May 20, 2024

Bicol Express News

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Garbage Incineration lobby gets Department of Energy as “new ally”; green groups oppose

Waste incineration plant and greenhouses in France. Photo by Greenpeace

The billion-peso waste incinerator lobby has already grabbed the Department of Energy (DOE) by the neck when DOE is currently inclined to finalize a circular pushing for declaring garbage incineration or WtE as a form of “renewable energy”.

The incinerator lobby has been aggressively lobbying in Congress for legislation adopting Waste to Energy (WtE) or “garbage incinerator” to solve the country’s waste problem.

Once legislated, the incinerators for each town and city will produce sale by the billions of pesos in the next few years after approval into law, giving large profits to investors and players.

One known proponent for the incinerator lobby is Senator Win Gatchalian.

Opposing the incinerator lobby are the environment “green groups” and breakfreefromplastic.

The #breakfreefromplastic is a global movement working towards a future free from plastic pollution. The Plastic-free Pilipinas project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia and Mother Earth Foundation.

“Groups oppose DOE new incinerator policy”

Climate and health groups expressed opposition to DOE draft Circular on Waste-to-Energy and the agency’s inclination to circumvent existing laws just to promote garbage incineration, disguised as WTE, in the country.

“Renewable energy is defined as energy created from natural processes that do not get depleted. DOE’s claim that WTE technologies are a form of “renewable energy” is fallacious.

“Burning waste harms environment, climate”

Waste, the feedstock for WTEs, cannot be properly classified in the same category as wind, wave or solar energy.

Waste consists of discarded materials (e.g., paper, plastic and glass) that are produced from the extraction and processing of finite natural resources such as minerals and fossil fuels.

“Moreover, burning these materials will do more harm to our environment and climate,” said Atty. Lievj Alimangohan of EcoWaste Coalition.

“Department of Energy repackaging waste incineration as renewable energy”

The DOE’s draft circular which is now undergoing public consultation wants to package garbage incineration as “renewables” and provide special incentives for this type of technology such as priority dispatch, double equivalent in of RE certificates per MWh of production and exemption from competitive selection process for incinerator projects involving LGUs.

By classifying WTEs as “renewable energy”, the DOE Circular unduly expands the scope of the Renewable Energy Act.

Worse, the policy promotes and legitimizes anti-competitive conduct in the power sector by giving special preferences for incineration over genuine renewable energy systems.

“Also, by providing specific exemptions from the Competitive Selection Process, the policy also exposes consumers to disadvantageous power supply agreements,” said Atty Alimangohan.

“Waste incinerators produce poisonous, toxic substances”

WtE technologies (traditional heat recovery incinerators, pyrolytic incinerators, plasma pyrolysis, gasification, etc.) ALL produce poisonous and toxic substances.

These facilities simply transform the garbage problem into a more persistent environmental and health problem.

They merely transform the waste into other forms of wastes, such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and furans, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, particulate matter and heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. This is true even for WtE facilities that claim to be “high-tech and clean”.

“All WtE are a massive waste of energy. They produce only small amounts of energy while destroying large amounts of reusable materials,” added Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation and a former Commissioner at the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

“Conversely, zero waste practices such as recycling and composting conserve 3 to 5 times the amount of energy produced by waste incineration,” she said.

“WtE undergoing ‘greenwashing’ for public acceptance as ‘renewable'”

Dealing with the solid waste problem sustainably involves reducing the volume of waste at source and promoting a less extractive and more circular economy.

Incinerator technologies however, draw attention away from sustainable production and solutions that address the waste problem at its roots..

“Instead, incinerators legitimize continued extraction and high-carbon economic development. The promotion of WTE technologies as “renewable” is a clear case of greenwashing,” said Archie Abellar of GAIA Asia Pacific.

“European, US studies show WtE low efficiency”

The groups emphasized that studies in Europe and the United States invariably show that WtE facilities generate very small amounts of energy and have very low efficiency rates of 19-27%.

In Europe, WtE facilities contributed less than 1.5% to the European Union’s final energy consumption.

Given these low energy conversion rates of WtE facilities, they cannot be expected to actually become baseload renewables in the Philippines.

“LGUs to shoulder WtE long-term expenses”

Since WtE facilities produce low amounts of usable energy, the power generation segment of these facilities is not profitable.

In the United States and Europe, WtE facilities’ main sources of revenue are subsidies, tipping fees, and contractual “put-or-pay” arrangements shouldered by local governments.

“In other words, not only are WTE facilities inefficient, they need to be propped up through public financing,” the groups said.

The groups further noted that WTE technologies and facilities are not just harmful to health and the environment, but financially burdensome which are harmful “solutions” that have been greenwashed to appear eco-friendly.