Almost 18 years have gone by now since Congress passed Republic Act No. 9003, known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. The law aims to manage the worsening garbage problem in the country by involving various stakeholders from the grassroots households and communities to local and national government offices and agencies.
Among other things, the Act provides for: 1) the protection of public health and environment; 2) the use of environmentally sound methods to fully use valuable resources and encourage its conservation and recovery; 3) the setting of guidelines and targets for solid waste avoidance and volume reduction; 4) the proper segregation, collection, transport, storage, treatment, and disposal of solid waste; 5) the encouragement of greater private sector participation in waste management; and 6) the retention of primary enforcement and responsibility of solid waste management with local government units.
Sadly, as with many enacted laws in the country, we have collectively failed to implement this law at all levels — individual, household, local, and national government, and the private sector. Whenever I ask my class how many of them live in communities that properly segregate and collect garbage, I would be lucky if two or three students in a class of 20 would raise their hands. It certainly is not happening in the community I live in.
Metro Manila alone generates an estimated 3,000 tons of garbage every day. And the local government has been greatly challenged in looking for dump sites for this much garbage, of which 10% is recovered for recycling — if we are lucky.
Every rainy season, Metro Manila and a lot of urbanized centers nationwide are flooded because natural waterways are used as dumping grounds for garbage. Just look at Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay, and the Pasig River, three of the more famous bodies of water in the metropolis, and you will see them teeming not with marine life but with all kinds of garbage. Diseases such as hepatitis B and C, dysentery, cholera, typhoid fever, and other illnesses will continue to spread if we do not do anything about our chronic garbage problem.
Instead of cursing our situation and pointing our fingers at everyone else to solve this mess, we can start by doing what we can. The first is committing to help in managing the garbage issue. Let us be mindful of the garbage we accumulate. We should give to garbage collectors only what we cannot recycle, reuse, or sell for salvage value.
We should have the mind-set of reusing materials, such as printing on scratch paper. We can gather paper-based materials and other non-usable and broken gadgets and appliances and sell or give these to itinerant bote-dyaryo collectors in our communities. We can also give left-over food to individuals who need kanin-baboy. Truly, one man’s waste is another man’s treasure. You will be inspired to know that we were ahead of the curve; even before it became fashionable to use the term “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” the bote-dyaryo and kanin-baboy micro-entrepreneurs were already contributing to this effort.
We can segregate our household waste even if garbage collectors do not do the same when they collect. We can petition our barangays to start this effort. After all, if Marikina can implement waste segregation policies on a continuing basis, all other cities and towns in the metropolis and in the whole country should be able to do the same.
There is a saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child. I want to paraphrase that and say that it will take the whole village to manage our garbage problem.
Dennis L. Berino is an Associate Professorial Lecturer of the Decision Sciences and Innovation Department of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.