In an online forum organized by Green Thumb Coalition, No Burn Pilipinas and Break Free From Plastic Philippines on Tuesday, local and foreign experts-scientists laid down the causal effects of waste incineration on health, climate and agriculture.
Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, who co-authored the World Health Organization’s guidebook on health care waste, said that the problem with trash burning is that it releases dioxins and furans however advance the technology and there are no safe limits when we are dealing with these toxic and hazardous pollutants. Dr. Jorge Emmanuel is also an adjunct professor in Silliman University and former chief technical advisor on global environment projects of the United Nations Development Program and leader of a UN team that helped contain the spread of Ebola virus in Africa.
In his presentation, Dr. Emmanuel pointed out that a single drop of dioxin is enough to contaminate a medium sized lake and its inhabitants. Over a long period, this toxin could be passed on to humans by eating fish, eggs, pork, poultry and other meats that have accumulated dioxins. “Dioxins stay in our environment for hundreds of years and cause serious illnesses including cancer, birth defects and reproductive disorders among people exposed to it,” he said.
Waste incineration is also a major carbon emitter. Lee Bell, POPs and Mercury Policy Advisor for the International Pollution Elimination Network (IPEN) highlighted a recent study by the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), which shows incineration of plastic waste generates large quantities of carbon and carbon equivalent (CO2e) emissions. Waste incinerators, driven by high carbon content plastics and organic waste streams, currently release an average of around 1 ton of CO2 for every ton of waste incinerated.
“368 million tons of waste are incinerated globally per year equating to annual emissions of around 368 million tons of CO2. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases added annually into our atmosphere,” Bell said during his presentation.
As the climate crisis continues to worsen, access to food by Filipinos especially the poor and vulnerable sectors will be severely affected as well. This chain of reaction from incineration to health and climate and then onto our food production systems will reduce harvests, affect the quality of agricultural produce and increase its costs by as high as 25% in the next two decades according to Dr. Vicky Espaldon, a professor at the UP School of Environmental Science and Management and an awardee of the National Academy of Science and Technology for a book she has written.“An increase of 1˚C leads to about 8-14% decrease in rice yield during the dry season,” Dr. Espaldon said citing the study conducted by Lansigan et al., in 2007.
“Tread carefully as impacts are serious and it [WTE] is a huge investment, it is better to invest in making sure that RA 9003 provisions are successfully implemented,” she added.
As the forum drew to a close, Green Thumb Coalition convenor Jaybee Garganera vowed to echo these scientific evidences to legislators who are currently deliberating the passage of a bill that would allow waste incineration in the country. “The science and robustness of evidence we have gathered will complement our collective experiences on the ground to engage our senators like Gatchalian, Tolentino and Binay and make them understand the profound negative economic and health impacts of their policy actions such as the waste-to-energy law,” Garganera said.
To view the recording of the forum, please visit: https://tinyurl.com/GTCNBP
For more information, please contact:
Angelica Dacanay, Green Thumb Coalition,0915-7828118
Geri Matthew Carretero, No Burn Pilipinas/BFFP PH, 0917-6216901
Jaybee Garganera, Green Thumb Coalition, 0917-5498218
About No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) – No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of environmental, justice, climate, rights and health groups who are opposed to waste incineration, including thermal waste-to-energy, and are working to promote the Zero Waste approach to resource management. www.facebook.com/noburnpilipinas
About Green Thumb Coalition –Green Thumb Coalition is the broadest network of civil society organizations in the Philippines working on cross cutting issues that threaten our biodiversity, climate, energy, food sovereignty and human rights. Its mission is to promote environmental consciousness among the electorate and make environmental issues central to every public policy and programs.
About BFFP Philippines Project– The #breakfreefromplastic Philippines 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 working towards a future free from plastic pollution.
About the speakers:
Dr. Jorge Emmanuel earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Master of Science in Chemical Engineering from North Carolina State University in 1976 and 1978, respectively. He obtained the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Chemical Engineering from University of Michigan in 1988. Certified in Public Health by the University of Iowa in 2006, he was also certified in Hazardous Materials/Environmental Hazards Management by the University of California, Berkeley in 1993 and a registered professional engineer by the State of California. Dr. Emmanuel is also a healthcare waste management expert. He co-authored the World Health Organization’s guidebook on healthcare waste. He led a United Nations Development Program Team sent to Africa to help stop the spread of Ebola virus by advising governments, training healthcare staff on infection control and installing waste treatment autoclaves.
Lee Bell is the Mercury and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Policy Advisor for the International Pollution Elimination Network (IPEN) and Senior Researcher for National Toxics Network (Australia) and has twenty years of experience in research and analysis of industrial pollution, hazardous waste, incineration, contaminated sites and associated issues. He has authored a range of reports and articles on the trade and impact of mercury, POPs and other pollutants on the environment and human health. He is currently a member of the Basel Convention Small Intersessional Working Group on POPs waste which evaluates incineration and non-combustion technologies for POPs destruction, Small Intersessional Working Group on D10 Guidance Review (incineration) and the Stockholm Convention BAT BEP and Dioxin Toolkit Expert Group.
Dr. Maria Victoria Espaldon is the former UPLB Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension. A UP Scientist III and former DEAN of SESAM, Dr. Espaldon has a total of 58 publications, she is author and co-author of several articles in ISI and refereed journals as well as books and monographs. Her book titled “Changing Philippine Climate: Impacts on Agriculture and Natural Resources” received a National Academy of Science and Technology award. She was also named as UPLB Outstanding Researcher for Social Sciences in the senior faculty category in 2016. Currently, Dr. Espaldon is the program leader of the projects “Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry in the Philippines (SARAI)”and the “Monitoring and Detection of Ecosystem Change for Enhanced Resilience and Adaptation (MORDECERA)”.