12 May 2021

The Global Alliance on Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific welcomes the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) rapid phaseout of coal towards a low-carbon transition in the region, as stated in its draft Energy Policy. It is a victory for environmental and social justice advocates and affected communities worldwide. 

Yet, we believe that the Bank’s continued support for Waste-to-Energy (WtE) or incinerators will significantly hold up its low-carbon transition. According to the draft Energy Policy, ADB will keep WtE in its energy portfolio, “provided that the feedstock for combustion prudently follows the waste management’s order of priority, which considers first reducing waste generation.” While ADB recognizes the need for caution when opting for WtE, the language is unclear with regard to preferences over higher-tier activities in the waste hierarchy, such as waste prevention measures, reuse schemes, and recycling programs.

As mentioned in the policy draft, the ADB needs to invest in low-carbon solutions and avoid regrettable climate-inducing decisions, in order to achieve sustainable development. This includes avoiding carbon lock-in and curbing fossil-fuel use. WtE will create a lock-in situation which undermines waste reduction measures of local governments – including plastic waste which is derived from fossil-fuel. In the islands of Madeira and Azores in Portugal, for example, incinerators required a constant amount of waste feedstock, thus stagnating recycling rates in the area. A U.S. study concluded that WtE incineration is the most emissions-intensive form of power generation when both biogenic and fossil CO2 are accounted for. 

The ADB, through various technical assistance projects, has provided policy advice to municipalities on the use of WtE, while ignoring national goals on waste recycling targets or regulations prohibiting incinerators. Promoting WtEs, even as a last-resort option, will discourage developing member-countries (DMCs) to improve waste collection, recycling, and composting programs. By investing in thermal WtE, cities are obliged to generate more waste to maximize the operational capacity of thermal WtE facilities, as well as to meet contract-bound feedstock quotas. It locks societies into a linear economy that justifies a throw-away culture. Prudence in waste management is not a possibility with WtE. 

WtE facilities globally are primarily intended for waste management, not for producing electricity. The Bank’s continuous categorization of WtE as renewable energy is a deception to leverage public resources through guarantees and subsidies to empower industry polluters. Elsewhere, the European Union prohibits member-states from using renewable-energy subsidies to support waste incineration activities. The US Environmental Protection Agency, meanwhile, does not consider energy recovery as a waste minimization activity and rather prioritizes waste reduction at source.

The draft outlines benefits of WtE, which is described as a potential source of centralized heating, a better option for open landfills, a source of livelihood and a means to achieve liveable and healthy cities. Yet, waste incineration is the most expensive way to handle waste and create the least amount of jobs. The abovementioned list of supposed benefits is a blatant manipulation of the narrative, which projects WtE as a progressive tool for improving the quality of life and well-being of communities. We strongly express that these objectives for the use of WtE does not reflect current policy trajectories on sustainable financing, scientific findings, and on-ground experiences. 

Lastly, we express solidarity with our members and allies that are resisting ADB-funded WtE projects in the Philippines, Maldives, and Thailand. While the Bank has acknowledged the need to mitigate  environmental and social risks in WtE projects, independent evaluations show that these DMCs lack environmental and social regulations to mitigate, avoid, or compensate for harm. 

We challenge the ADB to stop investing in Waste-to-Energy and delist it from its climate financing and other sectoral portfolios. Stop the deception and use of critical resources for false solutions to climate change. 

We demand ADB to withdraw from WtE! ###

Read the Vietnamese Translation

Media Contact:

Sonia Astudillo, GAIA Asia Pacific Communications Officer sonia@no-burn.org, +63 917 5969286

Campaign Contact: Yobel Novian Putra, GAIA Asia Pacific Climate & Clean Energy Associate yobel@no-burn.org, +62 821 2818 4440