A circular economy follows the principle of reducing the usage of raw materials, reusing materials to create new products, and recycling existing ones; it minimizes hazardous impacts to the environment without hindering economic growth (Johansson & Henriksson 2020). In the 35,000 tons of municipal solid waste being generated every day, 15 to 60% of the uncollected waste is found polluting bodies of water in the Philippines (Camarillo & Bellotindos 2021). Despite the approval of RA 9003 or the “Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000” that is aimed to institute sustainable development by creating a comprehensive solid waste management (SWM) program, local government units (LGUs) have been unable to comply with the standards that the republic act requires (Castillo & Otoma 2013). Due to improper waste disposal, the Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) declared the Philippine fisheries and aquaculture industry as unsustainable wherein fish waste, such as bones, fins, skin, shells, and scales, is one of the causes.
Due to its archipelagic nature, the Philippines is regarded as one of the largest producers of fish, seaweed, and fisheries-related products in the world. The Philippine fisheries and the aquaculture industry provides jobs to an estimated 1.5 million people nationwide and contribute 1.8% to the Gross Domestic Product of the country (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO] 2014). Unfortunately, resources in municipal waters have been reported to be overfished and existing mangrove resources depleted from the growing number of both municipal and commercial fishers (Lamarca 2017).
With the growing population, currently estimated at 108.1 million with a mean per capita consumption of fish and fisheries products of 40 kg per year, the demand for fish and its products increases, causing the competition for the basic needs of aquaculture development to expand together with its resources (Dauda et al. 2019). The enlargement of productions and continued aquaculture development are deemed necessary to accommodate demands but these result in an increase in waste generation through production systems and existing consumption processes.
The Philippine fishing industry’s post-harvest sector is divided into fish utilization and fish markets (FAO 2014). Fish may be consumed as fresh, fermented, dried, smoked, or canned products. In areas where there is a high demand for good quality and fresh fishery products, improved handling methods are commonly used. Otherwise, by-products are frozen, canned, and converted to value-added products to minimize fish waste. In fish markets, fish products are sold in traditional landing centers, major fish ports, wet markets, and supermarkets. The biggest market for these aquaculture products in the Philippines is Manila where these products are channeled to brokers where substantial trading of marketing channels happens among the middlemen (Nelson & Marygrace 2007).
Products from fisheries that have little to no commercial value are called fish waste, and it has been estimated that almost 25% of fish waste ends up being discarded which contributes to environmental harm and loss of products with potential economic value (Caruso 2015). Lopes, Antelo, Franco-Uría, Alonso, and Pérez-Martín (2015) claim that the re-use and valorization of fish by-products play an important role in the conservation of marine resources and solutions should be implemented to avoid the pointless discarding of valuable biomass. Fish waste can be utilized as inputs to existing fisheries, aquaculture, and agriculture practices, and to produce various value-added products from extractable biomolecules such as proteins, amino acids, and oils (Ghaly et al. 2013).
There is a huge variety of mechanisms to derive value from fish waste and to promote a circular economy in the Philippine fisheries sector. This, however, cannot be applied without an evaluation of how waste is managed at one of its most waste-generating sectors: the wet markets. Implementation of SWM plans and prevailing practices at the ground level have not been analyzed, and a comparison of experiences in different localities can indicate the best points of intervention. Sustainable traditional practices can also be discovered and promoted for wider use.
This study describes the experiences of fish waste management in Metro Manila and compares them with those from fisheries regions all over the country. It also presents an estimate of the amount of fish waste generated in the wet markets all over the Philippines, the existing SWM plans being implemented, and existing practices that convert fish waste into useful products to contribute to the development of a circular economy.