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Researcher urges for local zero-waste initiatives 

By Kean Andrei Bagaipo | January 31, 2024

“A zero-waste future should look at waste from individual lifestyle changes and the whole lifecycle approach,” said Silliman University (SU) visiting researcher Joseph Edward Alegado in his lecture held on Jan. 24 at the Dr. Mariano and Lina Lao Hall. 

A Ph.D. candidate from the Australian National University, Alegado shared his topic titled “Rethinking Alternative Development in the PH: Zero Waste Community Sites as a Case for Degrowth” by discussing the prospects and challenges of zero-waste initiatives in the Philippines. 

He emphasized the importance of identifying methods for a zero-waste future through community efforts rather than using waste-to-energy solutions.

Some of his suggested initiatives involved bringing eco-bags when running grocery errands, using reusable straws, and proper waste segregation at home.

“Zero waste is an individual lifestyle approach. Waste is a matter of relationships, not just material. That is why different countries, entities, corporations, individuals, and institutions push LGUs (local government units) to sell advanced technologies, especially for developing countries,” he said.

Aside from involving individual lifestyle changes, Alegado highlighted community actions such as forming alliances on environmental justice, examining material flows and the effects of capitalism, and implementing participatory processes from barangay to provincial levels while preserving the ideals of democratic participation. 

However, he stressed that factors like conflicting territorial jurisdiction, agencies acting by the book, the absence of a nationwide plastic ban, and insufficient funds at the municipal level further “derail the implementation of zero waste” in the country. 

“In Siquijor, there are no budgets for hiring waste collectors. Barangays do hire part-time waste workers. For [them], zero waste enables upward mobility through livelihood provision, extra income, and promotion at work,” he said. 

Alegado visited Dumaguete City and Siquijor in 2010 and 2019 to conduct his fieldwork, interviewing locals and city and community officials in the Southern Philippines as part of his ongoing paper. 

In October 2023, he also visited the five zero-waste barangays in Dumaguete—namely Looc, Piapi, Bantayan, Calindagan, and Banilad—and a few barangays in all six municipalities in Siquijor.

According to him, “orderliness” is still the dominant narrative, and “concern and care for the environment” is a latent reason why people practice zero waste in their localities. 

Moreover, Alegado talked about the concept of “degrowth,” which is based on the understanding that ecological limits must be pushed for economic growth to occur at the local and global levels.

“Degrowth is possible, and some patches of degrowth are present here in the Philippines,” he said, mentioning existing waste management practices in some local manufacturing industries. 

Alegado added that “zero waste can be a strategy for degrowth,” and it is an “entry point to prosper and experiment with degrowth like creating strategies in the local area.”

Despite the “polarized political lines” in the country, he urged the audience to “reclaim the power” towards liberal and collective action for a zero-waste future.

“Today, the value of bridging solidarity is the key in mobilizing the local people,” Alegado said. 

The event was endorsed by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a non-profit organization that offers practical solutions to combat the challenges of waste management and environmental protection.

It was co-hosted by SU Student Government Environment Committee, Dr. Mariano C. Lao ICI Technology Laboratory, War on Waste Negros Oriental, Zero Waste Youth Negros Oriental, and other colleges in celebration of the International Zero Waste Month 2024.

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