The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) objects the government's intention of constructing incinerators to dispose waste.
It is reported that the government will open an international tender for the construction of an ‘eco-friendly' incinerator from December 2012 to April 2013.
First of all the notion that there are ‘eco-friendly' incinerators is wrong. It is a deception invented by incinerator companies as communities protest the construction of incinerators.
The core impacts of all types of incinerators remain the same: they are toxic to public health, harmful to the economy, environment and climate, and undermine recycling and waste minimisation programs.
The public would have to bear the financial burden of incineration as costs of installation, operation and maintenance are high.
Communities would also be burdened by increasing health costs as they suffer illnesses associated with incinerator emissions.
A wide variety of adverse health effects including cancer, respiratory disease, and disruption of the endocrine system are caused by pollutants from incinerators of which some are known to be persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic.
Studies also indicate that distant populations can be exposed to pollution from incinerators by ingesting contaminated plant or animal products.
The Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung was also quoted stating that the Department of Environment (DOE) will be monitoring hazardous gases, fumes and other gases emitted by the incinerator round-the-clock.
It may not be possible to monitor all emissions as installing continuous monitoring systems and conducting stack tests are very expensive and would subsequently escalate the cost of operating incinerators.
Furthermore even modern incinerators with expensive "state-of-the-art" pollution control devices do not eliminate or adequately control toxic emissions from today's chemically complex municipal waste.
A report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives states that cities such as Buenos Aires (Argentina), Canberra (Australia), Oakland (U.S.), Nova Scotia (Canada) have made great progress towards achieving Zero Waste.
These cities are building recycling and composting parks, implementing innovative collection systems, requiring products to be safe and recyclable, and creating locally-based jobs.
A variety of policies, such as Extended Producer Responsibility, Clean Production, packaging taxes, and material-specific bans (such as plastic bags, styrofoam, etc.) have proven effective at reducing and eliminating problematic materials in different locales.
Thus, CAP urges the Malaysian government to scrap existing incinerators and impose a ban on waste incineration. Malaysia should lead the way towards Zero Waste and not emulate countries that incinerate valuable resources.
SM Mohamed Idris is President of Consumers Association of Penang.