For years, a pall of acrid smoke from a growing mountain of trash hung over half of the town of Los Baños, Laguna.
The smoke rivaled the steam that rose from the hot springs which Los Baños is known for. The burnt odor could be traced to a dumpsite less than a hectare wide in one of the town’s barangays, situated right beside the jamboree camp of the Boys Scouts of the Philippines. Residents knew the problem has gotten out of hand when the creeks and waterways were clogged up as well.
Los Baños could not build a sanitary landfill as there was no public land to spare. Every day, trucks hauled to a dumpsite 35 metric tons of unsegregated trash produced by 82,000 residents.
On New Year’s Day in 2002, Los Baños declared it had enough. Mayor Caesar P. Perez led his town on a crusade to rid Los Baños of garbage.
A massive information drive on the new Ecological Solid Waste Management Program was launched. The program was backed by municipal ordinances that imposed fines on violations.
The dumpsite was turned into an Ecological Waste Processing Center to process recyclable materials. A pressing machine for cans and plastic was built from scratch using steel salvaged from the dismantled Calamba Bridge and hydraulic rams from junked dump trucks. Biodegradable waste was composted and sent to farmers for use. Recycled plastic was formed into chairs.
Before the program started, it took four trucks to haul the town’s garbage. Nowadays it takes only one.
Non-biodegradable waste is hauled to a privately-owned landfill in the nearby town of San Pedro. Fresh air has gone back to Los Baños.
This program is recognized as a Trailblazing Program, a finalist for the 2005 Galing Pook Awards.