Two Great Conferences, One Eventful Trip, Zero Waste Messaging!

Written by
Pål Mårtensson
March 22, 2024

Last month, I was invited to the International Conference and Expo on Water & Waste Management (WWM), held in Ahmedabad, India. This was the sixth time we’ve arranged this event and it’s always proven to be a fantastic opportunity to meet up with old friends and make new ones.

WWM believes that academic entrepreneurship research collaboration is very important for providing solutions to address research gaps in the water and waste management sectors.

After the WWM Conference, I traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal, for another great event, this one being held by the Health Environment and Climate Action Foundation, aka ‘HECAF360’. This event was co-hosted by Zero Waste Himalaya and Zero Waste Nepal.

HECAF360 designs and implements innovative Zero Waste management systems in hospitals, schools, and municipalities. They encourage safe non-burn technology, support plastic waste management schemes on both institutional and community levels, and widely encourage the 3Rs of waste management: reduce – reuse – recycle.

WWM India

I gave speeches about Zero Waste in different levels and made an introduction for World Cleanup Day (WCD) and Digital Cleanup Day (DCD). The information was very well received, gaining great interest, especially from students. I also gave speeches about WCD & DCD at Gujarat Technological University (a prominent state university located in Gujarat, India, established in 2007, known for its focus on technical and management education) and at Charotar University of Science and Technology established in 1995 by the government of Gujarat.

Both universities are high-class institutions where top students do their best for the future of India. The campus areas for each university are immense, innovation centers, with AI education featuring prominently under the slogan, “The future belongs to India”. 

The audience was very interested to learn about WCD and what we have achieved with our concept. Many new contacts were made, along with commitments to participate in LDIW’s programs.

It was an industry and university collaboration for advanced knowledge, focusing on new products and processes – and it always feels so good to talk about Zero Waste, which is an “old” and terminal solution waste management method. They all appreciated and understood the importance of cleanups and the effect they can have – this proved to be a good opportunity to promote both WCD & DCD and the message appears to have landed well!

I also provided some good examples from the US, where universities conducted cleanups and changed from single-use items to more sustainable solutions, turning the whole campuses around to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.

HECAF360 Nepal

HECAF360 is an organization that has taken Zero Waste to a new level and has implemented incredible systems, especially in hospitals, where hazardous and dangerous waste is a critical issue. I took part in a study tour to Namgyal Secondary School (to look at the Harm Reduction Program), Chuchepati, the APF Hospital, and also to a monastery.

HECAF360 takes care of many government offices, schools, and companies, offering continuous educational programs. Formidable solutions for collection, and the entire logistic plan, are an unbroken chain – held together by updated training. Imagine that schools and hospitals have their own biogas plants and are self-supporting for cooking gas!

It’s very much a closed-loop system which they made easily visible and presented no problem in understanding – this is the Circular Economy for real! Waste management systems and logistics are all done by the book and they separate, reuse, and send to recycling – a trash-for-cash system – and all money comes back to the school.

The students are the ones running the system, all by themselves. There is a Student Committee that is responsible for the whole school, and they also take care of the waste education program. They truly are doing a great job!

During the study tour, I received a lot of questions about both WCD & DCD, so it was a wonderful opportunity to promote the benefits of both projects, as well as explain the synergy between Let’s Do It World and the Zero Waste movement.

Some people explained how they arrange cleanups in their neighborhoods and outlined some of the great results they have had. This was a highly committed group that already understood the principle of, “If we don’t do it, who else will do it in our school or community?” They have already cured a lot of trash blindness and said they will now join the WCD & DCD actions. Results!

The monastery visit was a great moment for me. The nuns there were all devoted to maintaining the sustainability loop for as long as possible – everything was about environmental awareness and they showed us some very cool examples of how they operate.

One example shown was how they use huge sun reflectors for making cooking water, which worked very well. They recycled feminine hygiene products, with worms taking care of the biological cleanup part. They also manufactured new ones by repurposing old clothing which, of course, is an old tradition. Everything worked really well and was easy to handle.

They have recycling stations on every level in the house, as well as a large storage room where everything was checked and managed – nicely and cleanly – almost no waste at all after they were done with their tasks.

They also organized cleanups in the poorer areas around the monastery and a very positive and productive experience for all participants, acting as a further cure for trash blindness and its lasting effects.

Zero Waste Day – 30.03.2024

All in all, these trips proved to be highly valuable, informative, thought-provoking, inspirational and humbling – it’s been truly heart-warming to witness entire communities combine their efforts towards creating sustainable solutions to support their ongoing needs while simultaneously striving to reduce unnecessary waste.

And, as we build up towards the UN Calendar’s International Day of Zero Waste on 30 March, perhaps you can consider some changes to your lifestyle that embrace a less wasteful lifestyle? Follow our World Cleanup Day Facebook page for some valuable tips and advice over the next week.

Also, you can follow the ZW Marathon taking place in Capannori, Italy, on ZW Day itself, where I will give a short speech and will be accompanied by several well-known figures from the ZW movement (Paul Connett, Charles Moore, Jack Macy). The marathon starts at 15:00 local time, permitting people from many time zones to share their messages. It’s a great chance to better understand Zero Waste, the only sustainable waste management system that exists. Read more here and follow the event here.

I’d also like to give a special mention about an exciting event called ‘Race to Zero Waste’, a woman-founded environmental conservation non-profit organization dedicated to reducing consumption, implementing reuse, and promoting an equitable circular economy. 

‘Race to Zero Waste’ is an urgent call to reduce waste in all sectors, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and tackle the climate crisis. There’s never been a more critical time to take action and I will participate in this event as a speaker and educator, with a full report to follow.

Finally, after 30 March, I will be attending the Zero Waste Forum in San Francisco, along with several other LDIW representatives. This event promises four engaging days of zero waste collaboration, education, and fun, while building on conversations from the International Day of Zero Waste!

The lineup includes the Zero Waste USA Intro to Zero Waste course, featuring esteemed international speakers affiliated with the Zero Waste International Alliance, alongside local Bay Area zero waste businesses and organizations.

Watch this space, there is much more to come!

LDIW Regional Director for Oceania, Pål Mårtensson, describes his recent eventful and rewarding visits to India and Nepal, where he spread the messages of World & Digital Cleanup Days and the principles of a Zero Waste lifestyle to eager audiences. Read on and be inspired!
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