Visiting Toxics Campaigner Cautions Against Investments in Emerging “Hi-Tech” Disposal Technologies

Quezon City. A significant step geared towards the adoption of ecological waste management innovations in the Philippines has taken place today as over 50 participants from various local government units and national government agencies, as well as civil society groups took part in a timely environmental forum.

The multi-stakeholder forum was convened by the EcoWaste Coalition to increase critical  awareness among policy makers and implementors on waste-to-energy incineration  technologies and  build support for low-cost, ecological and sustainable non-burn alternatives that will accelerate  the full implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) and the Clean Air Act (RA 8749).

Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition explained the need to “uphold the incineration ban under RA 8749 and RA 9003 amidst regressive legislative measures that can only exacerbate instead of solving the nation’s lingering problems with garbage and pollution.”

Lucero specifically cited House Bill 3161, introduced by Caloocan 2nd District Rep. Edgar Erice, which seeks to amend Section 20 of RA 8749 to allow the use of incinerators to burn municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes in light of the country’s garbage disposal problems.

“Incinerating discards turns valuable resources into hazardous ash and smoke poisoning communities near and afar with pollutants that are difficult and expensive to deal with,” said Lucero.

“The combustion process releases a range of harmful chemical byproducts depending on the makeup of materials burned. For example, burning chlorinated materials such as polyvinyl chloride plastics generates super toxic substances, including confirmed carcinogens like dioxins and furans.  In addition, waste incineration discharges toxic metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury, as well as greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, which contribute to global climate change,” she explained.

Visiting toxics policy expert Lee Bell from Australia echoed Lucero’s statement, maintaining that “the people of the Philippines should be proud of their laws banning waste incineration.”

“Communities and governments around the world regard the incineration ban as a progressive policy which gives your country a chance to leap frog expensive and polluting incinerator technologies and move toward zero waste practices and a sustainable society. It would be a backward step to reverse these laws,” added Bell.

Nascent technologies such as waste-to-energy incineration schemes have gradually made its way at the local scene in the recent years despite efforts by environmental and health groups to expose them as “incinerators in disguise,” contravening RA 9003 and RA 8749.

“There are much better ways to maximize recovery of resources from waste while saving energy, improving agriculture and creating jobs than to lock your county into decades of waste incineration,” explained Bell.

“Many developed countries fell into this trap and are now struggling to break free of it. The Philippines is in a unique position to avoid the dead-end waste policy of incineration and move rapidly to a more competitive and sustainable society through zero waste practices,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition has invited Lee Bell of Western Australia to share his scientific and technical expertise and campaigning experience on waste-to-energy, incineration and other pollution issues in a series of fora and meetings from March 4 to 7 in Quezon City and Cebu City.