We must embrace 2021, the year of COP26, as an opportunity to highlight the links between poor waste management and climate change.
The start of 2021 has been frustrating at times for the WasteAid team, as I am sure it has been for many of our friends, supporters, and donors! The continued pandemic-enforced restrictions mean that the team is still working more remotely than they ever intended, both with each other and our partners. There has been frustration too that political changes have meant that our work in 2020 developing exciting new interventions has been placed on hold due to the reduction of the 0.7% aid contribution and the creation of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We don’t know when we will have an answer on our proposals under review.
However, it has been fabulous to see how the WasteAid team has adapted and how our programmes are continuing a pace in this new reality. I am particularly excited by some of the events that we have delivered as part of our Circular Economy Network programme and invite you to view footage of our work in both India and South Africa. If you haven’t before, please follow the Circular Economy Network on twitter (@CircEconNetwork) or sign up for updates at circulareconomynetwork.co
Our project manager in Vietnam, Tram Nguyen has just this weekend delivered an event in Ho Chi Minh City alongside our partner and funder, Huhtamaki Group (updates to follow). Staff engagement with the WasteAid event there is at unprecedented levels. The wider WasteAid team is also gearing up for the launch of our Zero Waste Cities Challenge Competition a key element of the Circular Economy Network. Please keep an eye on our communications for more details in the coming days. We are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to offer substantial seed funding to organisations driving innovation in the circular economy.
The start of 2021 for WasteAid was also a time for some reflection. We have grown exponentially over the last 12 months thanks to our generous supporters and the work of our dedicated team. It was the right time to reflect on what we do and our model of transformational change – this has resulted in a new Theory of Change and a revised strategy which will be published very shortly. We have also been capturing our amazing achievements over 2020 in our first ever annual review, the finishing touches on which are being done as I write. As a young, growing and dynamic organisation, we are continuously developing our approach whilst staying true to our founding principles and remit.
However, as always in WasteAid we measure our success on our outputs and impact. As we start 2021, we wrap up our UK Aid projects in The Gambia and Kenya, our partner organisations there have delivered hugely impactful work reducing waste and creating livelihood opportunities in waste management and recycling. We also start 2021 with new projects in The Gambia and Cameroon building on our existing programmes. We will shortly be announcing another significant project in The Gambia starting in 2021 funded by an institutional donor new to WasteAid. I am so excited about the impact that we can have with this funding.
Finally, 2021 is a significant year for WasteAid in that the UK will be hosting COP 26 in Glasgow at the end of this year (pandemic permitting). The effect of poor waste management on climate change cannot be overstated. WasteAid wants to embrace this event and the renewed focus on this critical issue, we want to use COP26 as a platform to raise the profile of effective waste management in low- and middle-income countries and demonstrate that even a little investment in waste management systems can have a huge impact on reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). The majority of GHG emissions from waste is from open burning, which is a widespread practice in places with incomplete waste management systems. For example, the UK and Nigeria both generate around 500MtCO2e per annum; in the UK, waste generates 4% of this, in Nigeria waste contributes 14%. Countries with poor waste management are also the most vulnerable to climate shocks. Forest fires, flash floods and the spread of disease all contribute to a dismal picture that negatively impacts people and planet. Waste management can help reduce fires, floods and certain diseases, at the same time reducing damaging emissions.
As we have been developing our organisational position, it has been inspiring to share thoughts with a variety of organisations, friends new and old – from committed partners to new collaborators. Zoë Lenkiewicz has been leading much of this work and you will be hearing much more from her on this issue as 2021 progresses. We will certainly embrace the opportunity offered by COP26 to highlight what can be done in terms of waste management, to influence where possible and to expand our partnerships and our network. 2021 is going to be a very busy year!