Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Conference 2024

Last month, our Program Assistant Samantha Paladini attended the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Conference, where members from all over North America met in Oakland, CA at the Sonesta Hotel to discuss climate justice issues around incineration, zero waste, plastic, and climate.

After meeting with incredible movement leaders and participating in some well organized programing, here are Samantha’s biggest takeaways from the week: 

  • GAIA’s values
    • Oppose: incineration and plastics 
    • Advance: zero waste climate/methane solutions 
    • Emerging work: EV batteries
  • Incineration 
    • Incinerators and ash are being exported to other countries by the U.S. and Europe.
    • Incinerators are trying to qualify for “zero emission.” They will do this by segmenting a project: splitting a big project into smaller ones so it’s not as colossal and meets parameters.
    • Example of greenwashing: other names for “waste burning” 
      • Advance thermal treatment 
      • Waste gasifier
      • Waste-to-energy 
      • energy-to -waste 
    • Why not incineration? Can incinerators produce fossil fuels?
      • Incineration releases pyrolysis oil, but only 2% can be used. The rest is toxic. This is called incomplete combustion- more fuel is wasted and less energy is produced.
      • Incineration leads to increased CO2 emissions.
      • We can’t swap one problem over to another!

  • Zero Waste Climate/Methane Solutions 
    • Let’s think about zero waste and methane solutions in the same category. 
    • Pollution is a linear process not circular. Be mindful of what language you use. 
    • Nontoxic reuse. Bio and compostable plastics are still single use. It’s not ideal.
    • While landfills need better regulations and still pollute neighborhoods, gas collection is not ideal because flares emit gas. GAIA prefers bio layering. Gas collection doesn’t incentivize zero waste solutions.
    • The 8 Rs
      • Reduce, Refuse, Reuse, Re-Purpose, Repair, Recycle Right, Remove, And Rally
    • Methane: 
      • A greenhouse gas that’s over eighty times more potent as CO2.
      • Waste is the 3rd largest source of methane. 
        • 1. oil/gas, 2. Agriculture, 3. Waste 
      • Existing challenges
        • Landfill and zero waste are two concepts that are typically separated. There’s a lack of education on the two subject’s correlation. 
      • Prevention is key: stop producing!

  • EV batteries 
    • Is replacing lithium-made batteries important to reducing waste? Aluminum/potassium/sodium batteries need more research and are not the focus at the moment. 


GAIA aims to power a transition away from our current linear and extractive economy and towards a circular system that supports people’s right to a safe and healthy environment. This entails fighting pollution and building regenerative solutions in cities through local campaigns, shifts in policy and finance, research and communication initiatives, and movement building. We work on four primary points of intervention: incineration, zero waste, plastic, and climate.



GAIA Report: U.S. Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators 2019: An Industry in Decline

Burning Injustice Documentary 

Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security Report 2022: The West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project

OPSR: The Dangers of Incinerator Ash

OPSR: Covanta Safety Risks 

OPSR: Incinerators- Myth vs Fact