Moving toward a zero-waste and eco-friendly Philippines

Published February 19, 2022, 5:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

After this health pandemic, scientists have predicted that the world will face another one—the pandemic of waste. Last year, data revealed that the world produced 1.6 million tons of pandemic-related waste each day. Imagine the mountains of trash that may end up in landfills or waterways and direly affect the health and wellbeing of humans and animals.

Even amid this staggering challenge on how to address this “scary” scenario, there is a viable solution. In fact, a law exists to address proper waste management, which is Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. This was signed into law on Jan. 26, 2001, mandating the adoption of a systematic, comprehensive, and ecological solid waste management program in the country. Last Feb. 2, 2022, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) marked the 21st year of the law’s enactment through various events and advocacy projects.

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu took it as one of his main priorities to improve the quality of our environment, particularly the air, water, and addressing solid waste issues. For solid waste management, he instructed the DENR to focus on two priority activities: First, the closure of dumpsites; and second, the establishment of Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in various LGUs.

“May the observance of the law’s anniversary be a constant reminder to the public to be mindful of segregating their waste and disposing them properly,” said Cimatu. “Now, more than ever, the public should be mindful of their consumption as more wastes are produced during the pandemic. May this observance be not just a reminder but the start of a long-term habit and behavioral change among Filipinos.”

Part of an effective solid waste management is the closure of open dumpsites. The reason for this is that these dumpsites, during disposal of waste, generate emissions that produce negative impacts on the environment and potentially represent a threat to our health. Cimatu is proud to report that the DENR has already closed 100 percent of open dumpsites in the country, pronouncing this as a “beginning of a new era of environmental consciousness among Filipinos” and an “effective implementation of RA 9003.”

It is not only the closure of dumpsites that has a resounding effect on the LGUs and the welfare of the people. The DENR also encouraged the LGUs to come up with their own 10-year solid waste management plans, so that their constituents may be guided to the proper path of sustainable living. At the end of 2021, the solid waste management plans of 51 LGUs were approved by the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), bringing the total number of approved plans to 1,171 or 68 percent of the target nationwide.

RA 9003 mandates LGUs to have their respective 10-year solid waste management plans for the “reuse, recycling, and composting of wastes generated” as well as the “efficient management of solid waste generated within their jurisdiction.”

Due to the pandemic, among the highlighted requirements to be included in the solid waste management plans is the COVID Waste Management Plan covering COVID-19 related healthcare wastes, such as face masks and testing kits.
Proper and efficient solid waste management is vital to any functioning society. Without it, major problems arise as all kinds of waste, if not discarded properly, may pose harm to our environment and our wellbeing. Therefore, the goal of a responsible society is to ensure that all citizens will be aware of the importance of solid waste management, that each one of us has a role in maintaining cleanliness of surroundings, and how crucial it is for us to live a waste-free and sustainable lifestyle.