Environment groups urge Davao councilor to scrap incinerator project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 Aug) – Environmental groups urged Davao City’s 1st District Councilor Temujin “Tek” Ocampo to reconsider the resolution he authored urging President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to provide a P3.486-billion counterpart fund for the construction of an incinerator for a waste-to-energy (WTE) project here.

Collecting garbage in Davao City. MindaNews file photo

In an open letter addressed to Ocampo, Mylai Santos, director of Ecoteneo at Ateneo de Davao University, said that the facility that runs on incineration would run counter to the goals of Republic Act 9003, also known as the Ecological solid waste management Act of 2000.
She said the law seeks to “reduce the volume of wastes at source.”
“A ‘solution’ that will only create more problems is not a solution,” Santos said.
She said her group believes that the WTE project will cause health hazards because it produces highly toxic and cancer-causing dioxins, heavy metals such as lead and mercury, and particulate matter that causes lung and heart disease.
“Poorly-fed WTE incinerators have been linked to high incidence of cancer cases in surrounding communities across the globe,” she pointed out.
She added that the mixed wastes will be fed into the WTE incineration facility, and the government has no capacity to monitor the dioxin emissions.
Santos claimed that to call WTE project as an “energy project” is misleading because it could generate power sufficient to run itself, and could not supply the power grid.
Also, she said incineration is prohibited under Sec. 20 of the RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999.
Santos added that the government should instead support the establishment of a “materials recovery facility” (MRF) to attain zero waste by working not only on segregation but also composting and recycling or upcycling.
She said the government might need to allocate P1 million per barangay to start an ecological solid waste management program and set up an MRF.
Mark Peñalver, executive director of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), said that incinerators are being fed with plastic or non-biodegradable wastes as fuel to vaporize water in a boiler, creating high-pressure steam to produce electricity.
“However, this process results in the emission of highly toxic substances like dioxins and furans, which are known carcinogenic and can also cause reproductive and developmental problems, among others,” he said.
The city generates around 600 to 700 tons of wastes daily, according to the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO).
Peñalver said biodegradable wastes comprise 80% of the city’s wastes.
“According to the recent assessment, biodegradable wastes are mostly generated from residences and commercial establishments. Biodegradable wastes can be treated and reduced without burning or incineration processes,” he said.
Peñalver said that the WTE-incinerator facility is a “waste of money” and addresses the wrong issue which is failure to strictly implement RA 9003, which mandates proper waste segregation.
He said the government should establish centralized composting and biomass facility and systematic materials recovery facilities in every barangay,” which will address the main problem of biodegradable wastes and waste segregation.
He said these facilities don’t require a big budget compared to an incinerator.
“Another key is for barangays to intensify community-based waste management systems from waste segregation and collection to proper waste disposal that will increase diverted wastes instead of being dumped at centralized facilities, such as the sanitary landfill,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)