Thursday, April 18, 2024

Pyrolysis: The Anti-Hero

by the Weekly Sillimanian | February 5, 2023

A protest held at Pantawan, Rizal Boulevard organized by local environment groups caused a stir amongst Dumaguete locals. 

Sillimanians, environmental activists, and waste workers spoke out on Jan. 28 against the pyrolysis-gasification technology the city purchased as a supposed solution to the steadily increasing waste brought to a Central Materials Recovery Facility at the boundary of Barangays Camanjac and Candau-ay.

The machine was bought after the city failed to establish a sanitary landfill as proposed in the approved plan to close the 57-year-old dumpsite in Barangay Candau-ay.

With the local government pushing for this relatively new technology, environmentalists were quick to note the possible dangers this incineration machine could bring to the environment and public health. At the forefront was Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, who is an expert on pyrolysis after having studied it for decades. 

Dr. Emmanuel warned the Dumaguete City Council during their open hour session on July 29, 2020, about the harmful effects of pyrolysis on the people of Dumaguete, Sibulan, San Jose, and Bacong. The effects include various types of cancer, female and male reproductive and developmental problems, nervous system disorders, increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, and several others.

The late Vice Mayor Alan Cordova said the matter needed to be discussed further. A follow-up meeting was scheduled and all the environmental group representatives had shown up at the appointed time but were informed half an hour later that the meeting was postponed.

The meeting was rescheduled but the environmental groups were only notified just an hour before the meeting, and thus no representatives attended due to short notice. The majority of the council approved the resolution to fund the procurement of the machine shortly after the meeting, without hearing about its environmental and health consequences.

As of writing, the equipment needed to test dioxin emissions that are emitted by the pyrolysis machine’s operations is very expensive. This makes it difficult to continuously monitor the varying levels of dioxin emissions. Thus far, no dioxin test results of the pyrolysis-gasification technology have been released to the public. 

In addition, there is a glaring issue of a lack of public consultation and taking into account the advice of professionals on the matter. 

We from the Weekly Sillimanian call on Sillimanians to take a stand on this matter. Pyrolysis is a matter of environmental and public health. Consultation with the public regarding their thoughts on whether this technology would be the best possible solution for the city and whether they are agreeable to the effects of the dioxins should have been done first. Silliman and its constituents are advocates for human rights, environmental protection, and preservation. This is a matter that affects everyone. 

Pyrolysis is not the right solution to the waste problem building up at landfills. Contrary to some beliefs, incineration is a harmful method of getting rid of waste. This incineration technology may be a convenient short-term solution to the pile-up of solid waste, however, its long-term effects heavily outweigh its current convenience. Rather, allocating the funds towards proper implementation of waste segregation protocols and promoting zero waste movements could have been a solution that would have brought Dumaguete a step closer to sustainability. Local efforts to kickstart a circular economy model and turn Dumaguete into a Zero Waste city exist, so why not use the dumpsite closure as an opportunity to further these efforts? 

The pyrolysis machine creates problems from an environmental to a human level, and no one is exempt. How can it be so easy for the local government to overlook the basic right of its constituents to a healthy living and working environment?


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