Trash Ng Tao: From Home To Landfill Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Have you ever wondered where your waste goes? Well, most of it ends up at landfills.

But what happens there? And is it a secure place or can they cause serious health or environmental damages? We talked to Arwin Magpantay, Assistant General Manager at the Waste Custodian, Management Incorporated (Wacuman Inc.), who manages the Bulacan Sanitary Landfill.

When it comes to waste management, there are four components in the waste management system: the waste generator, the transporter, the treater and the landfill. The waste managed by Wacuman Inc. can be distinguished into two categories: non-hazardous waste and treated hazardous waste.

The hazardous waste, such as electronics, asbestos, light bulbs, and other toxic materials needs pre-treatment before it can be disposed. That is where the treaters come into play. Another sort of hazardous waste is coming from hospitals. In 2004, the “Garbage book”, a study by the Asian Development Bank revealed that nearly 3,700 health care facilities in Metro Manila generate an estimated 47 tons of medical waste per day, with 56% of this waste considered potentially infectious. The problem of medical waste disposal became even more urgent by the closure of medical waste incinerators in hospitals, as required by the Clean Air Act. Wacuman Inc. specialized on the secure disposal of treated medical waste with 80% of the waste disposed on their landfill being hospital waste.

If there is no treatment necessary, which is the case for left over foods, residual waste, or packaging, a direct line between the generator and the landfill is possible. That means that the waste is picked up at people’s homes by the municipality and transported directly to the landfill. But companies often produce a high amount of waste which exceeds the municipality’s capacity. So they use the services of landfill operators, such as Wacuman Inc., for the disposal of their waste. Once the truck arrives at the landfill, it is weighed on a truck scale to measure the volume of waste. The price is then calculated based on its net weight. “After the waste has been disposed, the truck is washed and fumigated before leaving the landfill to eliminate odor”, says Arwin. Later on, the waste is segregated: Recyclable materials are sorted out at the on-site Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to be reused and recycled.

Landfills in the Philippines are mainly run by private companies; only a few are operated directly by the LGU. They have very different standards ranging from dumpsites, where waste simply piles up; to sanitary landfills, who operate with an elaborate waste management system. The DENR ranks the landfills in four categories, based on the Republic Acts 9003 and 6969. All sanitary landfills are required to daily cover the waste with top soil. Methane gas which arises from decomposing organic material, needs to be collected. Also, landfills have to make sure that the liquid emitted by the waste (leachate) cannot seep into the soil.

A Category 4 (and thus the best ranked) landfill would be a sanitary landfill. Its main characteristic is the liner system: clay and synthetic. Wacuman Inc. uses a multi-lining system as coverage to prevent environmental damage. Their landfill can accept a minimum volume of 200 tons to a maximum volume of 2,000 tons per day. The Wacuman Sanitary Landfill has a total area of 18.8 hectares. So far, there is one active cell being used for disposal with a base of 14,000 square meters and the shape of an “inverted pyramid”, explains Arwin Magpantay. In the future, there can be five more cells constructed. Once a cell is leveled up, it could be used as a golf course after a certain recovery time.

Wacuman Inc. is planning to operate a new waste water treatment system for the leachate using the Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) technology by US based Headworks BIO™ Incorporated. The system assures that the water will be clean and that only one step in the filtering process is missing to make it potable water, says Magpantay. He adds: “In the long-term, Wacuman Inc. wants to offer waste-treatment as well and thus become a ‘one-stop shop’ for the waste generator. So there will not be any need for a third party in the waste-disposal process.”

Taken from


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