Environmental Experts Pitch for Non-Incineration Solutions to Garbage Woes

The grassroots campaign to avert a congressional move to lift the incineration ban under the Clean Air got a boost at a government-organized summit to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, another law that forbids the
burning of trash.

Speaking at the summit organized by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Mariel Villela Casaus of Zero Waste Europe and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives was elated to say that “incinerators are on their way out in Europe,” stating that “in the past half-century, citizens have successfully defeated thousands of incinerator proposals and made it very difficult to build an incinerator in many parts of the world.”

The visiting climate and waste expert from Spain noted that even the European Parliament has taken the view that the 28-nation bloc’s “7th Environment Action Plan should set more ambitious prevention, re-use and recycling targets, including a net decrease in waste generation.”

“The reality of incineration overcapacity in many countries in Europe has provided eye-opening facts about up to what point incinerators prevent real waste reduction, reuse, recycling and resource efficiency. This is clear in Northern Europe, where incinerators are fed waste that is imported from all over the continent,” she said, “an awakening moment for cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure,”
Villela said.

“Today, many of these old incinerators are arriving at the end of their life, opening up a door for municipalities to consider the opportunities in an incineration-free system. This is, a system aiming at zero waste that would minimize reliance on waste disposal by means of reduction, reuse, recycling and better design of products,” she said.

“As Europe is walking the path towards Zero Waste strategies and overcoming a lock-in model based on waste incineration, we warn the Philippines model not to make the same mistakes and ensure that waste disposal stays out of their systems,” she said.

Villela noted that “zero waste solutions that reduce, reuse and recycle municipal waste are effective and high-impact means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

“When discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. This results in less demand for virgin materials whose extraction, transport and processing are major sources of GHG emissions,“ she explained.

“Zero Waste solutions thus reduce emissions in virtually all extractive industries: mining, forestry, agriculture, and petroleum extraction,” she pointed out.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), “Zero Waste solutions also directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both.”

The IPPC report explains that “burning waste emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O); and landfills and dumps are a primary source of methane (CH4), as well as CO2,” stressing that “in fact, incinerators produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity than coal-fired power plants. “

The report further said that “burning waste also drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns.”

Also speaking at the summit, environmental scientist Dr. Jorge Emmanuel discussed the health and environmental problems associated with the incineration of medical waste, describing “medical waste incinerators as a major source of global dioxin emissions,” and that  viable non-burn treatment options are commercially available for treating the infectious waste stream.

To assist Pinoy campaigners, Emmanuel provided the following guide questions that citizens should seriously find answers to as the country’s incineration ban is threatened by a controversial move to amend Section 20 of the Clean Air Act:

1. Who benefits from the technology?

– Does the technology enhance public health and the environment?

– Does the technology improve the physical, mental, social, and cultural well-being of the people?

2. Have stakeholders been consulted about or participated in finding a solution?

3. Has the potential solution been examined from a life-cycle perspective taking into consideration environmental health and socio-cultural impacts?

4. Has the precautionary principle been applied?

Groups in the forefront of the spirited campaign to save the incineration ban from being “slaughtered”  include the Aksyon Klima, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation.



IPCC, AR4, Working Group 3, Chapter 10.