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Monday, July 22, 2024

Acting On The Garbage Crisis

"Secretary Cimatu rightly pointed out the need to modernize the inefficient and outdated solid waste management systems."

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The Stratbase Pilipinas Conference held recently saw a rare assembly of government, big industry leaders and environmental advocacy groups working towards a convergence of initiatives and strategies to solve what the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy A. Cimatu called a “garbage crisis.”

To put in perspective, according to DENR figures, Metro Manila’s population of around 12.8 million is estimated to generate 59,112 cubic meters for 2019 but already reached 34,574 or 59 percent in the first quarter of the year alone. The next quarter, total garbage volume already surpassed the annual baseline volume for the year.

Secretary Cimatu rightly pointed out the need to modernize the inefficient and outdated solid waste management systems, develop and enhance the policy approaches for plastic waste management and a holistic or balanced approach to policy interventions.

Senator Cynthia Villar as chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources echoed Cimatu’s call for collaboration between government and the private sector. She affirmed the need to shift to the circular model of keeping resources in circulation for as long as possible to get the maximum value and encouraging the creation of new products out of waste materials. She also mentioned that the 2020 budget has provisions to create plastic recycling facilities in all provinces and cities.

Responding to the government’s thrust to prevent further environmental degradation, some of the country’s industry leaders shared their global and local initiatives and environmental commitments and vowed to support an all sector strategy for responsible environmental stewardship.

Coca-Cola Philippines General Manager and President Winn Everhart presented their “World Without Waste” global initiative. Aligned with the circular model, the company aims to collect and recycle every bottle or can sold by 2030. This not just a campaign but a brick and mortar commitment to build a P1-billion PET bottle recycling facility that would substantially help reduce the waste leakage in the Mega Manila area. This can spark the growth of a recycling industry that will potentially create new economic opportunities beyond addressing the plastic problem.

As an example, the Blastik project of the Coca-Cola Foundation is a “full circle collection and recycling program” ongoing in 13 provinces: Bataan, Cavite, Albay, Baler, Palawan, Siargao, Davao, Boracay, La union, Negros Occidental, Marinduque, Sarangani and Metro Manila. Several NGOs have also partnered to implement this program.

Unilever Philippines chairman, Mr. Benjie Yap, presented its Zero Waste to Nature (ZWN) program and discussed the company’s “ambitious new commitments to collect and process more than it sells and halve use of virgin plastic.” This initiative commits to produce 100 percent reusable, recyclable and compostable packaging by 2025 and to invest in proving and sharing a technical solution to recycle sachets with the industry.

The strategy deploys a three-pronged framework of : 1) Less Plastic using lighter, stronger and better materials which have lower environmental impact, 2) Better Plastic to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastics with recyclable materials and more recyclable content, and 3) No Plastic by using materials and new packaging formats.

Local programs now being implemented by Unilever are: the “Misis Walastik” Program which collects post-consumer sachet waste in over 300 communities across Metro Manila through a product exchange incentive program; the “Kole Kilo Kita para sa Walastik na Maynila”—an incentivized collection program for flexible plastic waste under the “May Pera sa Basura” project of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso; the Office and Factory Solid Waste Management Program to eliminate waste generated at the source or recycled off-site at DENR accredited waste haulers; Packaging Innovations to make materials easier to recycle and alternative packaging through research partnerships; Alternative Delivery Systems piloted in three high-traffic malls as the “All Things Hair Refillery” which the company intends to scale pending FDA guidelines; and Multi-sectoral Partnerships to develop and implement programs towards “Zero Waste.”

From the public utilities sector, sustainability strategies were discussed by Maynilad’s president and CEO Ramoncito Fernandez. He pointed out the two major sources of pollution in waterways leading to Manila Bay being human waste from open defecation or poorly-constructed/-managed septic tank systems coming from 89 percent of the total number of barangays in the metropolis and illegal discharges form 63 commercial and industrial establishments found directly draining untreated wastewater.

Based on the original timeline approved by the MWSS, Maynilad plans to implement the following: four sewerage projects from 2018 to 2022 to reach 47 percent coverage by 2021; 11 projects from 2023 to 2027 to reach 68 percent; 12 projects from 2028 to 2032 to reach 87 percent; and four projects between 2033 and 2037 to get 100 percent coverage by the end of the concession period.

Fernandez also cited serious obstacles created by the five-year timeline ordered by the Supreme Court decision such as the land that needs to be expropriated to build the facilities, the huge traffic jams caused by road closures to finish laying 450 kilometers of sewer lines, and abrupt tariff adjustments.

Maynilad’s sustainability strategies highlighted were the “Sining Ipo”— an award winning program for the Dumagat Tribe; “Plant for Life” that has so far planted 800,000 trees and mangroves in the Ipo Laguna Lake and Malabon Watersheds, and the Coastal areas of Manila Bay; the “Daloy Dunong” education program that teaches children and parents about water sanitation and environmental protection; and the Non-Revenue Water (NRW) Program wherein over 2,300 kilometers of old pipes were replaced and 360,000 leaks repaired resulting in the recovery of 700 million liters over the last 12 years. An estimated P40.7 billion has been spent in the NRW Program.

Stratbase Group Managing Director and CEO, Prof. Dindo Manhit said, “A smarter approach other than the traditional regulatory tools imposing bans or taxes is to focus on instilling discipline for consumers to responsibly dispose of trash in parallel with enabling policies that encourage new innovations for packaging materials and waste management systems.”

He stressed that, “Stewardship of the environment should be everybody’s concern. The task to protect and preserve the environment is not just the government’s business, it’s everybody’s business.”


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