Monday, 9 January 2012

Today’s garbage sells

The systematic way of segregating household rubbish leads to easy recycling. - Picture courtesy of Shutterstock
(Editor’s note:  These days, our households are generating more and more wastes. One possible reason is that they are enjoying increased income from family members who are working overseas. With extra money to spend, their tendency is to increase food consumption. Now they are buying more fish, more meat, more fruits and vegetables alongside dry goods – from canned stuff to plastic-wrapped products. And many more – things that would make living a little better, things that are always coupled with potential waste materials like Styrofoam boards, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, among others. Now, after consuming these food items and having stuffed the dry good products in their proper places, what remain are the materials used to wrap them up. Question: How are they going to be discarded out of the house? Without answering this, let’s just imagine our community beach – the Parang beach -- which of late, has been the depository of all types of waste pollutants from plastic materials to human excreta. This is one big problem that needs real solution and the solution to this would be the resolve of the residents themselves, with help from the local government, to start dealing their household wastes properly and with sense so that the community would be spared from waste pollution. Doing so, the community would also help the municipal government save limited funds that would be spent in hauling off the rubbish to the town landfills instead of using it for more urgent people-focused projects.)


A typical day in the life of an average Filipino family starts with tatay leaving the house for work, nanay doing the household chores, and the children either playing or studying at school. With the price of commodities steadfastly coming to a high, an alternative source of income has become a must for every Pinoy.

Now, what would be the cheapest, easiest way for the average Pinoyfamily to earn money, without having to invest on anything, and without having to leave the house?

The answer, manage and sell garbage.

From the traditional bote-dyaryo to junkshops, to materials recovery facilities to waste trade markets at the malls, selling garbage has never been easier, and better. With all these development, every Pinoy family has an all-access pass to an alternative livelihood where trash becomes cash.

Munting bahay kubo
“Ang basura dito ay sari-sari.”

Based on the studies made by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, every Filipino generates an estimated half a kilo of waste each day.

With an estimated population of eighteen million (2000 Census-based Population Projection, National Statistics Office), the total waste generation in Metro Manila alone could run up to 7,000 metric tons per day.

Or, 210,000 metric tons per month. Or, 2,520,000 million metric tons per year. This is the amount of garbage being hauled to the landfills everyday, costing the government billions of pesos.

The sad part is, instead of building schools and providing medicine for the poor, a bulk of the taxpayer’s money literally gets down the dumps. Now, that is a lot of waste.

Luckily, we can control the way we manage garbage because of the total waste generated within every Pinoy home, 95% can still be reused, recycled, or composted, and only 5% are made up of residuals and special/hazardous waste (Waste Analysis and Characterization Survey, Asian Development Bank, 2003).

Now that we know why it is possible to manage garbage, the next question to answer is, “how”?

Becoming a Manager
Quality determines the price of a product, and the same goes when “marketing” garbage. To ensure that household wastes are not going to be “wasted”, every member of the family must become waste managers, and must learn to segregate.

In the Do-It-Yourself Guide, Solid Waste Management Made Easy (published by the United Nations Development Programme), segregation at source is highlighted as the secret to an effective solid waste management. Wondering what segregation is? It is simply placing items in separate containers as we dispose of them.

Want to do it the easy way? Here’s how:

Network at the Waste Market!
Doing business means having to partner with different organizations. In a macro-aspect, having to “market” solid waste includes coordinating with the barangays (local government units), private organizations, schools, commercial establishments, non-government organizations, group of recyclers, and the national government. Segregated wastes can be accommodated at the barangay’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

This is a required storage facility for segregated garbage for communities, with junkshops adopted as “official” MRFs in some barangays.

A junkshop is adopted as a Materials Recovery Facility at a barangay in EB
Magalona, Negros Occidental.

Get Creative
Now with some creativity, earning more money from waste is within every Pinoy family’s reach. Ever heard of Bazurabags? How about vermi-casts, organic fertilizers, briquettes, and flower pots out of sando bags and polystyrene? These are garbage, recycled and converted to “new” products, with the potential to rake money for the “creative entrepreneur”.

Take the case of the K.I.L.U.S. Foundation (in Barangay Ugong, Pasig), makers of the internationally-famous Bazurabags.

K.I.L.U.S. Foundation is an association of the women of Barangay Ugong, who pioneered the search for livelihood opportunities from garbage, converting non-recyclable juice containers to colorful, fashionable bags.

A colorful lady's handbag made of candy wrappers

Women delegates shoulder their Bazura Bags during an environmental conference in Canada – 2009 International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement - where attractive Philippine-made rubbish bags featured as one means to deal with mounting rubbish.
Who would have thought that discarded doy packs could again be made useful? The women of K.I.L.U.S. Foundation did, and now, they are earning dollars from the bags. So for families with doy packs to discard, sell them to the K.I.L.U.S. Multi-purpose Environmental Cooperative at 36 C. Santos St., Ugong, Pasig City, or contact Ms. Editha Santiago, Chairperson of the Foundation.

The municipality of E.B. Magalona even uses doy packs creatively (and colorfully) for pedicabs and office chairs.

 Pedicab and office chairs

We have covered doy packs, so let’s go to another type of plastic, the sando bags. Sunday markets will not be complete without having to go home with sando bags.

Since 2004, the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources launched a campaign dubbed, “Mag-Bawas Balot, Bawas Basura Tayo!”, targeted to minimize the use of sando bags among market vendors, and buyers, to prevent plastics from clogging esteros and canals.

Yearly, 330 kilometers of rivers and esteros, and sewerages, are being de-clogged of plastics, and 2,100 kilometers of roads being swept of 6 tons of garbage – a problem needed to be addressed by proper waste management, and by waste AVOIDANCE.

Used sando bags can be sold in volume, can be recycled, and melted to become useful products like flower pots and foot walks.

Notice the picture. All lucban fruits are covered with sando bags as protection against fruit flies. It is better than using pesticide. Hmmm! They should save all the sando bags for the next fruiting season.

Used sando bags, other plastics, and even polystyrene (styropor) are melted using the Styro-Oven, a technology developed by the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which melts polystyrene and plastic materials with  used cooking oil to become useful products such as tiles, panel boards, table tops, synthetic, lumber, school desks, and chairs. Theseare school and office furniture people would readily buy. In fact, some of these tiles will be used at the Pasig River linear parks!
Money equals Advocacy
Managing and selling wastes as not just about the money, it is also about the environment. When we segregate wastes, place them in MRFs, or recycle them into functional pieces, not only are we earning money but we are taking part in the global campaign to save our environment.

It also means having to follow (while earning) the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act 9003), a law about the control, transfer, transport, processing, and disposal of solid waste in the country. In short, it is like hitting two birds with one stone.

From trading garbage at the waste markets to making crafts out of it, people are really earning cash from trash. When we do our share in segregating and recycling our garbage, we help in putting a stop to the 30 years garbage problem our country is facing, and at the same time, earn from it.

Earning money from garbage is easy, you surely will never look at garbage the same way again – for now, garbage has become a valuable resource.

(For more information on how to manage wastes, contact the National Solid Waste Management Commission – Secretariat, Environmental Management Bureau – DENR, 2nd Flr., HRD Building, DENR Compound, Visayas Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City, Telephone numbers: (632) 920-2252, 920-2279, 925-4796 / 925-4797 local 3.)


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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.