Greenpeace warns Erap administration against incineration

Press release - January 25, 1999
The environmental group Greenpeace International today cautioned the Estrada administration against embracing incineration as the "solution" to Metro Manila's mounting waste problems, stressing that communities who are opposing landfills have more reason to resist incinerators because of the cancer causing emissions and toxic ash commonly associated with waste burners.

The environmental group Greenpeace International today cautioned the Estrada administration against embracing incineration as the "solution" to Metro Manila's mounting waste problems, stressing that communities who are opposing landfills have more reason to resist incinerators because of the cancer causing emissions and toxic ash commonly associated with waste burners.

"No province or community should serve as a dumpsite or a toxic sacrifice zone for the disposal of Metro Manila's garbage. Citizens have every right to oppose plans to convert their localities into dumps or incinerator sites, especially since both landfills and incinerators are known to increase rates of cancer and birth defects in their immediate vicinities," said Greenpeace toxics campaigner Von Hernandez.

At the same time, the environmental group scored officials of the administration for their ignorance in believing that incinerators that do not spew toxic waste exist.

"There is no such thing as a toxics-free incinerator. Even highly industrialized countries like Germany, the United States and Japan have a lot of difficulty containing toxic emissions and residues from incinerators. What more for developing countries like the Philippines, where the capacity to monitor incinerators for lethal dioxin emissions does not exist," added Hernandez.

The combustion of municipal solid waste during incineration releases a wide range of pollutants, including dioxins and furans, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide and heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. Dioxins and furans are proven carcinogens and have been linked to a number of health problems including the weakening of the reproductive and immune systems, skin irritation, liver damage and cancer. In the United States, municipal and medical waste incinerators have been pinpointed as one of the biggest sources of mercury emissions in the atmosphere.

Greenpeace also stated that Metro Manila's garbage crisis would recur again and again for so long as government officials are unable to discard their fixation for back-end technological solutions to the waste problem. Stressing that "the garbage problem is a low-tech problem requiring simple, commonsense solutions", the group urged the government to pour resources instead into proven solutions at the front end which rely on educating and organizing local communities to separate, recycle and compost their own waste.

"Landfilling and incineration are superficial solutions which do not attack the root of the problem - we must waste less. We need solutions, not illusions," according to Hernandez.

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