Five years ago, Presidential Proclamation No. 760, signed by former president Benigno S. Aquino III, officially declared the month of January as Zero Waste Month. The proclamation defined “zero waste” as “an advocacy that promotes designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, and to conserve and recover all resources, and not indiscriminately dispose or burn them.”
Even before the issuance of the proclamation, various nongovernmental organizations in the Philippines have been trying to mainstream zero waste as a goal for our government. In fact, PP 760 traces its roots to the first-ever Zero Waste Youth Convergence organized by Mother Earth Foundation, in which 5,000 youth leaders issued a Zero Waste Youth statement calling for the celebration of a Zero Waste Month.
January was chosen as Zero Waste Month because this was the month when Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, got signed. Many countries around the world have expressed admiration for this landmark Philippine law, as it calls for a decentralized waste and resource management system that also bans waste incinerators.
According to the National Solid Waste Commission, waste in Philippine cities and municipalities is mostly composed of organics (52 percent). Recyclables comprise 28 percent, and residuals (waste that can’t be reused, recycled or composted) 18 percent. Much of the waste (80 percent, which is organics and recyclables combined) can be safely returned to nature or industry without resorting to landfills and incineration.
Through proper segregation, organics can be composted in our homes, schools and offices. In a linear waste management approach, organics are wasted instead of being turned into a resource. Under a zero-waste approach, recyclables are reused and recycled and become a source of livelihood for waste workers as well.
Various cities and towns in the Philippines have shown leadership in implementing the law, hoping to transform into a zero-waste city. A good model is San Fernando, Pampanga, which achieved a 78-percent waste diversion record (or the amount that was composted or recycled instead of going into the landfill) in 2017, from 12 percent in 2012. Tacloban City was also able to increase the coverage of waste collection but managed to decrease the volume of waste sent into landfills.
However, the work does not end at the local government unit (LGU) level. Many LGUs that have already been implementing zero-waste policies need strong support from national government agencies and legislators. They have the power to enable an environment that supports these policies by enacting laws and supporting the implementation of such laws that can scale up the successes of LGUs doing the zero-waste approach.
For instance, cities like San Fernando, Pampanga, that are trying to reduce nonrecyclable plastic waste through local ordinances cannot implement zero waste effectively unless there is a law at the national level to mandate businesses to stop the production of single-use disposable plastic packaging. Having a national law will ensure that materials such as disposable implements or throwaway sachet packaging are not produced in the first place. Thus, it removes the burden from LGUs to have to manage plastic waste that can neither be recycled nor composted.
With strong political will and robust policies in place, government leaders and an engaged citizenry can transform the Philippines into a zero-waste country. The coming midterm elections is an opportune time to ensure that we are on the right track.
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Froilan Grate is the regional coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives Asia-Pacific. Jed Alegado is the communications officer for Asia-Pacific of #breakfreefromplastic. This article was originally posted in Inquirer.
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Officials mull plastic bans and other policies to implement RA 9003, curb plastic pollution
Quezon City, 31 January 2019—Hundreds of local government unit (LGU) officials across the country gathered today in a forum in Quezon City to discuss policies that will help bring an end to plastic pollution—and usher in sustainable, Zero Waste Cities in the Philippines.
The forum, held in celebration of Zero Waste Month this January and organized by GAIA Asia Pacific and Mother Earth Foundation, looked into local and national policy actions aimed at reducing single-use plastic, from material substitution by producers to outright bans in cities. Speakers from different countries also showcased success stories of Zero Waste initiatives from the European Union and other parts of the globe, as well as in the Philippines.
“Zero Waste is the key to solving the country’s waste problems,” said Froilan Grate, Executive Director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific. “When city planners put Zero Waste into action, they can establish resilient and sustainable cities, help fulfill Sustainable Development Goals, comply with RA 9003, and transition to a sustainable circular economy.”
The proliferation of single-use plastic is one of the biggest drivers of plastic pollution. Environmental groups contend that waste should not be addressed through harmful end-of-pipe systems such as landfills and waste incinerators, but through Zero Waste systems. Zero Waste approaches address waste and resources throughout their entire lifecycle—from production to end-of-life—with the goal of waste prevention and resource conservation. In the Philippines, Zero Waste principles are at the core of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act (RA) 9003, a landmark law on resource and waste management.
At the forum, GAIA Asia Pacific launched the report “Enabling sustainable cities through Zero Waste: A guide for decision- and policy-makers.” Although RA 9003 was signed into law in 2001, many cities and municipalities are still struggling with compliance. GAIA believes that there is a lack of information available to local and national government officials about practical strategies and policies that can help them fully implement RA 9003. The paper aims to give local government leaders and national lawmakers recommendations for policies that put Zero Waste in action and effectively implement RA 9003 while demonstrating that Zero Waste is both practical and achievable.
Several local governments are already pioneering Zero Waste programs through cost-effective investments in decentralized waste collection, composting, recycling markets, and waste management infrastructure. Experiences of Philippine cities have shown that as long as the right strategies are in place, cities can set up Zero Waste systems that will enable successful implementation within a period of as short as six months, while also achieving significant savings in waste management costs.
However, cities continue to struggle in managing non-recyclable waste, mostly single-use plastics such as sachets and other packaging. The cities of San Fernando in Pampanga, and San Carlos in Negros Occidental, for example, are implementing strict and effective plastic bag and styrofoam regulations, but these remain a problem.
Marietta Lomocso of San Carlos City’s Environmental Management Office, shared: “With strong political will and stakeholder engagement, our plastic regulation reduced residual waste by half.” But, she said, challenges persist. “Businesses from neighboring cities bring in plastic packaging because they are not familiar with our plastic regulation. And, we still need to deal with the remaining 50% non-recyclable waste that we collect.”
GAIA maintains that businesses need to be part of the solution of reducing plastic waste by not producing single-use packaging and items in the first place. Leaders in national government agencies must also realize they have a crucial role to play by enabling strong policy support at the country level; for example, through mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies, and a national ban on single-use plastics.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès of Zero Waste Europe shared the experience in the European Union (EU) where similar policies are being implemented at a regional level. Europe’s shift to a sustainable circular economy is mandating member countries to pursue reduction, reuse, and recycling as priority actions for waste management. Lévi Alvarès said that more than 400 cities and municipalities in the EU have commitments to become Zero Waste Cities. She also explained that producers are obliged by law to cover the costs of plastic waste management and that certain single-use plastics are being phased out as the region pursues a sustainable circular economy. “Zero Waste initiatives in countries like the Philippines are sending a strong message to Europe that the plastics issue must be addressed at the global level. Major manufacturing industries based in Europe and other countries in the global north should eliminate single use plastics in all regions where they work, including Asia.” she said.
GAIA’s Zero Waste Cities Forum is part of several collaborative dialogues among local government officials in the Asia Pacific region to share experiences about Zero Waste implementation strategies. Outside the Philippines, several cities in the region have hosted, or expressed their interest to host, their own Zero Waste Cities events, including Bandung, Indonesia (Zero Waste Cities Conference 2018) and Penang, Malaysia (Zero Waste Cities Conference 2019 later in the year). GAIA, in partnership with grassroots organizations, has been supporting cities in pursuing ecological strategies to promote segregation and reduce waste volumes, specifically plastic pollution, to reduce and eventually eliminate dependence on harmful end-of-pipe waste disposal systems.##
The report “Enabling sustainable cities through Zero Waste: A guide for decision- and policy-makers.” is available here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 815 7570, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a global network of more than 800 grassroots groups, NGOs and individuals. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. We work to catalyze a global shift towards ecological and environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. www.no-burn.org
Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) is an NGO that works to promote education and awareness of the people on environment protection and proper waste management, reduction of waste, segregation at source composting and recycling towards a zero waste society. http://www.motherearthphil.org/
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Quezon City, January 21, 2019–Environmental groups today trooped to the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) calling Secretary Roy Cimatu to respect the law and refrain from issuing the pending waste-to-energy guidelines which includes sections pertaining to waste-to-energy incineration.
The groups, under the alliance No Burn Pilipinas, said issuance of such guidelines is a violation of the Clean Air Act and RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“DENR is busy doing everything else but their mandate. Waste incineration is banned under the Philippine law. Issuing guidelines that contradict with the existing policies can only cause confusion to the people especially the local government units,” said Glenn Ymata, Campaign Manager of No Burn Pilipinas. “What the DENR should be doing right now is implementing the Clean Air Act and coordinating with the local government units in making sure that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act is being followed,” Ymata added.
Groups reiterated that right to balanced and healthy ecology is clearly stated in the Philippine constitution, and that the DENR has its written mandate to protect the public and the environment—which all will be violated and neglected once waste-to-energy guidelines are issued.
No Burn Pilipinas, together with its community partners globally and from different areas in the country remain firm on its stand against waste incineration saying that it violates the right of the people to breathe clean air and for a healthy environment.
“We already have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act that leads us to an environmental and sustainable approach in waste management. Building waste incinerators is definitely a big step backward for us,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition. “We have model communities who can prove that the Zero Waste approach is the only way to go towards a successful waste management. Practices in said areas should be replicated, strengthened, and mainstreamed. This should also serve as a reminder to our dear secretary that issuing waste-to-energy guidelines invalidates the efforts of these communities,” added Lucero.
Lucero argued that the DENR has been employing a quick fix solution to the waste problem without even fully enforcing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Groups also called out the National Solid Waste Management Commission for doing nothing for the past 18 years.
Said groups also trooped to Quezon City Hall to oppose the construction of waste incineration facility in Payatas.
“If only DENR sets as an example of following what’s written in our laws, local units like Quezon City should have not thought of having waste incineration facility in the first place. They have to do their job now and stop violating the laws,” Ymata concluded.
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Dear Mayor and City Councilmembers,
Thank you for your leadership on Zero Waste issues. I am writing to express Break Free From Plastic’s strong support of the Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction, Item #27 on the December 11th City Council meeting agenda. The ordinance represents a brave and necessary step forward in tackling plastic waste and pollution.
We are at a pivotal moment in time. Cities all across the country are drowning in single-use foodware and packaging – primarily plastic – which is costly to clean up, impactful on the local business districts, likely to pollute the marine environment, and often incompatible with municipal recycling or composting systems. If Berkeley is to reach the 75% diversion from landfill goal of AB 341, it will have to do more than recycle and compost. Similarly, to achieve the storm-water permit requirements established by the state and regional water boards, Berkeley and other jurisdictions will need to do more than capture and clean up trash. To reach our goals, a prevention and source reduction approach is needed, targeting the most problematic materials.
Berkeley has a long history of leading waste reduction strategies like the polystyrene ban of 1986 and the Carryout Bag Reduction legislation, which was adopted by Alameda County and has since become state law. It’s time for Berkeley to take another strong stand. Addressing the over-use of disposable foodware is a vital step towards improving both human and environmental health.
This ordinance represents a comprehensive approach: it includes the increasingly popular “straws and utensils on request” policies being enacted in many other cities, with more mandatory measures to move away from a throw-away culture to one where reusable, durable food and beverage containers are the norm. This ordinance will set a new global standard for reducing disposable foodware while bringing many benefits to the business community.
We strongly urge you to vote yes to adopt this ordinance and the associated referrals to the City Manager. It is the right thing for Berkeley, and the right thing for the planet.
Senior Communications Officer (based in Berkeley, California)
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Dumaguete, Philippines – Silliman University (SU), a private university in the central part of the Philippines, is implementing a new policy that eliminates single-use plastic bags and aims towards Zero Waste, the first university in the country to do so. SU’s new environmental policy was approved unanimously by its Board of Trustees (BOT) on November 17.
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Bali, Indonesia, 12 Oct 2018 — Today, over 400 organizations and individuals in more than 50 countries called on international financial institutions (IFIs) meeting this week in Bali, Indonesia, to stop funding waste incinerators, and instead prioritize projects that focus on Zero Waste solutions.
The call came ahead of the Global Infrastructure Forum on 13 October where 10 IFIs and the UN have organized a meeting to discuss their take on the world’s infrastructure agenda. Environmental groups are submitting a global petition to oppose the recent trend of so-called development financing that has seen the aggressive promotion of waste incinerators in the Global South.
“Although our country is hosting this year’s conference, we refuse to host an incineration plant that will maintain a linear economy and systematically destroy our nation’s precious resources,” says David Sutasurya, Executive Director of Yayasan Pekembangan Biosains dan Bioteknologi (YPBB). “Many Indonesian cities are already pursuing Zero Waste initiatives, which are proven to be a sustainable and actionable approach to solving our country’s waste problems. The banks should support such efforts instead of harmful end-of-pipe systems.”
A key focus of the forum is to mobilize partners’ financial resources to fund infrastructure projects for developing countries, particularly from the private sector.
Many concerned civil society groups are keeping a close and vigilant watch on IFIs because of the troubling legacy of negative environmental and social impacts their projects and policy advice have had on communities and citizens, particularly in the Global South. Many of these IFIs are funded by industrialized countries who wield a strong influence on the policies of poorer nations.
A key concern about the infrastructure financing of these banks are their focus on massive centralized waste incinerators or the so-called “waste-to-energy” facilities, which has had devastating consequences for the climate, human health, and local economies.
Many of these IFIs already funded or promoted waste incinerators in countries in the global South.
“Environmental justice groups around the world are asking development banks to stop funding incineration because it is bad for public health, bad for the environment, bad for the climate and bad for the economy, jeopardizing the livelihoods of millions of waste pickers around the world,” says Niven Reddy, Regional Coordinator for GAIA Africa. “Incineration has proven to be a failed model in the Global North and should not be peddled in the Global South.”
In Europe, the EU has put another nail in the coffin for incinerators: the waste legislation implementation report published by the EC last month instructed countries to introduce measures to phase out residual waste treatment including, among others, incineration. Joan Marc Simon, Executive Director of Zero Waste Europe states, “Support for Incineration is fading and it is agreed that it is not part of the Circular Economy plan of the European Union. EU policymakers are focusing instead on supporting reduction, reuse and recycling. IFIs should learn from Europe’s mistakes and stop promoting waste incineration in other parts of the world.”
A recent World Bank report (What A Waste 2.0) confirms that decades of incineration has not helped decrease global waste volumes, but instead has abetted the global waste crisis.
This year’s Global Infrastructure forum comes at a time when the world is grappling for urgent solutions to address escalating waste volumes and the worsening climate change impacts brought on by reckless consumption,” said Lea Guerrero, Climate and Clean Energy Campaigner at GAIA Asia Pacific. “Waste incineration is part of the unsustainable system that has led the planet to the brink of the waste and climate catastrophes. Multilateral banks that purport to enable sustainable development should no longer fund waste incineration and should instead enable countries to transition to an economy where the conservation of natural resources and Zero Waste is prioritized.”
NOTE TO THE EDITOR
For example, the Asian Development Bank promotes and funds incinerators in Asia[i]; IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, part of World Bank), is funding and supporting incinerators in South America; and African Development Bank promotes and funds the construction of medical waste incinerators all over the continent.
Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA Asia Pacific, email@example.com, +63 917 8157570
Claire Arkin, Campaign and Communications Associate, GAIA, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-883-9490 ext: 111
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