Until six years ago, the streets were littered with garbage, but citizens decided to take action.
San Fernando hopes to become a waste-free city. Between 2012 and 2018, the town north of Manila, Philippines, increased the percentage of waste diverted from landfills from 12 to 80%. Instead of going to landfills or, even worse, to watercourses, most of the waste collected in the city is composted or offered for recycling.
According to a World Bank report from 2018, nearly two billion tonnes of solid waste were generated worldwide in 2016, which could reach 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050.
The Philippines, which contributes significantly to plastic pollution in the oceans, produced more than 14 million tonnes of waste in 2016. Only 28% were recycled.
Almost two decades after the country’s adoption of the law on the ecological management of solid waste, which required the installation of material recovery facilities (MRIs) in each village, the practice is still far from established.
The MRIs were to receive mixed waste for sorting, separation, composting and recycling. Residual waste is transferred to storage areas or incineration. However, some public officials argued that the law was not economically viable, particularly for low-income municipalities.
A tiring but necessary job
In addition to the significant policies, which include a total ban on plastic and polystyrene, the city has also launched short-term programmes, such as collective clean-ups, to keep the initiative at the forefront of public concerns.
From now on, all households follow waste sorting policies in three categories: biodegradable, recyclable and residual. Some houses even have their compost pits.
Around San Fernando, imagining that that solid waste once littered its streets is difficult.
Across the country, other local governments have begun to follow the city’s example, working with groups such as MEF to improve their waste management.
Garbage on the streets
In 2012, San Fernando’s local government called on MEF to implement a zero waste strategy in the city. It was a long and exhausting effort.
In 2018, the city of San Fernando was considered one of the world’s model cities for waste management.
Froilan Grate attributes the success of this initiative to a combination of support from local authorities, strict implementation of policies and an active household education campaign.
The city now has more than one hundred waste treatment facilities in its 35 villages, far more than the minimum number required by law.
Rene Lasca, president of a local landowners’ association, explains that the decision to create his management center in the neighborhood contributes to the city’s waste management efforts. It also allows them to sell recyclables and compost, as well as to foster camaraderie between neighbors.