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Zero Waste:  It Starts With Us

by Paul Ray G. Donaire | February 9, 2023

Zero Waste is an environmental movement that promotes responsible production in order to protect and conserve natural resources. It strives to control waste management, which can be a threat to the ecological balance among all living things and the environment if not done properly. 

Every month of January, the world commemorates the national zero-waste movement. Sadly, for a world filled with leaders and confederations that continuously project speeches about Zero Waste Management, we are still very far from achieving a Zero Waste world. Dumaguete City is no exception to this, especially after Dumaguete City began operating a pyrolysis-gasification technology to burn Dumaguete’s waste in the Central Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at the border of Camanjac and Candau-ay. 

“Unbeknownst to most Dumaguetenos, this technology creates extremely poisonous air contaminants and toxic ash. Studies from around the world show that waste workers and residents living as far as 7.5 km away from these types of technologies have higher rates of cancers, miscarriages, birth defects, and other health problems linked to the toxic pollutants,” according to Burn Not Dumaguete. 

Zero Waste extends to the recovery of natural resources by promoting the environmental preservation practices of reduce, reuse, recycle, and upcycle. Still, proper segregation at home is useless when this garbage waste ends up mixed with biodegradable and non-biodegradable ones in landfills. In the case of Dumaguete, the incinerator was the chosen method for eliminating waste. This leaves us to ponder on the questions: How can we achieve a Zero Waste community if biodegradable and nonbiodegradable trash, even when properly segregated, just ends up being mixed and dumped in the same landfills? What does the incinerator mean to the Zero Waste movement? Most importantly, how far are we from truly achieving a Zero Waste community?  

“We still have a long way to go. I believe that we have made strikes already, but this incinerator [pyrolysis-gasification machine] is putting a block on our effort because we can never be Zero Waste with the incinerator with us. So, it’s very important that we shut down the incinerator for us to be truly Zero Waste.”, Joshua Villalobos, a junior majoring in Sociology from the College of Arts and Sciences and the current co-chairperson of the SUSG Environmental Committee, said this when asked about the current situation of Zero Waste in Dumaguete.

If we are truly to achieve Zero Waste, we must seriously implement segregation at our homes and segregation at the landfill. It is important for everyone to put an effort into these movements and understand that every action has a significant contribution to the environment. With the current predicament Dumaguete—and the world, in general—is facing, it is vital that we push our government and leaders to follow proper Ecological Solid Waste Management Acts and influence its people to be conscious about the environment.

Achieving Zero Waste starts within oneself. It starts when one acknowledges that there is an urgency to save the environment and the lives of people who depend on it. To achieve Zero Waste, everyone must be dedicated, committed, and instilled with values that fuels one to show their love for the environment. “One value, if I’m to speak of it, should be empathy. It should be about feeling what others feel. Ask yourselves: “How can I, as a human being, be okay that waste workers are actually inhaling toxic chemicals?” And by that, I think you will be able to feel that you’re not only taking care of the environment and planet, but you’re also taking care of people,” Villalobos expressed. 

To push for Zero Waste is not simply a personal choice but an environmental responsibility. It is a duty of mankind that requires collective efforts.The fight still has a long way to go and we must stay alert to possible destruction—either man-made or natural disaster—that threatens humanity and the environment. 

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