From Trash to Treasure: Impact of the Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program in Los Baños, Laguna

by: Joy Dianne Gumatay

Seven years ago, he was a security guard. Now, he is a garbage scavenger. And he is proud to be one. “Why will I be ashamed of this job if I am earning money? (Bakit ako mahihiya sa trabahong ‘to eh kumikita ako?)”, said Mariano Abuan Jr., 65, of Bay, Laguna.

He used to work as a night shift security guard for Cebuana Lhuillier Pawnshop and Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), earning P240 for a 12-hour shift. In early 2005, when the local government unit (LGU) of Los Baños started the strict implementation of the “Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program,” he witnessed how garbage scavengers earned P250 pesos for two hours of sorting and picking garbage for selling to junk shops. This made him quit his job and work as a garbage collector in Esguerra Junk shop, the biggest junk shop in Bay, Laguna.

THROUGH THE YEARS

Mang Mariano narrated how Barangay Batong Malake, and Los Baños, Laguna in general, experienced significant changes with the implementation of the Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program. According to him, people used to just throw their trashes wherever they wanted to, but now, after being informed about the hazards of improper waste disposal, they became cautious and concerned about their environment.

According to Vella A. Atienza, a science research specialist from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research Development- Department of Science and Technology (PCARRD-DOST) and an associate project leader of “Enhancing the role of informal sector in solid waste management in Los Baños, Laguna (PSSN-PACAP-ISSWM-LB)”, Los Baños was considered as one of the exemplary municipalities in the Philippines for earnestly practicing solid waste management. Barangay Batong Malake Councilor Allan Leron said that it is indeed obvious that residents of Los Baños have become disciplined with the implementation of the “Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program”. They learned to segregate wastes properly and lessen the use of plastics due to its harmful effects to the environment.

Berillo Mulimbayan, 68, a resident of Barangay Batong Malake, witnessed development with the implementation of the Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program. According to him, some of the great changes are the frequent collection of wastes by solid waste management personnel and residents’ realization that their trash can be their own treasure. Just like in the case of Mang Mariano, the security guard turned garbage scavenger, who uses biodegradable wastes as composts and collects non-biodegradable wastes to earn money.

Furthermore, Councilor Leron said that malls and food chains lessen their usage of plastics in response to the “Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program.” The compliance of private sectors, he said, plays a big part in the strict implementation of this municipal ordinance. In addition, the residents of Barangay Batong Malake in Los Baños adapted the “Tapat Mo, Linis Mo” program. This resulted in clean sidewalks and well-ordered subdivisions. Barangay gardens have also been created from idle and grimy private lands. These are now planted with different kinds of vegetables, and maintained by households near the area. Residents are allowed to harvest the vegetables to earn some money.

Likewise, the municipality experienced less health problems caused by improperly disposed wastes and lesser flooding along the highways which are after caused by plastics that clogged drainage canals. Support for waste pickers in Los Baños, Laguna has been strengthened through the formation of the Los Baños Solid Waste Organization (LB-SWO). The members of this organization are waste pickers considered as “official waste collectors” of the community. They are given skills training, working capital, uniforms and pedicabs for trading wastes. This project is made possible by the Philippine-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP) and funded by the Australian Agency for International Agency (AusAID) during its first year. Nowadays, the municipality is funding this program.

The Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program is based on a Los Baños municipal ordinance during the time of former Los Baños Mayor and now Laguna Vice-Governor Caesar Perez. It was formulated as a response to the Republic Act (R.A.) 9003 also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001. This ordinance obliges inhabitants to segregate wastes. It also commands barangay officials to schedule regular garbage collection and to penalize those who will not comply with the guidelines.

Dr. Atienza mentioned that one of the reasons for the strict implementation of solid waste management in Los Baños, Laguna is the transformation of Mount Makiling from being one of the tourist spots in Laguna to becoming the area’s garbage dump.

IN THE PURSUIT OF ORDER

Councilor Leron strongly encourages other communities to adapt the “Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program” because he believes that it will contribute a lot to national development.

Of late, however, the Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program is not being implemented strictly in Barangay Batong Malake. According to Councilor Allan Leron, this is due to lack of funds and support from the government.

The reinstatement of the Task Force Kalinisan – those officials who keep an eye on residents to assure that every one adhere to the “Anti-Littering and Waste Segregation Program” – and strengthening solid waste management campaigns through seminars are some of the suggested solutions of Councilor Leron to this problem.

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