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How to Get Rid of Electronic Waste Properly and Legally in the Philippines

Greg de la Cruz works at NCR Corp's R&D center in the Philippines and is the author of two published titles on Amazon.

When I took on the role of Pollution Control Officer for my organization back in 2019, I didn’t fully grasp the value of being that one person in the company responsible for managing the latter’s waste.

I’d soon realize that it wasn’t all about waste segregation, proper storage, and making it appear that my job mattered. The truth of my job was all about optimizing space—and in case you haven’t heard, commercial real estate rental prices have only gone up year after year.

More space to conduct business comes at a premium for companies. Rental is a fixed cost for businesses, and even downsizing space comes at a price. The general principle is that more space corresponds with more revenue, and if you happen to work at a big company and want to get more office space, you have to be ready with an airtight business case, because expansion entails thousands-to-millions in upfront cash plus the extra fixed rental.

It comes as no surprise that as businesses operate throughout the years during the modern age, they accumulate electronic waste. Old computers, accessories, server components, electrical components, etc.—these are inevitable in any business today. An organization can try going down the path of “donating” obsolete electronics, but just how socially responsible are you for gifting other people trash? In addition, companies have become extremely careful with their intellectual property, which makes donating not the best option.

If you are someone from your organization in the Philippines looking to properly and legally get rid of your organization’s electronic waste, this guide is for you.

How to Properly Dispose of Your Organization’s Electronic Waste

There are proper steps to follow in disposing of your organization’s electronic waste. The Philippines has enacted several environmental laws to mitigate the impact of hazardous waste to the environment—PD 1586, RA 6969, RA 9003, and RA 9275 among others.

While it may be perceived that the government just wants to find a way to charge businesses more in the course of their operations as well as thicken the paperwork, these procedures and controls are in place for a reason.

Before we get into the step-by-step process of properly and legally disposing of electronic waste, some background information is needed.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)

The government agency that enforces the proper and legal way to dispose of hazardous wastes, which includes electronic waste, is the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB). The EMB is one of the six main bureaus of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). While the DENR has been mired with controversy and scandal throughout past administrations such as fast-tracked reclamations, mismanagement of timber licensing agreements, and mining abuse complicity, it’s worth noting that it still does its job.

The EMB is a line bureau, which “is composed of units performing core, support to operations, and internal management functions” (Principles and Guidelines on Organization Design, The Ombudsman). This means that the EMB has enforcement authority, and is mandated to implement on a nationwide scale these six environmental laws:

  • Environmental Impact Assessment Law (PD 1586)
  • Toxic Substances and Hazardous Waste Management Act (RA 6969)
  • Clean Air Act of 1999 (RA 8749)
  • Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003)
  • Clean Water Act (RA 9275)
  • Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2009 (RA 9512)

Now that you know which government agency you should deal with when it comes to electronic waste disposal, just one more thing you need to take note of—there are two types of organizations, or two “lenses” through which the EMB looks at organizations.

Two Types of Organizations: ECC and CNC

Your organization either needs an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) or a Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC). I won’t go into the details of ECC organizations, but in short, these are organizations, projects, or developments that pose a potential environmental risk or impact such as in mining, agriculture, or construction.

More likely than not, your organization falls under CNC companies, which monumentally reduces the amount of paperwork and fees.

As a Pollution Control Officer (PCO) for 3 years now (and prior to that working under one for almost 2 years), I’ve done my best to simplify what the process actually looks like. Through my best effort, I’ve reduced the whole thing to ten steps. Note that the EMB changes links, sites, and some procedures in between from time to time, but I doubt the core steps have changed much throughout the years.

Here is how to get rid of electronic waste properly and legally in the Philippines:

Step 1: Get Your Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC)

Step 2: Register Your Organization as a Hazardous Waste Generator

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Step 3: Appoint a Pollution Control Officer (PCO)

Step 4: Properly Identify, Store, and Label Hazardous Waste

Step 5: Submit Your Self-Monitoring Report (SMR)

Step 6: Look for a TSD Vendor Accredited to Handle Electronic Waste

Step 7: Enter into a MOA with the Vendor

Step 8: Apply for a Permit to Transport (PTT)

Step 9: Schedule the Transport Date and Manage the Manifest

Step 10: Secure a Certificate of Treatment

Step 1: Get Your Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC)

For guidance, the relevant regulation is DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2003-30. The requirements to apply for a CNC are not that many compared to applying for an ECC. However, in order to be eligible for a CNC, these criteria need to be met:

  • The project (or company) should not be designed to directly affect or enhance the environment;
  • Must not have an existing ECC or part of a project that requires an ECC;
  • Is not located in a National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS);
  • Does not use or store toxic and hazardous materials or substances.

And to get your CNC, here are the following typical requirements, which are submitted to your local EMB office:

  1. Project Plan with Project Description, Layout, and Vicinity Map
  2. Statement of Accountability by Project Proponent on DENR Template
  3. Photo Documentation of the Project Site
  4. Photo Documentation of the Environmental Impact Area

Important Note: Requirements slightly vary per EMB location, but minimum submissions are uniform. For example, EMB Region 8 only requires the Project Plan, Bank Receipt (payment of fees), and a Government Issued ID.

Step 2: Register Your Organization as a Hazardous Waste Generator

This is where some people or organizations may not be very well-versed on. The way it’s set up in the Philippines is that not all organizations are allowed to dispose of different types of hazardous waste—the fact is, you have to “register” your organization as a waste generator of that particular hazardous waste class.

For example, if you are an IT company and you go through several cycles throughout the years of phasing out obsolete computers and equipment, the right thing to do would be to register as a hazardous waste generator of electronic equipment. That is, you should apply for a Hazardous Waste Generator ID, a document that contains all the wastes that you generate (and thus allowed to dispose), and this should include the “M506” waste class which is described as “waste electrical and electronic equipment” or WEEE.

The old practice from a few years past was manually and physically applying at an EMB office and paying there, but the EMB has made it far easier today (and also because they have immense bandwidth and are short on staff) by facilitating online applications for Hazardous Waste ID. You can check the EMB’s website for the latest instructions on how to apply for a HazWaste ID online.

One problem I have with the standard process though, is that every time you identify a new waste class in your company (for example, new chemicals or adhesives that aren’t included in your existing HazWaste ID), you need to apply for the amendment of your HazWaste ID which leads to a whole run-through of the process. Quite tedious, if you ask me.

Step 3: Appoint a Pollution Control Officer Who Will Undergo Accreditation

Under DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 2014-02, each establishment needs to appoint a Pollution Control Officer (PCO) and this person needs to go through accreditation. He needs to undergo a 40-hour training (usually 5 full days) and then submits his resume for the EMB’s evaluation.

To kickstart the accreditation, the “Managing Head” of the organization which is the highest executive officer of the establishment, needs to submit the following to the EMB regional office:

  • Letter of appointment as the PCO
  • Resume of the PCO with ID picture
  • Notarized Affidavit of Joint Undertaking of the PCO and the Managing Head
  • Proof of qualification of the PCO, such as the certificate of his 40-hour PCO training
  • PRC license (if company is a Category B establishment)

Note: Your company should either be Category A or B depending on what’s written on your HazWaste ID. To know what a Category B establishment is, see page 3 of DAO 2014-2.

You’ll be informed by EMB if the PCO meets requirements, and they’ll hand out the Certificate of Accreditation after paying the fee. The accreditation is good for three years, and then the PCO needs to go through a refresher.

Step 4: Properly Identify, Store, and Label Hazardous Waste

Now that you have all the preliminary requirements in order, it’s FINALLY time to identify, store, and properly label your company’s hazardous waste. This of course applies to your electronic waste (WEEE). Your PCO, having finished the 40-hour training, should be able to know how to properly store and label electronic waste.

Towards your application for a Permit to Transport (Step 8), the EMB usually conducts an onsite inspection of your waste. In place of physical inspection, nowadays they simply ask for pictures to check whether they follow the regulations on proper handling, storage, and labeling.

Step 5: Submit Your Self-Monitoring Report

The Self-Monitoring Report (SMR) is a comprehensive quarterly report required from each establishment, and you won’t be able to proceed with your electronic waste disposal without this. The SMR is prepared and accomplished by your Pollution Control Officer, and the report contains your organization’s water and electricity consumption for the quarter, evidence of compliance with environmental laws, and most importantly the status and amount of hazardous waste your organization had generated.

There’s a table for each waste class, and you simply summarize the quantity or weight of wastes generated.

Submission of SMR used to be manual, but now the EMB provides for many ways to submit it electronically. For my region, there are at least three ways to submit it online, but for yours, please check how the local EMB office lets you submit. Regardless if your region allows online submission or not, the SMR is a public record and thus needs to be notarized, with the PCO and Managing Head as signatories. For online submissions, the notarized page is a mandatory attachment.

Step 6: Look for a Treatment, Storage, and Disposal (TSD) Vendor Accredited to Handle Electronic Waste

You can do this from the beginning of the process, but it is normally at this point that you need to find an accredited Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSD) that will take care of transporting, treating and disposing your electronic waste. They are usually called “scrap buyers.”

Similar to hazardous waste generators, not all TSDs are the same. They can only deal with wastes for which they are accredited to handle. Thus, it’s normal to have more than one TSD vendor (which is tedious). The EMB has a list of accredited vendors which they release periodically, and it’s best to choose one near your area of operation.

Once you’re able to find a vendor accredited to handle electronic waste (M506), reach out to them (best through their PCO) and let them know that you’d like to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement.

Step 7: Enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Vendor and Secure Vendor’s Documents

A signed and notarized Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is an indispensable requirement before you can apply for a Permit to Transport. The MOA signifies the duties and responsibilities of the vendor, as well as what’s not in their scope. This MOA is signed by the vendor’s Managing Head and PCO, as well as your organization’s.

After having the MOA notarized, secure the vendor’s documents needed to apply for a Permit to Transport. These are the following:

  1. Transporter Registration Certificate (TRC)
  2. TSD Registration Certificate (TSD Certificate)
  3. Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC)

These are also required to be submitted once you apply for a PTT.

Step 8: Apply for a Permit to Transport (PTT)

At last, you are at the jump-off point in getting rid of your electronic waste. This is also the most important part, because the EMB does not take lightly lacking, unsatisfactory, and non-compliant requirements. It varies, and sometimes EMB will ask for more documents, but these are typically the documents you need to attach to the application:

  • Notarized MOA
  • TSD Documents (TRC, TSD Certificate, ECC)
  • Your company’s CNC
  • Your company’s HazWaste ID
  • Your latest SMR
  • Route of Transport and Proposed Schedule
  • Pictures of the Hazardous Waste (must be properly labeled)

It usually takes weeks to a month before they turn back around, and sometimes more documents are asked. The green light would be once they send in an Order of Payment, which means you can now pay for the corresponding fee. Once the payment is posted, you’ll be issued a Permit to Transport which is valid for six months, and only valid for the amount of waste declared on your SMR.

Step 9: Schedule the Transport Date and Manage the Manifest

Once the Permit to Transport is issued, you’ll be able to “manage” the hazardous waste manifest, a document containing how much waste is pulled out at a given date, which registered truck of the TSD vendor (with plate number) will be pulling the waste out, and the origin and destination. Each manifest has a control number.

Thanks to advances in technology, EMB does this all online now, with the manual part done by the TSD vendor as you complete the hauling of the electronic waste. The Hazardous Waste Manifest is a control document to ensure that no unauthorized insertions or “riders” are made.

This is the step where the actual transport takes place, and it is important that the PCO does a physical inspection of the TSD’s facility to ensure that the wastes are really going to the right place and are getting the right treatment (some TSDs were flagged for reselling whole parts and components).

Step 10: Secure a Certificate of Treatment

Lastly, for documentation purposes, your TSD vendor needs to issue a Certificate of Treatment. This document serves to legally state that the wastes as stated on the manifest were treated and disposed according to the means and methods described and agreed upon. This is where the hazardous waste disposal process truly closes, as if you are unable to secure this document, you don’t really have any legal basis to say that you followed laws and regulations in getting rid of your wastes.

Make sure your vendor sends you the Certificate of Treatment (COT) as soon as possible.

Bureaucratic, But Improving

And there you have it. Phew. That was a lot to go through, and trust me—the actual process is pretty tedious. But at least you can refer to this outline of how to properly and legally dispose your electronic waste in the Philippines. It may all seem incredibly bureaucratic and multiple fees get charged along the way, but to EMB’s credit, they have made some tweaks to make the process more convenient and efficient.

If you don’t follow environmental laws and regulations, you’re very likely to get hit with fines plus some possible prison time. And more importantly—you’d be harming the environment, which means your impact will be felt for generations to come.

© 2022 Greg de la Cruz

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