The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has lined up activities this January to celebrate Zero Waste Month and the 20th anniversary of Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

"Solid waste management ranks among the priority programs of the DENR especially in the context of our cleanup efforts in Manila Bay," Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said.

"Proper disposal of solid waste will avoid the clogging of tributaries and prevent trash from being washed into the rivers and seas that affect aquatic ecosystems, livelihood and health," the DENR chief pointed out.

The DENR has also been at the forefront of the disposal of household healthcare wastes at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), chaired by the DENR Secretary, issued Resolution No. 1364 series of 2020 on the "Interim Guidelines on the Management of COVID-Related Health Care Waste" in April 2020.

The guidelines cover the proper handling and management of all COVID-19 related health care wastes generated by households and other facilities. It also ensures the occupational health and safety of waste workers.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units (LGUs) Concerns and NSWMC Alternate Chair Benny D. Antiporda said solid waste management has now been given the priority and the importance it needs.

This continues, he said, with the activities with LGUs and concerned government agencies and stakeholders.

"We will shatter the notion that solid waste management is the last and the least. Its relevance to the environment, our natural resources, and well-being of the people is primary," Antiporda said.

The month-long celebration will kick-off with a blended virtual and face-to-face seminar on the management of household health care wastes and special wastes on January 8.

A lecture on the Guide on the Conduct of Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS) and guidelines on waste to energy for local government units (LGUs) will be also held on January 13.

DENR has also scheduled public consultations for the month of January on the possible list of Non-Environmentally Acceptable Products (NEAP).

This is in line with RA 9003 that the NSWMC “shall, after public notice and hearing, prepare a list of non-environmentally acceptable products as defined in the Act that shall be prohibited according to a schedule to be prepared by the Commission. The NEAP shall not be prohibited until the Commission finds there are alternatives available to consumers at a cost that is no more than ten percent (10%) greater than the disposable product.”

Likewise, a consultation on the Policy on the Procedural Guidelines for the Clustering of Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) Among LGUs to Cater Household Hazardous Wastes (HHWs) and Health Care Wastes (HCWs) in an Environmentally Sound Manner will be conducted this month.

The procedural guidelines shall cover facilities deemed as safe shelters of front liners as well as residential units involved in the generation, management and handling of healthcare wastes and household hazardous wastes.

The third meeting of Sanitary Landfill Operators will be held on January 22 to finalize the procedures and strategies in the creation of the Sanitary Landfill Operators of the Philippines. The organization shall support the government in providing the proper disposal facilities to the LGUs in accordance with the provisions of RA 9003.

On January 25, EMB and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will roll-out the TESDA E-Learning Material on Practicing Solid Waste Management in the Workplace for public use. The material was developed by EMB-Solid Waste Management Division and TESDA.

A culminating activity will be held on January 26 to mark the 20th year of RA 9003 and to highlight the accomplishments of the national agencies which include the NSWMC members, and LGUs in the implementation of the Act.

In December last year, Antiporda and the EMB turned over the first batch of shredder-composter equipment to the local governments of Pampanga including San Fernando City and the towns of Apalit, Candaba, Guagua and Magalang.

EMB targets to distribute initially one unit each of the equipment to the 178 LGUs within the Manila Bay region in 2021. ###