Optimizing Municipal Waste Collection in the Philippines through a Smart App

Traditional waste management processes result in water pollution. Photo credit: Asian Development Bank.

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A digital application has helped reduce marine plastic leakage by improving municipal solid waste collection.


Municipal waste (or solid waste) production in the Philippines has significantly increased due to rapid urbanization and increasing concentration of people and business activities. It was estimated that urban areas in the country generated about 22,000 tons per day of solid waste in 2008 and would reach about 28,000 tons per day by 2025.[1]

In 2021, Legazpi City, provincial capital of Albay in the Philippines, generated 80 tons of daily municipal solid waste, a 35.83% surge since 2010. Analysis using the Waste Flow Diagram Tool projected a total municipal solid waste generation of 28,969 tons for 2021, of which only 18,349 tons were efficiently collected and 10,620 tons were left uncollected.

The Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker Application being implemented in Legazpi City is helping address this challenge. Through the digital application, Legazpi City is able to optimize municipal solid waste collection and transportation by integrating an efficient waste collection system with a robust tracking mechanism that recalibrates truck routes, reducing time and fuel consumption.

Developed under a project to combat marine plastic leakage, the app is the result of the Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative led by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) and funded by the government of Japan. The Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources and local institutions also collaborated under the project to combat marine plastic leakage.


Navigating the challenge of solid waste management in the Philippines is crucial, given the reliance on traditional waste management methods that result in inefficient municipal solid waste management collection, increased operational costs, and marine plastic leakage. This issue highlights the need for a shift toward efficient waste collection and transport systems. It is aligned with the broader goal of reducing cities' environmental impact by 2030, emphasizing improved air quality and waste management for inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable urban living. Addressing marine plastic leakage is integral to this transition, underscoring the need for improved data collection and an effective waste management system.


Legazpi City employs nine dump trucks for daily municipal solid waste collection across 63 service barangays, each adhering to designated routes. However, the existing collection system was unable to include the daily collection of all materials recovery facilities (MRFs), resulting in waste leakage into land and marine environments. Such a system poses challenges, including environmental pollution, marine life destruction, drainage blockages, and landscape degradation.

Moreover, inefficiency of the current truck routing system compromises operational effectiveness and financially burdens the city's local government. It significantly impacts costs due to elevated fuel consumption. Thus, there is an urgent need for strategic optimization in waste management practices to address these environmental and operational challenges.


The Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative is a marine plastic litter reduction project. It aims to lessen marine plastic leakage by strengthening the institutional capacity to support the operationalization and localization of the Philippines’ National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Reduction, and Management of Marine Litter. It also seeks to improve data collection and waste management systems. The $3-million project was piloted in the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Calapan, Davao, Legazpi, Manila, and Ormoc from 2020 to 2023.

Under this program, the Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker Application was developed. Implemented in Legazpi City since June 2023, it seamlessly integrates the city's waste collection with a powerful tracking system that streamlines the collection of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)-ready data.

Engineer Dominic Neil Careo of the Office of the City Environment and Natural Resources in Legazpi City explains salient features of the Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker Application during its official launch on 22 June 2023. Photo credit: Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative.

The application efficiently gathers waste generation data from MRFs serviced by city trucks. Enhanced by real-time monitoring and data analytics through the Internet of Things and Global Positioning System tracking, this integrated system optimizes waste collection routes, thereby reducing travel time, operational costs, and carbon footprint.

An integral aspect of this innovation is the proactive prevention of solid waste leakage into land and marine environments. The technology systematically ensures the comprehensive collection of all MRFs, reinforcing environmental preservation initiatives.

Figure 1: Smart Waste Management System Web Dashboard and Staff Tracker Mobile App

Source: C. Pendang. 2023. Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative: Plastic Waste Data Integration for EPR-Readiness of Cities and Waste Diverters in the Philippines. Presentation during the Bangkok Plastics Week. 10 October.

Also, the Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker App enhances operational efficiency with accurate, real-time recording of solid waste data through smart sensors in garbage trucks, transmitting precise data about waste types and quantities collected at each MRF in every barangay. This application can guide future city plans as it empowers the local government to refine collection and management processes.

Beyond operational efficiency, the app generates a resilient and auditable dataset and securely stores it. Legazpi City's innovative waste management system not only meets current needs but also paves the way for a sustainable, data-driven future in waste management practices, signifying a steadfast commitment to environmental sustainability and advancing cleaner, more sustainable urban environments.


The implementation of the Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker Application in Legazpi City has significantly enhanced solid waste management efficiency. It reduces fuel costs and operational time, as well as minimizes waste leakage into land and marine environments. Furthermore, the automated recording of recyclables aligns with sustainability goals and strategically positions the city for Extended Producer Responsibility.

To overcome initial challenges, particularly in truck driver proficiency with the staff tracker application, the government implemented proactive measures such as training initiatives. However, reliance on Internet data posed difficulties and affected data consistency and accuracy. Nevertheless, these challenges are inherent in improving solid waste management practices, emphasizing the city's commitment to efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and unwavering environmental stewardship.


A significant contributing factor to the success of the Healthy Oceans Clean Cities Initiative was the strategic integration of the Smart Waste Management System and Staff Tracker App to optimize waste collection and transport in Legazpi City. The application substantially reduced fuel costs and operational time for city trucks. Its implementation was effective because of its comprehensive design and government-initiated training programs that focused on truck drivers' proficiency with the staff tracker application interface. This training enabled real-time tracking and accurate data recording, which is essential to the project's success.

However, the reliance on Internet data, especially in areas with connectivity issues, posed a significant hurdle. To enhance similar projects, alternative data connectivity solutions, such as offline capabilities or alternative backup systems, could be explored to mitigate challenges associated with Internet dependency.

Another challenge involved the accuracy of waste data recording. This emphasizes the need for robust data validation protocols to ensure the reliability of recorded information, as well as regular audits and quality checks integral to project management for maintaining data integrity.

Emphasizing training, adaptability, and proactive problem solving can enhance the likelihood of success of similar projects, while preparing for unforeseen challenges in the dynamic waste management landscape. Diversifying data connectivity solutions and implementing rigorous data validation protocols are essential for project resilience and success. Actively engaging stakeholders through regular feedback sessions further ensures a collaborative approach, aligning the project with the evolving needs and challenges of the community.

Note: Charlyn Hibaya-Pendang made her presentation on Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative: Plastic Waste Data Integration for EPR-Readiness of Cities and Waste Diverters in the Philippines during the Bangkok Plastics Week on 9–12 October 2023.


[1] Asian Development Bank. 2019. Solid Waste Management Sector Project: Technical Assistance Completion Report.

Charlyn Hibaya-Pendang
City Coordinator, Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities Initiative, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat)

Charlyn Hibaya-Pendang has worked with various UN agencies. As HOCCI city coordinator, she is in charge of supporting governments and local stakeholders by facilitating project activitiessuch as planning workshops, training, and data gathering and validationto ensure agile and demand-driven cooperation systems to demonstrate locally customized actions for the reduction of marine plastic litter and promotion of a circular plastics economy.

UN-Habitat Philippines

Since 2003, UN-Habitat Philippines has supported the government in building sustainable, safe, inclusive and resilient cities and human settlements in the country through the implementation of various programs and projects. It continues to build its knowledge base, experience, network, and expertise in localization of global goals, slum upgrading and secure tenure, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and recovery and resettlement.

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