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The cost of incineration


The fourth law of ecology according to Barry Commoner: There is no such thing as a free lunch, means in all things gained there is an accompanying cost.

In recent years, incineration – burning waste as an alternative to using of landfills – has gained the attention of public servants including the recently elected city mayor of Baguio, Benjie Magalong. This quick-fix solution to the city’s waste management will lessen dependence on landfills, accommodate both organic and nonorganic waste (landfills are for residuals while our biodegradable waste goes to Irisan), save up on transportation of waste, produce energy, and prevent contamination of groundwater.

But for all these gains is an expensive and lifetime cost, one even those unborn will have to pay for environmental destruction. Smoke from the process of burning includes nitrogen oxide, heavy metals, acid gases, particulates, and carcinogen dioxin.  And while some incinerators claim minimal smoke emission, other waste incineration residue (e.g. toxic ash) remains a local and global environment threat given its high quantities of persistent organic pollutants. Naturally, it also goes against the two major environmental laws, Republic Act 8479 (Clean Air Act) and Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act).

With this, Zero Waste Baguio has been in close contact with the mayor in proposing for a long-term but gradual alternative: zero waste. Clearly, it will take a while for behavior modification among the citizens of Baguio to practice a lifestyle void of waste. But for what it is worth, a clean environment for the cool city of Pines already aggravated by construction and traffic congestion, it is a cost I am most willing to pay.

The author is a BS Development Communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and a resident of Baguio City who is very much concerned with its ecology.

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