Citizen group voices support for government moratorium on thermal conversion of solid waste to electricity

October 1, 2014
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A new citizen group called “Hacia Basura Cero” (“Towards Zero Trash”) joined the ongoing discussion over the government’s temporary ban on the thermal processing of solid waste for energy, such as gasification and other methods, passed by decree on June 27.

The group includes environmentalists, academics, specialists in waste management and citizens from several communities who are “concerned about the recent resurgence of initiatives to incinerate trash as the only way to manage it,” the group explained in a letter delivered to the environment and health ministries.

The letter had 130 signatures of representatives from local and international conservation groups, universities, civil groups and citizens in support an Environment Ministry decree postponing approval of the implementation of solid waste thermal conversion in Costa Rica.

“Thermal degradation plants generate highly toxic substances that pose a high risk to human health and to the environment. Technology associated with energy generation from waste (except for biodigestion) is extremely expensive and is one of the least efficient ways to generate electricity. The huge capital investment required by incinerators usually is paid for by high rates for citizens, and this process also discourages recycling as well as other waste-reduction policies,” the letter stated.

The group considers it “illogical to promote a waste management model already in decline worldwide,” and they claimed that Europe hopes to eliminate gasification by the end of the decade. The number of incinerators in the U.S. has steadily declined since the 1990s, the statement added.

The Environment Ministry’s executive decree states that that ban will be in place until technical and scientific studies prove with certainty that the process does not harm human health and the environment. Advocates for solid waste thermal conversion also must prove the processes do not violate the country’s health legislation, the decree stated.

Last month, the National Association of Municipalities (ANAI) filed a complaint to an administrative court challenging MINAE’s moratorium, arguing it has “legal and constitutional flaws because it limits the freedom of trade and contradicts Law #7200, which allows the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to purchase electricity,” the association’s vice president, Gilberto Monge, said at the time.

“We have studies showing this process of electricity generation is not harmful to the environment, and we know that garbage dumps and electricity generation using fuel currently produce more pollution in comparison,” Monge said during a press conference in which lawmakers from several parties joined ANAI in asking the government to cancel the decree.

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