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  • Writer's pictureRoly Eclevia

A Case For Incinerators In The Philippines

In every neighborhood of 20 families or so all over Japan, homeowners take turns to keep their common dumpster clean and tidy and to ensure that it contains only the kind of trash scheduled for collection that day.

Photo Insert: The architecture of the "Mop" Maishima Incineration Plant was refurbished and redesigned by Viennese artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser as part of Maishima's Olympic bid in 2008.

That is true in Onozaki, Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, where my son Leon and his family live.

It is now my son’s turn. He must visit the dumpster every day for a week, before or after work, with a notebook where he must jot down his observations and suggestions, if any. He then passes the notebook to the homeowner next in line. The observations and suggestions will be taken up some time.

By far the greatest amount of trash consists of burnable: food containers, milk cartons, table napkins, and, yeah, face masks. Next are recyclable such as PEP bottles, aluminum cans, plastic containers, newspapers, and magazines, followed by biodegradable such as kitchen wastes and food scraps.

The garbage trucks make their call every day, but they will only haul off certain kinds on certain days. They then bring their load to the incineration facility. Every city, and every prefecture in Japan, depending on the number of its population, maintains an incineration facility. That results in efficient garbage collection. Every community is garbage-free.

All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

The government, at the city and prefecture level has incentives to collect the garbage. The reason is simple. Garbage, at least the burnable kind, is used as fuel to create steam that turns the turbines that generate electricity, which is then sold to households and commercial establishments.

There are ready buyers for recyclables. Food scraps and leftovers are turned into compost, which is sold to park administrators, vegetable growers, gardeners, and plant hobbyists.

Government & politics: Politicians, government officials and delegates standing in front of their country flags in a political event in the financial district.

Old furniture and appliances are treated differently. It costs a certain amount, depending on the weight and volume, to get rid of them. They must carry a sticker that tells the cost. Otherwise, the truck won’t pick them up. The sticker can be purchased in designated commercial outlets.

Cars and electronic equipment meant for disposition must be brought to areas or yards authorized by the government for the purpose, and the operators charge a hefty sum for them. Japan, being a small country, would drown in garbage if it relied on landfills to dispose of its garbage. Incinerators are the only option.

Entrepreneurship: Business woman smiling, working and reading from mobile phone In front of laptop in the financial district.

The United States has a vast land area, with California alone being bigger than Japan or the Philippines. It has comparatively less population density, but even that country is beginning to realize that the practice is unsustainable.

Like Japan, the Philippines has very limited space. It should, therefore, look to Japan, not the United States for inspiration on the matter. During the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, a proposal to build an incinerator for Metro Manila was briefly considered. It was shelved for two reasons.

Banking & finance: Business man in suit and tie working on his laptop and holding his mobile phone in the office located in the financial district.

First, the rich did not want air pollution, which might reach their gated communities. A mountain of garbage is alright if it is sufficiently far away to affect them.

Secondly, government policymakers, then as now, do not find the whole idea profitable enough for themselves. Incinerators are in the best interest of the country, but the interest of the country is the furthest from their minds.

Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

Despite the fact that advances in technology now prevent particulates from incinerators to escape into the air, the Philippines still relies on landfills. As a result, its rivers and lakes are chockablock with garbage.

There are piles of garbage on every city street. The drainage is clogged.

Health & lifestyle: Woman running and exercising over a bridge near the financial district.

The poor and the unlettered are damned for despoiling the environment. Well, government officials do the same. The only difference is that they dump the garbage on landfills they buy using taxpayers’ money, hire their friends and pay them billions to do the job, and take a cut of the deal.

Think about it. The Philippines is one huge landfill.

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