause toxic emissions, according to a report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

The study, published on Tuesday in Brussels and entitled The European Union’s double standards on waste management and climate policy (pdf), claims the EU is funding waste-to-energy methods that violate its own guidelines and would be illegal in its member states.

The report’s authors argue that projects funded by EU states under the CDM, a climate finance scheme, include incinerator plants that burn reusable materials without consideration for waste prevention or recycling, such as the Changsu facility in eastern China.

“In developing countries, the great majority of the municipal solid waste consists of food waste, garden waste, paper and cardboard – materials which provide methane in landfills but which could easily be composted, recycled or fed to animals,” says the report. It also notes that fossil fuels are frequently burned during waste incineration in developing countries owing to high moisture levels that require the addition of extra fuel.

Likewise censured are landfill gas schemes such as the Doña Juana project in the Colombian capital Bogotá, which was designed to collect methane gas but, according to the study’s authors, has resulted in increased emissions. Many landfill gas projects backed by the CDM – which aims to promote investment in low-carbon technology in poorer countries by awarding carbon credits that can be bought by rich countries to offset their own emissions – deliberately increase emissions to generate more credits, claims the report.

“This study shows double standards are being maintained by European countries,” says GAIA’s climate policy campaigner Mariel Vilella, who co-authored the paper. “On the one hand, European countries have committed to reducing the amount of waste going to landfills, and they have committed to recycling, pollution controls and emissions reductions. On the other hand, they are buying carbon credits from projects in the developing world that are effectively increasing emissions and undermining local communities.”

Hardest hit are the waste-pickers who earn a living by scouring the world’s rubbish dumps to recover metal, paper and plastics for recycling. These grassroots recyclers, who number approximately 15 million worldwide and “face challenges of poverty, exploitation by those to whom they sell recyclables, lack of recognition for their work, and lack of access to public benefits”, increasingly face displacement and loss of livelihood as a result of CDM-backed incinerator and landfill gas system projects, argue the report’s authors.


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