Recently, the City has been implementing some steps to use pyrolysis to reduce or control the volume of waste we generate.
As the name implies, pyrolysis (Greek-derived elements pyro “fire”, “heat”, “fever”and –lysis “separating”) or devolatilization process is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere, which involves a change of chemical composition, turning organic matter into several different end materials that include tar, syngas, ash, and charcoal (also known as biochar) by burning them in a controlled anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. High temperatures (300°C to 800°C) are necessary for this process, thus, will use high energy.
Last Friday, Oct. 21, Catholic and Protestant churches, joined by concerned citizens, as well as the No to 174 Movement, marched the streets of Dumaguete to oppose the City’s impending resumption of operation of a pyrolysis plant in barangay Camanjac.
This facility has been proven to use an incinerator technology hiding under a different name, thus, undermines the health of the surrounding communities and environment.
Studies have shown that the problem with pyrolysis is that several pollutants can be released into the environment: Hydrogen sulfide (H2S), Sulphur oxides (SOx), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), Ammonia (NH3) which can threaten human health and the environment.
By-products like ash (loaded with heavy metals and dioxins) can find their way into waterways contaminating the water supply, crops and plants.
It is also known to emit harmful pollutants like dioxins and furans which are carcinogenic, and are known to mimic the action of hormones in the human body.
Repeated daily exposures to pollutants emitted by the pyrolysis plant, even at low levels, can irreparably harm the immune system, and cause developmental problems in children.
In a nutshell, there are alleged benefits to having pyrolysis plants — mainly to take something unwanted (domestic refuse including more complex plastics and turn it into something useful, e.g., biofuel).
But the same pyrolysis plant raises more serious concerns about the health risks and negative environmental impact on the community, and the workers of the pyrolysis plant.
In fact, safety in pyrolysis plants became an essential and increasingly-important health and environmental security issue since an explosion like the one in Chennai, India where a boiler exploded, flung up to 30 meters from where the pyrolysis plant was located, killing one person and injuring two others. This also happened in 2014 in Joensuu, Finland. In 1998, a pyrolysis plant accident in Germany resulted in the release of the pyrolysis gas into the air. A pyrolysis gas explosion also happened in 2012 in a Russian oil sludge treatment plant in the Khanty-Mansiysk where eight people were killed, eight workers got carbon monoxide poisoning and sustained burn injuries, among others.
In 2017, Fr. Von Arellano of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish, only had this to say of the operation of a pyrolysis plant in Trece Martires City in Cavite: “Poor communities are often the ones who pay the heaviest price for ecological deterioration.”
No to pyrolysis!
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