By Alan Cuyno
Technical Manager of Geocycle Philippines
It’s no secret that the Philippines has a problem managing its waste. The National Solid Waste Commission estimates that residential, commercial, and industrial sectors produce 40,000 tons of wastes daily that government agencies are struggling to deal with. This number is expected to further rise as the economy and population grow.
But this issue is not confined to our shores, with the Philippines considered as among the top sources of plastic wastes in oceans by several international organizations.
With improperly managed wastes causing an adverse impact on people’s health and the environment, various groups have been hard at work to find solutions to this challenge.
I am proud that our company, Holcim Philippines, is among those helping in addressing this issue. Holcim is well established as a leading building materials provider, but not many are aware about its waste management unit called Geocycle that has been providing its services to a number of companies and local governments.
You might be confused why Holcim Philippines is doing this. How are waste management and building materials even related?
You see, making cement requires lots of energy and raw materials. But through our co-processing technology, we are able to use waste as raw material and a source of energy, to replace natural mineral resources and fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and gas. Co-processing helps improve our fuel costs, but more importantly it enables us to conserve natural resources, and of course, contribute to managing wastes in a safe and environmentally sound manner.
People are still surprised when we share this information about Holcim. Some even raise concerns about co-processing’s impact on the environment. However, local environment regulators have recognized this technology since 2010 and our Geocycle operations strictly adhere to these standards. It is also widely used internationally, with the United Nation Environment Programme’s Basel Convention noting co-processing’s usefulness in helping countries manage their wastes sustainably.
While this technology is available and helpful in addressing waste management challenges, it is only part of the solution. We can only co-process a small portion of the waste being generated by the country. For example, since 2010 Geocycle has co-processed 25,000 metric tons of non-recyclable plastics. It’s a significant volume, but not even equivalent to a day’s waste output of the country. The key in improving this situation remains in convincing a critical mass of the public to lessen the waste produced. This requires multisectoral collaboration and much public discipline.
Moving forward, we are looking to increase the types of materials we can use as substitute fuels in our facilities including sorted municipal wastes. For the meantime, I hope that we do our part. After all, if we cut the waste we generate, then there will be less waste to manage and less waste polluting our oceans.