Waste composting as a component of ecological waste management in the Philippines

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Courtesy of ORBIT e.V.

Ecological waste management (EWM) is a system of analyzing solid waste concerns and coming up with solutions that would not pose any harm to the environment. This would imply the use of technologies that are environmentally sound such as waste segregation, waste reduction at source, composting and recycling. Furthermore, this system ought to comply with the vision of sustainable development - which should take into consideration its impact to society, as a whole, and to the financially-challenged citizens, in particular. Its general approach is to merge environmental and economic pursuits in consonance with the local setting in the light of greater public participation.

Ecological waste management is employed in a manner that seeks indigenous solutions from the people themselves, and ties it up with technical recommendations. The process ensures ownership of solutions by the public sector. This in turn would enhance the cooperation of the citizens of the concerned community. Moreover, it is guided by the government's national framework which seeks to orchestrate and synchronize all efforts to address the garbage problem in a more holistic and integrated approach.

The activities associated with ecological waste management are as follows:

- assessment of the local solid waste management situation;
- passage of local government policies and ordinances advocating and/or implementing EWM;
- strict enforcement of the program adopted for solid waste management;
- information, education and communication campaigns and public consultations to seek the support and increase the level of awareness of the populace;
- provision of technical assistance and guidance towards availing appropriate permits and certificates of environmental compliance; and
- maintenance of proper operation of disposal facilities and closure of existing open dumpsites.

Moreover, this concept views waste as a resource that has not yet found its rightful place or proper use. As the  saying goes, “somebody”s trash is another’s treasure”; and “somebody’s poison is another’s medicine.” This is attained through materials recovery via waste segregation complemented by recycling. The methodology used for the implementation of the ecological-waste technology are as follows:
- Segregation at source: to learn the two (2) kinds of waste - the biodegradable/ compostable and the nonbiodegradable/
non-compostable. These two kinds of waste should not be mixed; they should be segregated
and sorted right at the site or place where they are produced.
- Package properly: to choose proper containers such as cans, sacks, bags, bins, etc. that will facilitate sanitary,
efficient handling, storage, collection, transport, or disposal at least cost.
- Use/dispose ecologically: to maximally and optimally use/re-use/recycle wastes into factory returnables,
feed, fertilizer, food, fermentables, fuel, fine crafts and filling materials.
For ecological waste management to succeed there are two (2) conditions that have to be met, namely:
- a radical orientation of the people's attitudes toward refuse, changes in some of their habits and practices,
and streamlining of some governmental procedures regarding waste management; and
- maximum involvement and participation of all sectors of the community throughout the various stages of
the project - from planning to implementation to evaluation.

Needless to say, the ecological waste management system advocates to resolve the concern to reduce pollution and the consumerist behavior that prompted it, and the need to be sensitive to the situation of the environment that warrants recognition and heed.

All these components that eventually resulted in the birth of the ecological waste management concept  an be traced back to the outcome of the experiment on an innovative and pioneering program that veered away from the traditional concept of garbage disposal. The program started with the establishment of a Waste Processing and Recycling Plant in Santa Maria, one of the towns of the Bulacan province located in the central part of northern Philippines in 1994. After two (2) years, the proponents and beneficiaries decided to change its name to 'Santa Maria Ecological Resource Recovery System.'

Faced with a garbage crisis due to the closure of the open dumpsite in 1992, the Santa Maria local  government, without delay, forged a partnership with a non-government organization, the Santa Maria Economic Foundation, and a private enterprise, the Assorted Waste Administration and Recycling Enterprise, Inc. (AWARE, Inc.) to work out a viable waste management scheme for the town.

The respective roles of the program partners in the implementation of the system were clear. The local government provided AWARE, Inc. with a no-interest loan of P582,350 (US$15,400) payable in ten (10) years, for the purchase of equipment and partial building of plant structures. It also paid P1,580,700 (US$41,707) for a dumpsite and appropriated another P670,000 (US$17,678) for its maintenance.

AWARE, Inc. for its part, spent P1,000,000 (US$26,385) for initial operational expenses and completion  of plant structures. The local government would handle the collection, separation and delivery of waste and enforce the implementing ordinances; AWARE, Inc. would be in charge of technical, operational, management and financial aspects. The Santa Maria Economic Foundation would be responsible for information dissemination and program promotion.

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