As the country celebrates the National Zero Waste Month, environment groups called on the government and the public to recognize this period as a crucial time to heighten environmental awareness and action among Filipinos.
Proclamation No. 760 was signed in 2014 by former President Benigno Aquino III, declaring January of every year as Zero Waste Month.
Philippine environment groups belonging to the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) movement said the celebration aims to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.
“Zero Waste Month is pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, so this is a crucial time to really heighten our call for environmental awareness and action among Filipinos, as well as in the development of national and local integrated, comprehensive and ecological waste management policies and programs,” said BFFP PH Project national coordinator Rei Panaligan.
EcoWaste Coalition zero waste campaigner Jove Benosa noted that the country generates over 40,000 tons of garbage per day, “not to mention the pile up of disposable face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“After the holiday festivities, we find our bins filled to the brim again as if we are not yet throwing enough throughout the year. This is what we coined as ‘holitrash’ meaning trash that we accumulate from the holiday season composed of disposable food containers, plastic and other packaging wastes, and food leftovers,” he said.
Benosa pointed out that celebrations need not make the garbage situation worse.
“By consuming sustainably and by willfully segregating, reusing, recycling or composting discarded materials, we can all be part of the solution. For instance, food leftovers can be recycled and bring on new twists to be utilized again by the households. Biodegradable discards such as fruit and vegetable peelings, can also be composted at home or at the barangay composting facility. These simple ways of managing food leftovers can reduce what is going into the bins or landfills” he said.
Mother Earth Foundation chair Sonia Mendoza said business-as-usual scenario for corporations and policymakers should not be allowed to continue.
“Let us also bear in mind that we are still in a pandemic and climate emergency. Thus the celebration of Zero Waste Month is a very important event to call them out to drop the legalization of practices that will continue to pose threats to public health and violate environmental laws such as the continued production and consumption of single-use plastics and garbage incineration in the guise of waste-to-energy plants,” Mendoza said.
Glenn Ymata of No Burn Pilipinas urged policymakers to pass sustainable and comprehensive waste management policies and support safer practices that would reduce waste with respect to the Clean Air Act and Ecological Solid Waste Management Act including the international Paris agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The groups have lined up several activities during the month-long celebration with “zero waste” as an advocacy campaign to guide people, businesses, and institutions in changing their lifestyles and practices towards sustainable systems in an ethical, economical, and efficient way, and to ensure that wastes become valuable for other uses.