Greenpeace urges Metro officials to quit Wasting* and turn to Recycling Now

Press release - November 15, 2000
Residents of Metro Manila will perpetually suffer from mountains of repugnant, stinking trash unless government waste planners invest in a strategy that places precedence on waste reduction and recycling programs which would lessen the metropolis' reliance on expensive and ecologically unsound waste disposal systems, according to Greenpeace.

Residents of Metro Manila will perpetually suffer from mountains of repugnant, stinking trash unless government waste planners invest in a strategy that places precedence on waste reduction and recycling programs which would lessen the metropolis' reliance on expensive and ecologically unsound waste disposal systems, according to Greenpeace.

According to a new report** commissioned by the environmental group, local government units in Metro Manila are squandering billions of pesos annually on improper waste handling and disposal systems whose systemic flaws give rise to a number of staggering social costs such as illness and injury due to unsanitary conditions of waste collection, floods, environmental damage to ground and surface waters from landfills and dumpsites, and air pollution from open burning and landfill fires.

"Wasting much needed resources on traditional waste disposal options which are proven failures is downright foolish and unjustifiable," said Francis dela Cruz , Greenpeace Southeast Asia toxics campaigner. "In order to reverse this trend, Metro Manila needs to make the critical shift now from the traditional "dump, bury or burn " disposal options to active pollution prevention and disposal reduction programs like recycling and composting. This approach is not only environmentally desirable, it is also economically superior and less expensive than traditional disposal oriented systems," dela Cruz added.

The Greenpeace study estimates that if Metro Manila implements a genuine waste reduction program, the metropolis would be able to recycle and compost at least 30% of its projected waste in 2005, and 60% of the region's total waste in 2010. The amounts of waste going into recycling and composting also represent avoided costs of disposal which could effectively translate into increased resources for other local government priorities.

Efforts to create an alternative waste management system for the metropolis, however, have been stymied by lack of foresight and political will among waste planners and decision makers, inadequate and misdirected funding, and corruption.

"For the alternative system to succeed, government needs capital investment, careful planning and the political commitment to see long-term solutions through. The burn and bury options require only a contractor willing to reap profit and government agencies willing to toss money away while overlooking serious health and environmental hazards caused by these facilities," said Yon Hernandez, campaign director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia. " As long as waste planners focus on short-term solutions, no real changes will occur."

Hernandez added that any new waste management system needs to be configured to take advantage of the vast labor pool of approximately 40,000 to 50,000 individuals currently working as scavengers, stressing that failure to do so could give rise to social disruption as these marginalized workers are further excluded from the productive economy.

However, attempts to legislate a Solid Waste Management Act in Congress, which would emphasize these preventive approaches, have been eclipsed by the ongoing impeachment proceedings against President Estrada and the anticipated re- organization of committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Both the Senate and House bills on solid waste contain provisions which mandate source separation programs, progressive recycling targets, bans on disposable packaging, and development of recycling markets.

Greenpeace believes that to achieve maximum recovery of resources from municipal solid waste the government should lead by example by creating both the supply and demand for recycled products , instituting national programs such as product take back and environmental taxes on bad packaging, implementing various education and assistance programs, establishing economic incentives for disposal reduction and development of sorting, recycling and composting projects and facilities.

The Greenpeace report also critiqued a study undertaken by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for Metro Manila in 1999 which "woefully underestimates the potential for source separation and recycling" and gives more premium on traditional disposal options such as landfills and incineration which are now banned following the passage of the Clean Air Act!

Notes: * Wasting - putting used products and packaging and other materials in 1andfills, incinerators or other waste facilities thus terminating their usefu1life or preventing their return to their natural environment; failure to conserve used resources. ** "Wasting and Recycling in the Philippines (preliminary report)", by the Institute for Local SeIf-Reliance (ILSR) for Greenpeace Southeast Asia; November 2000

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