GAIA in Latin America and the Caribbean
GAIA members in this region are working on a variety of issues, ranging from promoting and aiding in the implementation of the zero waste plans in their communities to closing waste incinerators and mega-landfills, uncovering incinerators in disguise such as waste-to-energy plants and cement kilns, denouncing the import of waste from industrialized countries, and supporting waste pickers' rights, among many more.
The anti-incineration struggle started in Latin America well before GAIA was created, and has greatly expanded with GAIA's outreach and connections.
In Argentina, for example, the Anti-Incineration Citizens Coalition was formed in 1995 and has become a model of collective work against this polluting technology. It has stopped dozens of waste incinerators in Argentina, and its work has been key to achieving more than 20 laws and ordinances banning waste incineration in different cities countrywide, including in Buenos Aires.
All over Latin America, grassroots organizations are shutting down incinerators and promoting alternatives. These citizens' groups work together with NGOs and social, human rights, peasants and environmental justice movements to denounce the fact that incinerators pose health, environmental, economic and social threats to local communities.
Two approaches to municipal solid waste management are in constant conflict in the region. On one side are end-of-pipe interventions, such as dumpsters, immense landfills and waste-to-energy schemes that are increasingly promoted by private companies, many of which operate globally. On the other side are local initiatives that follow local cultures, such as waste reduction, segregation, compost and recycling; work with waste pickers; and the promotion of a zero waste approach that strives to reduce waste disposal to zero.
Medical waste incinerators are one major threat in Latin America, with hundreds of hospitals hosting small furnaces in their backyards, many times "donated" by foreign companies to local or regional governments, or even promoted by regional health institutions. GAIA members have made significant linkages locally with the health care sector to adopt safer methods for medical waste management.
Industrial waste incinerators and landfills are also one of the major issues GAIA members fight in this region. These facilities are usually built in low income or indigenous lands, reflecting another pattern of waste incineration: environmental injustice.
The cement industry is also increasingly promoting itself as a "sustainable" waste management option and an alternative to waste incineration and landfills in Latin America. Groups all over the region are denouncing this as simply another form of waste incineration, and are fighting against the burning of tires, hazardous waste and other wastes in cement kilns. Against incredible odds, members in Brazil conducted a successful campaign to defend the country's right to ban the import of used tires that end up in cement kilns, winning a major challenge with the European Union at the World Trade Organization. Communities in Mexico have also rebuffed dozens of waste incinerators and have been denouncing the national government's support of burning tires in cement kilns for decades.
Groups in El Salvador have also decried the pollution created by
dumpsters and have promoted zero waste plans as a healthier
alternative, and members in Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras,
Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela have successfully fought
incinerators and have educated the public on the dangers of waste
incinerators and the need to advance sustainable solutions.