The Covid-19 pandemic may have resulted in a better environment with lesser air pollution and clearer skies largely due to restrictions on movement and travel. Climate change experts who attended the Climate Action: Net Zero by 2050 conference in November 2020 agreed that carbon dioxide has fallen sharply during the coronavirus pandemic. This is good news for Mother Earth.
Today more and more environmentalists and economic experts encourage countries to invest in what is called smart sectors – green infrastructure, green transportation, green communication, green production – in a bid to accelerate economic recovery plans to deal with the fall-out from Covid-19.
After all, going green could transform the long-term structure of society into something more sustainable and one that is more prepared to meet the challenges of climate change. As climate change worsens, dangerous weather events are becoming more frequent or severe.
Niclas Svenningsen, global climate action manager at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that Covid-19 was a “test case for climate change” and that the unabated effects of global climate change would have dire social and economic consequences when compared with the current pandemic.
The Philippines is highly vulnerable to climate risks owing to its geographical location and high exposure to natural hazards, its dependence on climate-sensitive natural resources and vast coastlines.
These risks would have an almost certain and long-term impact on the economy, sustainable development, social equity, and national security throughout the country and across all sectors. Take the case of Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan) which wreaked havoc in Tacloban City and nearby provinces in 2013.
According to a World Bank report, Typhoon Yolanda caused over 6,300 reported fatalities and an additional 2.3 million people were estimated to have fallen below the poverty line. The total damage and loss were estimated at PHP 571.1 billion (USD 12.9 billion). hampering economic growth by about 0.9 percent in 2013, and another 0.3 percent in 2014.
While solid waste management remains a major challenge in the Philippines, its mismanagement also poses threats to environmental issues in the country causing air, land, and water pollution.
Even with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 in place, the Philippines has observed a steady increase in daily waste generated over the years with Metro Manila alone recording an average of over 9,000 tons of waste per day based on record available in 2018. Of this, 85 percent of the total solid waste was collected while the remaining 15 percent ended up in waterways and bodies of water. Further, the annual waste generation was estimated at 10 million tons in 2010 and this was expected to rise by 40% in 2020 according to a published report by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
Enacted in January 2001, RA 9003 provides the necessary policy framework, institutional mechanisms, and mandate to the local government units (LGUs) to achieve 25 percent waste reduction through the establishment of an integrated solid waste management plan based on the 3Rs or reduce, reuse and recycle.
With RA 9003, individuals are responsible for solid waste management. It enjoins all citizens, educational institutions, and commercial and industrial establishments to clean their own surroundings, as well as the canals, roads or streets in their immediate premises.
Unfortunately, the enforcement and compliance with the law remains a daunting task due to technical, political, and financial limitations of the concerned agencies and LGUs according to the Senate Economic Planning Office (SEPO).
Today giant corporations race to make their businesses green and sustainable in a bid to give back to the communities and to help create a better environment. Coca-Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc. (CCBPI), for one, uses 100 percent recyclable materials in its primary packaging, from returnable glass, to PET plastic bottles, and aluminum cans.
Mondelez Philippines, which had committed in 2018 to make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable by 2025, partnered in February 2021 with social enterprise, The Plastic Flamingo, to collect and recycle 40 metric tons (MT) of post-consumer plastic packaging this year. The recycled material was used to build disaster relief shelters for areas that are prone to typhoons as the company’s goal of contributing to a better future amid the pandemic.
As for Republic Cement, the company has been doing its part in providing alternative waste management solutions through the use of various qualified wastes as alternative fuel for its cement production. This is done through a method called cement kiln co-processing.
Co-processing is the reuse or recovery of thermal and mineral properties of qualified waste materials. Through co-processing and the use of qualified waste as alternative fuels, Republic can manufacture cement with reduced dependence on fossil fuels such as coal.
“Through Republic’s co-processing arm ecoloop, partnerships with organizations in the public and private sectors are forged to divert these residual wastes away from landfills and waterways,” related Angela Edralin, ecoloop Director.
“More than 20 LGUs have started using co-processing as a means of waste management. In the private sector, Republic has also partnered with FMCGs or fast moving consumer goods to help address the plastic pollution crisis through capturing pre- and post-consumer waste.
According to Edralin, ecoloop’s main objective is to do its part in contributing to Sustainable Development Goal number 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities and Goal number 13 on Climate Action.
“Through ecoloop, Republic is able to truly embed sustainability in its manufacturing processes. It was also Republic’s response to the call to action to address the country’s ongoing plastic crisis and effectively divert plastic waste from landfills and waterways in the country,” she said.
When it was launched in December 2020, ecoloop’s goal was to process 10 million sachets per day for 2021. This was achieved the same month and the company has been able to achieve this goal every day since then.
“The success would not have been possible if not for the like-minded partners in both the public and private sector who fully support the mission and vision of the group. It takes a village to address such a huge undertaking and it was only with their full partnership and cooperation that these goals were realized.”