Greenpeace urges BMA to junk incineration

Press release - February 16, 2001
In order to avoid the ecological and economic nightmares associated with the growing waste problems of metropolitan Bangkok, city authorities should start shifting its waste management focus on a strategy that places precedence on waste reduction, composting and recycling programs instead of relying on landfills and incinerators, according to a new study commissioned by the international environmental group Greenpeace.

In order to avoid the ecological and economic nightmares associated with the growing waste problems of metropolitan Bangkok, city authorities should start shifting its waste management focus on a strategy that places precedence on waste reduction, composting and recycling programs instead of relying on landfills and incinerators, according to a new study commissioned by the international environmental group Greenpeace.

The group specifically called on the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) and other city officials to junk its current plans to construct four incinerators for the metropolis, stressing that wasting much needed financial resources on this dangerous disposal option is unjustifiable especially when safer and economical alternatives could easily be implemented.

" In order to reverse this trend, Bangkok needs to make the critical shift now from the traditional "dump, bury or burn" disposal options to active pollution prevention and disposal reduction programs like recycling and composting. This approach is not only environmentally desirable, it is also economically superior and less expensive than traditional disposal oriented systems," according to Toxics campaigner Tara Buakamsri of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

According to the new Greenpeace report*, which was done by the Washington based Institute for Local Self-Reliance, incineration is "the most costly method of waste disposal with known and unknown escalating costs which would place substantial and unreasonable burdens on both state and municipal budgets to the point of seriously jeopardizing the public interest." Incinerators typically cost 5 to 10 times more than sanitary landfilling, but would also not eliminate the need for the latter because the hazardous ash generated by the burning process would still require secure containment and disposal.

Moreover, incinerators have been pinpointed as major if not the largest sources of toxic emissions into the environment, including heavy metals and the ultra toxic dioxins and furans, which are known carcinogens. Dioxins and furans are also on the list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) now being targeted for elimination by the international community, thus rendering incineration as an untenable long-term option for countries like Thailand which are active Parties to the POPs negotiations.

The Greenpeace report also estimates that if Bangkok implements a genuine waste reduction program with greater investments in composting, sorting and recycling facilities, the metropolis could achieve over 50% levels of materials recovery which would in turn translate to huge savings from the avoided costs of disposal. The metropolis spends millions of dollars annually on waste disposal, and the potential savings from composting and recycling could also mean increased resources for other government priorities like health and education.

"For the alternative system to succeed, however, government needs capital investment, careful planning and the political commitment to see long term solutions through. The burn and bury options require only a contractor willing to toss money away while overlooking serious health and environmental hazards caused by these facilities," said Buakamsri. He added bat "as long as waste planners focus on short-term solutions, no real changes will occur."

Greenpeace believes that to achieve maximum recovery of resources from municipal solid waste, the government should lead by example by creating both the supply and demand for recycled products, instituting national programs such as product take back and environmental taxation on bad packaging, implementing various education and assistance programs, establishing economic incentives for disposal reduction and development of sorting, recycling and composting projects and facilities.

Earlier, the group went to the Bangkok mayor's office to formally submit a copy of the report and to commend the mayor for canceling the incinerator project in On Nut last week.

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