Sunday, June 23, 2024

PCO debunks SU envi policy misconceptions

By Kean Andrei Bagaipo and Kristia Niña Daymiel | March 22, 2024

Amid steadfast commitment to its environmental mitigation efforts, Silliman University’s (SU) zero-waste and plastic ban policies entail terminological misconceptions, said Pollution Control Officer (PCO) Engr. Francisco Gutib. 

Kining ‘zero waste’ man gud, ma misinterpret man gud na siya nga zero kunuhay pero dili gyud na siya ingon zero,” Gutib said. “Di gyud mahitabong zero, naa gyud siyay waste.”

(This “zero waste” [term] is often misinterpreted as if it is zero, but it is really not zero. It will never be zero, there will always be waste.)

Expounding on the zero-waste principle, Engr. Gutib explained that the aim is to allocate “10 percent of the total waste” generated as residual waste to be disposed of in sanitary landfills.

Mao nang na zero waste atung campus, [kay] mu come up gyud ta na 10 percent sa total natung waste na gi dispose, 10 percent na lang atung ma-dispose,he said.

(That is why our campus is zero waste because out of 100 percent of our total waste disposed of, only 10 percent will be disposed of.)

As stipulated in SU environmental principles, policies, and guidelines, the remaining discarded waste such as tin cans, plastic bottles, papers, scrap metal, glass, and other materials accepted by local junk shops and recycling facilities are to be upcycled and converted into suitable beneficial uses that may also profit the school. 

The Environment of Natural Resources Office (ENRO) in 2014 collected an estimate of 100 kgs of residual wastes from SU, which was the PCO’s “basis for comparison to the present accumulated wastes.” 

According to Engr. Gutib, the university must continue to reduce waste by 10 percent per year. 

However, he added that the said percentage cannot be attained if there is no proper monitoring; strict practices of refusal; reducing, reusing, and recycling; and composting strategies to dispose waste. 

Plastics are not ‘totally banned’ amid plastic ban  

Engr. Gutib also shed light on the misconceptions surrounding the plastic ban policy at SU. Contrary to popular belief, the policy does not equate to a total prohibition of plastics but rather emphasizes controlled plastic use through “regulations.”

SU’s environmental policy was questioned during last year’s Founder’s Week celebration when concessionaires used plastic packaging despite the strict plastic ban imposed on students and guests. 

Kung maka cater siya ug safety sa food, pwede,” Engr. Gutib said. 

(If it caters to food safety, it is allowed.)

As such, stated in SU’s environmental guidelines, “plastic bags and single-use plastic containers are prohibited except on rare occasions where they are proven essential for food safety.”  

The university’s plastic ban policy was implemented following City Ordinance No. 231 or the “Anti-Plastic Bags” Ordinance of 2012, which prohibits vendors and establishments from using plastic bags including styrofoam as secondary packaging for wet and dry goods. 

Environmental policy is a shared responsibility 

Beyond the misconceptions casting shade on the zero-waste and plastic ban policies, Engr. Gutib believed that it is one’s “culture of discipline and love for the environment” that will bring SU’s environmental goals to greater heights. 

“It is a gradual process. It is a team effort by students, faculty, staff, and the administration to achieve such a zero-waste campus,” he said. 

The PCO further emphasized that the university’s commitment to environmental sustainability is a “shared responsibility” among Sillimanians, however puzzling it can sometimes be. 

This is the final article of a two-part special report on SU’s environmental policy.


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