As plastic use increases around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed vulnerabilities in the global waste management system. These impacts now threaten waste programs, particularly those in countries at the frontline of the ocean plastic challenge. A new book, “Leave No Trace: Vital Lessons from the Frontline of Waste and Ocean Plastic” highlights proven solutions from 45 organizations working on the frontlines to ensure resilient waste collection and recycling programs, to prevent plastic pollution.
Leave No Trace features practical, field-tested solutions and business models from 81 international case studies in Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Chile for building resilient waste and recycling programs. The research focuses on solving five universal, complex challenges that all waste and recycling organizations working in fund-constrained environments face: behavior change at scale, waste picker inclusion, affordable waste collection, recycling plastics economically, and processing organic waste without a loss.
According to Joi Danielson, Co-Founder of Vital Ocean and SYSTEMIQ partner, most analyses take a top-down, “what must be true” modeling approach to solving waste and ocean plastic problems. But Leave No Trace takes a bottom-up approach, going into the world and asking those on the frontline who have successfully tackled these challenges how they did it.
“Waste has always been someone else’s problem. The very nature of throwing waste ‘away’—out of sight, out of mind—transfers the responsibility to someone else,” explains Joi Danielson, who is also the Asia Program Director for Project STOP, an initiative supported by local and global partners to create sustainable, circular waste management systems in Southeast Asia. “But what’s needed is the sharing of responsibility across the entire manufacturing-to-waste value chain—by every stakeholder—particularly to empower frontline organizations to do their job and scale their impact. This is how true change will happen.”
The goal of Leave No Trace is to offer frontline waste and recycling operators practical, field-tested solutions that can be harnessed to build resilient waste and recycling programs in regions facing limited financial resources. It is also to share with decision makers from government, and industry what is needed to address root cause structural constraints from those who deal with them every day. Based on interviews with pioneering frontline organizations, it is a “deep dive” tutorial on solving the crisis of ocean plastic.
The book also emphasizes the importance of informal “waste pickers” who have helped transform their communities while simultaneously pursuing a better life for themselves and their children.
“Waste pickers are at the heart of the recycling chain. They need to be formally included in waste management systems to achieve a worldwide consistent circular economy model,” explains Julia Luchesi, Operations Manager of TriCiclos. “The first step is to recognize them as service providers. In Leave No Trace, we bring inspiring experiences that are closer to models that we believe in. Please join us in the discussion of this topic.”
“Waste pickers play a key role in enabling the circular economy, especially in developing countries. When given the space and opportunity to participate in formal waste management systems, there is a two-sided impact: social and environmental,” explains the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Hasiru Dala, Nalini Shaker.
The book, authored by Vital Ocean/SYSTEMIQ, TriCiclos, and Hasiru Dala, is available for free and in four languages – English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Bahasa Indonesian, and can be accessed at the following link: https://www.vitalocean.org/book-download
[Announcement provided by Leave No Trace]
The amount of plastic entering the ocean is projected to grow four-fold by 2050. Transformative changes, including moving away from single-use towards re-useable packaging, are needed to save our oceans, say Vincent Kneefel and John Duncan.