Experts cite continuity of recycling efforts is important during and after the Covid-19 pandemic
Senator Cynthia Villar, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said the ongoing pandemic due to the coronavirus has shown that there is really a direct link between environment or nature and the spread of diseases. The most critical of which is in the protection of wildlife habitats and solid waste management.
“It is not only the destruction of natural habitats that can cause the spread of infectious and zoonotic diseases, but improperly disposed wastes are also causes of infection and contamination. So, we should take proper waste disposal and management even more seriously,” said Villar, who has established programs and projects that protect the environment since she was a congresswoman during the early 2000s.
The raw materials used in Villar’s livelihood projects are from wastes. These are water hyacinths for the waterlily handicraft-weaving enterprise and the handmade paper factory; waste coconut husks for the coconet-weaving enterprise and the charcoal-making factory; kitchen and garden wastes for the organic fertilizer composting facility; and plastic wastes for the waste plastic recycling factory that produces school chairs. The senator has set up over 3,000 livelihood projects nationwide.
Through the Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance or Villar SIPAG, Sen. Villar’s projects have produced barangay-based livelihood enterprises that are models of proper waste management.
These include the coconut weaving enterprises which turn coconut husks that clog rivers and waterways into materials such as coconets, which are used as riprap materials in construction projects to prevent soil erosion. The fiber is used for making coconet and the coco dusts are mixed with household wastes to make organic fertilizers distributed for free to farmers and urban gardeners.
“Initially, coconets are the only products, but we also discovered that we can also use the coco dusts to produce organic fertilizers and the enterprise has also started making charcoal briquettes out of them,” cited Villar.
There is also a vermicomposting facility set up by Villar that produces compost organic fertilizer, the use of which is environment-friendly since it keeps the soil healthy. It is also the first step in organic farming. The facility uses two methods—rotary composting and vermicomposting.
“We must remember that 95 percent of our food comes from the soil. People can help by simply bringing nutrients back to the soil by composting and using organic fertilizer. We should compost our kitchen and garden wastes,” said Villar.
Villar facilitated the establishment of composting centers in barangays as well as the collection of kitchen and garden wastes in the households to be brought to the composting facility. There are now 80 composters utilized by 80,000 households.
To help farmer-beneficiaries in using their own organic fertilizer, Villar also worked with the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) for the provision of Small Scale Composting Facilities (SSCFs) across the country.
Villar also addressed the worsening problem of plastic pollution by recycling plastic wastes. The senator, through Villar SIPAG, put up a Waste Plastic Recycling Factory in 2013 in Barangay Ilaya, Las Piñas City. In 2017, two other factories were set up in San Miguel, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro. These factories convert waste plastics into chairs, thus helping solve another perennial problem—lack of school chairs.
One school chair can be produced out of 20 kilos of waste plastics such as sachets and wrappers. It takes less than 30 minutes to produce a chair. Monthly production is around 1,100 plastic chairs. Since 2013, the Las Piñas factory has produced over 30,000 chairs, which are distributed for free to various public schools all over the country.
Villar’s waste management initiatives have inspired other organizations and LGUs to duplicate its initiatives including the Philippine Alliance for Recycling & Materials Sustainability (PARMS) and the City of Parañaque which established their own plastics recycling factory.
Villar also emphasized that environmental protection, particularly proper waste disposal and handling, is very important with or without a pandemic. She cited that in the new normal, it should be as normal as hand-washing and wearing face masks.