Will incinerators, which were banned with the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1999, soon be making a comeback?
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino said Sunday that this was one of the options being eyed by the agency to deal with the garbage problem in Metro Manila.
“I spoke with Environment Secretary [Ramon] Paje the other night and the use of incinerators to address our garbage problem was among the things we talked about,” he stressed. “We have to deal with this problem immediately because our landfills are filling up fast.”
In a radio interview, Tolentino said that the use of incinerators was an idea worth revisiting especially with recent improvements in technology which have significantly reduced the harmful pollutants being released into the environment as a result of burning.
In addition, he cited last month’s trash slide in Baguio City which was triggered by heavy rains unleashed by Typhoon “Mina.” A section of a decommissioned dump collapsed in Barangay Irisan, killing several people and burying houses in mounds of garbage.
According to Tolentino, catastrophes like this were always a possibility in areas with sanitary dumps.
For this reason, he said he was looking at the possibility of putting up incinerators but only if these conform with strict universal emission standards and the Clean Air Act.
Tolentino cited the cities of Tokyo and Paris where incinerators operate in metropolitan areas.
A 2010 report by the Washington Post noted that Tokyo’s Toshima Incineration Plant destroys 300 tons of garbage daily with the residue used to fuel heating machines and manufacture recyclable sand.
A steam-driven turbine connected to the plant’s furnace powers all the rooms in the compound while the electricity surplus—enough to light up some 20,000 houses—was a source of profit because it was being sold back to the grid, the report added.
The plant’s smokestack is as high as a skyscraper and releases low levels of dioxin directly into the atmosphere.
Tolentino said this kind of technology would benefit Metro Manila which produces a sizable amount of garbage every day.
He recalled that several decades ago, the Quezon City government operated an incinerator and it helped provide an effective solution to the garbage problem in the area.
Tolentino said that should Metro Manila officials agree to bring back incinerators, all they had to talk about now was how much it would cost.
The ban on incinerators as provided for under Republic Act No. 8749 or the Clean Air Act was lauded by pro-environment groups, which hailed it as an “environmental milestone.”
According to Greenpeace antitoxic waste campaigner Von Hernandez, the law made the Philippines “the first country in the world to approve a nationwide ban on waste burners which spew extremely harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.”