Burning waste is burning the planet and public money

Communities hold a Day of Action Against Incineration as the Asia Clean Energy Forum goes underway

Manila, Philippines – June 13, 2023 – Representatives from affected communities and activists held a Day of Action Against Incineration on the first day of the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) in front of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Manila Headquarters to demand International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and governments to end support for Waste-to-Energy (WtE) incineration in the region.

“ADB must stop funding pollution, loss of livelihoods, and climate change. ADB is the leading IFI providing public financing and leadership for the promotion of WTE incineration in the region which merely denies real, viable clean energy alternatives as the world shifts away from fossil fuels, ” Miriam Azurin, Deputy Director of GAIA Asia Pacific said. 

In 2019, a UN report estimated that around 1,120  incinerators or 30 percent of the global number of incinerators are in Asia Pacific, mostly  in Japan, China, and South Korea. By the end of  2023, around 200 incinerators promising to convert energy from waste are projected to be constructed and operated in the region, particularly in China, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar

Yobel Novian Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific’s Climate and Clean Energy Campaigner, emphasized that numerous studies have already proven that WtE is an environmentally hazardous method for both energy generation and waste disposal. “Incinerators with or without energy recovery release harmful pollutants such as dioxins, heavy metals, microplastics, greenhouse gases, and other toxic residues. Many of these pollutants are poorly regulated or not regulated at all, posing risks to environmental protection and public health. Additionally, incineration is a carbon-intensive and energy-intensive process that heavily depends on fossil fuels for operation.”

Recognizing the detrimental effects of WtE incineration, the European Union (EU), despite its advanced technology and monitoring systems, has excluded burning waste as part of the transition towards a circular economy, highlighting that it does significant harm to its environmental objectives of waste prevention and recycling. 

Activists protested ADB’s use of public funds for changing energy and waste policies, climate action plans, and financing the construction and operationalization of  interventions for WtE incinerators against global shifts from fossil fuels and WtE incinerators. Studies show incinerators are four times more carbon-intensive than coal. 

In the Philippines, the ADB was instrumental in providing policy advice in favor of WtE which undermines the national ban on incinerators as stated in the Clean Air Act. It also provided support for marketing and assisting local government units to accept and review bids through various technical assistance projects. Cebu City was one of the recipients of technical assistance from the ADB which resulted in an increased number of WtE incinerator proposals endangering the City’s protected areas and communities. 

Not just, nor a transition

GAIA also cited dangers and greenwashing in ADB’s Energy Transition Mechanism,  a funding vehicle to finance the early retirement or repurposing of old coal-fired power plants and use the proceeds for clean energy development where WTE incinerators are seen as a transition fuel.  

Azurin said that communities previously and currently exposed to the impacts of coal plants should not be exposed to further harm by reinventing old coal power plants to WTE incinerators. She also mentioned that WTE incinerators will have to operate at the same scale in which the coal power plants have been previously designed. Other uses for these old coal power plants that do not continue the injustice for affected communities and intensive carbon emissions must be developed. 

Fuelling injustice

WTE’s inherent dangers are also magnified by IFI’s push for privatization schemes which effectively relinquishes the government’s responsibility in an essential public service. 

Teody Navea of EcoWaste Coalition and Cebu Coordinator of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice said the series of technical assistance support of ADB to prepare the entry of the private sector WTE industry in the Philippines contravenes and subverts the prevailing ban on incineration under the Clean Air Act (RA 8749). Just in Cebu, there are already four proposed WyE plants in the pipelines despite the ban. According to Navea, there is a severe lack of meaningful consultations to integrate communities’ and local experts’ insights on risks associated with the projects and examine practical alternatives. 

In the majority of  WTE project sites, borrowers do not hold meaningful consultations to raise environmental and social concerns and examine real alternatives. 

“WtE incinerators also displace waste pickers and workers from the waste supply chain both physically and economically. Waste-burning facilities are often built at landfills and in so doing, uproot waste pickers from their communities and deprive them of their source of livelihood. This will happen for at least two decades once a plant is operational and will suck public funds away from improving their livelihood,” Azurin explained.

 “IFIs, including the ADB, should stop investing in technologies that are not only harmful to the environment but are also against people’s fundamental rights to health and livelihood. Support for waste incineration is against the goal of a just energy transition that the bank proudly claims it champions,” she added. 



Media Kit

Media Contacts:

Sonia Astudillo, GAIA Asia Pacific Senior Communications Officer | sonia@no-burn.org | +63 917 596 9286 

Mayang Azurin, GAIA Asia Pacific Deputy Director | miriam@no-burn.org | +63 945 319 0186

Yobel Novian Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific Climate and Clean Energy Officer | yobel@no-burn.org |  +62 821 2818 4440