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PHL ‘circular economy’ efforts hindered by limited adoption

EFFORTS to adopt “circular economy” principles face constraints in the Philippines because fundamental practices like the management of household waste have not taken hold, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said.

In a report, “Baseline for the Circular Economy in the Philippines: A Data Compilation,” the UNDP said only 26-58% of households currently practice waste management.

“While the household survey shows a high proportion of households agreeing that environmental protection can stimulate economic growth, only a relatively small number practice green behavior,” the UNDP said. 

It noted that many households “still need to be convinced to compost, recycle, segregate, reuse, and reduce waste.”

As such, the Philippine circular economy is still in its “nascent stages,” the UNDP said. 

Nevertheless, “there is good momentum in the Philippines for circularity,” UNDP Resident Representative Selva Ramachandran said.

“With the potential to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, circular economy is driven by technological change and innovation, and entails mindsets and lifestyles oriented towards sustainability,” he added.

The circular economy promotes the “maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling,” of existing materials and products, a reversal of the linear “take make waste” model of producing from fresh materials which are then discarded, the UNDP said.

The report noted Philippine efforts to incorporate circular economy principles in law and the closure of 945 illegal dumpsites since 2021. It also said that the country has 17 circular products, 22 experimental projects, and eight circular innovation projects.

It also said House legislators from 2010-2022 filed a total of 301 bills that discourage linear practices, while Senators filed 114 measures.

However, the impact of the laws and policies promoting the circular economy has yet to be felt.

In a study of five Philippine cities (Caloocan, Cotabato City, Manila, Pasig, and Quezon City), 55.6% of households “strongly agree” that environment protection can stimulate economic growth.

The UNDP also found that 23.7% of households see their respective cities’ waste generation issues as “very serious,” while 25.8% find them “serious.”

It also reported that 68.5% of households actively attempt to reduce food waste, while 31.5% do not.

Only a small proportion practices “green” behaviors, according to the report. Around 34% sell to junk shops, 11% have adopted solar power, and 19% engage in car-share services.

The Philippines should also establish more materials recovery facilities, after failing to meet the 2020 national waste diversion target by 22%. Efforts to reduce the volume of waste sent to landfills and to set up more composting plants would aid the circular economy.

It must also improve its wastewater treatment and meet its increasing energy demand to fully transition to a low-carbon economy. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz