Green Groups Urge Shift from ‘Waste Disposal’ to ‘Zero Waste’ to Combat Climate Change

Quezon City. Implementing a comprehensive national program on waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting could lead to dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This is the shared message of waste and climate groups as nations, including the Philippines, gather in Bonn, Germany until June 12 for the latest round of negotiations for a new climate accord.

“We urge the government to champion Zero Waste as an essential and most practical strategy to ease the accelerating climate change. We need to move away from waste disposal to resource conservation through expanded recycling and composting,” said actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez, President of Alaga LAHAT, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Studies have shown that waste disposal directly contributes to climate change with the discharge of GHGs such as methane from dumps and landfills and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from incinerators. Waste disposal also indirectly drives climate change by depriving the economy of reused, recycled and composted materials.

“By adopting Zero Waste, we cut greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal sites as well as from the energy-intensive extraction, processing and transportation of virgin materials to replace the buried or burned discards,” Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), another member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“At the Bonn meeting, we hope that climate negotiators will pay attention to the need to divert mitigation funds, offset credits and subsidies for Zero Waste programs and not for spurious landfill, incinerator and ‘waste-to-energy’ projects, which only fuel toxic pollution, shrink green jobs and burden the public with steep costs,” he added.

In a letter delivered today to DENR Asst. Sec. Gerardo V. Calderon, Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the EcoWaste Coalition listed priority recommendations to cut GHG emissions in the waste sector.

Some of the proposals made by the EcoWaste Coalition to the Commission are:

1. Adopt and fund a National Solid Waste Management Strategy anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity reduction, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.

2. Implement incentives, penalties or bans to stop biodegradable waste such as food leftovers, garden trimmings and farm discards from being sent to the 1,223 dumpsites and 25 “sanitary” landfills where methane is produced from decomposing organic materials sans oxygen.

3. Discontinue and rehabilitate all dumpsites and require post-closure leachate and gas management for these toxic hotspots.

4. Shut down existing incinerators and avidly uphold the spirit and intent of the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

5. Cease and desist from allowing the combustion of municipal, healthcare and industrial discards as alternative fuels in cement kilns, which contravenes the incineration ban.

6. Activate community-based recycling through the establishment of ecology centers and/or Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

“Along with clean production, sustainable consumption and extended producer responsibility, Zero Waste will help create a closed-loop and non-toxic economy where all discards are reused, repaired, recycled or composted,” the groups said.

A GAIA brochure on “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” has identified the following as key advantages of Zero Waste:

– It can be implemented within months and at any level – institutional, municipal, city or national.
– It produces more jobs than other waste management option.
– It avoids the toxic pollution that inevitably accompanies incinerators and landfills.
– It reduces the pressure on the natural resource base such as forests, mines and wells.
– It helps improve plant growth and agricultural production by returning organics to farms.