How a zero waste approach has helped Lviv stay resilient

Better waste management is a climate change solution staring us in the face, and a city in western Ukraine is – despite Russia’s war – leading by example.

Despite the ongoing conflict with Russia, the Ukrainian city of Lviv has thrived in its zero waste efforts and become an example of resilience and commitment, according to a new report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

Some of the zero waste actions taken by the city include separate door-to-door waste collection, including organic waste, and multiple waste prevention programmes that include single-use plastic or sanitary products.

“The zero waste approach was Lviv’s way out of the waste crisis after a landfill fire accident in 2016,” Iryna Myronova, executive director of Zero Waste Lviv, a member organisation of Zero Waste Alliance Ukraine, Zero Waste Europe and GAIA.

“In 2022 we learned how in times of war it helps to cut down our dependency on fossil fuels, which is now also a matter of national and global security.

“It allowed us to better serve refugees in need through providing meals in reusable tableware, it taught us resourcefulness and compassion. Lviv’s case can help to establish a zero waste protocol for emergency response in communities around the world.”

Building resilience

According to the GAIA report, published ahead of the COP27 climate change discussions in Sharm El-Sheikh, set for November, the introduction of zero waste systems in cities around the world would be one of the quickest and most affordable ways to reduce global heating and stay below 1.5°C of warming.

It claims that the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through the implementation of zero waste systems would amount to 1.4 billion tonnes, equivalent to the annual emissions of 300 million cars, much more than taking all cars off the road in the European Union for a year.

Report co-author Dr Neil Tangri at GAIA says: “Better waste management is a climate change solution staring us in the face. It doesn’t require flashy or expensive new technology – it’s just about paying more attention to what we produce and consume, and how we deal with it when it is no longer needed.”

“Without concrete commitment from global leaders to zero waste, we will not be able to meet the 1.5° C climate target,”  adds co-author Mariel Vilella, director of GAIA’s Global Climate Program.

“Previous climate talks have largely overlooked the potential of reforms to the waste sector, particularly for reducing methane, which over 100 countries have now pledged to do. We now have a unique opportunity to put waste firmly on the agenda. Zero waste strategies are the easiest way to rapidly and cheaply bring down emissions, while building climate resilience, creating jobs, and promoting thriving local economies.”

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