A community-based approach to solid waste management for riverine and coastal resource sustainability in the Philippines
Improper solid waste management practices are harmful to riverine and coastal ecosystems. In the Philippines, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act No. 9003) decentralized the management structure and mandated Local Government Units (LGUs) to adopt new integrated solid waste management (SWM) plans. However, LGUs often lack the capacity, understanding, and enforcement authority for effective SWM. With minimal SWM awareness leading to socio-economic and environmental problems, alternative management approaches may be effective. This paper discusses the creation and implementation of a community-based program to educate community members and develop sustainable initiatives to improve SWM practices that have been observed to affect riverine and coastal environments in Tabaco City, Albay, Philippines. The Save the Rivers, Save the Seaprogram was designed as a way to engage students and local youth in environmental issues in their communities. The program's first year mobilized a team of students and collected data from a community needs assessment, water quality analyses, and workshops, which we utilized to create a sustainable action plan for the remainder of the program. The action plan provides the program with goals and objectives in order to affect SWM change in Tabaco City's rivers and coastal environments. First-year program and observational findings demonstrated that community-based programs are effective tools for addressing SWM challenges but, to be sustainable, need to co-exist with a supportive and committed LGU.