June 25, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Zero Waste Month: Paying tribute to waste workers on frontlines  

UNDER the theme “#ChooseReuse: A Pathway for a Just Zero Waste Future”, BAN Toxics joins this year’s International Zero Waste Month (IZWM), recognizing the importance of Zero Waste as a science-based and just solution, advocating a fair shift towards practices that consider the most impacted communities and vulnerable sectors.

“The sheer fact that the country produces 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45 million thin-film bags daily is staggering. Where will all this waste ultimately end up?” These figures, revealed in the 2019 study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), may now be underestimated, considering the passage of three years and the exacerbation of the waste crisis due to the pandemic.

The group underscores that “recognizing and empowering informal waste workers is crucial to cultivate a sustainable and truly inclusive waste management system. They are the driving force that tackles the waste crisis of 61,000 million metric tons daily. The informal waste sector’s role is undeniable, especially in urban areas, filling the gap in the formal sector.” 

In 2021, PSA data revealed that only 3,883 waste workers nationwide received annual compensations of P321,400, P248,700 and P 225,550 in materials recovery, waste collection, and waste treatment and disposal, respectively. However, the majority of informal waste workers earn well below the minimum wage standard. In Quezon City alone, there are about 91,983 waste pickers, a stark contrast to the limited number of formal waste workers.

“We pay tribute by shedding light on the challenges faced by our kababayans who are at the forefront in combating the waste crisis, especially plastic pollution. They are the waste pickers operating on streets and dumpsites, itinerant buyers who go from house to house, and waste collectors in the sanitation workforce responsible for collecting garbage from communal waste collection points and transporting it to dumpsites,” said Rey San Juan, Executive Director of BAN Toxics. 

“Despite their crucial contribution to waste segregation and recycling, they face issues such as lack of formal recognition, discrimination, hazardous working conditions, meager income, and limited support for livelihood opportunities. A significant number of our waste workers, often women, bear the brunt of the adverse effects of unsustainable waste management, engaging in waste recovery and recycling as a means of livelihood,” he added. 

As the entire nation commemorates Zero Waste Month, BAN Toxics also sees it as an opportune moment to “emphasize that the principles of Zero Waste extend beyond simply recycling our waste. This approach represents solutions aimed at conserving resources through sustainable production and consumption.” 

The environmental group has been championing a sustainable approach to tackle the issues of unsustainable production and consumption, emphasizing solutions that cover the entire lifecycle of plastic with a priority on upstream measures. 

The group calls on policymakers to endorse Zero Waste as an approach to minimize waste by adopting well-targeted interventions. “While Zero Waste is a useful framework, it requires a concerted effort to understand the drivers, players, and challenges of the waste crisis to help us make well targeted interventions to minimize waste.” 

To address plastic pollution urgently, it reiterates the need to reduce waste at the source, prohibit single-use plastics, and transition away from throw-away packaging. “Reducing unnecessary plastic production and use stands out as one of the effective methods to prevent plastic waste and yield immediate, tangible results. Enforcing a nationwide ban on single-use plastics is a practical solution to prevent plastics from overburdening our waste management system.”

BAN Toxics emphasizes that a significant reduction in plastic use can be achieved by focusing on redesigning products based on their societal function and transitioning towards sustainable plastic alternatives. A stronger framework is needed to move away from non-ecologically acceptable packaging towards more sustainable alternatives and innovations.

As part of its Zero Waste Month campaign, the environmental watchdog organized a webinar series in collaboration with the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The series covered topics such as RA 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, and RA 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990.

Additionally, the watchdog conducted a seminar on Toxic-Free and Waste-Free Schools on January 24 and 29, in partnership with Benito Nieto Elementary School in San Jose Del Monte and La Consolacion University Philippines in Malolos, Bulacan. This event highlighted the crucial role of schools in creating a safe and healthy environment for teachers, pupils, and staff members.