How a city went from 10% to 55% recycling rate in less than 2 years

Following the devastation of the Typhoon Haiyan, another city in the Philippines paved its way to becoming a Zero Waste city and a model for the region. Check out how they transformed their waste management infrastructure and policy.

The full report is available here.

Tacloban City is a city in the region of Eastern Visayas, in the Philippines. It has a population of 240,000, covers an area of 20,172 hectares, and is divided into 138 barangays.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan (Super Typhoon Yolanda) strikes Tacloban City. The city was devastated and suffered a high death toll. With existing waste problem due to lack of efficient waste management system, the city had to face and deal with massive wastes from the wreckage brought by the typhoon. With debris from uprooted trees and broken buildings and houses, among many others, the city immediately filled up its dumpsite which should have long-ago been closed to being with.

In 2016, under the leadership of Mayor Gonzalez-Romualdez and with the collaboration from Mother Earth Foundation (MEF), the Council launched the Ecological Solid Waste Management Program (ESWM) for Tacloban City.

Waste management in the Philippines is governed by a national law called the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003 (RA 9003). This law puts the prime responsibility for waste management on the barangay. It requires the barangay to implement waste segregation at source; collect and manage all biodegradable, reusable, and recyclable wastes; build necessary facilities and acquire the appropriate land and vehicles to manage wastes; and employ personnel to deliver waste services. The risk of fines for non-compliance combined with growing concerns about waste and plastic pollution served as a wakeup call for Tacloban City officials.

The City and EMF implemented the project in two phases:

  • Phase 1 (October – December 2016): Waste audit
  • Phase 2 (January 2017 – September 2018): communication, implementation, and enforcement.

During Phase 1, MEF conducted a survey on the residents’ awareness, practices, and perceptions concerning solid waste in all 138 barangays. MEF also trained 128 LGU officials to undertake a Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS), which entails examining the composition

of waste using a representative sample, in this case, 10% of households. These allowed the city to draw conclusions about waste-related behaviours and practices of households, including the amount of waste and the different waste streams that the households produced.

One of the most important findings was that the sampled population had a lack of awareness of proper waste management. Their understanding of segregation, for example, was mostly limited to separating high-value recyclables from other kinds of waste, which are left mixed.

From there, the city prepared its Waste Management plan to support the successful implementation of Phase 2. Since the success of Phase 2 hinged on the participation of the community, the City needed to start at the barangay level. Together with MEF, they targeted the barangays left out of the regular collection services. They took on a multi-pronged approach, using policy instruments; information, education, and communication (IEC) campaign, and enforcement mechanisms.

Here is the list of some of the initiatives, policies, and best practices that were introduced by the city:

  • Implementation of a reliable citywide waste collection system for residents: previously, the city was providing collection services for only 30% of the households, most of which went to private hauling companies, leaving most residents with no reliable waste collection services. Prior to this program, residents in those sections of the city not covered by the collection services sometimes resorted to open dumping and open burning.
  • Municipal ordonnance requiring residents to segregate at the source: alongside this policy change, the city implemented a source-separated collection of food scraps, recyclables, and residual waste.
  • The ability of the barangays to levy user fees to cover the costs of collection and MRF operation (Material Recovery Facility).
  • Installation of community composting sites.
  • Workshops and forums for barangay officials to heighten their awareness on ESWM and get them on board. The MEF staff with the cooperation of the Barangays ESWM committees ratcheted up the CENRO’s efforts through an intensive IEC campaign.
  • Clear government message: “No segregation, no collection.”
  • Each barangay devised its own IEC strategy (information, education, and communication). Some used the public address system, broadcasting daily reminders, while others took to displaying visible signages with clear messaging. Others distributed flyers and leaflets with clear instructions on how to segregate.
  • Household visits: By the end of the second phase, MEF and CENRO had reached 36,615 households. It was crucial to dispel the notion that segregation is inconvenient or difficult. 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.
  • Penalties for improper waste management: Barangay tanods (village officials) also had the power to fine residents who refused to sort their waste, starting at PhP 300 [~USD 6] or one-day community service for the first offence, up to PhP 3,000 [USD ~58] or three days of community service for the third offence.
  • Pedicabs and plastic drums are distributed by the city government to barangays for MRFs.

What are the results after only 2 years?

  • Expansion of the waste collection to the whole city at no extra cost.
  • The recovery rate of 64 barangays rose from 10% in 2017 to 55% in 2018.
  • The compliance rate of waste segregation by households rose to 63%.
  • Overall reduction of 31% of the waste going to the landfill leading to annual savings of PHP 21.6 million [USD 413,000].

Those results are a real success for the local community and there is a very high chance they could achieve Zero Waste goals in a very short timeframe.

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About Zero Waste City

Zero Waste City is a consulting business specialised in waste reduction for commercial and industrial facilities. We help companies to save money by reducing waste and to achieve Zero Waste goals. Our services include:

Our services include:

  • Waste audit (quantifying waste streams and identifying immediate cost saving opportunities)
  • Compliance with regulations such as:
    • Mandatory Packaging Reporting
    • Mandatory Waste Reporting
    • Mandatory Food Waste Segregation
  • Project implementation and on-going support
  • Measurement and Verification of savings
  • Guidance to achieve Zero Waste goals and certifications.