A Paradigm Shift to Environmental Sustainability Ecological Solid Waste Management Program
It may come as a surprise for the LGUs who are just now implementing environmental management programs that there are now a wealth of programs which they can replicate and adapt to fit their own needs.
Among the successful programs are those that were developed by the LGU of Sta. Cruz, Laguna. An early investor in environmental management programs, the LGU has been reaping various environmental management awards as early as 1997. By 2002, the LGU had bagged the highest award for the region’s cleanest and greenest municipality. To this day, the municipal government continues to pursue improvements for the efficient and effective management of its environment.
The LGU began proactively pursuing its own solid waste management program as early as\ 2001. A key strategy was the community-government collaboration approach in the implementation of the program. This approach enabled the LGU to obtain the support of NGOs, civic organizations and even the academe and the religious sectors for its programs. In addition, Sta. Cruz also undertook more focused and systematic needs identification, resource allocation, project planning and implementation, in collaboration with the various stakeholders. As a result, the LGU was able to introduce innovations that raised the environmental consciousness and responsibility of the people.
Among the most important innovations introduced by the municipal government was the formation of Sitio Neighborhood Organizations (SNO) in 1999. The SNO was created to supplement the local government structure with a network of family-based neighborhood organizations. It functions as a civic arm in the implementation of development programs and projects. Currently there are 185 active SNOs, each with its own set of officers. Annually, the SNO officers undergo training to develop sensitivity to local problems and to help mobilize the community in implementing government programs.
The SNO started with simple self-help projects. They cleaned community yards and canals and engaged in communal vegetable gardening. Labor was voluntary\ and the members shared in the harvests from the vegetable gardens, which were called Food Always In The Home (FAITH) gardens. Eventually, the SNO erected huts that served as venues for meetings. These were built within the gardens, which today also house a Barangay Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and serve as Ecology Centers.
With the help of the SNOs, the LGU was able to successfully pursue the implementation of its Ecological Solid Waste Management Program. Under the program, waste segregation is encouraged through an educational drive and by putting-up two color coded garbage containers—a green garbage bin for biodegradable garbage and a red bin for nonbiodegradable materials—in strategic locations. The biodegradable materials are collected and transformed into fertilizers, while the non-biodegradable materials are processed and turned into decorative pots and tiles. Implementation of the program was facilitated by the establishment of the Environmental Complex in Brgy. Alipit, a facility for the processing of residual wastes. The facility also houses a municipal nursery and a training center. By setting separate collection schedules for biodegradable and nonbiodegradable wastes, the LGU was able to gain savings in garbage hauling costs and also saw a decrease in the volume of collections.
In 2006, the LGU acquired a bioreactor which it installed in the Santa Cruz Public Market MRF. The MRF enabled the LGU to exceed its 25% waste reduction target. Sta. Cruz has since acquired additional equipment like organic waste shredders and plastic grinders to complete the full operation of the central MRF, which now also serves as a learning school on accelerated rapid composting.
To boost its cleanliness drive, the municipal government issued an ordinance that mandated stiffer penalties for littering. It ensured public awareness about the ordinance by putting up signs about the penalties imposed on improper waste disposal. Information was also widely disseminated through meetings, symposia, seminars and such other forums. To help enforce the ordinance, the municipal government deputized 171 volunteers to issue Environmental Citation Tickets to violators.
Even the LGU personnel were required to provide assistance in keeping Sta. Cruz clean and green. Under Operation Linis Bayan, the municipal government made it mandatory for all municipal employees to render community service, such as cleaning and planting ornamental plants along the highways and streets, every Saturday. In addition, 93 government personnel were tasked to clean, plant and maintain ornamental plants, plant boxes as well as electric posts located along major thoroughfares and within the town plaza. The NGOs, civic, religious and academic sectors were also given specific areas to adopt for cleaning and beautification purposes.
To sustain its numerous environmental management undertakings, the municipal government allocates a portion of its budget to programs such as the Youth Ecological Solid Waste Management, Ecological Solid Waste Management Program Coupled With Green Economic Development (Livelihood Program), Community Gardens (Backyard Composting), and the operation of the Central Material Recovery Facility and Barangay Ecology Centers. The LGU also makes it a point to distribute flyers and posters on proper waste management and to inform the people about the environmental management projects of the LGU.
Sta. Cruz has other supporting programs that are too numerous to describe. But by simply replicating the crucial program ingredients— i.e. partnerships with the community and other stakeholders, legislative support, and budgetary allocations—other LGUs are sure to reap the same success.