This waste management expert is helping cities clean up their act
His family boasts a richness of doctors, which leads engineer and waste management maverick Generoso Dungo to admit that he’s taken the more unconventional route, a move that surprised his parents. “But if you think about it, I’m still taking care of people and their health by making sure they’re protected through a cleaner environment,” he says.
And that indeed is exactly what he does.
Growing garbage problem
Dungo is the driving spirit behind Waste Management Inc. (WMI), a solid waste management and solutions company that has growing operations nationwide. Through WMI, he offers effective solutions addressing citywide garbage disposal, waste management and environment protection.
“From the very beginning, I knew that I had wanted to go into this industry,” says Dungo, an industrial engineering graduate of Adamson University. He went on to complete a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the same institution.
Growing up in San Andres, he could not escape the mounds of garbage piling up along Manila streets as well as the heaps of plastic and rotting refuse clogging rivers and city drains, leaving their unbearable stench. The infamous Smokey Mountain landfill was another telling reminder of the slow, but undeniable deterioration of the country’s premier region Metro Manila.
He says: “It was a disheartening sight and we still see a little bit of that now. But I understand how we’ve come to this.
“With every turnover of an administration, there are a slew of pressing issues that need to be urgently addressed like the economy, poverty, political stability and such. Environment protection and waste management – though identified as important issues – are often overlooked.”
“But that’s the thing, you cannot push the problem of garbage aside, because if you leave it, it only grows and compounds. Parang Smokey Mountain na pataas nang pataas dahil natatambakan. You have to deal with it immediately.”
Traveling the world in his twenties, his eyes were further opened to how cities, both big and small, First World to Third World, dealt with their throwaways. Singapore, in particular, amazed him with its immaculate streets and buildings devoid of dirt and clutter. “It’s a small city, but it had a sense of ‘bigness’ to it, because it was so clean,” he says. “Garbage bins stood at every corner, and people were disciplined, not throwing their trash kung saan saan. Unfortunately, in the Philippines, we still have a long way to go.”
It was on one of those trips, he vividly recalls, that he made a promise to himself. “I decided to really commit to the cause. I wanted to bring my expertise and experience into establishing a business that would directly address the growing issue of waste in the cities. I was adamant in my belief to provide a real solution.”
After years of working as an environmental consultant, he finally established his company in 2007 with partners. From a handful of employees, WMI is now a solid organization whose teams are spread across the country.
As an integrated solid waste management solution provider, WMI essentially helps organizations, especially local government units (LGUs), manage their waste by offering comprehensive disposal and solid waste options.
“Our approach is integrated in the sense that we not only provide hauling/logistical services (garbage trucks), we help the LGUs set up transfer stations, put sorting systems in place at the material recovery facilities, and even assist in establishing sanitary landfills. We design everything, from A to Z,” he says. In addition to these services, WMI also finds ways to augment use of the solid waste by creating by-products such as fertilizer that are sold to farmers at a cheaper price, gardening products from recycled rubber and raw plastic that are resold to the manufacturing plants or sold to communities, who use them to make plastic home decor.
Despite the country lagging behind other more eco-conscious Asian cities, Dungo remains hopeful, especially after seeing that organizations, particularly LGUs, now determined to evolve into cleaner, greener spaces. “I’ve realized that it’s not about the lack of want. Rather, most of the them just don’t know how to go about dealing with the issue, because waste management itself is a complicated, logistical nightmare, with so many moving parts.
“Solid waste management takes a concerted effort, and so, we are happy to come in and fill in that need.” WMI has offices in Cebu, Davao and Vigan.
Dungo explains that the Philippines does not lack laws to push the environmental protection agenda forward. Already, there are several conscientious agencies involved in the cause, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA) and the Environmental Management Bureau. But more can be done. “It’s still a matter of setting up the facilities and establishing systems to help the respective LGUs,” Dungo says.
There are also numerous efforts launched regularly by these agencies to educate the public and community leaders on how to deal with waste and its proper disposal. “But as of now, we still see a lack of discipline,” he says. “We may preach all we want, hold endless talks about waste management and segregation and penalize companies and individuals for littering. But if people are not willing to do the small and simple stuff such as holding onto their gum wrappers and disposing them in the bin, we’re not going to move forward,” Dungo adds. Just the simple effort of segregating waste into non-biodegradable waste and biodegradable waste already contributes significantly, but many households and barangays are still not able to go about doing it.
Ever the nature lover, Dungo likes to reconnect with the outdoors, playing golf in Angono or traveling when his hectic schedule permits to his favorite destination, Europe. A recent trip was made to the Swiss Alps where he enjoyed whizzing down the slopes on skis “The landscape was amazing,” he raves.
His latest passion project is standing as publisher of a local government units magazine, envisioned as a platform to spotlight best practices of LGUs, local leaders and agencies. “With all the negative news that we get online about the government, I want to create a channel where we can highlight the good that has been done.
“But more than that, it’s supposed to be a way to inspire others and discover the different programs that they can adopt in their own area. What has worked there, can also work here. It’s sharing and exchanging ideas. And ideas can be very powerful.”
Dungo’s unique expertise has not gone unnoticed by the higher ups. President Rodrigo Duterte recently appointed him assistant general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), working under Jaime Medina. He says: “It’s an honor to be recognized for your work, and more so being invited to be part of a greater effort in protecting the environment.” In LLDA, Dungo works closely with different teams and groups to restore a healthy balance to the Philippines’ largest lake. Since numerous rivers, including the Pasig and other tributaries, flow into it, it is essential that its integrity is protected. In addition, Dungo says: “We’re trying to transform it into a modern economic zone so that the communities that derive their livelihood from the waters can lead healthy, successful lives, too.”
Dungo has only been onboard for only a little over four months, but he is already finding great purpose in his role. “Working with LLDA has been fulfilling, in the sense that it has helped widen my environmental knowledge and experience in the ecosystem. From solid waste management, now I’m tackling water pollution and everything else. It’s a greater scope,” he smiles. “I accepted this role, because I’ve always believed that if you want to continue moving forward, you should never stop learning.”
With most of his time dedicated to LLDA, he admits that he’s had to divest from his responsibilities at WMI. “But it’s for a greater purpose,” he says. “And I fully trust my partners and team to continue the good work.”
Whether as head of WMI or a proud public servant at LLDA, Generoso Dungo is inspiring others to take on more active roles as responsible stewards of the environment. “We have to remember, we only have one home, and so we must never tire of protecting it.”