Where does the garbage go?

Waste is an inevitable part of any resort’s operations. However, it’s up to us to decide what to do with the waste. Most of the time, the waste ends up in landfills, being of no use for decades to come.  In El Nido Resorts, the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) ensures that very few things actually end up in the trash can.

Entrance to the Materials Recovery Facility

El Nido Resorts’ MRF is located at Dagal-dagal in mainland Palawan, a few minutes away from Miniloc and Lagen Island Resorts. The MRF receives recyclable and organic waste from both Resorts and is looked after by Ten Knots Philippines, Inc. (TKPI), our sister company. The MRF itself is modestly sized at 5,000 m2 with three sheds for recyclable materials and 12 composting pens. This facility allows us to recover and reuse materials that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.

Everyday at 5 am, the Garden staff cart the previous day’s recyclable and organic waste to a boat waiting to bring it to the MRF. Once at the MRF, the waste undergoes a second round of segregation to make absolutely sure that there are no non-recyclable and/or toxic materials mixed in, such as batteries and CDs. The segregation at the MRF is considered the second round, as the waste already went through “segregation at source” — people throwing their trash in the appropriate bins —  before it even left the resort. After segregation, the recyclable waste and organic waste go their separate ways: the recyclable waste is stored in holding bins for pickup by a local junk shop dealer for recycling, while the organic waste is composted onsite.

How do we compost?

Organic waste can be classified into four types: agricultural waste, yard waste, kitchen waste, and sewage sludge. Agricultural waste consists of crop/plant residues and animal waste. Yard waste is where wood, chipped branches, dry leaves, and other garden debris come in. Food waste is excess food, whether spoiled or not. Sewage sludge is what we humans flush down the toilet. All four types are usually present in compost.

First, the organic waste is fed into the shredder for faster composting — the smaller the pieces, the faster they decompose. Second, the water content is adjusted. If the organic waste is too wet (usually the kitchen waste), it should be drained first or bulking material (like sawdust and carbonized rice hull) should be added before putting it into the compost bin.

The MRF's shredding area

The third step is mixing it all up in the composting pen. For optimum results, our compost consists of 60% kitchen waste, 20–30% pig or chicken manure, and 10–20% agricultural waste and/or garden waste. It also doesn’t contain meat, bones, fats, and oils, as these are dealt with separately because they smell awful when they rot. If you’re using the resulting compost for landscaping only, you can replace the animal manure with sewage sludge. You can also choose not to include the animal manure, but the result will only be a soil conditioner, not a fertilizer.

The composting pens. Note the A-frames to increase air circulation within the compost.
A closeup look at the compost

Do you remember Step #3: mixing it up? Good, because Step # 4 is “Repeat Step # 3”. Our top-notch Garden staff mix up the compost at least once a day until it matures. Mixing up the compost is very important as it allows the compost (and the aerobic bacteria living in it) to breathe. No air = anaerobic digestion = very slow decomposition + bad smell.

Once the compost is mature, they’re sifted then packed into sacks for use in the Resort gardens or in Ten Knots Philippines’ organic farm.

The compost sifting area.

Why go through all the trouble?

Doing all this is good on three fronts: it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the people, and it’s good for the resort. First: If ENR didn’t have the MRF, all the waste would have ended up in a landfill and would have been left there. We would have contributed to an ever-growing mountain of trash. Second: the MRF is a source of livelihood. After all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Aling Linda, the junk shop operator, sells the recyclable materials to a recycler for a profit. She also gets first look at all the other higher value items to be disposed, such as used engines. And third: we benefit from our so-called “trash” as Aling Linda, the junk shop operator, brings the residual waste to El Nido’s sanitary landfill for free in exchange for the recyclables she takes away. Everyone wins!

Want to see more of our Materials Recovery Facility? Take a virtual tour through this episode of Enchanting El Nido:

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