ENVIRONMENTAL groups expresses alarm on Tuesday over the plan of President Rodrigo Duterte to close the Carmona Sanitary Landfill in Cavite and explore the possibility of setting up a Waste to Energy (WtE) facility to deal with Metro Manila’s 9,213 tons of daily garbage.
The environmentalists said President Duterte’s plan is fraught with dangers to the environment because aside from being expensive, WtE facilities are known to produce a lot of pollution.
In his first State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Duterte said “to have adequate disposal facilities for the Metro Manila garbage, the final closure and rehabilitation of the Carmona Sanitary Landfill shall be pursued while the adoption of appropriate waste-to-energy facilities will be explored. Marami yan. The technology is coming very fast.”
But according to Von Hernandez of Greenpeace, WtE is not the solution to the garbage problem.
“Not all WtE options are safe, legal and acceptable. Incinerators masquerading as WtE are false and expensive solutions to the garbage problem. The government has to be extra cautious about endorsing such magic bullet technologies, especially when the solution to the garbage problem lies in the full implementation of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” Hernandez, in a statement, said.
Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste national coordinator, expresses a similar view. She said WtE is a “quick fix solution” to a long term problem.
Lucero explains that “A shift to thermal WtE will undermine the nation’s efforts to promote recycling, composting and other Zero Waste strategies that are embodied in R.A. 9003. Instead of burning discards, the government and the private sector need to invest more on redesigning products and on waste prevention and reduction activities excluding incineration.”
She adds that “local government units, who are primarily in charge of R.A. 9003’s implementation, need to wake up from their slumber and fully enforce the law.”
At the same time, Anne Larracas, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Priority Project and Network Support Officer, warns the government from putting too much faith into WtE for there is no magic bullet in solving the garbage problem.
“We would caution the new government not to put too much faith in WtEs. These are old technologies repackaged to escape the stigma of pollution and contamination to communities. There is no magic technology to dispose of waste. What is needed is an overhaul of our solid waste management system rooted in corruption, irresponsibility and inefficiency,” said Larracas.
Sonia Mendoza, Mother Earth Foundation chair, said “WtE is actually a misnomer. Burning materials that could be reused, recycled or composted actually destroy the energy-saving potential of putting those discards to better use.”
“Recycling conserves 3 to 5 times the energy that WtE power plants generate,” she added.
On the other hand, Rene Pineda, President of the Partnership for Clean Air, said: “WtE is unacceptable because it is a violation of Republic Act 8749, the Clean Air Act. We will fight all attempts to legalize WtEs.”
According to the groups, the push for WtE contradicts Duterte’s statement that his “administration shall implement a humane approach to development and governance, as we improve our people’s welfare in the areas of health, education, adequate food and water, housing, environmental preservation, and respect for culture.”
“WtEs will put the people’s welfare and the environment at risk,” these environmentalists said.
“In lieu of costly WtEs, we urge the government to go for Zero Waste strategies, including the inclusion of the informal waste workers into the formal waste management programs where they can enjoy decent and secure employment,” they added.
Moreover, the groups expressed their commitment to dialogue with the Duterte administration, particularly with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Solid Waste Management Commission, in order to effectively enforce R.A. 9003 and mainstream sustainable waste management solutions that will exclude thermal WtEs.