30 November 2023, Quezon City. The Baguio City Government is dead serious in promoting the safe management of electronic waste, or e-waste, to prevent toxic pollution and to protect the health of citizens and the ecosystems.
At a lively forum held last Tuesday (November 28, 2023) at Bakakeng Central, Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong exhorted the people, especially the youth, to take steps to prevent and reduce e-waste, which includes a wide range of discarded electrical and electronic products and their parts that often contain hazardous materials.
“We need to do something to address one of the fastest-growing waste streams on our planet. We have to show that we really care for our environment,” he told over 50 enthusiastic participants, including newly installed Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials, civil society leaders and university students.
“The first step that we need to do is to change the mindset of our people about e-waste. How do you discard wires, batteries, chargers, and other e-waste? Most of the time, we don’t really care. As long as there is a trash bin, we just throw it there,” he observed, adding “Young people can really help in (changing this mindset) because they believe in change.”
The forum was co-organized by the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), the Environmental Management Bureau – Cordillera Administrative Region (EMB-CAR), the Barangay Council of Bakakeng Central and civil society groups Zero Waste Baguio and the EcoWaste Coalition to raise awareness about the growing environmental threats from e-waste and the need for a concerted action.
In her welcome remarks, Beki Tenefrancia, President of Zero Waste Baguio and a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Board of Trustees, described the e-waste crisis as a “ticking time bomb,” which can have a very detrimental impact on people’s lives and the environment if not addressed. “We hope that the discussion will bring about action plans for the youth, for the barangays, for Baguio City, and beyond addressing the e-waste problem,” she said.
As explained by Engineer Marie Pina Rodas, Chief of Clearance and Permitting Division of EMB-CAR, e-waste, if not managed safely, can pollute the ecosystems and pose serious threats to public health as they often contain hazardous chemicals, or generate toxic emissions and releases when improperly dismantled, recycled or treated.
Among these hazardous chemicals are heavy metals like cadmium, lead, and mercury, flame retardant chemicals like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) found in plastic casings, and many other substances of concern.
To promote the safe management of e-waste produced by Baguio City’s households and other small e-waste generators, the city government is cooperating with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Integrated Recycling Industries, Zero Waste Baguio and the EcoWaste Coalition for the first-ever e-waste facility that will soon commence operations at Bakakeng Central.
In her presentation, Kagawad Alicia Dizon apprised the forum participants about the efforts to set up the said e-waste facility, including visits made to the e-waste facilities in Barangay Bagong Silang, Caloocan City and Barangay Dampalit, Malabon City, and the progress so far, including the construction of the facility and the acquisition of the required Environmental Compliance Certificate to the delight of the crowd. The facility will soon be in full operation to serve the residents of Baguio City.
Engineer Leah Texon, National Project Manager of UNIDO, congratulated Bakakeng Central Captain Dan Daniel and the Barangay Council for their success in establishing the e-waste facility, the first to be set up outside the National Capital Region. “Hopefully you will be able to maximize the use of the facility in compliance with the EMB requirements.”
For his part, visiting environmentalist Nils Viklund from the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), a partner of the EcoWaste Coalition, commended the initiative of the government and people of Baguio City on safe e-waste management. “It’s really inspiring and it positively shows what can be done to address the e-waste challenge,” he said, noting the need to tackle chemicals throughout their lifecycle.
Engineer Marivic Empizo, Assistant Head of CEPMO closed the forum by acknowledging the concrete results of consultative meetings on e-waste held last year and by inviting the participants, especially the youth, to come up with more innovative ideas and projects for the betterment of Baguio City and its environment.
At the end of the forum, the participants posed for a group photo with some holding placards highlighting two of the many benefits of safe e-waste management: preventing environmental pollution and reducing harmful exposures.
Meanwhile, the Office of the City Mayor has instructed the General Services Office (GSO) and all 128 Punong Barangays to conduct e-waste collection from November 29 to December 5, and to designate e-waste drop-off and pick-up points per barangay. The Special Services Division (SSD) was further directed to monitor compliance by all barangays in Baguio City.