Environmental Groups Urge QC to Junk Multi-Billion Peso Incinerator Project

As the Quezon City Day is celebrated today, various environmental groups asked Mayor Herbert Bautista to drop a planned joint venture with a Japanese company for a “waste-to-energy “ (WtE) facility.

The groups also urged residents to raise their objections to the City Council through their elected councilors to thwart the plan that could turn QC into the “waste incineration capital” of Metro Manila.

As published in the Nikkei Asian Review last Tuesday, Hitachi Zosen will construct in Quezon City “a garbage incineration facility capable of processing the waste of three million residents with a power plant able to pump out more than 20,000 kW.”

The project’s estimated cost of around US$395 million (or P18.17 billion), including initial investment outlay and operational expenses for 20 years, will be regained through waste processing charges and electricity sales, according to the article.

“We urge the QC local government not to go for this costly waste incineration scheme, which the industry has re-branded, cashing in on of concerns over climate change, as a WtE facility.  There are far superior environmentally-sound, sustainable and cheaper solutions for managing discards that will not circumvent the ban on burning waste, while recovering resources, saving energy, creating jobs and instilling ecological values among businesses and households,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

These solutions are enshrined in Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which provides for waste avoidance and volume reduction through segregation at source, composting, recycling, reuse and other measures excluding incineration, she said.

“The construction of this incinerator might be even used to justify the continued dumping operations in Payatas since a landfill will still be required for the toxic ash resulting from the combustion of discards,” said Joey Papa, President of Bangon Kalikasan Movement, noting that some 30 tons of ash are produced for every 100 tons burned. “To be blunt about it, WtE is a technology Without Thinking of Everybody’s safety and public health at large,” he added.

“Incineration, euphemistically referred to as WtE technology, is not the answer to our need for energy.  It emits toxic dioxins and furans and burns resources, which can otherwise be recycled or composted.  It promotes the generation of waste because the combustion chamber must be constantly fed with waste.  It is the most expensive energy source according to some experts,” said Dr. Angelina Galang, President, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy.

“We stand by our position that 'waste-to-energy' and 'integrated waste management systems' are just fancy names for incinerators, and not at all clean, renewable or healthy. Incinerators go against the principle of sustainability. Their toxic emissions can never be controlled once released to the environment, therefore lethal to humans and damaging to the ecology,” said Abigail Aguiilar, Detox Campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

The P18.17 billion that will be needed to build and operate the incinerator should be used instead to improve and expand QC’s existing waste prevention and reduction programs, including ensuring the proper closure and rehabilitation of the Payatas dumpsite, the groups insisted.

“For example, 11,647 barangay waste workers will be paid a minimum salary of 12,000 per month for 10 years, plus the annual 13th month pay, to collect segregated wastes from households, sell recyclables to junkshops and compost the organics. This in turn would allow Quezon City to achieve at least 70 percent waste diversion or more,” said Froilan Grate, Asia-Pacific Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

To illustrate the other alternative uses for the colossal amount of P18.17 billion to be spent for the QC incinerator, the groups have come up with the following calculations: 

1. 1,817,000 whole-day training activities on ecological solid waste management involving 90,850,000 people at P10,000/50-person activity covering meals, hand-outs, speakers’ honoraria and other basic incidental expenses.

2.  1,817,000 to 3,634,000 Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) at P5,000 – P10,000/facility for rural barangays, and 36,340 to 363,400 MRFs at P50,000 – 500,000/facility for urban barangays;  MRFs serve as depositories for segregated discards that can be reused, recycled or composted to minimize the volume of trash sent to a residual waste landfill.

3.  40,378 biodegradables shredder (7 Hp, 1.5 tons/hour) costing P450,000/machine to cut up garden or farm waste and other organics into small pieces to speed up the composting process.

4.  5,191,429 generic sewing machines at P3,500/unit that community women can use to make reusable bags from fabrics, doy packs, flour and rice sacks and other materials.

5.  2,795,385 pedicabs at P6,500/unit or 5,191,428 wooden carts at P3,500 /cart that itinerant waste recyclers can use for “bote-dyaryo” business.

6.  121,133 junk shops that will ideally need a start-up capital of P150,000.

7.  3,634,000 low-interest loans at P5,000/person that will enable waste pickers to venture into micro-enterprises to augment their incomes.