Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Focus on reduce, reuse, recycle methods - expert

To properly manage municipal waste, an expert on
waste disposal said the country should focus on “reduce, reuse and
recycle” methods instead of investing in disposal technologies such as
open dumps and engineered landfills.

US-based Neil Tangri, a waste and climate campaigner of the Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), said investments in the
waste sector should not go toward costly high-tech end-of-pipe
technologies but toward zero waste that will dramatically reduce the
amount of trash sent for disposal.

“Investments in waste reduction, source separation, extended producer
responsibility, informal recycling sector and other initiatives will
lead to a progressive reduction on the volume and toxicity of waste
sent for disposal,” he said in a forum in Quezon City.

Tangri added: “By now, there is general agreement around the world on
the best way to manage municipal waste. This is codified in the waste
hierarchy and the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’ indicating a
preferential order for handling waste: source reduction is the highest
priority, followed by finding the ‘highest and best use’ for each

He drew attention to the important role that the informal recycling
sector plays in developing countries like the Philippines.

Tangri said, “Waste pickers are the de facto recycling system in much
of the world; if not for their work, the waste problem would be much
worse than it already is. But they can do much more if they are given
investment, opportunities, and above all, respect.”

To lower the amount of waste going to dumps, reduce greenhouse gas and
toxic air emissions and provide additional employment, local
authorities should seek cooperative arrangements with waste pickers to
implement source separation and treatment of organics, Tangri

He explained that the apparent fixation on disposal technologies are
“in part, because these are the most profitable aspects of waste
management, and in part, because so many open dumps and garbage
mountains persist around the world, with their attendant health and
environmental hazards.”

“Almost anything appears to be an improvement over open dumps and open
burning, but we should not fall prey to ‘second worst’ technologies,
of which there are many: engineered landfills with gas collection,
incinerators, refuse-derived fuel and staged incinerators are all
expensive technologies which fail to solve the garbage problem,”
Tangri said.

“Even as engineered landfills attempt to capture methane — a powerful
greenhouse gas — they are managed in such a way to increase methane
production, much of which escapes to the atmosphere despite the
engineers’ best efforts. Landfills also produce large quantities of
toxic leachate which contaminates ground and surface waters,” he

Tangri, together with other environmentalists, also rejected mass burn
incinerators as major sources of toxic air emissions and solid
hazardous waste in the form of incinerator ash.

“Also, by destroying resources, these incinerators increase the demand
for virgin wood, plastic, paper and other materials and causing rising
environmental destruction in raw material extraction," he added.


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