Law Report: Philippines
Waste Pickers in Philippines
The informal sector in waste has a critical role to play in the country’s waste recovery and disposal. Both men and women work as waste pickers in dumpsites and trade in waste recovery and recycling is an established network that contributes to resource recovery and reuse.
Size and Significance
An estimated 4000 workers can be found working in dumpsites of Quezon city alone. The informal trade in waste also has several itinerant buyers, dominated largely by men.
Multiple actors form a part of the recycling trade in Philippines. There are primary waste pickers who work on streets and dumpsites and at a higher level, there are itinerant buyers who go from house to house buying recyclable materials. Aside from this, formal workers who are part of the sanitation work force recover waste from the trucks that carry waste to the dumpsite. Like in most other countries where workers operate out of dumpsites, the waste pickers suffer from respiratory and gastro- intestinal diseases.
The average earnings of waste pickers range from 75 to 100 php per day, against the national minimum wage of 260 php per day.
Law and Policy
The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, 2001: Also known as RA 9003 adopts the approach that waste is a resource that can be recovered. Municipalities and barangays are the local bodies to implement this act and the act encourages local bodies to reduce waste at source, recover, recycle and reuse. The Act also promotes collaboration with the private sector and associations working on solid waste management. However, with regard to the informal sector in waste, the enactment on the one hand prohibits waste picking in dumpsites and segregation areas, unless the operator allows it, but on the other, encourages cooperatives and association to be integrated into the solid waste management system.
The Local Government Code (RA7160): It requires local bodies to provide social welfare and basic facilities to different communities, including scavengers.
The Republic Act 8425: This Act creates a National Anti-Poverty Commission in order to alleviate poverty and provide micro-finance services. Waste pickers can benefit from the schemes and services provided by the commission.
Organisation and Voice
The Women’s Balikatan Movement in Manila formed the waste pickers and itinerant buyers co-operatives called the Linis Ganda programme. Today, there are co-operatives in each of the 17 cities and towns that comprise Metro Manila. In this programme, waste pickers – called eco aides – have fixed routes for purchasing segregated recyclables from households and schools. The co-operatives can obtain low interest and collateral-free loans from the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry and from the Land Bank. Linis Ganda plans to start composting operations and biogas recovery from market and slaughterhouse wastes in the near future.