Waste managers reinvent art of recycling
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The controversy surrounding the heaps of trash from Canada has put many issues in the spotlight.

The Duterte administration is right in insisting that the Philippines is not a dumping ground for somebody else’s trash.

However, players in the recycling industry lament that the issue has put recycling in a bad light.

“The controversy behind Canada waste puts recycling in a bad light. While recyclables were part of the shipment, they are highly contaminated. On the other hand, it shows that government policies, though imperfect, work. (But) there should be a better way of properly defining and classifying materials as recyclables versus waste and there is a need to set standards,” Crispian Lao, head of Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability, tells The STAR.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is now reviewing the current system to look into probable safeguards and strict regulations.

Recycling industry players support government efforts to keep the Philippines as sustainable and environmentally safe as possible. However, the recycling industry is hoping the government would be cautious in coming out with policies in the future as drastic measures may significantly affect the recycling industry.

Lao shares this view.

“Disallowing imports of recyclable plastic may affect some sectors. One segment would be those who import industrial nylon materials, allowing local fishing nets to be recycled given that local supply is not enough to run facilities in an economical scale and meet the quality requirements of the local and export markets for finished recyclates,” Lao said.

It is no secret that in the Philippines, there are many industries that need recyclable plastics and waste. 

According to a recent CNN report, plastic wastes turned into plastic pellets are made into products such as ropes, hangers, plastic bags and many more things.

Lao said that recycling indeed is an important industry in the Philippines.

“Recycling is a key industry in the Philippines and there is room to grow. The informal sector or waste pickers benefit from this and the industry generates employment,” he said.

Furthermore, Lao said recycling is key to waste management. Aside from reducing waste, recycling is also an integral part because it gives materials a second chance.

“Following the hierarchy of waste management, Avoidance (REDUCE) is top of the list and the aim is to minimize waste generation. Then comes REUSE to allow the maximum use of our limited resources. Next is RECYCLE to give the materials a second chance,” Lao said.

He said these three Rs are key components of waste management, together with treatment and final disposal which are still lacking in the Philippines.

“Treatment and final disposal through sanitary landfills as mandated by Republic Act 9003 with very low compliance rates, should be properly implemented in the country,” Lao said. 

Drastic change needed

Rufo Colayco, president and CEO Metro Clark Waste Management Corp. (MCWMC), tells The STAR that Filipinos need a drastic change in lifestyle and mindset to really make a difference in reducing waste and also in putting waste to good use. 

MCWMC operates an advanced and engineered sanitary landfill that aims to help reduce the adverse impact of rapid urban development. The landfill is located within the Clark Special Economic Zone. 

Colayco said he and his partners believe that there really should be proper solid waste management in the country as mandated by RA 9003. Thus, MCWMC integrates world class engineering to ensure that trash is treated and does not contaminate the air and groundwater. 

He said that some waste can indeed by used again but they need to be properly recycled.

Aside from this, Colayco, together with business partners, is putting up a 35-megawatt waste-to-energy power plant to utilize trash and put it to better use. 

“What we really need is a change in mindset. We need a drastic change in lifestyles to reduce waste,” he said. 

As experts have noted, proper recycling can indeed be a solution in reducing waste. On the other hand, a total ban on waste importation will not only hurt local businesses that thrive on it but may actually kill the recycling industry, which plays a crucial role in managing the country’s waste.

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