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Green Or Gone

Latin America Joins Global Race To Score 'Zero Waste'

Activists in Colombia are working with public and private entities, offline and online, to reduce and recycle every ounce of solid waste produced.

Colombians separating the recyclables from non-recyclables at a Food Festival in Bogotá
Colombians separating the recyclables from non-recyclables at a Food Festival in Bogotá
Ingrith Gómez Morales

BOGOTÁ — The world has so far produced over 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic, of which 91% has not been recycled. Studies suggest our drinking water is already polluted with plastic particles. Meanwhile, people worldwide generate 1.9 billion tons of solid waste a year, 70% of which is sent to dumps, 19% recycled or recovered and 11%, turned into energy, according to Waste Atlas, an online map of global waste management.

These are alarming figures and recycling campaigns have taken off, largely led by European countries. At the same time, another initiative winning momentum worldwide, dubbed Zero Waste, seeks to curb waste production at its source and redefine trash as raw material, fit for reuse in economic production and ecological cycles. It is a reaction to the vast amounts of trash sent to landfills or burned every day, and to the environmental harm done by such a "traditional" approach.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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