Communities in the Philippines that were once riddled with trash are being recognized for their revolutionary zero waste models. By implementing a combination of effective policy advocacy, powerful grassroots organizing, and meaningful community education on ecological waste management, these communities decreased their waste in landfills, generated more jobs, and enhanced community safety. In this year’s celebration of the Zero Waste Month, these communities were the esteemed destinations of international delegates wanting to learn about innovative models.
Beginning with a presidential decree in 2014, Zero Waste Month is celebrated in the Philippines every January. This year, organizers invited foreign speakers to tour the barangays, or villages, of Potrero (Malabon City) and Fort Bonifacio (Taguig City) and the City of San Fernando (Pampanga)—communities that have successfully implemented innovative zero waste policies and models.
The policy adopted by these barangays was the RA 9003, a decentralization law that devolves solid waste management down to the barangay level. It mandates source segregation, segregated collection, and segregated destination of waste and the establishment of a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.
Implementing ecological solid waste management was no easy task, but the barangays partnered with Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) in implementing the law. With MEF training and guidance, barangays established MRFs and strictly enforced ‘no segregation, no collection’ policy. They tapped waste pickers to conduct door-to-door segregated collection from every household, and also encouraged residents to compost their biodegradable waste.
These strategies combined resulted in significant reduction of garbage ending in landfills or dumpsites. In the first year of implementation, for example, Barangay Potrero diverted 80% of its solid waste from landfills through composting and recycling, resulting in daily savings of Php15,000 from hauling and tipping fees.
The ecological management of solid waste also generated jobs for the waste workers. In Potrero, 65 jobs were generated, benefitting the informal waste workers who later became authorized garbage collectors or monitoring staff for the daily collection of waste. Fort Bonifacio was able to employ 23 residents as official community organizers, solid waste liaison officers, and barangay collectors. The barangay collectors, most of whom earned P50 per day as informal waste collectors before the project started, now earn a minimum monthly salary of P8,000 plus all the proceeds from the sale of recyclables divided among themselves.
The project also enhanced community safety. The once unsightly streets of Potrero and Fort Bonifacio which were also sites for petty crimes, now house materials recovery facilities with mini-eco parks complete with gardens and an eco-store.
“These show that for ecological waste management, local governments do not need expensive, high-tech, and harmful waste disposal technologies that adversely affect public health and the environment, destroy much needed finite resources, cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and are unsustainable and end-of-pipe solutions,” shared Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.
Bannered by the theme, “On the Road to Zero Waste,” the eco-tour was organized by the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).
This blog was written by Sherma Benosa, Communication Officer for GAIA Asia Pacific.