Reducing the massive 9.2 million kilos of waste produced on a daily basis by Metro Manila’s 17 local government units (LGUs) is a daunting task but not totally impossible.
Environmental health groups espousing the Zero Waste approach to resource management emphasized this point as national government agencies pressed the public to dispose of their discards properly to minimize drainage and flooding problems and to stop garbage from getting dumped into the Manila Bay.
To reduce the average daily waste generation in Metro Manila estimated at 9,283,889 as per government’s calculation, the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition underlined the need for effective enforcement of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
The groups likewise called attention to the need for industries and businesses involved in the manufacture and sale of consumer goods to take responsibility in reducing their production and usage of single-use plastics choking storm drains, rivers and the oceans.
MEF Chairman Sonia Mendoza, who is also a member of the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Board, pointed out that strengthening the implementation of RA 9003 at every household, barangay and local government is essential if the society is to reduce the volume of trash that ends up being buried or burned in disposal sites, or gets dumped into Manila Bay.
“There is no question that we need to give the enforcement of RA 9003 a much-needed boost at all levels in order to maximize and benefit from proven Zero Waste strategies such as waste segregation at source, recycling, composting and their associated social enterprises and community livelihoods,” she said.
“A renewed commitment to enforce the RA 9003, especially by our mayors and barangay captains, will significantly reduce Metro Manila's waste production and the amount of residuals requiring disposal,” she added.
Stressing the need for corporate action to combat plastic pollution, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, urged companies to adopt bold policies and measures to halt single-use, throw-away plastic packaging.
“We can no longer solely put the blame on consumers and poor communities for our garbage woes. Corporations need to roll out plastic reduction policies, re-design products with the environment in mind, and to disassociate themselves from throw-away plastics and harmful chemicals polluting the oceans,” she said.
According to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), biodegradable waste comprises 52 percent of the waste generated by the metropolis, recyclable waste covers 38 percent, and residual waste makes up the remaining 10 percent.
"Why is 85% of the total waste being collected by Metro Manila LGUs dumped in landfills? As per RA 9003, it should only be residual waste, which is only about 10 - 20%? If we use the MMDA waste characterization data, it should only be 10%," Mendoza highlighted.
Based on the above figures, biodegradables should be composted or used as animal feeds, recyclables should be sold to junk shops and recycling firms, and only residuals should be collected by municipal or city trucks for disposal, the groups said.
The honest-to-goodness enforcement of RA 9003 and related laws such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Environmental Awareness and Education Act, complemented by strong plastic reduction policies and targets by socially responsible companies, will also help in stopping the creeping entry into the country of costly and unsustainable disposal technologies such as burn or thermal waste-to-energy incineration, the groups said.