Saturday, March 13, 2010

Trash talk

Much has been said about the city’s garbage problem – including those coming from people who have political and personal agendas. I had to mention those because often, their pronouncements are tainted with exaggerations and half truths in order to advance their ulterior motives.

These people hardly mention that the garbage problem is closely related to the rapid population growth that Baguio underwent in the decades that followed the 1990 earthquake, straining the city’s carrying capacity to the limit.

They also don’t mention that a law, Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, was enacted in 2001, which gave us five years to put a waste management program in place and stop the usage of open dumpsites such as the one in Irisan. Hardly anything concrete was done in Baguio in the years that followed. Instead of responding to the law and preparing for the impending closure of the Irisan dumpsite, the city government then even spent money for its continued operation. The deadline lapsed, and the Irisan dumpsite, as the law mandated, and also owing to the dangers it posed, had to be closed. And here we are today, caught flatfooted.

While all fingers point to city hall these days, including mine, I’m glad to learn that things are moving and that programs have been put in place in the last three years. But the crafters of RA 9003 did see that these things can’t happen overnight, hence the five-year timetable. If only Baguio sprang into action back in 2001.

But here’s what we know. We know that we don’t have our own garbage disposal facilities in place in Baguio at the moment. We know that we had been hauling our garbage to another city more than a hundred kilometers away. We know that it costs a lot of money to do this. We know that the more garbage we produce, the more expensive it gets for the city to dispose of it.

But no, I don’t have groundbreaking brilliant ideas on how to address the garbage problem, let’s leave that to the experts, so-called and otherwise. But I believe that here in Baguio, while putting so much energy ranting and raving about it in various forums and media may rattle the powers-that-be into some positive action, I believe doing small seemingly small things in our own homes, can bring in more relevant and definite results.


We can reduce the garbage we produce in small way, but if done by many, can make a difference. Try buying the basic ingredients for pinakbet at the market – the vendor will put those eggplants, okras, tomatoes, squash and amplaya in separate plastic bags. 5 plastic bags for the ingredients of an average home-cooked meal. Add two more for your rice (they usually use two for heavy items such as this), one more for the cooking oil, another for your bagoong, plus one or two big ones to put all those small ones in, you get the drift.

For an average of 10 plastic bags for each of, say, just about 5,000 market-goers everyday, that’s 50,000 plastic bags. Can you imagine what a trusty, almost forgotten bayong can do? Imagine what telling the vendor not to put those items in separate plastic bags would do.

And if you had to use plastic bags, reuse them, and all those other disposable items that are thrust upon us in this age of disposables. Bring those plastic bags with you on your next trip to the market, those plastic ice cream containers do well as flower pots.

And whatever just has to be thrown away, segregate. It will then be so much easier for the garbage to be collected. Recylable materials will be easier to gather. And if we are able to reuse, recycle and segregate, then we greatly reduce the garbage we produce. I’m sure there are hundreds, thousands of other ways we, in our own personal capacities, can do to help address the garbage crisis.

For the fact is, we can talk, rant and rave about it all we want, and that can probably help make our government act faster.

Or we can also start addressing the problem at the source – us.

Photos by Ramon David and Lisa Agoot

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