Saturday, August 24, 2019

Editorial: Cleaning up garbage

WHAT is your trash EQ (emotional quotient)?

With the Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CCENRO) issuing citation tickets to households that do not segregate their trash, residents have more than an incentive to know whether a particular item of trash falls under residual, non-biodegradable, biodegradable, and special waste.

SunStar Cebu’s Rona Joyce T. Fernandez on March 3 reported that about 50 households received citation tickets from the CCENRO for failing to follow the “no segregation, no collection” policy.

While the policy has existed since 2011, it was only recently that the Cebu City Government has deployed barangay environment officers (BEOs) to ensure that proper solid waste management is implemented at the source.

Violators must pay within seven days a compromise fee of P500 or serve the community from one to six months. The court may also order jail time.

Will this system improve the current disposal of solid waste? Although there are about 200 BEOs deployed in the entire city to monitor and apprehend violators, sustaining the enforcement of the policy entails tapping groups and structures in the communities to persuade and regulate all stakeholders in solid waste management.

Citizens may need an information campaign to refresh their familiarity with City Ordinances (COs) 2031 and 1361, which mandate solid waste segregation at source and the prohibition of urinating, spitting, littering, and defecating in public, respectively.

Yet, following these ordinances requires not so much IQ (intelligence quotient) but more of EQ, which makes one sensitive to and considerate of the ways one’s decisions and actions affect the welfare of other people or one’s community.

Will BEOs deter citizens who are less than considerate about the neighborhood and the ecology in disposing of their waste?

It is doubtful if a BEO can achieve the target of monitoring 50 households daily. Or if a BEO can cope on a regular basis with possible harassment and intimidation from homeowners, not to mention attempts at bribery or corruption.

The CCENRO must work with barangay leaders, homeowners’ associations, and other formal and informal groups to enforce solid waste management. Unlike the BEOs, which are not detailed on a 24/7-basis at their areas of assignments, locals can complement the monitoring, specially of those perennially violating CO 1361, which prohibits a household from putting out its waste when it is not yet the scheduled time of collection.

Even homeowners and barangay tanods have difficulty catching individuals who secretly dispose of their waste in unholy hours, as well as throw garbage in vacant lots or in common areas not designated for waste collection.

While many households admittedly lapse in segregating waste, solid waste collection in the communities must also be investigated to weed out not just household violators but also corrupt officials and garbage collection workers who divert barangay garbage trucks to collect garbage, house to house, in private subdivisions because of fees or recyclables they can collect.

In some barangays, homeowners observe that only the collection of recyclables, which can be sold to junk buyers, is regular, with garbage trucks only coming sporadically to collect household waste and other biodegradable waste.

It is also observed that some garbage collectors indiscriminately lump the segregated trash received from homeowners in the garbage truck. Citizens feel they have to conform to the practice of giving monetary tips or “donations” to garbage collectors to ensure that one’s trash is collected regularly or during peak periods during Christmas and New Year holidays.

There’s money to be made from trash. To prevent the spread of this form of corruption, the CCENRO must grapple with more than segregation. That is just the tip of the garbage heap.
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