Arceo: ‘Walang plastikan’

Turning plastic wastes to brick pavers and cement is not only brilliant but also a solution to carbon emission reduction. The use of plastic as raw material for cement is likewise an answer to sustainable and green infrastructure.

The recent tie-up of the Angeles City government with the Republic Cement and Building Materials Inc. will definitely reduce the volume of plastic wastes in the city. Under the project of Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin’s “Walang Plastikan: Plastik Palit Bigas”, Angelenos are encouraged to collect plastic wastes in exchange for rice.

The collected plastic wastes have been used as raw materials for brick pavers, and just recently, the local government had been bullish in using these wastes as raw material for cement.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the cement sector is the third largest industrial source of pollution. The cement manufacturers around the globe emit more than 500,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. All of these chemical compounds are harmful to humans and to the environment.

Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas responsible for the smell of burnt matches. It is released naturally by volcanic activity and is produced as a by-product of copper extraction and the burning of sulfur-bearing fossil fuels. Nitrogen oxide is released in the air from the burning of fuel. It forms from emissions from cars, trucks and buses, and power plants. Meanwhile, carbon monoxide is a colorless, highly poisonous, odorless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. It is produced from burnt fuel in cars or trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces.

The traditional raw materials used in cement production include limestone, marl, sand, shale, clay, pyrite cinder, diorite, silica, among others. During the process of mixing and combustion, these materials emit toxic oxides.

Thanks to a group of undergraduate students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 2017, Carolyn Schaefer and MIT senior Michael Ortega conducted a research study on the use of plastic in manufacturing cement. They have found that, by exposing plastic flakes to small, harmless doses of gamma radiation, then pulverizing the flakes into a fine powder, they can mix the irradiated plastic with cement paste and fly ash to produce concrete that is up to 15 percent stronger than conventional concrete.

This technology is now widely used by cement factories all over the world. Good thing that since 2010, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has already been campaigning for the use of alternative materials in producing cement. The agency also encouraged cement companies to use alternative fuels for their operations.

Now, the Angeles City government is elevating that campaign by actually involving its constituents to collect plastics and directly supply these wastes to a cement manufacturer. A public-private sector scheme that could actually work in so many ways – from the reduction of plastic wastes to the reduction of carbon emissions in the cement industry.

And while the city government is taking a pro-active approach to lessen carbon emissions, the rice incentive is also a form of subsidy to indigent or unemployed Angelenos.

Since the implementation of the “Walang Plastikan” project in January this year, the city government claims that at least 1.46 million kilos of plastic was already collected in exchange for rice.

By far, this is one of the best projects of the city government. Mayor Lazatin has shown exemplary leadership with the help of his Chief Adviser and Tactician IC Calaguas. They have been working together, strategically looking for solutions on how to make Angeles City a truly sustainable, resilient and world-class city. Other local government leaders in Pampanga need not travel far to learn the best practices. All they need to do is sit down with Mayor Lazatin and follow his lead.


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