segregate_colored_bins.jpgYou give presents or tokens of your affection on birthdays and observances like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, and so on. So why not give Mother Earth a gift on her big day by getting yourself into the habit of segregating waste? That’s what envi-health group Health Care Without Harm–Southeast Asia (HCWH-SEA) is asking everyone to do for this year’s Earth Day.

It’s not like it’s difficult; as Cristina Parungao, the Program Officer for Promotions of Best Hospital Practices for HCWH-SEA points out, it’s just a question of memory and color coding. You can start simple: use a green trash can for biodegradable wastes like most kitchen and garden wastes, and use a black one for non-biodegradable and recyclable wastes. Think that’s just easy-peasy and want more of a challenge (for more green-living points)? Segregate further: use green for organics and other wet waste, red for plastic, white for glass, and blue for paper. You can even toss in yellow for metal, if you live or work someplace that generates a lot of metal waste.

Just a reminder, though: these home and establishment color codes are not to be confused with the coding for hospital waste, which uses red for sharps and pressurized container, orange for anything radioactive, yellow for infectious and pathological waste, and yellow with a black band for chemical waste. For hospitals, waste segregation is mandated by law. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003) requires local government units (LGUs) to implement segregation of waste, but this isn’t always followed. In addition, neither businesses nor households fall under the same mandate.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t segregate though—far from it. All it means is that the responsibility of reducing waste and disposing of it properly falls squarely on your shoulders.

“The environmental and health impacts of waste segregation must never be underestimated,” says Parungao. “Imagine if you will throw away batteries that contain lead or broken thermometers with spilled mercury in your regular trash bins. These are sent to landfills, where the lead and mercury may either find their way into the water system or pose greater threat to waste pickers. This is both hazardous to the environment and public health. . . . Thus, we encourage all establishments, especially the LGUs, to implement waste segregation through the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).”

But why segregate? Segregation reduces the amount of waste collection—a truly important benefit, given that the World Bank (WB) Philippine Environment Monitor estimated that an increase in the rate of annual waste generation would occur by the end of the decade. The increase was estimated to increase the annual waste generation amount (10 million tons as of 2001) by as much as 40 percent.

HCWH-SEA also points out the benefits of recycling: you not only get to save the world, but you also get money from it—anywhere from a few pesos to tens of thousands, depending on how much recycling a person does.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and get those colored bins—or paint them yourself—and start sorting!

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 470 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care sector worldwide without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. For more information on HCWH-SEA, see

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