Environmental activists attacked Environmental Protection Admin-istration (EPA) plans to burn industrial waste in incinerators designed for household waste, saying the practice has been frequently abused in the past.
EPA officials, however, said burning inflammable industrial waste in household waste plants was safe -- as long as it is done carefully -- and that it is a good way to make use of the extra capacity in the system.
The cancellation of four privately operated incinerators and the reduction in capacity of three others was announced on Thursday by EPA officials, who admitted that local opposition had driven them to the decision.
Based on EPA estimates, Tai-wan's originally planned 36 incinerators would have been capable of burning 30,400 tonnes of household waste per day by the end of next year.
The EPA's revised waste management policy decreases the total capacity for treating waste by 3,250 tonnes per day.
Citing the extra available capacity, environmentalists expressed fresh concerns over the mixing of industrial waste -- some of which they fear will be hazardous -- and household waste.
"Even so, the capacity of all incinerators in Taiwan is still far beyond what we need," said Chang Hsin-ju (張心如), an activist of the Green Citizens' Action Alliance's (GCAA) waste policy committee. "Don't forget that last year Taiwan generated only 20,000 tonnes of household waste per day."
Based on the newly revised policy, Chang said, if all household waste was burned, it would still leave 7,150 tonnes of capacity open for possible misuse.
"What we worry about is that the lax control at plants might allow hazardous industrial waste to sneak into incinerators that were designed to burn household waste only," Chang said.
Past events lend weight to Chang's concerns. Last year, operators discovered toxic solvents mixed with non-hazardous industrial waste waiting for treatment at the Peitou Waste Incinerator, Taipei City.
EPA statistics show that the 19 incinerators currently operating, with a combined capacity of 21,000 tonnes, burn about 10,000 tonnes of household waste and 1,500 tonnes of industrial waste per day.
The EPA plan is music to the ears of incinerator operators, as charges for burning industrial waste are much higher than for burning household waste.
In January last year, the EPA revised the Waste Disposal Act to allow incinerators to accept non-hazardous industrial waste and non-infectious medical waste. The agency's rationale at the time was that the law prevented illegal dumping.
The Peitou plant now charges NT$2,000 per tonne for treating non-hazardous industrial waste. In Kaohsiung City, prices range from NT$580 to NT$1,700 per tonne.
Chen Lien-ping (
"Hazardous industrial waste should be treated by incinerators which are smaller and burn waste at temperatures exceeding 1,000℃," Chen said.
At Tainan City's Municipal Chenghsi Waste Incinerator (城西焚化爐), 150 tonnes of industrial waste is burned per day along with 700 tonnes of household waste. The charge for treating industrial waste is NT$2,000 per tonne.
"We don't think burning mixed waste at the plant will shorten the incinerator's lifespan because heat values have been calculated carefully," Liu Jyh-jian (