Groups Push for Zero Waste Approach Amid Plans to Build 300 More Landfills by 2022

Environmental advocates have weighed in on the plan of the government to construct 300 more landfills by 2022.

Through a press statement, leaders of the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reconsider its plan to build more landfills across the country and to focus its efforts in enforcing the salient provisions of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Republic Act 9003 provides for a comprehensive and ecological approach to managing discards primarily through waste prevention, reduction, segregation at source, reuse, recycling and composting, excluding open dumping, open burning and waste incineration.

The 20-year old law, enacted in the aftermath of the deadly Payatas dumpsite tragedy, requires the country’s over 42,000 barangays to develop ecological solid waste management programs, promote waste separation at source, enforce a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and establish Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in every barangay or cluster of barangays. 

The said law further prohibits, among other things, the manufacture, distribution or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials; the importation of consumer products packaged in non-environmentally acceptable materials; and the importation of toxic wastes misrepresented as “recyclable” or “with recyclable content.”

“DENR should concentrate on implementing RA 9003 and not build more disposal sites such as landfills. This plan will encourage the people not to practice source segregation and also promote the collection of mixed waste,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation. “An Extended Producer Responsibility Law and banning single-use plastic packaging will greatly decrease the amount of residual waste that will have to be disposed of in landfills.”

For his part, Joey Papa, President of the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, asked: “How many more hundreds of hectares will be covered by these landfills, which are actually garbage dump sites? Why not use precious, diminishing areas of land for reforestation as shield against storms and typhoons, and as a source of food and livelihood for the people especially in critical times like this pandemic, made worse by global warming and climate change?”

“We must collectively and constantly exert efforts, in our homes and communities, to decrease the use of non-biodegradable materials, to be recycled; immediately eliminate single-use plastics which must be totally banned; and increase the use of biodegradable and plant-based resources, with the excess to be composted. This will reduce centralized collection by 60%-80% as successfully proven by BKM and its partner communities since 2003,” he said.

“We call on the DENR to seriously consider this proposition, our appeal for the longest time,” Papa said, in view of the agency’s recent announcement that it will set up 300 more so-called “sanitary” landfills, until 2022. There are now 189. 

“Landfills are designed to serve as sinkholes for the refuse of the present generation.  Thus, they unjustly become veritable graves for the resources that are valuable for reuse and use by the future generations. It should not be the backbone of the nation’s solid waste management strategy on the basis of practical, ethical, health and environmental grounds,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, recalling the group’s Unity Statement adopted at its founding conference on 14 January 2000.

As the Zero Waste Month is celebrated this January in line with Proclamation 760, the groups urge national government agencies and local government units to work toward realizing the Zero Waste vision, goal and action plan to rid cities, municipalities and barangays of toxic dumpsites and incinerators and to keep the environment safe from chemical, plastic and waste pollutants. 

“R.A. 9003 stresses waste avoidance and volume reduction through the adoption of best practices in ecological waste management, but the preference for quick fix solutions such as landfills and incinerators, including waste-to-energy burn technologies, persists among some of our government officials,” the groups noted.