Cebu City – Environmental and health networks EcoWaste Coalition, Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), together with the Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC), warn the local government units and other community stakeholders about pending proposals to put up waste incinerators masquerading as waste-to-energy facilities in the province and the hazards posed by such toxic facilities.
“Waste incinerators continue to spread behind disguises such as 'waste-to-energy', ‘pyrolysis’, ‘gasification’, ‘plasma arc’, or any combination of state-of-the-art sounding names despite the ban on waste incineration. These facilities emit toxic chemicals into the environment and undermine efforts of communities implementing genuine solutions such as waste minimization, segregation-at-source, and barangay-based ecological solid waste management,” bared Rei Panaligan, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
In a workshop on waste-to-energy held yesterday at University of Cebu, the groups revealed that the provincial government of Cebu, headed by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, is entertaining proposals from incinerator companies to manage the solid waste of the province. Also incinerator companies have pending proposals in the province’s major cities such as Cebu City, Mandaue City and Toledo Ctiy.
But according to the EcoWaste Coalition, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and European Union (EU) declared these technologies as incinerators. The Philippine Clean Air Act prohibits the use of incinerators for municipal and medical waste.
The groups urged the local government units not to be wooed by coated promises of corporations paddling dirty technologies and for the public to remain vigilant against the proliferation of these toxic facilities.
"What we don’t realize is that we are squandering valuable resources by sending our discards to wasteful, hingly-pollutive facilities such as landfills and incinerators when most of them can be re-used, recycled, or composted. We are already suffering from the disastrous environmental impacts of coal plants aside from the non-implementation of the environmental laws. We do not need additional toxic facilities in Cebu that will aggravate our situation!” said Atty Gloria Estenzo Ramos, co-founder of the PEJC.
According to the 2007 report of the US EPA, carbon-dioxide emissions per energy produced from incinerators are more significant than coal-fired power plants.
For her part, Sonia Astudillo of HCWH emphasized the environmental health impacts of burning municipal and medical wastes. “Incinerators inevitably emit carcinogenic dioxins – the most toxic man-made compound – and neuro-toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc. Just imagine the poisons we expose our communities and ourselves to when we say yes to waste incinerators,” she said.
“The good news, however, is that environmentally-sound waste management alternatives like discards segregation, re-use, recycling and composting are easier to do and are much cheaper. For medical wastes, alternatives like autoclave and microwave are very much available in the country and hospitals have successfully managed their waste without burning it,” emphasized Astudillo.
The said workshop was attended by local officials from Cebu City, Mandaue City, Toledo City and representatives from the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region VII and University of San Carlos. Civil society groups such as Action for Nurturing Children and Environment, Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates (AYNLA), Freedom from Debt Coalition, Junior Tourism Executives, Sanlakas, and Teachers Dignity Coalition also joined the said event.