Eco Groups Urge Pampanga to Focus on Zero Waste, not “Waste-to-Energy”

Environmental justice and health networks Mother Earth Foundation, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), and Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) call on the Province of Pampanga to defend the Clean Air and Ecological Solid Waste Management Acts, and be wary of waste-to-energy combustion projects being offered at no-cost to municipalities of the province at the Anti-Incineration Road Show (AIR Show), a series of workshops and community consultations about waste-to-energy held around the country.

Froilan Grate, President of the Mother Earth Foundation pointed out that they key to solving waste problems in the province is already in the hands of the municipalities considering most of them have their own solid waste management ordinances. “Firm enforcement of waste reduction , re-use, segregation, recycling and composting measures maybe done within the province. Not only will it bring savings from collecting and transporting waste to landfills or incinerators, it will also contribute to the conservation of our dwindling natural resources by reducing the need to extract virgin resources to manufacture new products.”

National laws mandating proper waste management abound in the country. “We have the Clean Air Act that prohibits burning of waste and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law that aims to set a systematic, comprehensive and ecological waste management program leading to zero waste Philippines,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Burning waste in incinerators conflict with every effort to properly enforce our ecological waste management law that ensures materials conservation,” she emphasized.

Although the promise of waste-to-energy may seem too good to resist, Paeng Lopez, National Campaigner of GAIA, was quick to point out the problems related to waste-to-energy incineration
facilities. “Waste-to-energy burn facilities are as unsustainable as they are polluting. They burn useful materials that maybe reused, recycled, or composted to produce energy that is five times less than what we can conserve by reusing, recycling, and composting in the first place.”

He also added, “In 2011 US EPA found out that incinerators release 14 times more mercury as coal-fired power plants per unit of energy, and emit far higher levels of greenhouse gas throughout their lifecycles than source reduction, reuse and recycling of the same materials.”

Lopez pointed out that pyrolysis, gasification, plasma arc are all incinerators in disguise.

Sonia Astudillo, Communications & Press Campaigner of HCWH, shared that waste management even in hospitals is indeed no sweat if we know the right thing to do. “Hospital wastes especially infectious wastes which were once considered the worst nightmare for any waste management program and often the excuse used to bring back incineration may be treated and disinfected through the use of autoclaves and microwaves.” Non-infectious wastes maybe recycled and treated as regular household waste.

The eco groups highlighted the economic impact of non-burning citing examples of too-good-to-be-true-WTE that turned sour and simple non-burn practices that eventually lead to extra income for the community.

“The aim is to move Pampanga towards zero waste and we will surely accomplish this with their determined cooperation,” said Grate.