What we throw away

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORIES! -

Garbage in equals garbage out, fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally. To come up with de­fin­i­tive ac­tions on the never-end­ing garbage prob­lem, there is a need for ac­cu­rate data. It’s good that the Global Anti-Incin­er­a­tion Al­liance (GAIA) and Mother Earth Foun­da­tion (MEF) came up with a study on what we Filipinos throw away. The re­port con­tains de­tails which may give waste plan­ners and pol­icy mak­ers, as well as in­dus­try lead­ers, a good in­put to ad­dress the wors­en­ing garbage prob­lem.

The data in the re­port en­ti­tled “Plas­tics Ex­posed: How Waste As­sess­ments and Brand Au­dits are Help­ing Philip­pine Cities Fight Plas­tic Pol­lu­tion”, was gath­ered through the waste as­sess­ment and brand au­dit (WABA) tool de­vel­oped by MEF. It con­tains data from 21 waste as­sess­ments con­ducted in six cities and seven mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the Philip­pines by MEF and lo­cal gov­ern­ment project part­ners with the sup­port of GAIA. Data from these 21 waste as­sess­ments were used to ex­trap­o­late na­tional data, in­clud­ing es­ti­mates about the use and dis­posal of dif­fer­ent types of plas­tic resid­u­als.

Here are some of the find­ings with my com­ments:

1. Or­ganic waste com­prise more than 50% of gen­er­ated waste in the Philip­pines. This means that com­post­ing alone can al­ready solve half of the garbage prob­lem. Gar­den waste and food waste should be “buried” in the back­yard and not mixed with other waste.

2. The strict im­ple­men­ta­tion of plas­tic bag reg­u­la­tions pro­duces dra­mat­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant re­sults in low­er­ing plas­tic bag use. How­ever, the ex­is­tence of a plas­tic bag reg­u­la­tion in a city or mu­nic­i­pal­ity does not au­to­mat­i­cally equate to lower plas­tic bag use. In the ab­sence of a na­tional law, LGU’s are com­ing up with their own plas­tic bag ban or­di­nances. There are sev­eral bills pend­ing in Congress but none has pro­gressed to be­come a law.

3. Al­most 164 mil­lion pieces of sa­chets are used in the Philip­pines daily, equat­ing to around 59.7 bil­lion pieces of sa­chets yearly. Ev­ery­thing from per­sonal care prod­ucts to condi­ments is now in non-re­cy­clable and non-biodegrad­able sa­chets. In the waste au­dit con­ducted by Green­peace-Philip­pines and the group Break Free from Plas­tic (BFP) at the Free­dom Is­land, the most com­mon item found was sa­chets.

4. More than 50% of all un­re­cy­clable resid­ual waste dis­carded in the coun­try is branded waste, and only 10 com­pa­nies are re­spon­si­ble for 60% of all branded waste in the study sites. The prob­lem must be ad­dressed by the man­u­fac­tur­ers, and not just the gov­ern­ment. One pos­si­ble so­lu­tion is a re­fill sys­tem at the sari-sari store level.

Us­ing WABA data, the re­search came up with the fol­low­ing es­ti­mates:

1. The av­er­age Filipino uses 591 pieces of sa­chets, 174 shop­ping bags, and 163 plas­tic labo bags, yearly. That’s al­most 48 mil­lion shop­ping bags used through­out the Philip­pines ev­ery­day or roughly 20.6 bil­lion pieces a year. Plas­tic labo bag us­ages is at 45.2 mil­lion pieces per day, or 16.5 bil­lion pieces a year. Us­ing re­us­able bags and bas­kets can help a lot in avoid­ing all these plas­tic bag waste.

2. Around three mil­lion di­a­pers are dis­carded in the Philip­pines daily, or 1.1 bil­lion di­a­pers

The com­bi­na­tion of bal­loon­ing pop­u­la­tion and de­creas­ing land area means we can­not rely on san­i­tary land­fills to ‘tem­po­rary’ solve the garbage prob­lem. Waste avoid­ance and waste re­duc­tion should be the pri­mary steps to take in ad­dress­ing the garbage prob­lem.

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