Toxics and Waste Programme is one of the three programmes of the Arnika Association.
At our work we try to protect people and the environment from toxic chemicals and we promote the use of safer alternatives. We propose economical use of resources and reduction of the amount of waste. We do not want that waste end up at landfills or in incinerators. We promote civil right to information on dangerous substances in the environment. Campaigns of the Toxics and Waste Programme do not concern only the Czech Republic, but also in many cases focus on European and international projects.
Toxics and Waste Programme was established as one of three programmes of the Arnika Association since its beginning in late September 2001. It followed-up on the activity of “For the Clean Earth, Air, and Water” of the Children of the Earth organization, which together with the public support achieved stopping 19 planned projects of excessive incinerators, and two new waste landfills.
Since the beginning, the campaign Toxics-Free Future has been the flagship of the programme. Between 2001 and 2003, the campaign promoted especially free access to information on pollutants releases and transfers for all industrial facilities in a form of a database open to public, so called Integrated Pollution Register (IPR), ratification of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (dioxins, DDT, and others), and reduction of dangerous substances released to the environment by specific industrial premises.
Toxics-Free Future has thanks also to a petition of the same name achieved adoption of the IPR, as well as fast ratification of the Stockholm Convention. At local level, the campaign focused on several major polluters. One of them was the Spolana Neratovice chemical plant. The pressure from Arnika helped significantly to increase safety of the facility. New chlorine storage has been built and a final date for closing the old amalgam electrolysis has been set up for 2014.
Between 2003 and 2006, together with other European NGOs, we have promoted adoption of a European Community Regulation on chemicals and their safe use, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals). REACH was approved by the European Parliament in December 2006, however, due to industrial lobby, it has significant loopholes. The Toxics-Free Future campaign will therefore unfortunately have enough work in future.
In waste reduction area, Environmentally Friendly Use of Paper project has been very successful. Arnika succeeded to persuade several institutions, including Czech Ministry of Environment, to use recycled paper. We have also succeeded in defying the myth that recycled paper destroys copy machines and printers.
Another campaign of the Toxics and Waste Programme focuses on reduction of usage of PVC in health care, food packaging, toys and products for children. Stimulated by Arnika, five hospitals in the Czech Republic started to substitute PVC medical devices on newborn, infant, and other wards with safer ones. In several cases, the Campaign Don’t Play with PVC achieved withdrawal of specific dangerous toys from the market and contributed to the better control.
Between November 2004 and May 2005, we coordinated a very successful international project of monitoring of POPs in free-range chicken eggs. The project resulted in a study called The Egg Report, which helped to prevent adoption of vague documents during the first meeting of the Stockholm Convention parties in Uruguay.
Toxics and Waste Programme formed a platform for many international activities. It hosts the Coordination Centre for CEE (Central and Eastern Europe), as well as the Secretary of the Dioxin, PCBs and Waste Working Group of IPEN, and the Secretary of the Heavy Metals Working Group of IPEN, and incorporates Arnika in the international networks of IPEN (International POPs Elimination Network). Arnika is also member of ACR+ (Association of Cities and Regions for Recycling and sustainable Resource management), Zero Mercury Working Group, and GAIA (Global Alliance for Incineration Alternatives).