The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said households were the biggest source of municipal solid waste in 2008 to 2013. The National Solid Waste Management Status Report published by the agency indicated that residential waste constitutes more than half of municipal solid waste. Items that end up in the trash bins of households include biodegradables, such as kitchen scraps, and paper and cardboards.
Rice, leftover food, banana peels are some of the biodegradables thrown in landfills. This, despite the fact that the Philippines imports rice yearly to augment its domestic supply. According to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, a Filipino household wastes 1.676 kilograms of rice annually, translating to a total country loss of 38.507 million kilos, valued at P1.617 billion (See, “Food waste, postharvest losses where millions remain hungry,” in the BusinessMirror, October 18, 2018).
As more people stay in their homes to prevent the spread of Covid-19, households are expected to produce more food waste. This is the best time for government to encourage households to segregate their wastes and turn these items into compost. It doesn’t take much to do composting—the natural process of “rotting” or decomposition of matter by microorganisms under controlled conditions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Composting will keep biodegradables from local landfills where these items could release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Apart from this, the United States Environmental Protection Agency said the use of compost would enrich the soil, suppress plant diseases and cut the use of chemical fertilizer. The use of compost would make soil healthier, which can help improve crop yield.
The Department of Agriculture has jump-started initiatives to encourage composting by including compost in the urban gardening kits it distributes to personnel in all government agencies. Promoting the recycling of food waste and composting will complement its thrust to encourage city residents to take up urban gardening to augment their food supply. Due to the quarantine restrictions, people now have the time to recycle food waste and make compost for the crops they want to plant in their own gardens.
Developing a recycling mindset among Filipinos will not only reduce the country’s food waste, but also encourage them to convert trash into something useful. Apart from improving the quality of crops, recycling food waste will also help cut the volume of trash that ends up in dumpsites or landfills that require huge spaces and budgets. Currently, the government is already hard pressed to build more landfills to accommodate trash from households, industries and commercial establishments. (See “PHL only has 10 percent of needed sanitary landfills, says DENR exec,” in the BusinessMirror, February 5, 2020).
Government does not have to shell out so much money for the initiative as it has all the necessary platforms where it could carry out information campaigns even during the pandemic. There are government-owned radio and television stations as well as web sites where even residents in far-flung areas can access information. The beauty of this initiative is that it is simple, cheap and effective, especially if it is done with the right mind-set.