Environment group hits proposed legalization of garbage incineration in the guise of waste-to-energy plants

Published July 22, 2020, 9:48 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

A group of environmental advocates have criticized the proposed legalization of garbage incineration under the guise of waste-to-energy plants.


No Burn Pilipinas and Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) on Wednesday said there are existing and proven solutions in dealing with waste at the local level that do not require burning or incineration.

“These thermal waste-to-energy facilities are essentially incinerators in disguise and could never be considered as an environmentally sustainable form of waste management or as a renewable energy option,” BFFP global coordinator Von Hernandez said.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Francis Tolentino have sponsored a bill that intends to create a regulator framework for waste-to-energy technologies in the 18th Congress in line with the present administration’s thrust to advance renewable energy in the country.

“If these bills are approved, the real winners would be the plastics industry and big waste management companies who will profit at the expense of taxpayers, local communities, and the environment. Instead of reducing and eliminating their use of problematic plastics, producers and purveyors of single-use plastics and disposable packaging will find justification to continue with their polluting business as usual practices,” Hernandez said.

He added that burning unrecyclable plastics can cause toxic fumes that will make communities more susceptible and vulnerable to the impacts of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Mother Earth Foundation chair Sonia Mendoza said that allowing incineration will only reverse the country’s achievements in the implementation of the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“Instead of burning away billions of pesos in public funds to support waste-to-energy facilities, we urge the government to invest in efforts by our communities and local governments to implement zero waste programs as already provided for in the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Cities and barangays doing/having zero waste have managed to divert municipal waste by as much as 80 percent and saved millions of pesos while creating jobs,” she said.

Incineration an ‘overkill’

Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, who co-authored the World Health Organization’s guidebook on health care waste, said SARS-COV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, is among the easiest microorganisms to destroy using readily available materials, such as diluted bleach, alcohol, hot water, and regular soap and water.

He said treatment methods already used by hospitals such as chemical disinfection and autoclaving are more than sufficient to destroy the COVID-19 virus.

“Incineration will make things worse because incinerating COVID-19 related wastes will produce poisonous and toxic fumes especially since most of the materials are made of plastics. Some of the incinerator pollutants are also known to increase the death rate from COVID-19,” he said.

“Our government must not use this pandemic as an excuse to introduce polluting disposal methods like burning and incineration. Instead, we must encourage them to adhere to safe and environmentally sound treatment methods to safeguard our communities against the virus,” he added.