An effective zero-waste approach for PH
Proclamation No. 760, issued in 2014, declared every January as Zero Waste Month in the Philippines to promote the redesign of processes and products to systematically reduce, if not eliminate, the quantity and toxicity of waste that industries, businesses, institutions, households, and individuals generate. Its goal is to guide people, businesses, and institutions to change their lifestyles and practices toward sustainable systems in an ethical, economical, and efficient way, and to ensure that wastes become valuable for other uses.
Even years before the declaration, Philippine environment groups that are also members of the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) movement have already been working toward zero waste for a future free from plastic pollution. Under a zero-waste approach, recycling, composting, reuse and minimization of waste help decrease the volume of trash sent to landfills.
Some cities are already practicing zero waste, committed to solving their garbage woes. The Ecowaste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation, and War on Waste Dumaguete have been working with communities and the local governments in Trece Martires in Cavite, San Fernando in Pampanga, Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental, and Siquijor, among others, by providing training programs to effectively implement zero-waste systems and craft policies that will ban the use of single-use disposable plastic packaging.
In 2020, the necessity of the zero-waste approach in communities around the country was highlighted when the COVID-19 pandemic brought tremendous amounts of plastic waste. Along with the declaration of climate emergency in the same year due to several climate-related disasters, many local government units struggled to find effective solutions to garbage disposal. Instead of finding real solutions to the problem, many of them are being enticed to consider incineration or the burning of wastes, which is prohibited under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
In fact, the zero-waste approach is pursuant to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act where LGUs must craft their own local solid waste management plan by reusing, recycling, and composting waste in their cities. However, without support from national government agencies and legislators, transforming into a zero-waste city cannot be achieved.
To support zero waste, the government should promote and put forward safer practices in communities that would reduce waste; ban the production, selling, and use of single-use plastic; stop the legalization of incineration under the guise of waste-to-energy plants; and pass policies that would defend public health and the environment from further misuse and degradation. Corporations should also be made accountable for the waste generated by their products, especially e-commerce platforms where plastic packaging waste gets thrown away once consumers receive their parcels.
According to Greenpeace Philippines, most of these plastic wastes end up unrecycled in landfills or in our oceans, providing a convenient escape route for foreign waste management companies, the plastics industry, and the corporations that profit from the continuing use and production of throwaway plastics. A report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia-Pacific also noted that the problem of waste is caused by single-use plastics, sachets particularly, which add to and worsen the growing plastics pollution problem.
By having a strong solid waste management plan and effective implementation of laws in place without resorting to landfills and incineration, shifting to zero waste becomes the only effective option. Through proper segregation, biodegradable discards can be composted in our homes, schools, and offices while discarded materials can become resources for others to use or even a source of livelihood for waste workers. The year 2021 is hopefully when we finally begin to move away from living a wasteful way of life. By working together, we can help stop practices that pose tremendous threats to our communities and the environment.
Geri Matthew Carretero is the communications officer for the #breakfreefromplastic PH project. Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) is a global movement working toward a future free from plastic pollution. The BFFP PH project is a collaboration of #breakfreefromplastic members EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Southeast Asia, and Mother Earth Foundation, in partnership with Oceana International Philippines.