Zero Waste

Groups Appeal: Davao City Should Junk Waste Incineration, Take On the Zero Waste Solution

Technologies that burn discards, destroy resources, weaken recycling and create extremely toxic emissions should not be employed if Davao City wants a greener and sustainable future for all.

This is the message that a citizens’ forum co-organized by the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) and the EcoWaste Coalition would like to resonate among the city’s policy makers and planners.  The former is a network of civil organizations in Davao City advocating for a greener and sustainable home for all Dabawenyos, while the latter is an environmental health coalition based in Quezon City.  The forum was held at the Ateneo de Davao University.

Instead of incinerating its waste, estimated at 570-600 metric tons daily, Davao City will be better off if proven approaches in preventing and reducing trash are put in force, the groups said.

“The 600-ton waste-to-energy incineration plant being mulled by the city government has to be carefully assessed against the hierarchy of waste management options that puts reduction of waste at source as the top choice,” said Mylai Santos, Director, Ecoteneo, a member of the SDM’s waste management cluster.

“The city’s landfill has overloaded its capacity because we have failed to ensure that the generation of waste is minimized through mandatory segregation at source and other Zero Waste solutions stipulated in national and local laws,” Santos said.

Both the Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, and Ordinance 0361-10, or the Davao City Ecological Solid Waste Management Ordinance of 2009, provide for the compulsory sorting of discards at source by all waste generators, as well as the establishment of barangay-based materials recovery facilities (MRFs).
According to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, only 17 of Davao City’s 112 barangays have MRFs such as those in Barangay Cabantian, Catalunan Grande, Hizon, Mahayag and Mintal.

Speaking at the forum, Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, a DOST Balik Scientist and adjunct Professor at Silliman University, said: “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.”

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.”

“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,” he explained.

Lora Mc-ren Abengoza, Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, warned “waste incineration will burn precious recyclable and compostable resources,  hurt recycling enterprises and take jobs away from the informal waste sector (IWS), depriving poor households and communities of employment and livelihood opportunities.”

At last Saturday’s workshop organized by the EcoWaste Coalition in San Pedro College,  participants, including 99 informal recyclers from Davao City, affirmed the need to integrate the IWS in formal waste management toward clean, safe, decent and secure jobs and livelihoods.

For her part, Anne Larracas, Managing Director,  Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives – Asia Pacific 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.”