Several environmental groups on Friday urged Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista to discontinue his administration’s joint venture with a Japanese company to put up a “waste-to-energy” (WtE) facility in Quezon City.
In a statement, the groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition said Quezon City would become the “waste incineration capital” of Metro Manila if the plan pushed through.
“We urge the QC local government not to go for this costly waste incineration scheme, which the industry has rebranded, cashing in on of concerns over climate change, as a WtE facility,” Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste coordinator, said.
According to an article in Nikkei Asian Review, the Japanese company 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 [kilowatts].”
The cost of the project is estimated to reach $395 million or equivalent to P18.17 billion that includes its initial investment outlay and operational expenses for 20 years.
Hitachi Zosen will regain its investment through waste processing charges and electricity sales, according to the article.
Lucero said Bautista and the Sangguniang Panglunsod headed by its presiding officer, Vice Mayor Ma. Josefina “Joy” Belmonte, should junk the project because “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.”
She reminded Bautista and Belmonte that the 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 must be strictly observed and followed in pursuing projects.
Joey Papa, president of Bangon Kalikasan Movement, 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.”
Papa added: “To be blunt about it, WtE is a technology without thinking of everybody’s safety and public health at large.”
According to Dr. Angelina Galang, president, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, “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,” Galang said.
She argued that the WtE technology “is the most expensive energy source, according to some experts.”
“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,” according to Abigail Aguiilar, Detox campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
Aguilar said the technology’s toxic emissions can never be controlled once released to the environment, therefore lethal to humans and damaging to the ecology.
The environmental groups said the P18.17 billion should instead be used to improve and expand Quezon City’s existing waste prevention and reduction programs, including ensuring the proper closure and rehabilitation of the Payatas dump.
For example, 11,647 barangay (village) waste workers can be paid a minimum salary of P12,000 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, said Froilan Grate, Asia-Pacific coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.
“This in turn would allow Quezon City to achieve at least 70 percent waste diversion or more,” Grate said.
The environmental groups said there are other alternative uses for the P18.17 billion like 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; 1,817,000 to 3,634,000 Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) at P5,000 – P10,000/facility for rural barangay, and 36,340 to 363,400 MRFs at P50,000 – 500,000/facility for urban barangay.
The 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.