PAMPANGA

Pena: Guidelines for waste to energy facilities now out

E-ssue

IS INCINERATION prohibited? According to the Supreme Court, it is not. It will be recalled that in January 2002, the Supreme Court ruled in JANCOM vs. MMDA that the Clean Air Act does not absolutely prohibit incineration. Only those burning processes which emit poisonous and toxic fumes are banned.

After the Supreme Court ruling, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) came out with Memorandum Circular 2002-5 saying that any thermal technology, whether burn or non-burn, is allowed as long as it complies with all applicable laws. Section 15 of RA 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, also mentioned waste-to-energy as a waste minimization method.

Also with the Supreme Court decision, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) came out with Resolution No. 699 series of 2016, providing the guidelines for Waste to Energy facilities (WtE). However, the NSWMC has no regulatory power. Thus, DENR issued Administrative Order (DAO) 2019-21 in December 2019 to make the WtE guidelines legally enforceable.

As expected, environmental groups opposed this DAO. In fact, last January 27, a Notice to Sue was served on the DENR for issuing DAO 2019-21. The complainant maintain that incinerators are banned by law and that all thermal WtE Technologies, emits toxic fumes including dioxin. I will not dwell on the legal aspect of this issue. Let the courts resolve that.

Let me just cite my observation. Under Section 6 of DAO 2019-21, WtE facilities shall only accept source segregated biodegradables or residual wastes collected from household, Materials Recovery Facilities, Residual Containment Areas, Sanitary Landfills and other disposal facilities.

Many households and commercial establishments are still not segregating their waste. Waste collectors cannot feed this unsorted waste directly to the WtE if the above guideline will be strictly enforced. The rule also limits feedstock to residual waste. This means recyclable waste like paper and plastic, cannot be used. Can WtE facilities comply with this requirement?

When I was still a councilor of Mabalacat City, we received two WtE proposals. I asked them if they can comply with this ‘no-unsorted-waste’ requirement. One proponent said that they have a mechanized segregation process before feeding. Though technically possible, it sounds too good to be true.

On the emission issue the guideline says that WtE facilities must conduct sampling and analysis for dioxins and furans. All average values of dioxins and furans measured over the sampling period of a minimum of six (6) hours and a maximum of eight (8) hours must not exceed the limit value of 0.1 nanogram toxic equivalents per normal cubic meter (ng-TEO/NCM). Whenever there is an exceedance of emission standards, the DENR Secretary can issue an interim Cease and Desist order without the need for public hearing, and is immediately executory.

Waste to Energy facilities may be legal, but the best option is still the three R’s and C-Reduce, Re-use, Recycle and Composting.

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Today I turn 55. Thank God for the gift of life and for all the blessings and His faithfulness for the past 54 years. To God be the glory for the things he has done!


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