As the Zero Waste Month comes to a close, environmental health groups affirmed their unity and their commitment to engage other sectors to promote and uphold non-incineration, Zero Waste strategy for solving the country’s garbage woes.
At a conference today commemorating the 17th anniversary of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the EcoWaste Coalition and other partner groups of No Burn Pilipinas recapped the all-embracing benefits of enforcing the groundbreaking waste and pollution law that complements and buttresses the incineration ban under Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act.
R.A. 9003 requires the “adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management, excluding incineration.” It was signed by former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, on January 26, 2001 following the deadly Payatas garbage slide.
“There is a growing scheme to burn waste as a disposal method calling it ‘waste-to-energy’ to distract people from becoming aware that such a method is a violation of R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003. Local governments are being made to believe that it is the immediate solution to the continuing increase in solid waste in their localities --- the price of not implementing RA 9003,” said keynote speaker Eileen Sison, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
Instead of rescinding the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003 and opening the floodgates for incineration technologies, Sison and fellow environmental health activists firmly urged Congress, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Solid Waste Management Commission and local authorities to uphold the ban and spread the Zero Waste philosophy and programs across all sectors.
Waste segregation at source, recycling and composting, the prohibition on non-environmentally acceptable packaging and products, the adoption of a coding system for packaging materials and products to facilitate their reuse and recycling, extended producer responsibility, clean production, and the promotion of sustainable consumption patterns and lifestyles are essential Zero Waste programs that could beat the “Basura Monster” that is dirtying and tormenting the nation as garbage generation reaches over 40,000 tons per day.
To bring the Zero Waste goal to fruition, “we need to interact not only among ourselves as consumers but also with national and local governments and with industries and distribution chains,” Sison pointed out.
Zero Waste solution, according to the groups:
1. MITIGATES CLIMATE CHANGE: Zero waste practices conserve finite resources and prevent fossil fuel extractions to produce virgin materials. It’s the fastest, cheapest and most effective strategy we can use to protect the climate.
2. CREATES JOBS AND SAVES MONEY: Recycling and composting create 10 – 20 times as many jobs as incinerators for a fraction of incinerator capital costs.
3. IMPROVES PUBLIC HEALTH. Waste reduction and recycling help improve overall health by decreasing exposure to hazardous materials and preventing pollutants associated with landfilling and incineration from contaminating the environment.
On the other hand, waste incineration, the groups warned:
1. WORSENS CLIMATE CHANGE: Incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired power plants.
2. HURTS RECYCLING: Incinerators burn valuable resources that can be recycled and composted, and incinerators compete for the same materials as recycling programs.
3. HARMS COMMUNITIES: Heavy metals, organic and inorganic pollutants and other toxins released by incinerators pose increased risk of cancer, neurological and developmental disorders to humans as well as damage the environment in the neighboring communities and beyond.
Among those clamoring for the incineration ban to be upheld and protected include Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Zero Waste Philippines, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines and many others.
Cebu and Davao groups, including the Interface Development Interventions, Philippine Earth Justice Center and the Sustainable Davao Movement, have also expressed their opposition to waste-to-energy incinerators being proposed in their areas.