Waste-to-energy technology not feasible ‘for now’ in Lipa, says CENRO



LIPA CITY—The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) has turned down yet another proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant here citing the failure to find a suitable land and issues on the compliance with existing environment laws.

The City's Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) (photo from Facebook page of Lipa City CENRO)

The City’s Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) (photo from Facebook page of Lipa City CENRO)

CENRO Officer Ricardo Libon told The Filipino Connection while the concept may be good, the city government has no existing property to offer to the proponent where they could possibly build the plant.

“Technology-wise, it’s okay but the problem is where are we going to put up (the plant)? What I’m suggesting is they offer us a complete package where they could offer us a site and the available technology,” he said.

Libon adds they also had to revisit every proposal as converting waste to electrical energy may also require incineration, which may be in violation of the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“Do they also pass the (government) standards?” Libon asks, referring to the standards of the Departments of Science and Technology and Environment and Natural Resources (DOST and DENR).

Investment wise, the project proponent may also want to generate more energy and the CENRO doubts whether Lipa City may be able to meet the minimum required volume of garbage daily to produce electricity.

“More garbage means more energy. Right now we’re already producing 100 tons for 35 barangays and we can generate 200 tons if we make it the whole 72. But of course, time will come that it wouldn’t be enough,” he explained.

This would also mean the proponent having to solicit garbage from neighboring municipalities just to meet the needed garbage quota, formalized through a memorandum of agreement with Lipa City government, which may be difficult as Libon claims the city cannot simply accept other’ garbage.

Lipa City Administrator Atty. Leo Latido echoed Libon’s statements saying the city government has already received more than 20 similar proposals on the concept of waste-to-energy but they have yet to find anything that they think would help solve the city’s garbage problems.

“They said that’s how it works for other countries but does it fit Lipa? Usually after the presentation, they would simply disappear. They usually say they have an existing plant but when we ask to visit them they couldn’t show,” he adds.

“It’s a big project and before we agree, we have to make sure it’s going to work and it would be beneficial for the city,” says the city administrator.

Lipa City currently doesn’t have an existing dumping facility and is paying private hauler RC Bella Waste Management and Disposal Services millions of pesos to transport and dispose the said waste to a sanitary landfill in Barangay Bubuyan, Calamba, Laguna.

Last year, the city entered into a contract with RC Bella paying the company P23.4 million for hauling services at a rate of P7,987.37 per trip for the minimum 58,740 cubic meter of garbage. COA however questioned the said amount given the lack of documents and proofs to justify the costs.

Massive delays were however observed in the garbage collection at the barangay level, as their trucks cannot directly dump waste at the Laguna-based landfill and they will always have to wait for RC Bella’s truck to pick them up at the transfer station in Marawoy, based on their designated schedule.

Delays in the arrival of RC Bella’s dump truck would therefore mean delays in the collection at the barangay level as these are the same trucks that are used to collect trash.

This left piles of uncollected wastes stuck and stinking on the designated garbage pick-up points on highways and streets.

On April 25, Irish firm Organic Power Corporation presented before the city council’s regular Tuesday session their proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant, which receives both organic and non-organic trash and converts it into energy in the form of electricity.

In his presentation, OPC owner Robert Brennan explained the process where mixed wastes delivered to the plant will be separated by equipment between the dry and wet section using the technologies of anaerobic digestion and advanced thermal technology and eventually release embedded energy to produce electricity.

Similar to a garlic press, which crushes garlic cloves by forcing them to a grid of potholes, the plant will also put unsegregated waste into a chamber where the organic wastes are squeezed through, eventually separating the wet from dry material, leaving behind the dry material to stay in the chamber.

The dry section includes wastes such as metals, glass, plastics, shoes, beds and wood while the wet fraction includes foods such as salad, piece of pork, chicken and beef.

Once the said waste-to-energy plant pushes through, 90 percent of Lipa City’s collected waste would be used to capture and release energy, three percent would be recycled and only seven percent of them would be transported to a landfill.

The plant would need a minimum 1,000 tons of garbage for a month for organic wastes and 2,500 tons a month for non-organic ones.

Brennan admitted though that they have yet to conduct a feasibility study for the project in Lipa City and they will have to do the waste audit first to be able to build a design based on how much garbage volume is needed to operate the waste-to-energy plant.

“I think for any reason the waste in the city went down, that would change history because there’s no city I’m aware of in the world where the waste (volume) is going down for the last 50 years,” Brennan, owner of a renewable energy company, told councilors in his presentation.

In the worst case scenario where Lipa fails to meet the minimum required volume, he explained the plant can take in energy crops such as grass and other agricultural wastes.

While the proponent has also offered to finance everything from the plant operations and the land lease, leaving no costs at the Lipa City government, Brennan said they have yet to find a location where they could build the said plant.

“To be honest we wouldn’t look for a location until we were closer to understanding you want to work with us,” he told councilors.

The ideal site would be a landfill but Lipa City currently doesn’t have one.

Based on rough estimates, Brennan said the total project cost could reach about P100 million.

He also assured councilors that their company won’t use incineration technology in the process of converting waste to energy as they would burn gas, not oil.

City councilors led by Merlo Silva and Gwendolyn Wong lauded OPC for their initiative. Both said OPC’s offer may be the answer to Lipa City’s humongous garbage problems and, if successfully implemented, would be a pilot model for other cities in Batangas.

“Now there’s a possibility that the city will be known as the city of garbage, where we collect to produce energy, electricity for the people’s benefits,” Silva said.



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About Jeremaiah Opiniano