By Yasmine Nicole Rodriguez

For the past decades, humankind has benefited and made things easier and more convenient with the production of single-use plastics. The usage has been more focused that it compromised the control of proper disposal, which led to negative effects in the environment and for the health.

“Waste is defined as any substances or objects that the holder discards or intends to discard,” written by Ahmad J. Kassim, on Sustainable Solid Waste Recycling.

These wastes are classified into hazardous, such as chemical waste and non-hazardous, like packaging waste.

Improper waste disposal problem and effects

According to Leshara Maniego from the Manila Times, “one of the biggest illusions is that when our trash gets picked up by the garbage collector, it’s no longer our problem; out of sight, out of mind”.

The use of solid waste is not entirely the root cause of the problem, it is the improper disposal of them. There are different effects cited by Metropolitan Transfer Station (MTS) on their website, explaining the negative effects of improper solid waste disposal.

It was explained that soil contamination is caused by the irresponsible disposal of hazardous wastes to the natural resources. “Contamination occurs by spilling and burying hazardous components in soil. So, we need to be watchful of how we process petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, heavy metals and lead,” said MTS.

Aside from soil contamination, they also gave emphasis to Water contamination. Since water is a solvent, it is more vulnerable to contain numerous dissolved chemicals which then results in “mixes to toxic liquid substances and seeping into the water streams to end up in nearby water bodies. Thus, the neighbourhood fountain, pond, lake or even drinking water taps are susceptible to the dangers of contamination”.

Lastly, the most evident result of improper waste disposal is climate contamination. Harmful greenhouse gases are emitted from decomposing waste. These gases are released to the atmosphere and trap heat. Because of this, there’s an extreme weather condition change happening.

Switching to zero waste: the solution

“A zero waste approach conserves natural resources and reduces pollution from extraction, manufacturing and disposal,” according to the Toronto Environment Organization.

The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), a non-government organization in the Philippines, has pioneered the zero waste movement in the country and started in Alaminos, partnered by the government.

“They have created composting systems and sorting facilities, and almost eliminated open burning and dumping as a result,” as written on their website.

In GAIA’s efforts to pursue zero waste, they had to cut old habits and start new ones, including “financial support for printing educational materials, buying shredders for organics and plastics, awarding mini-grants for villages to build eco-sheds and purchase vehicles, and more”. As alternatives, they “provided two full-time employees, transportation for the team, logistical support for all activities and training, technical assistance, and support in strategic planning for the villages”. The “No segregation, no collection policy” was also implemented.

The impact of Alaminos’ changed habits took effect after two years of religiously following the new ones — lesser wastes and more household segregating and composting biodegradable substances. Because of this, other cities like Tacloban which was badly hit by Yolanda in 2013, have started implementing the initiative and slowly recovered from the past damages.

On GAIA’s website, they have provided a Zero Waste Manual for other cities who want to take the initiative locally and implement a better and more sustainable lifestyle for their respective communities. “The vision for the Zero Waste City Initiative is to minimise the movement of solid waste to disposal sites or facilities,” as stated in their manual. They specifically placed a section for a guide on zero waste, not only for communities but also for businesses.####

This article was written and prepared by  Yasmine Nicole Rodriguez (Student-Journalist) and Wilma Manalo (School Paper Adviser) from Cabiao National High School,  Division of  Nueva Ecija  as a final output of DepEd-DRRMS and AYEJ.org’s Green Beat Initiative: An Online Environmental Journalism Training.