Mayor Marcy shares secrets in sustaining city’s sustainability: In Marikina, we treat waste as a resource, not trash

by Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro

A pioneer in solid waste management in the Philippines, Marikina City has come a long way—from being the country's model city to gaining international wins in sustainability.

In this special article for the 123rd anniversary of The Manila Bulletin, I would like to share the main secret of the Shoe Capital of the Philippines—in Marikina, we treat waste as a resource, not trash.

Marikina City Mayor Marcy Teodoro

From 2006 to 2008, the city received numerous recognitions from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Alliance for Healthy Cities. In 2010, WHO recognized the city for being “environmentally sustainable” and having “healthy urban transport.”

We also got the Seal of Excellence in Governance from the Department of the Interior and Local Government which hailed it as a “model city” in 2019; and received the highest scores for all three categories on clean air, land, and water during the fifth ASEAN Environmentally Sustainable Cities (ESC) Awards in Jakarta, Indonesia in 2021.

But truth be told, sustaining sustainability in a city is never easy—constantly requiring big and collective community efforts, continuously challenging both the leaders and constituents.

Our completeness is admirable. The environment is very vast. It covers even the orderliness on sidewalks, discipline in traffic. For us, it’s all about the fair and sustainable implementation of environmental laws.

Clean households, clean community

Proper waste management extends within the whole community. There are four regular garbage collection schedules in every barangay—for biodegradable (twice), recyclables, and special waste—as well as monthly collection of used cooking oil.

Our uniqueness as a local government unit (LGU) centers on our efficient and effective solid waste management program, and that starts with our regular garbage collection.

After collection, proper segregation takes place to determine which can be recycled and which shall go to sanitary landfill.

And because we treat waste as a resource, we also collect food waste from restaurants and turn them into compost, as well as the fruits and vegetables thrown in public markets.

While styrofoam, stretchable plastics, and used cooking oil are used to make eco bricks or eco pavers for some of the city's infrastructure projects, as well as pots. Plastic bottles are also recycled into street decorations, among others.

Clean ways, clean streets

As such, Marikina residents, as one community, follow several mandates to ensure that cleanliness is maintained even outside their homes—Ordinance No. 46 for proper waste segregation, Ordinance No. 135 which prohibits improper garbage disposal, as well as Ordinance No. 73 for anti-littering.

We have 'Munting basura, Ibulsa muna' campaign, where Marikina residents are highly encouraged to keep small garbage in their pockets until they come home.

Clean, healthy air

Topping the 2021 ASEAN ESC Awards, the city’s air quality was recognized for being within the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The LGU operates against smoke-belching vehicles with a dedicated anti-smoke belching unit that conducts a daily roadside inspection, checking the emission level of motor vehicles. A dramatic 47 percent reduction of apprehended smoke belchers was observed; from 4,183 smoke belchers apprehended in 2018 to 2,204 in 2019.

When we started operating it, we noticed a decrease in the number of vehicles causing pollution in Marikina.

Another notable initiative is the Marikina Bikeways Project, encouraging residents to use bicycles as means of transport around the city; an environmental-friendly and economical transport system decreasing the probability of severe air pollution.

Clean water access and wastewater treatment

Aside from clean land and air, clean water management is likewise an asset. To begin, 100 percent of households have access to the water infrastructure of the city’s water concessionaire Manila Water, which tap water meets WHO’s drinking water standard and supplies water at full capacity meeting the average consumption of Marikina consumers.

It is worth noting that all business establishments in Marikina City has grease trap or has a wastewater treatment facility before they can operate to ensure that our bodies of water will not be polluted.

Clean, green spaces for mental wellness

Meanwhile, apart from maintaining clean surroundings from households to streets, decluttering people’s minds is of equal importance. It developed green spaces to give room for mental wellness while adapting to climate change and lessening the chances of flooding.

Open spaces were converted into green spaces. For example, along F. Torres corner J. Molina, we can see that the space is a combination of trees, grass or greenery, benches, and gravel.

At present, the number of green spaces in Marikina is 515.61 hectares, exceeding the required green spaces of 428.20 hectares needed for healthy living based on the WHO standard.

Clean future

Sustainability is not only about what we achieved in the past and what we have been achieving at present, it also covers what we are geared to achieve in the future.

In Marikina, we take sustainability to heart and we will continue to sustain and implement the programs that will benefit the environment and make the city's children prouder than they ever were.