International Zero-Waste Day: combating marine plastic litter in the Philippines

The first annual International Day of Zero Waste takes place on 30 March 2023.

Zero Waste Day recognizes how mismanaged waste aggravates the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, and pollution. It also highlights how all stakeholders – including national and local governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, communities, informal waste sector, women and youth – have a role to play in achieving zero waste.

In the recent years, the Philippine government has made strides in addressing environmental challenges related to waste. These include the promulgation of the National Plan of Action Marine Litter (NPOA-ML) in 2021, which serves as the blueprint to achieve zero waste to Philippine waters by 2040, and the enactment of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Law in 2022, which enhances the existing Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 and provides a circular path to managing resources with more meaningful collaboration with the private sector, beginning with plastic packaging.

Zero-waste to Philippine waters by 2040

UN-Habitat Philippines, through the Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI), a project funded by the Government of Japan, has been supporting the localization of the NPOA-ML.

Since 2020, HOCCI has been working with six partner cities to help reduce marine plastic litter. Through the project, the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Calapan, Davao, Legazpi, Manila, and Ormoc developed the first City Plan of Action on Marine Litter in the Philippines.  

The project also developed papers on Extended Producer Responsibility, Waste Management Infrastructure Gap Assessment, and Community Behavior Change to aid in policy-making and action planning at the national and local levels, as well tools for awareness-raising like the Marine Litter Learning Kit.

Global challenge, local solutions

Among the biggest contribution of the project are local solutions and actions demonstrated by the pilot cities, with capacity-building and funding support from HOCCI.

Check out some of the #zerowaste initiatives being implemented by HOCCI partner cities:

Enhancing waste baselining

All six cities established their waste baseline using the Waste Wise Cities Tool which includes the Waste Flow Diagram to determine potential waste leakage into the marine environment.

Legazpi City also uses photogrammetry and machine learning / to obtain marine litter data through drones and a GIS software capable of object detection using Artificial Intelligence for waste baselining.

Promoting zero-waste lifestyle through local refill stores

Legazpi and Ormoc City through their people’s organizations, the Legazpi City Recyclers Association and the Naungan Fisherfolk Association, set up zero-waste refilling stores . These stores not only help reduce plastic waste but also serve as “advocacy stores” to promote sustainable practices in the community.

Producing alternatives to plastic products

Women Waste Warriors of Manila City produces washable cloth diapers as an alternative to disposable plastic diapers.
Meanwhile, women members of the Calapan City Association of Paleros, Inc. uses indigenous materials, buri leaves, in making reusable bags as alternatives to single-use plastic bags.

Soliciting youth-led, digitization-based innovations

The cities were also inspired by and gathered smart solutions from the youth through Plastic 3R Hacks PH, a nationwide virtual hackathon that aims to harness solutions to marine plastic pollution.

Optimizing segregation and transport through smart technology

Legazpi City developed an app to automate the existing solid waste collection and transport system using Internet of Things and GPS tracking.

EPR-readiness initiatives

Calapan, Cagayan de Oro and Ormoc are initiating enhancements to their waste diversion data management system and in mobilizing key actors along the local plastics value chain to be ready for partnerships with obliged enterprises.

Mainstreaming marine litter learning

Partner cities have also rolled out the Marine Litter Learning Kit in schools and communities. In Ormoc City, marine litter learning has been successfully integrated the grade school and high school curriculum.

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