Sun, Mar 31, 2013 - Page 14 News List

Philippines turns trash into clean energy windfall

A UN scheme is helping save the environment and residents around a Manila landfill some money by capturing the methane generated by decomposing trash and using it to generate free electricity

By Karl Malakunas  /  AFP, MANILA

Previously, the electricity generated at Payatas had just been used to power operations at the landfill and for the nearby slum communities via the ironing project and street lights.

The amount of greenhouse gases that are now being saved at Payatas is the equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off Manila’s roads, Fernan Campos said.

She said that the project had a host of other environmental benefits, including less direct air pollution for people living close by. The extracted methane gas also no longer threatens to contaminate the water system.

Nevertheless, Greenpeace and some other environmental groups oppose such projects, saying that their “green” credentials are often exaggerated and that they create a financial incentive for more trash to be dumped.

“The only way to address the issue of methane generation from waste is to stop the rubbish going to the landfill in the first place,” Greenpeace Philippines program manager Beau Baconguis said. “Having such projects in place encourages the generation of waste, rather than eliminating it, because you need waste to run the facility.”

Baconguis said there was no vision from the Philippine government to reduce waste and that Manila’s approximately 12 million residents were producing between 6,000 and 8,000 tonnes of trash every day.

However, Fernan Campos insisted that Pangea was not lobbying for or encouraging more waste to be dumped at Payatas. She said the local government had implemented recycling and other waste reduction policies in recent years that had seen the amount of trash going into the landfill drop from 1,800 tonnes a day to 1,200.

“We are just clearing whatever is there and helping the environment at the same time,” she said.

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