The risks of incineration
The issue of burning waste is getting hotter each day as debates on the matter rage on. We, the EcoWaste Coalition, a zero-waste, climate justice, and pollution prevention advocacy network, are against incineration, whether as plain burning or as waste to energy, for the following reasons:
• It poses grave danger to the people and the environment. “All incinerators contaminate people and the environment with toxic and cancer-causing emissions,” the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (Gaia) stated in its report “Incinerators Trash Community Health.”
• It exacerbates climate change and violates the climate change act which requires government to integrate climate change in all policies, programs and projects. Incineration destroys our finite resources by encouraging an endless cycle of extraction, processing, production, distribution and disposal of materials—processes which release huge amounts of carbon dioxide, a known potent greenhouse gas.
• It is a waste of energy and competes with recycling and composting. Incinerators need to burn energy-rich materials like paper and plastic to generate very minimal electricity; whereas, recycling and composting conserve three to five times the amount of energy produced by incineration.
• It is the most expensive waste treatment available, costing a minimum of around P6.7 billion. MMDA (Metro Manila Development Authority) chief, Francis Tolentino’s P28-billion budget for all proposed four Metro Manila incinerators at P7 billion each amount to almost seven times Metro Manila’s 2013 waste-disposal spending. The amount could fund thousands of materials recovery facilities, hire barangay waste workers and provide decent jobs for waste pickers.
• Waste incineration still creates a need for landfills. Incineration produces toxic ash and other byproducts that still need final disposal.
• It undermines zero waste and ecological solid waste management. Incinerators feed on waste, thereby encourage the public to create more waste rather than prevent and/or manage it.
• It is contrary to our obligations under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) to which the Philippines is a signatory. The treaty calls on the parties to take action to reduce, if not eliminate, the production of unintentional POPs such as dioxin. Gaia’s report points out that, globally, “incinerators are the leading source of dioxins, a highly toxic POP.”
The global community is already moving away from incineration and toward zero waste. In the United States, no new incinerators have been built since 1997 due to strong public resistance spawned by the reasons pointed out above.
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