Waste segregation at source has become more critical amid the pandemic as the volume of potentially infectious waste from sources is growing, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed habits and lifestyles, consumption patterns in the country have also altered. For example, deliveries, ranging from food to other basic commodities and essentials, have slowly become the norm as people remained in their respective homes during the quarantine.
Therefore, solid wastes generated from household sources has increased, while those from commercial and industrial sources has reduced. The pandemic has also contributed to the sharp increase in medical wastes. Since the threat of contamination is very high, disposable masks and other similar materials must be separated to avoid the possible spread of infection.
All towns and cities across the country are facing this problem, on how to properly manage their medical wastes, knowing the fact that many of them lack or does not have sufficient environmentally-acceptable disposal facilities. Some Local Government Units (LGUs) with adequate resources were able to establish their own sanitary landfills, others are still non-compliant to the Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) for maintaining their open dumpsites.
Since most of our landfills have reached its maximum capacity shortening its life span, the segregation of solid wastes has become inevitable and necessity. Recently, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) issued the Memorandum Circular 2020-147 requiring all LGUs to properly manage its COVID-related wastes. The Circular also enjoin LGUs for the implementation of strict segregation of COVID-related wastes from all other domestic wastes, to protect public health. These need to be treated, disinfected and disposed of in separate cells in sanitary landfills in line with regulations set by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health.
The absence of a facility for COVID, health care wastes in some towns and cities have placed their respective localities in perilous state, promote unsafe environment, allows adverse health impacts and infraction of existing laws and regulations.
The immediate establishment of a facility specifically for health care and COVID-related wastes has become urgent and necessary.
It is good news for the residents of Puerto Princesa City that the City Government eyed for the establishment of environmental management services facility in Barangay Bahile, 41 kilometers from the city proper, that will accommodate not only residual wastes, but also other wastes.since it will house septage treatment, facility for medical wastes and other facilities. The fact that the existing sanitary landfill in Barangay Sta. Lourdes is proximate to populated communities, schools, subdivision, housing projects make it unconducive for any expansion in the next 10 years or so.
Segregation of solid waste at source is mandatory under RA 9003, with LGUs and barangays as primary implementers. Despite penalties for violations, the 20-year-old law remains poorly implemented.
Due to the urgency and necessity of waste segregation, it is really timely for us to start it in our offices and homes. We can start it by having two separate bins or receptacles to make it easier. One for residual wastes, and other for biodegradable and compostable wastes. For segregating our recyclable solid wastes such as PET bottles, glass bottles, etc. we may sell it to scrap buyers and junk shop owners.
When solid wastes collectors are already around, we can bring our residual wastes only for collection, since we can leave biodegradable/ compostable solid wastes in our homes, if we have some place for it to decompose.
Waste segregation is emphasized in RA 9003 because it is much easier to recycle. Effective segregation of wastes means that less waste goes to our landfills which makes it cheaper and better for people and the environment. It is also important to segregate for public health. In particular, hazardous wastes can cause long term health problems, so it is very important that they are disposed of correctly and safely and not mixed in with the normal waste coming out of your home or office.
Segregated waste is also often cheaper to dispose of because it does not require as much manual or mechanical sorting as mixed waste.
There are important reasons that we encourage waste segregation; compliance to our existing laws, cost savings and protection of public health and the environment. For business establishment, you should make it as easy as possible for your personnel and workers to properly segregate their waste. This can include proper marking and labelling, making sure you have enough accessible bins and making it clear why segregation very important.