Ten zero-waste cities: How Tacloban in the Philippines managed to spruce itself up

With a decentralised waste management system, the city was able to save on waste management and reduce its landfill-bound waste by 31 per cent

By Sonia Henam, Swati Singh Sambyal
Published: Sunday 29 December 2019
Photo: Rommel Cabrera / GAIA

The city of Tacloban in the Philippines has a population of 242,089 (2015), with waste generation of 175 tonnes per day. Today, the city has a decentralised collection system for household waste in 64 barangays or communities.

The diversion rate for 64 barangays rose from 10 per cent in 2017, to 55 per cent by the end of 2018. This was possible due to the joint collaboration between city authorities with Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and took on a multi-pronged approach, using policy instruments; information, education,and communication (IEC) campaign, as well as enforcement mechanisms for the city.

How the waste management system works

In Tacloban City, the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) oversees ecological solid waste management. Starting October 2016, the city official and MEF launched phase 1 of the Ecological Solid WasteManagement (ESWM) Programme for the city.

This was followed by the ordinance on Integrated Ecological Solid Waste Management in 2017; the ordinance mandates the residents to segregate waste at source and set out barangay-specific mechanics of garbage collection, segregation, and Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), and authorise barangays to levy user fees to cover the costs of collection and MRF operation.

To heighten the awareness on ESWM and get them on board, CENRO had organised workshops and forums for barangay officials. An intensive IEC campaign was provided by MEF staff with the cooperation of the barangay ESWM committees. Each barangay devised its own IEC strategy such as public address system, broadcasting daily reminders, displaying visible signages with clear messaging and distributed flyers and leaflets with clear instructions on how to segregate to name a few.

In the project, the city government distributed 52 pedicabs (bicycles with a sidecar attached) and plastic drums, as well as PhP15,000 [$288] cash assistance to barangays to help with the initial set-up and constructionof their MRFs. The committees monitored whether households were sorting their waste properly. Newly-trained environmental police, meanwhile, enforced the ESWM ordinances.

Barangay tanods (village officials) vigilantly patrolled their areas of jurisdiction. They also had the power to fine residents who refused to sort their waste, starting at PhP300 [$6] or one day community service for the first offense, up to PhP3,000 [$58] or three days of community service for the third offense. These enforcement mechanisms aside, the project had an inspirational component.

Barangay 74 (Lower Nula-Tula) located in the town centre was selected as a model to showcase for ESWM. It was transformed into a model barangay due to its cleanliness and efficient waste management systems from a bad waste management system. This model-building not only raises awareness on SWM, but also gives people a glimpse of what is possible in their own areas.

By the end of the second phase, MEF and CENRO had reached 36,615 households. A typical monitoring visit for the MEF Tacloban team’s 11 community coordinators would consist of rummaging through a household’s bin and identifying materials disposed in the wrong bin.

The staff would also ensure that households avoid using plastic bags as secondary liners for kitchen waste. These visits served as a significant one-on-one learning experience for residents, which also allowed them to ask questions directly from the MEF staff.

Economics of the project

The decentralised system has helped the city with a savings of PhP21.6 million [$413,000] in the annual budget and waste to the landfill was reduced by 31 per cent. By 2018, the decentralised collection system for household waste was expanded to 64 barangays.

The city succeeded in expanding their coverage of waste collection to more barangays, at no extra cost. The diversion rate (the percentage of waste prevented from going to landfill) for 64 barangays rose from 10 per cent in 2017 to 55 per cent by the end of 2018.

To date, the city has managed to recover 384 tonnes of organic waste and 23 tonnes of recyclables annually from 64 barangays by implementing decentralised collection, or a total 1.1 tonnes per day of recovered materials. Moreover, the compliance rate of waste segregation by households in participating barangays had risen to 63 per cent.

It also managed to reduce landfill-bound waste from 175 to 121 tonnes per day — a drop of 31 per cent. Moreover, Tacloban City has committed to introducing Zero Waste programmes in other areas in the next two years.

This is the eighth of a 10-part series

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