The forum led by the EcoWaste Coalition in collaboration with its member groups in Cebu was held at the main campus of the University of San Jose-Recoletos to shed light on waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration schemes touted as a “green” solution by technology vendors and proponents.The incineration plan does not sit well with environmental, health and labor groups because it runs contrary to the waste management hierarchy of strategies that prioritizes waste prevention and reduction as the most environmentally preferred option over waste disposal such as through incineration.
“Burning waste contravenes Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which provides for the adoption of best environmental practices in managing discards excluding incineration. It will be wrong to think Cebu’s garbage problem will fade away by burning it. In fact, incineration only converts a solid waste into a more hazardous type of wastes and pollutants that can pose serious risks to public health and the environment,” said Atty. Lisa Osorio of the Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center.
“Gasification, plasma arc and pyrolysis waste-to-energy technologies that require waste as input to operate and make a profit will encourage more consumption of materials, more use of energy, and the generation of more waste,” stated speaker Dr. Jorge Emmanuel.
A DOST Balik Scientist and an adjunct professor at Silliman University, Emmanuel is especially concerned that incinerators will not meet increasing stringent dioxin standards due to cost, lack of enforcement mechanisms, and the inability to effectively monitor and test emissions, adding there is no such thing as “clean incineration.”
He clarified that “even with pollution control devices, the toxic pollutants will not disappear; they are concentrated into other media that have to be treated as hazardous waste. Importantly, ash from incinerators is toxic, heavily contaminated with dioxins and leachable metals, and under the Stockholm Convention Best Available Techniques/Best Environmental Practices (BAT/BEP) guidelines, ash requires special land disposal as hazardous waste.”
Lea Guerrero, Climate and Clean Energy Campaigner of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said: “Waste-to-energy incineration will be a burden, not a boon, to Filipinos. It is the most harmful, most expensive, most polluting, most energy intensive and most inefficient way to generate electricity. Countries in the developed world are already shifting away from incineration and are now pursuing Zero Waste approaches. The Philippines must leapfrog to Zero Waste and leave incineration behind.”
“It will be reckless to construct, operate and maintain incinerators that will lock our cities into decades of trash incineration when environmentally-sound, job-creating and least-costly waste management options, including formalizing the informal waste sector, remain untapped,” concluded Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.