Three major Philippine ports achieve 50% reduction of plastic waste leakage

WWF-Philippines celebrate the culmination of the Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Improving Port Waste Management in the Philippines project

The ports of Batangas, Cagayan De Oro and Manila North Port were each able to reduce 50% of their plastic waste leakage through multiple interventions implemented in the past year.
The three major ports served as pilot sites for the Clean Ports, Clean Oceans: Improving Port Waste Management in the Philippines project under WWF-Philippines’ No Plastics in Nature initiative, implemented by the Grieg Group and funded by the Grieg Foundation.

The project celebrated its culminating event at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City on Sept. 20, with attendance from partners such as the Norwegian embassy, local government units and barangays, maritime industry authorities, port management offices, and social enterprises from all project sites.

“Protecting and promoting sustainable ocean management are important areas of work for peace, prosperity, and for the planet,” says Christian Lyster, Norway’s Ambassador to the Philippines. “What the project showed us is that the challenges are numerous and complex but that partnerships and strong cooperation can help us find environmentally sustainable solutions together.”

The project first kicked off in 2020 as WWF selected the pilot sites. In 2022, WWF-Philippines and AMH Philippines conducted baseline studies to determine how much plastic waste the ports generate and how much potentially leaks into the environment.

In the Port of Batangas, WWF-Philippines found that the port generates 43,443 kilograms (kg) of plastic waste per year, with 12% potentially leaking into the environment. The studies also found that the Manila North Port generates 11,999 kg of plastic waste with 13% potential leakage, while the Port of Cagayan De Oro generates 21,961 kg of waste with 3% potential leakage into the environment.
Using the data, WWF proposed and implemented multiple solutions to improve waste reduction, segregation, collection, and diversion (recycling).

Norway’s Ambassador to the Philippines Christian Lyster talks about Norway’s role and commitment in sustainable ocean management

Segregation and collection

The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project engaged local social enterprise Plastic Flamingo to improve waste segregation by providing waste segregation bins made of 100% recycled plastic. Plastic Flamingo also conducted plastic waste collection events in the Port of Batangas and Manila North Port, which ensured that the plastic would be collected separately from other types of waste and would be recycled.
The waste bins were placed in key areas at the ports with banners indicating the importance of waste segregation. The plastic collection events in the Port of Batangas and Manila North Port took place from March to May 2023 — nine collection activities in Manila and seven for Batangas
In the Port of Cagayan De Oro, WWF-Philippines partnered with Basic Environmental Systems and Technologies, Inc. Trash to Cashback program, which awards environmental points to port offices that bring their plastic waste to the port for diversion. The points depend on how many kilograms the plastics weigh, and these can be used as cash to buy items such as groceries from partner stores and even pay for online purchases and utilities. There ten collection activities took place from October 2022 to July 2023.

Diversion and Recycling

WWF-Philippines also collaborated with communities adjacent to the ports. Barangay Calicanto, situated in the center of Batangas City, was selected as the pilot site for interventions on waste diversion/recycling. With cooperation from the local government, WWF-Philippines conducted a design thinking workshop to evaluate the barangay’s waste management system and develop solutions. The barangay concluded they needed a materials recovery facility (MRF) to encourage residents to segregate and sell their waste for additional income.

The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project funded the construction of a new MRF in the barangay from June to September this year. The MRF also includes composting and vertical gardening areas where households’ food waste can be converted into compost that can be used to grow food.

In Cagayan De Oro, WWF-Philippines engaged with Barangay Lapasan which houses the Bitan-Ag Creek, a long waterway connected to the Port of Cagayan De Oro. The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project funded the construction of a new MRF at the Port of Cagayan De Oro and another MRF for the barangay to recycle the collected garbage from the creek and the port.

WWF-Philippines Executive Director Trin Custodio congratulates partners and the No Plastics in Nature team for the success of the Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project.

Supporting waste workers

The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project also supported informal waste workers near the Manila North Port. Through a partnership with social enterprise Plastic Bank, WWF-Philippines provided new safety equipment to 10 waste workers in Baseco Compound.
These items include push carts, glow-in-the-dark safety vests, gloves, boots, and cleaning equipment. The project also donated cages to make it easier for waste workers to store and weigh their collected recyclables.

Plastic Bank is a social enterprise that partners with junk shops to create a network of waste workers that will receive incentives on top of the market price of the waste they sell. Through the Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project’s support, the waste workers collected 52 metric tons of waste in just three months.

“We have created this growing network working together to save the oceans…All reduction targets have been achieved in the three project sites. Our hope is for other offices to adopt these solutions as we as an industry can work together towards a plastic pollution-free nature,” says Czarina Constantino-Panopio, national lead of the No Plastics in Nature initiative.

DENR Asec. Marcial Amaro speaks about the importance of a multi-faceted approach to addressing plastic pollution

Waste reduction

To increase awareness, WWF-Philippines also worked with the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in an informational video on marine plastic litter to encourage passengers to avoid disposing of their waste in the waters. The MARINA issued an Advisory to implement and distribute the video on passenger ships through their regional offices. WWF-Philippines also helped MARINA spearhead a strategic action plan aligned with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) national action plan on marine litter.

“Addressing plastic pollution in the Philippines, requires a multi-faceted approach involving government action, industry cooperation, community participation, and individual responsibility to create a sustainable and plastic-free future,” says Marcial Amaro, Jr., DENR Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Director of the Biodiversity Management Bureau.

The Philippine Ports Authority also pushed for a ban on single-use plastics, which port management offices such as the Port of Batangas implemented in their terminals. The Port of Batangas even distributed the waste segregation bins to another port to increase awareness.

The Clean Ports, Clean Oceans project aimed to achieve a 50% reduction of plastic waste leakage in three major ports since ports in general, have an important role in tackling plastic pollution as they sit at the interface between sea and land. Apart from the interventions, the project also launched communication materials which will be available online as a guide for other ports and projects to replicate the tested solutions.

The project is under WWF-Philippines’ No Plastics in Nature Initiative, which aims to stop plastic leakage into nature by 2030.
“What we all did in this project included segregation, waste collecting and recycling of plastic waste, but the work is not just about moving plastics around,” says Trin Custodio, WWF-Philippines Executive Director. “The baselining activities, the policy, strategy work, the business engagement, education, and communication work are just as critical as these define how our impact will be brought to scale…We delivered what we did because we worked together and there was no role too big or too small.”