Managing Solid Waste in the Philippines: The Dirty Business

“Not in my backyard” syndrome

Solid waste, over the past thirty years, has remained the most visible, and silently dangerous, environmental problem in the country. In September 1999, not one Filipino was left without a trauma out of the tragedy that befell Payatas in Quezon City. Hundreds died, buried alive underneath filth, as mountains of garbage collapsed due to heavy downpour. This is among the worst human-made disasters that have ever hit the Philippines, a disaster we should never allow to happen again.

Dirty Living

The country’s garbage problem has a lot to do with lifestyle. Every individual must be responsible for the wastes he generates. Considering that we are among the most populated in the world, with the amount of trash each of us produces, it is no surprise that our lands have become the largest dumpsite.

Our streets are lined with garbage, our waters flooded, and our creeks clogged with trash, even our mountains are junk – all these are reflections of the need to heed to the serious call for waste management – it is time for each and every one of us to stop living dirty.

And why? The indiscriminate throwing of garbage contaminates our waters, with clogged drains open for insect breeding which brings about diseases like cholera and dengue, targeting most especially, our children. Floods have become a common sight during rainy seasons. Backyard burning, or simply, burning of garbage, releases toxic air pollutants, which leads to respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, even death. To be direct, dirty living equals death.

Trash Course

The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has identified three key trends in the local garbage situation: 1) increase in sheer volume of generated wastes; 2) change in the quality and make-up of waste generated; and 3) waste handling methods.

Everyday, the country has a per capita waste generation of 0.3 to 0.7 kilograms of garbage. In 2003*, we have generated 27,397 tons of garbage daily, a step backwards compared to the 19,700 tons of garbage we have generated daily in 2000 (*based on the study conducted by the NSWMC-Secretariat and the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Project of the Asian Development Bank in 2003). That is tantamount to ten million tons of garbage generated in 2003.

Of the ten million tons of generated garbage in 2003, 2.5 million came from Metro Manila. This is a strong evidence of the forecast which indicated that by 2010, in comparison to the 2000 data, waste generation shall have increased by 47%.

Ways to Beat Wastes

Livelihood from “wastes” with Ofelia Panganiban of the Ecowaste Coalition

Lucky for us, the Philippine solid waste composition is generally highly-organic (biodegradable) and recyclable, with 50 percent of the wastes made up of yard, wood, and kitchen wastes. The high percentage of biodegradables is an indication of the great potential of composting as a means to recover this type of wastes, especially those coming from agricultural zones. Moreover, potentials for recycling are good considering that the remaining wastes are made up of recyclable materials.

The DENR has always been steadfast in its commitment to reduce, and eventually, eradicate the amount of garbage in the country. Projects and programs on solid waste management are consistently being implemented by the Department, through the NSWMC, in coordination with the local government units, non-government organizations, international groups, and other government agencies.

To date, the Commission has initiated the closure and rehabilitation of existing open dumpsites, the establishment of sanitary landfills in municipalities, the establishment of an ecological solid waste management system, the categorized compliance for disposal facilities, and the promotion and development of alternative technologies to process residual wastes.

The DENR, along with the Department of Interior and Local Government and some civil society groups, has also conducted the Nationwide Search for Model Barangays for Eco-Waste Management System, to assist our local communities to comply with, and reward them on their compliance, to Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Waste Recovery Programs are also being instituted by the government. The DENR has forged an agreement with the Recyclean Foundation, Inc (RFI) on a waste paper recovery program. The NSWMC, Tire Importers and Traders Association of the Philippines, Tire Manufacturers of the Philippines, and the Philippine Retreaders Association agreed to facilitate recovery of used tires for the effective management of the waste material which would include their recycling, re-use, and environmentally sound disposal. In terms of plastics and plastic packaging, the Polystyrene Packaging Council of the Philippines coordinated with several malls and industrial parks, to recover polystyrene wastes which resulted to the recovery of about 8,000 cu. m. of said plastics in 2003. An Agreement was made between the council and the Department of Science and Technology to design melting kettles for potential recyclers to convert polystyrene into other form of materials.

To spread environmental awareness, particularly on solid waste management concerns, the DENR, together with the Eco-Waste Coalition signed an agreement for the establishment of the Ecological Solid Waste Pavilion. It is a national center for meetings, congregations, trainings, educational purposes particularly for showcasing effective, innovative and creative SWM procedures, techniques and activities.


The DENR is vigilant in its quest to manage solid wastes in the Philippines. The government is bent on empowering the municipalities to address their own garbage issues. We are all parts which make up a whole in each municipality. Together, let us put a stop to the thirty years of garbage problem we have stumbled upon. We have more than enough.

How about you? What are you doing to help solve our garbage problem?


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  1. gp 13 years ago

    I agree, what we do comes back to us. It’s high time for everybody to realize this.

  2. JHENN TAKINAN 15 years ago

    What we do to our environment is what the environment do to us. It is inevitable that we depend much to our environment. If we do not take care of it then life will not be worth sustainable.
    If you had been bad to the environment then change for the world!
    Handle your garbage with a matured mind!

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