"RiverRecycle's innovative approach seeks to make a significant and positive impact on the environment while fostering sustainable practices and promoting the well-being of communities worldwide.", statements from the NordCham Sustainability Committee

The Nordic Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines hosted its monthly Sustainability Committee Meeting featuring the winner of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise of the Year: RiverRecycle Philippines. It was held on the 21st of June 2023 at IWG (International Workplace Group) Spaces, World Plaza, BGC (Bonifacio Global City).

Representatives of various companies and organizations attended the event, namely, BDO Unibank, Inc., Artelia Philippines, Bank of the Philippine Islands, GRMCS, KeystonePartners and Keystone WorldBridge Holdings, Mober, Odfjell Technology Philippines Corporation, Orange & Bronze Software Labs, Pacific Cross Philippines, Philippines Transmarine Carriers Inc., PMFTC, Scandinavian Divers, Inc., and Sprout Solutions

Esteemed speakers were from RiverRecycle Philippines. Mr. Fidel Ventura, Director of Business Development and Engr. Romeo Gilbuena, Operations & Project Manager. 

Mr. Ventura started the presentation by introducing RiverRecycle, a Finnish company established in 2019 with a primary focus on addressing the critical environmental concern of marine litter, particularly ocean plastics. RiverRecycle aims to combat this issue by transforming ocean plastics into recyclable materials, thereby contributing to the preservation of marine ecosystems.

Mr. Ventura stresses the state of marine pollution and its potential ramifications for the world's oceans, citing that by the year 2050 the quantity of plastic in the ocean could surpass fish. This predicament arises from the fact that approximately 80% of marine litter comprises plastic waste originating from inland communities, finding its way into rivers and waterways. He also added that over 1,000 rivers worldwide are responsible for 80% of the total waste that enters the ocean.

One of the key messages conveyed by Mr. Ventura is that plastic pollution in the oceans is a shared problem, yet accountability is frequently evaded. He reiterated that communities, municipalities, waterway authorities, and technology suppliers often tend to shift responsibility onto others, thus exacerbating the issue. Additionally, insufficient funding and a lack of comprehensive disposal policies further compound the problem.

RiverRecycle Philippines took the opportunity to present their innovative solution, known as "river cleaning," which they offer as a complimentary service to communities, local governments, and national governments. The company employs a self-sustaining circular business model, starting with the collection of waste from rivers and waterways. The collected waste is subsequently sorted, with the plastics being subjected to mechanical and chemical recycling processes. Notably, PET plastics are sold directly to industrial recyclers. In addition, Mr. Ventura explained that they collaborate with communities and partners to implement land-based waste collection, with the end goal of creating a self-sustaining cycle where the need for waste collection from rivers becomes obsolete.

Subsequently, Mr. Ventura also shared RiverRecycle's achievements. The organization has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a leading innovator in global plastic solutions and has participated in the prestigious Solution Accelerator Program. RiverRecycle was even listed among the top 25 technology providers in the Nordic CleanTech Open. The company currently operates in five countries: India, Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia, and the Philippines. 

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Participants also heard from Engr. Romeo Gilbuena, Operations & Project Manager. He explained RiverRecycle's Pasig River Project, which is in partnership with the ICTSI Foundation, the City of Manila, and the Pasig River Coordination Office. The project aims to maximize waste collection and recovery from rivers, with a specific focus on recycling plastics through a meticulous sorting and staging process. 

Engr. Gilbuena provided a comprehensive overview of site conditions and challenges encountered in their operations at the Pasig River project. Considering factors such as waste density, flow velocity, and accessibility, the Pasig River was chosen for their initial operations site. RiverRecycle has the potential to expand its collection sites and enhance the sorting and staging areas for recovered waste. According to Engr. Gilbuena, the organization aims to increase the rate of waste recovery by utilizing efficient equipment and implementing a crane system. Additionally, partnerships with waste management services and recyclers will ensure proper disposal and recycling of different waste materials.

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After the presentation, the speakers actively engaged with the attendees for a Q&A session. Below are the key points that were discussed: 

  • The project aims to work with partners in Cebu and Bohol to clean 7-10 rivers as an initial benchmark.
  • The collected garbage will not go to landfills but will be sorted and processed in recycling facilities.
  • RiverRecycle is exploring partnerships with technology providers and local recyclers.
  • Cooperation with the government, including the city of Manila and DENR, has been positive, and plans are underway to clean more waterways.
  • The implementation of the EPR (Extended Producer Responsibility) law in the Philippines is seen as a positive development, and RiverRecycle aims to support compliance through plastic recycling.
  • RiverRecycle is exploring the possibility of using biomass from rivers to generate electricity in the future.
  • There are efforts to establish platforms and systems for accrediting and issuing plastic certificates to support compliance with EPR laws.
  • Funding is identified as the main roadblock for the project, and partnerships with institutional fund providers are being pursued.
  • The collected plastics are being tested and researched for potential recycling applications.
  • RiverRecycle has collected approximately 1,400 kilograms of waste per day, with plans to establish land-based collection points in addition to river cleaning.
  • The long-term goal is to prevent waste from entering the rivers by promoting social awareness, efficient waste collection, and behavioral changes.
  • Partnerships with private organizations and community involvement are sought to support waste segregation and collection efforts.
  • Local waste collectors and junk shops may have the opportunity to participate in the project's workforce and recycling facilities.
  • RiverRecycle aims to become self-sustaining through revenue generated from the sale of recycled products, such as construction materials and potentially fuel alternatives.
  • Incentives and compensation plans for waste collectors are being discussed to encourage greater waste collection and participation.

Afterward, the attendees engaged in a facilitated brainstorming session. Below are some key takeaways:

  • Incentivize segregation or give points to garbage collectors/directly employ them for formal work
  • Work with the community to address proper disposal
  • Color-code bins to influence behavior on proper disposal
  • Increase individual awareness and commitment to reducing waste
  • Seek improvement on collaboration frameworks
  • Help convert to renewable resources, help with segregation and environmental awareness
  • Educate the community through barangay-level
  • Formalize credit for the informal economy
  • Capitalize on the children's impact

The NordCham Sustainability Committee aims for more collaboration across industries and learning opportunities from experts in the field of sustainability. Since April 2022, the Sustainability Committee has hosted 13 meetings on varying sustainability topics with resource speakers and sharing of best practices, networking opportunities and partnerships, and collaboration with government units. 

The next Sustainability Committee meeting will be held on 26 July 2023 from 3:30 – 6:00 PM at AstraZeneca Office, Inoza Tower, BGC. The topic of discussion is NGOs (non-governmental organizations) Collaboration for Vulnerable Children. To secure your slot, please register through this link