Cagayan de Oro, Philippines, April 2021 – Cagayan de Oro, on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, has become the first city in the world to successfully complete a Waste Wise Cities Tool (WaCT) assessment on their own.

In Cagayan de Oro, WaCT was implemented with remote technical support from UN-Habitat’s partner, the not-for profit company Wasteaware and UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities (WWC), under the UN-Habitat’s Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative (HOCCI) funded by the Government of Japan.

The Waste Wise Cities Tool was developed by UN-Habitat together with Wasteaware, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and University of Leeds, UK and can be used by cities globally to assess their current waste management situation and create roadmaps for the way forward. Mismanaged solid waste is a large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and negative environmental impacts. Improving their solid waste management systems can help cities reduce greenhouse gas emissions, generate wealth, and improve public health.

The methodology is aligned to the monitoring for the Sustainable Development Goal indicator on the proportion of urban solid waste collected and disposed of. It consists of seven steps that guide cities on how to collect data on municipal solid waste generated, collected, and managed in controlled facilities. This helps cities to draw up roadmaps for improving waste collection and recycling, reducing the amount of waste disposed in landfills and dumpsites, and controlling the management of waste facilities.

Before COVID, UN-Habitat and Wasteaware worked with staff in cities in applying the WaCT but could only provide remote support to Cagayan de Oro due to restrictions.

The application was carried out from 22 February to 4 March with a team including members of the Local Government Unit, Barangay (administrative division) officials, waste picker associations and waste collection operators. They collected data on household waste amounts and composition (WaCT Step 2), recovery sector activities (Step 4), disposal facilities (Step 5) and composition at the point of disposal (Step 6). A proxy was used for non-household waste (Step 3). The city also completed a Waste Flow Diagram assessment to identify plastic leakages.

Elvisa Mabelin, Chief of the Solid Waste Management Division of the City Local Environment Office said: “Cagayan de Oro took the challenge to do the WaCT first and do it on our own because this presented an opportunity for the city to update and know the current waste generation and composition in order to evaluate if the implemented Solid Waste Management  programmes and initiatives have contributed to the goals and objectives and  set a baseline to improve our plans and strategies. The tool guided us to determine the waste materials coming in and out of the city and the volume of recyclable materials that are currently recovered.”

Christopher Rollo, UN-Habitat Philippines Country Programme Manager emphasised: “Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative/Waste Wise Cities partner cities know that the pandemic brings new challenges to solid waste management. Cagayan de Oro City committed to implementing the WaCT while ensuring that local health and safety protocols are observed. This led to the piloting of the process with remote guidance from WWC and Wasteaware. UN-Habitat commends the city for this pioneering initiative which strengthened their existing practices and provided opportunities to re-evaluate their waste flows and solid waste management facilities.”

Andy Whiteman, Director of Wasteaware added: “Capacity building is a two-way process. It has been our pleasure to support the implementation of the WaCT and we have also learned a lot from Cagayan de Oro and the other partner cities in the HOCCI programme. The initiative that Cagayan de Oro has taken to implement the WaCT with only remote backstopping support at this difficult time globally is exemplary in local government waste management practices. It also represents a breakthrough moment for international capacity building initiatives in the waste and resources management sector globally”.

The example from Cagayan de Oro shows that the application of the Waste Wise Cities Tool does not require carbon intensive air travel but can be successfully implemented with remote support.   

UN-Habitat recommends that the Waste Wise Cities Tool is used in as many cities as possible to generate reliable data on Solid Waste Management, and to enable targeted interventions to create sustainable waste management systems and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Using the WaCT will allow cities to identify their main challenges in waste management and address those challenges directly, creating sustainable solutions.

Your city can become a member of UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities, a network consisting 200 cities and 40 Affiliates, and apply the Waste Wise Cities Tool. Read more about becoming a member here.