By Katherine Marajas
WALKING ON TRASH — A boy walks on a floating landfill made of garbage at the Estero de Magdalena located in Reina Regente street in Divisoria, Manila in this photo taken last March 14. According to Manila's Department of Public Service (DPS), Divisoria is among the places in the city which produces the most garbage everyday. (Ali Vicoy)
Manila is the Philippines' capital city, and is considered as the most densely populated city proper in the world.
According to the World Population Review, Manila is the world's most densely populated city with 42,857 people living per square kilometer. In the 2016 national census, 1.78 million are considered Manileños.
The most recent census found that Tondo has become the most populous district, accounting for 38 percent of the total population, followed by Sampalocwith 20.7 percent, and Santa Ana 10.7 percent.
So, given these staggering numbers, how does the Manila government deal with the city’s burgeoning garbage problem?
According to Department of Public Services (DPS) operations divisions technical staff Jayson Umali, more than 2,000 tons of garbage bags are being collected in Manila that are loaded in 500 trucks each day.
Despite this already gargantuan undertaking, Umali said there continues to be a large percentage of garbage ending up on the streets, sewages, canals, and other waterways.
District 1 and 3 have the biggest amount of waste gathered every day, especially in Divisoria, Quiapo, Binondo, San Nicolas, Sta. Cruz, Moriones, Capulong Highway, and Road 10 at the port area.
DPS collects 75 truckloads of waste with 1,200 cubic meters daily in District 3 alone.
Per district, the daily average volume of garbage produced is at 7,500 cubic meters.
“One of the major problems we encounter until now is the human and cultural behavior. We can’t clean the environment alone that’s why we need the community’s participation especially the barangay officials; we need their full cooperation and support,” Umali said.
With all these things, Umali shared their strategies on how to fix the problem one by one.
Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) campaign
According to the Community Awareness Strategy report of Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Project, IEC activities are needed to help implement the disposal strategy which is to regulate and implement solid waste management.
One of the IEC strategies, which has been proposed by DPS, aimed to make handicrafts out of recycled materials.
These handicrafts could be made of old magazines, newspapers, straws, plastics, used clothes, and many more.
Umali said it was approved last Sept. 29, 2015 by the National Solid Waste Commission (NSWC).
He also stated that aside from cleaning and saving the environment, they were also able to help the persons with disabilities (PWDs) by teaching them how to make handicrafts from trash.
“With the help of Manila Department Social Welfare, last Feb. 23, 2018 we taught the PWDs how to make a certain product out of recycled materials,” he said.
“Nakatulong na kami sa environment, nakatulong pa kami sa PWDs. Pwede silang kumita sa pamamagitan ng pag-recycle ng mga bagay-bagay, (We don’t just help save the environment, we also help the PWDs. They can earn money from recycled materials),” Umali added.
DPS showcased the finished products in schools and barangays during IEC campaigns.
“It’s nice to think that a waste can be turned into handicrafts. Aside from that, we can sell the products and buyers can use it as displays,” he said.
Let’s clean up Manila: A clean-up drive activity
Every Saturday, DPS visits different communities in order to clean its surroundings. They call this program as “Let’s clean-up Manila!” which is also part of their IEC campaign.
“We conduct IEC campaign in at least two barangays a week. We coordinate with the barangay chairman to remind them that they should start implementing the segregation of waste from the household level,” Umali said.
“For the monitoring, we have personnel who regularly checks if the segregation is being implemented in the community. We strictly implement “No segregation, no collection policy,” he added.
According to Umali, they distribute printed materials during the IEC campaign to inform and educate the Manileños.
However, Umali noted that the ban on the use of plastic bags has yet to be adopted in Manila.
“What we want is to regulate the plastic ban only and not totally ban it but we already proposed it to the city ordinance and we’re still waiting for their decision,” he said.
Other cities in Metro Manila have banned the use of plastic bags.
Umali discussed their future plans with regards to solid waste management.
“We want to have a comprehensive solid waste management code wherein all of our plans will be stated there because most of our city ordinances related to solid waste are now outdated,” he said.