Earth Day prescription: Segregate waste
Envi-health group warns of hazardous wastes in bins, less vote to waste-generating candidates
Laguna (21 April) -- What are you doing for Earth Day? Envi-health group, Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) poses this question while appealing to the public to start waste segregation today as a gift to Mother Earth this Earth Day and beyond. They further warned that not all hazardous wastes come in big packages citing batteries, fluorescent lamps and broken thermometers as "small but terribly hazardous wastes".
According to Cristina Parungao, HCWH-SEA Program Officer for Promotions of Best Hospital Practices, it's a simple memory and color coding game. Remember, Green for biodegradable wastes (kitchen and yard wastes) and Black for non-biodegradable and recyclable wastes.
For health care facilities, you add red for sharps and pressurized containers, orange for radioactive waste, yellow for infectious and pathological waste and yellow with black band for chemical waste.
Unlike hospitals who are mandated to follow waste segregation within their facilities, other establishments and households do not seem bound to follow proper waste segregation inspite of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003).
The Act requires mandatory segregation of waste with the local government unit (LGU) as primarily responsible for implementation. Segregation must be conducted at the source to include household, institutional, industrial, commercial and agricultural sources.
"However this is not followed in schools, offices and LGUs," Parungao pointed out.
"The environmental and health impacts of waste segregation must never be underestimated. Imagine if you will throw away batteries that contain lead or broken thermometers with spilled mercury in your regular trash bins. These are sent to landfills where the lead and mercury may either find their way into the water system or pose greater threat to waste pickers," she exclaimed. "This is both hazardous to the environment and the public health."
"Thus we encourage all establishments especially the LGUs to implement waste segregation thru the Materials Recovery Facility (MRFs). The MRFs either in the barangay or municipal level would know where hazardous wastes will be sent for treatment."
Waste segregation to waste reduction
As early as 2001, World Bank (WB) Philippine Environment Monitor estimated that the annual waste generation of 10 million tons is expected to increase to 40% at the end of the decade.
"Proper waste segregation can bring down the total number of wastes collected," Parungao pointed out. "Simple check of trash cans around the city and you will notice that majority of the items that you find in trash bags are bottles, boxes, and food containers which may be reused or recycled. Kitchen wastes on the other hand are better off composted."
The country does not fare well when it comes to recycling. In 2001, while Singapore recycled 44.4% of their solid waste, Philippines recycled and reused only 12%. (UNEP)
Although waste segregation is one solution it is not the end-all to all problems. The group likewise encourages reduction at source, re-use, recycling and composting.
The group cited St. Paul Hospitals in Cavite and Tuguegarao for their recycling and composting efforts within their health care facilities. Through these, the hospitals have fewer waste generated, less expense on waste collection and higher savings. The hospitals likewise are enjoying their bio-kita or earnings from wastes.
In 2009 alone, St. Paul Hospital Cavite earned Php40,000 from recycling wastes. While the hospital in Tuguegarao earns Php3,500 to 5,000 per month.
Other hospitals in the country and outside the country have done a fare share of contribution to save the earth (www.noharm.org/earthday).
"Municipalities, schools and other establishments may very well use these examples as model," Parungao said. "Waste segregation will decrease the volume of waste thus waste pickers will only need to collect residuals."
Color coding your candidate
The group likewise appeals to candidates to try minimizing their trash during campaign sorties. "While we are at color coding, remember that green posters and ribbons are the work of whoever is using that color, red to the red colored candidate and so on."
"To the candidates we appeal, while you love your campaign color, please try to minimize your waste. One colored trash may be one less vote," they warned.
HCWH is an international coalition of more than 470 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH-SEA, see www.noharm.org.ph. (PIA) [top]