Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
Cities already active in zero waste programs recently shared their best practices with other Southeast Asian counterparts at the recent International Zero Waste Cities Conference held in Penang, Malaysia as hundreds of local government officials and environmental groups gathered to discuss policies and push for solutions to the problem of plastic pollution in the region.
Environmental groups contended that waste should not be addressed through harmful end-of-pipe technologies like “waste-to-energy” incinerators, but through zero waste systems that approaches the problem throughout the entire lifecycle – from production to end-of-life – with the goal of waste prevention and resource conservation.
Participants from the Philippines included San Fernando Mayor Erwin Santiago who presented the challenges that come with implementing a strict plastic bag ban. His city currently has an 80 percent recycling rate and continues to work on the remaining 20 percent. A barangay in Quezon City has also started participating in the zero waste program as well as two barangays in Dumaguete and portions of the Batangas province.
Santiago outlined the benefits of zero waste, such as reduced waste generation, a cleaner environment, and savings for the city; which they achieved with strong political will and stakeholder engagement. They are now focusing on further reducing residual waste as they strengthen their zero waste effort.
Despite the Philippines being among the top producers of plastic waste in the world, the collective effort to address the problem has been sorely lacking. Filipinos continue to indiscriminately use plastic packaging and zero waste remains a foreign concept among many households and communities. Shifting towards zero waste will require a massive paradigm shift for most of us and that is where decisive leadership and strong political will is necessary to change the habits of a people that have become dependent on plastic packaging for daily living.
Adopting and implementing a zero waste framework is a tall order for most communities in the country but it is something our leaders have to keep in mind as we face the challenges of a planet that is now straining under the irresponsible and unsustainable practices and habits of mankind. If cities like San Fernando can do it, other Filipino cities should seriously consider giving it a go as well.*