Managing Solid Waste in the Philippines: The Dirty Business
January 23, 2007, 8:14 am
Filed under: garbage

Solid waste, over the past thirty years, has remained the most visible, and silently dangerous, environmental problem in the country.

In September 1999, not one Filipino was left without a trauma out of the tragedy that befell Payatas in Quezon City. Hundreds died, buried alive underneath filth, as mountains of garbage collapsed due to heavy downpour.

This is among the worst human-made disasters that have ever hit the Philippines, a disaster we should never allow to happen again.

Dirty Living

The country’s garbage problem has a lot to do with lifestyle. Every individual must be responsible for the wastes he generates. Considering that we are among the most populated in the world, with the amount of trash each of us produces, it is no surprise that our lands have become the largest dumpsite.

Our streets are lined with garbage, our waters flooded, and our creeks clogged with trash, even our mountains are junk – all these are reflections of the need to heed to the serious call for waste management – it is time for each and every one of us to stop living dirty.

And why? The indiscriminate throwing of garbage contaminates our waters, with clogged drains open for insect breeding which brings about diseases like cholera and dengue, targeting most especially, our children. Floods have become a common sight during rainy seasons. Backyard burning, or simply, burning of garbage, releases toxic air pollutants, which leads to respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, even death. To be direct, dirty living equals death.

Trash Course

The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has identified three key trends in the local garbage situation: 1) increase in sheer volume of generated wastes; 2) change in the quality and make-up of waste generated; and 3) waste handling methods.

Everyday, the country has a per capita waste generation of 0.3 to 0.7 kilograms of garbage. In 2003*, we have generated 27,397 tons of garbage daily, a step backwards compared to the 19,700 tons of garbage we have generated daily in 2000 (*based on the study conducted by the NSWMC-Secretariat and the Metro Manila Solid Waste Management Project of the Asian Development Bank in 2003). That is tantamount to ten million tons of garbage generated in 2003.

Of the ten million tons of generated garbage in 2003, 2.5 million came from Metro Manila. This is a strong evidence of the forecast which indicated that by 2010, in comparison to the 2000 data, waste generation shall have increased by 47%.

Ways to Beat Wastes

Lucky for us, the Philippine solid waste composition is generally highly-organic (biodegradable) and recyclable, with 50 percent of the wastes made up of yard, wood, and kitchen wastes. The high percentage of biodegradables is an indication of the great potential of composting as a means to recover this type of wastes, especially those coming from agricultural zones. Moreover, potentials for recycling are good considering that the remaining wastes are made up of recyclable materials.

The DENR has always been steadfast in its commitment to reduce, and eventually, eradicate the amount of garbage in the country. Projects and programs on solid waste management are consistently being implemented by the Department, through the NSWMC, in coordination with the local government units, non-government organizations, international groups, and other government agencies.

To date, the Commission has initiated the closure and rehabilitation of existing open dumpsites, the establishment of sanitary landfills in municipalities, the establishment of an ecological solid waste management system, the categorized compliance for disposal facilities, and the promotion and development of alternative technologies to process residual wastes.

The DENR, along with the Department of Interior and Local Government and some civil society groups, has also conducted the Nationwide Search for Model Barangays for Eco-Waste Management System, to assist our local communities to comply with, and reward them on their compliance, to Republic Act No. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Waste Recovery Programs are also being instituted by the government. The DENR has forged an agreement with the Recyclean Foundation, Inc (RFI) on a waste paper recovery program. The NSWMC, Tire Importers and Traders Association of the Philippines, Tire Manufacturers of the Philippines, and the Philippine Retreaders Association agreed to facilitate recovery of used tires for the effective management of the waste material – which would include their recycling, re-use, and environmentally sound disposal. In terms of plastics and plastic packaging, the Polystyrene Packaging Council of the Philippines coordinated with several malls and industrial parks, to recover polystyrene wastes which resulted to the recovery of about 8,000 cu. m. of said plastics in 2003. An Agreement was made between the council and the Department of Science and Technology to design melting kettles for potential recyclers to convert polystyrene into other form of materials.

To spread environmental awareness, particularly on solid waste management concerns, the DENR, together with the Eco-Waste Coalition signed an agreement for the establishment of the Ecological Solid Waste Pavilion. It is a national center for meetings, congregations, trainings, educational purposes particularly for showcasing effective, innovative and creative SWM procedures, techniques and activities.

The DENR is vigilant in its quest to manage solid wastes in the Philippines. The government is bent on empowering the municipalities to address their own garbage issues. We are all parts which make up a whole in each municipality. Together, let us put a stop to the thirty years of garbage problem we have stumbled upon. We have more than enough.


46 Comments so far
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Bush is forever saying that democracies do not invade other countries and start wars. Well, he did just that. He invaded Iraq, started a war, and killed people. What do you think? What is he doing to us, and what is he doing to the world?
Are we safer today than we were before?
The more people that the government puts in jails, the safer we are told to think we are. The real terrorists are wherever they are, but they aren’t living in a country with bars on the windows. We are.

Comment by Antibush

We must not rely on Bush palns.We should live on our own.we should be independent to our country.

Comment by Stephen Hand

What we do to our environment is what the environment do to us. It is inevitable that we depend much to our environment. If we do not take care of it then life will not be worth sustainable.
If you had been bad to the environment then change for the world!
Handle your garbage with a matured mind!


hello, i just want to inquire if you have any contact numbers or further informations regarding the recycling programs and projects, eco friendly materials and products in manila? i your article was very helpful for my thesis study. thank you for your time.

pls email me at

Comment by khylx

You may contact the National Solid Waste Management Commission-Secretariat Office – Department of Environment and Natural Resources at 9202252

Comment by iva

To clean up our environment, we must start cleaning up our mess! Guys, we cannot change the lifestyle of other people, but we can definitely change ours!
Let us start with ourselves and rest assured, the rest will follow!
Save our Mother Earth!

Comment by charlynn

Subject: seeking an invitation letter.

Dear Sir,

Association to Assist the Under Privileged (ASAUP) is a Non Government Organization, has been working jointly with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) about waste management Dhaka city in Bangladesh. Already we have got clean Dhaka ward contest 2008 award, awarded by Dhaka City Corporation (DCC) & Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). To improve the waste management system in our country we are vary much eager to visit your Country for modern technology.

If you kindly give us an invitation letters for visit modern technology of your Country we will very much glade.

Thanking by
Md. Shafi Mahmud
Chief Assignment Officer
Association to Assist the Under Privileged (ASAUP)
12/1, Shah-Ali Bag, Mirpur-1,
Dhaka – 1216. Bangladesh.
Cell: 01712-055829
Tell: +88-02-8035218, 9000146, 06662606079.
Web: http: //

Comment by Md.Shafi Mahmud

Dear Sir,
I am Md. Kamruzzaman Palash working as a Project Director with Waste and Environmental Foundation Bangladesh. The organization currently working with Hospital and Clinical Waste Management, Solid Waste Management, Industrial waste management, recycling, composting etc. we have plan for landfill operation.
Now I wish to get training at your institution in this year. Please send me more information about training and Waste management.
No more today. I look forward to get your reply. Eventually wish you good luck.

Thank You,
Md. Kamruzzaman Palash

Waste and Environmental Foundation Bangladesh
Address : 141, Dhaka University Market
Katabon, Dhaka – 1000
– 8802-8622625
– 01190-257062
E-mail :

Comment by Md. Kamruzzmana Palash

This should provide hope to the garbage problem in the Philippines. I think it’s a nice way to earn money even for the locals. Are there seminars or awareness programs about vermiculture? Thanks. – Michelle

Comment by Wormfarming Gal

sa ating mga pilipino sana matuto na tayo… tayo tayo lang nagiingles pa kayo, sayang ang maraming dapat makaintindi sa mga magaganda ninyong mensahe.. dahil sa ingles na iyan humihina ang ang ating nasyonalismo ..

Comment by

Climate change is now the top issue of the world. It has affected both young and old, poor and rich, educated and non-educated, professionals and not. But, only a few knows that to help resolve climate change, we’ve got to start it at our own households. Proper solid waste segregation and proper disposal could help resolve the worldwide problem by 60% more or less. Let me quote the famous caption: Think globally but act locally! Do your part NOW… Tomorrow may be too late.

Comment by Jevelyn A. Benguar

hi! am doing a scientific paper on waste in the philippines. and i am doing my paper trail now. maybe you can send me links or relevant contacts or names of people or organization who may be able to help me with my data gathering.

initially at the moment i am looking at waste generation and reuse from the building sector in the philippines. but who knows, there might be another interesting case to study of the data in the Philippines.


Grace (

Comment by Grace Aragon

Dear Mam,

I have a friend who is gathering data to finish his masteral program. His study about assesment of solid waste management in barangays level. U contact him via email in Thank u. Good luck


Comment by Fadlan

good day. we’re doing a thesis and our topic is “DECREASING GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURE DUE TO PROPER SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT”. we need 20 – 30 years of data because we’ll be using regression. maybe you can send me some links, people or agencies where we can find and gather data.


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Hello maam/sir…please, please do more to eliminate the worst to come to our environment.inform all provinces. Pls inform all mayors and governors the best way to reduce garbage..where to put or deposit our electrical garbage?? Can we have factories to segregate cellphones and have some incentives for people who are concerned and who follow…? Please? Thank you. Can we announce on television where we dispose electrical garbage?

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