The garbage conundrum

ENACTED on January 26, 2001, Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, declaring a state policy the adoption of a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management program in the Philippines, remains poorly implemented.

Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), which was created specifically to oversee the implementation of solid waste management plans and prescribe policies to achieve the objectives of the law, reported the poor compliance of concerned local government units (LGUs).

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Calabarzon officials conduct a surprise inspection at a sanitary landfill operated by S.B. Hain Enterprises & General Services Inc. in Purok 1, Barangay Kay-Anlog, Calamba City, Laguna, in August last year. The DENR issued a show-cause order for a number of alleged violations committed by the operators of the sanitary landfill operation.

The Philippines is producing too much garbage that is way beyond its solid waste management capacity.

The Philippines, with a population of over 100 million, is producing over 21 million metric tons of garbage every year.

The country’s weighted average per capita generation is 0.4 kilos, or close to half a kilo. Based on the projected 2020 waste generation, the Philippines has produced a total of 21,4265,676 metric tons of garbage last year.

The National Capital Region (NCR), with its estimated population of over 12 million, is the biggest producer of garbage.

Based on the projected 2020 waste generation, Metro Manila produced 3,466,469 metric tons of garbage last year.

This is because the estimated weighted average per capita in Metro Manila is almost 0.7 kilos per day.

This means that Metro Manila residents are producing almost twice the volume of garbage produced by those living in other areas.

Maria Delia Cristina M. Valdez, officer in charge chief of the Solid Waste Management Division of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, said in her report in an online meeting with sanitary landfill owners and operators on December 28 that municipal solid waste are composed of 56.7 percent household or residential waste; 27.1 percent is commercial 12.1 percent institutional; and 4.1 percent, industrial.

Of the commercial waste generated, 18.3 percent comes from markets across the country and the remaining 8.8 percent are produced by other commercial establishments.

By weight of municipal solid waste fractions, more than half or approximately 52.31 percent of the total are biodegradable waste, 27.78 are recyclable waste, and 17.98 percent are residual waste, which include plastics, paper and cardboard, metals, glass and textiles, leather, and rubber. The remaining 1.93 percent are so-called special waste.

Poor compliance

In her report, Valdez underscored mandatory requirements under the law. These are waste diversion target, 10-year solid waste management plan, materials recovery facilities, and disposal facility—all of which remain poorly complied with, particularly by LGUs.

She defined waste diversion as activities which aim to reduce or eliminate the volume or amount of solid waste from waste disposal facilities.

Under Section 20 of RA 9003, which calls for the establishment of mandatory solid waste diversion, each LGU plan shall include an implementation schedule, which shows that within five years after the law took effect, the LGU shall divert at least 25 percent of all solid waste from waste disposal facilities through reuse, recycling and composting activities, and other resource recovery activities. The waste diversion goals shall be increased every three years thereafter.

However, based on data collated from 10-year solid waste management plans approved by the DENR and NSWMC, the diversion target by the end of last year is only 68 percent. Even this has yet to be verified by the NSWMC.

As for the mandatory 10-year solid waste management plans, the NSWMC has only approved a total of 1,064, or 58.6 percent compliance.  A total of 521 plans, or 37 percent of the total, are under evaluation, while 76 LGUs have not submitted their 10-year solid waste management plans.

Meanwhile, Valdez reported that as of October 2020, there are 11,558 materials recovery facilities (MRFs) servicing 14,483 barangays, a far cry from the 42,000 or more barangays in the entire country that need servicing by a fully functional MRF.

As for LGU disposal, she reported that there are now 189 sanitary landfills servicing a total of 399 LGUs all over the country; and that there are still 261 open dumps that need to be shut down.

This is a far cry from the number of sanitary landfills needed to be established.

In Luzon alone, she said 140 sanitary landfills are needed to serve a total of 772 LGUs.  A total of 32 sanitary landfills are needed for the Visayas to serve 408 LGUs, and 34 sanitary landfills are needed to serve 337 LGUs in Mindanao.

She noted, however, that the DENR and the NSWMC, in consideration of the lack of capacity of many LGUs to establish their own disposal facility, allows the clustering of LGUs for the establishment of a single sanitary landfill.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny Antiporda said the DENR will launch an “all-out war” against garbage as the DENR takes the lead in celebrating January as Zero Waste Month.

“This Zero Waste Month, we want to start our campaign for a zero open dump,” Antiporda said.

Antiporda warned that some LGUs that refused to cooperate with the DENR and the NSWMC in enforcing the garbage law will face criminal and administrative raps, lamenting the fact that the DENR and NSWMC’s leniency may eventually come to an end.

On the other hand, he said, the DENR and the NSWMC will continue to work with LGUs who are willing to cooperate and solve their respective garbage problems.

The DENR is eyeing the establishment of 300 more sanitary landfills nationwide through public-private partnership. The target is to do it in the next two years, or hoping to complete the feat by the end of 2022.

This is why Antiporda said he reached out to sanitary landfill owners and operators to set aside their differences and work together by organizing themselves and to work in harmony with the national and various local governments to help address the looming garbage crisis.

“…[The] initiative [is] for them to organize themselves to have a voice in the NSWMC,” says Antiporda.

The official said the establishment of more sanitary landfills  will require private-sector investment in solid waste management and disposal to meet such “ambitious” target.

Sanitary landfill is the primary long-term method of solid waste disposal allowed under Republic Act 9003.

During the meeting, Antiporda noted that the current number of sanitary landfills in the Philippines remains wanting.

He encouraged sanitary landfill owners or operators to look into the viability of offering their facilities to LGUs with illegal dumpsites, in anticipation of an aggressive campaign by the DENR to close down open dumps starting this month as required by RA 9003, which marks its 20th year as a law on January 26, 2021.

Image credits: Jerome Ganzon |, DENR Calabarzon


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