10 March 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Backs Mandatory Waste Separation

Quezon City. “It’s already in the law.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental alliance working for a zero waste society, made this reaction to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s plan to issue an Executive Order that will make it compulsory to separate discards at source.

“Section 21 of Republic Act 9003 stipulates the mandatory segregation of waste at the point of origin such as households, institutions, commercial establishments, industries and farms,”Eileen Belamide-Sison of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the first law signed by Arroyo when she assumed the presidency, requires segregation at source to promote recycling, reuse and composting of resources and to cut waste volume for collection and disposal.

“But, if an Executive Order is necessary to steer a nationwide movement that will sort discards at the point of generation and push our communities to embrace zero waste and achieve higher levels of recycling, reuse and composting, then we ask that a robust E.O. be issued without delay,” Sison stated.

“Source separated discards are resources that we can reuse or recycle back into commerce or Mother Nature,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, “while mixed discards become stinking garbage that can harm human and ecological health.”

Recycling, the EcoWaste Coalition explained, conserves natural resources and prevents the destruction of ecosystems by delaying the extraction of virgin materials, while creating jobs, reducing waste handling and disposal costs, and cutting pollution.

Composting, on the other hand, produces beneficial compost that can be used as soil amendment to revitalize depleted soils, while preventing the production of landfill gases that contribute to global warming. Among its other benefits, compost can eradicate the use of chemical fertilizers, enhance agricultural productivity and even remediate contaminated soils.

From an e-mail and text survey among its members, the EcoWaste Coalition identified several reasons why segregation of discards at source is poorly complied with.

Respondents cited the following as key stumbling blocks in the implementation of waste separation at source: the low public awareness of R.A. 9003, the lack of sustained public education and mobilization on eco-friendly consumption and discards management, the non-enforcement of both the “no segregation, no collection” policy and the “segregated collection” policy, the predisposition of some officials to quick-fix “solutions” such as landfills and incinerators, the laziness of some officials and the absence of political will to execute the law, and the corruption in waste management given the huge budget allocation for waste collection and disposal.

The respondents, which include the Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Miss Earth Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation, Sining Yapak, Soljuspax and Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, would like to see the following aspects emphasized in the E.O.:

1. Continuing public information, education and mobilization on sustainable consumption and environmental protection with focus on waste prevention and reduction.

2. Establishment of ecology centers or materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to facilitate community-oriented, eco-friendly management of waste resources.

3. Enforcement of the ban on open burning, waste incineration and open dumping, including the closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of all polluting dumpsites.

4. Recognition and integration of the informal sector, particularly the waste pickers, as formal partners in ecological waste management to raise their social standing and improve their working and living conditions.

5. Separation of discards where it is generated to maintain the quality of materials and prevent occupational hazards to waste workers from the toxins in mixed waste.

6. “No segregation, no collection” to compel all waste generators to strictly comply with the rule.

7. Segregated collection of source-separated discards by waste workers.

8. Promoting the recycling of organics locally, ensuring that the biodegradable fraction of the waste stream is properly composted.

9. Banning dumpsite or landfill disposal for compostable and recyclable discards.

10. Implementation of essential measures to cut residual waste to the minimum through materials substitution, toxics use reduction, extended producer responsibility, and the phase out and ban of non-environmentally-acceptable products and packaging materials.

11. Inclusion of an ecological waste management plan as a requirement for the issuance of business permits and environmental compliance certificates.

Baby Reyes of the Mother Earth Foundation further proposes the designation of environment police at the barangay level who are deputized to issue citation tickets to households and other establishments that do not separate their discards and also to garbage collectors who accept
unsegregated discards.

“Having these environment police can be an effective tool to encourage the people to comply with the law,” Reyes said.

Rene Pineda of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution also believes that the E.O. needs to have “very sharp teeth and a mandatory, enabling mechanism tasking local government units (LGUs) to empower citizens to directly benefit from the economic benefits of segregation, i.e., recycling (sell to junk shops) and composting (urban vegetable gardening for food production).”

“The EO, therefore, will serve as a whip stick invoking the administrative power of the executive branch over LGUs and at the same time a mandatory mechanism to empower citizens,” Pineda said.

Causing or permitting the collection of unsegregated waste under R.A. 9003 is punishable with a fine of P1,000 up to P3,000, or imprisonment of 15 days to six months, or both.

The penalty for mixing source-separated recyclable materials with other discards in any vehicle or container used in waste collection and disposal is P500,000 for the first offense, plus 5% to 10% of the offender’s net income during the previous year. The court can also impose an additional penalty of imprisonment from one to three years.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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