Friday, June 24, 2011

Groups urge authorities to stand by the pollution prevention goal of the Clean Air

As the nation marks the 12th anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 8749 Wednesday, campaigners for health, environmental and climate justice urged national and local authorities to duly enforce the ban on waste incineration.

In a common statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and the Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) pressed lead government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Health, the Department of Science and Technology, as well as local government units (LGUs), to be faithful with the spirit and intent of the law.

Signed by then President Joseph Estrada, R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act of 1999, is a wide-ranging air quality management law that seeks to protect the right of every person to breathe clean air by curbing emissions from various pollution sources.

Among the pollution prevention and reduction measures enshrined in R.A. 8749 is the ban on incinerators, which fall under the category of stationary sources of air pollutants, that “emit toxic and poisonous fumes.”

“For the nth time, we urge those accountable for bringing into fruition the promise of safe and healthy environment under R.A. 8749 not to be remiss in their duty of enforcing the incineration ban,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Despite the availability of economical and environmentally-safe methods of discards management, we are stunned to find public officials from Benguet to Butuan lured into patronizing costly incinerators peddled as viable solutions to garbage woes,” noted GAIA campaigner Paeng Lopez.

“Even some health officials seem to be oblivious to the fact that healthcare waste incineration is out-of-date given the commercial accessibility to different types and sizes of non-burn technologies, such as autoclave and microwave, for killing pathogens in infected waste,” stated Merci Ferrer, Director, HCWH-Southeast Asia.

The groups asked institutions and LGUs being targeted by incinerator vendors to focus their time, energy and financial resources in fully implementing waste prevention and reduction programs, accompanied with active public information and education drive.

Such programs, according to the groups, must include segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting, as well as other methods for cutting the volume and toxicity of discards, including “upstream” approaches like clean production and extended producer responsibility.

“Any time incinerator peddlers throw scifi-sounding nouns and adjectives to go along words such as plasma, gasification, or pyrolysis to make their technologies sound hi-tech, please remember that those are fundamentally incinerators in varying disguises,” added Lopez.

The groups emphasized that the ban on waste incineration, which has been reaffirmed in another law (R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000), is a valuable environmental policy that has, among others, prevented valuable materials from being turned into toxic ash, reduced the discharge of harmful by-products from combustion processes, and averted the squander of public money for costly, imported and superfluous materials destruction technology.

Citing the GAIA factsheet on “Incinerators: Myths and Facts,” the groups reiterated the following points debunking the safeness and soundness of garbage incinerators:

1. Municipal waste is non-renewable, consisting of discarded materials such as paper, plastic and glass that are derived from finite natural resources such as forests that are being depleted at unsustainable rates.

2. All incinerators pose considerable risk to the health and environment of frontline communities as well as that of the general population. Even the most technologically advanced incinerators release thousands of pollutants that contaminate our air, soil and water.

3.Burning waste contributes to climate change since incinerators emit more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity (2988 lbs/MWh) than coal-fired power plants. (2249 lbs/MWh).

4.All incinerators are a massive waste of energy. Due to the low calorific value of waste, incinerators are only able to capture small amounts of energy while destroying large amounts of reusable materials.

5.Incinerators burn local jobs, requiring huge capital investment, but they offer relatively few jobs when compared to recycling.


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