by: Maria Erika Therese B. Flor
Typically, people would wake up to the smell of fresh coffee or breakfast in the morning. However, in Sitio Binakuran of Barangay Lambac in Mabitac, Laguna some may wake up to the smell of burning garbage.
Besides risking the health of people, burning garbage also damages the environment. Alternatives to this method could have probably been suggested to community members of Sitio Binakuran, Laguna, but it seems like they have no other choice.
During a panel discussion about community cleanliness and sanitation practices, several mothers of Sitio Binakuran said they burn their garbage (nagsisiga), both biodegradable and non-biodegradable because no one comes to collect them. According to Nanay Shirly Babor, “Dapat nga kasi meron [garbage collector], kahit every Wednesday, Friday, [sana] may kumukuha. Wala kasing pumapasok…”
No garbage trucks come to collect trash in their area because Sitio Binakuran is deemed too far.
There are times when garbage would accumulate, according to Nanay Shirly. It happens during rainy days — wet garbage would not burn — and when neighbors sun- or air-dry their laundry.
Nanay Carmela Ragindin, 34, mother of four, does not burn her household’s garbage but instead keeps it in a drum, which her husband empties whenever he goes to a barangay nearby — Sinagtala, roughly five kilometers from Mabitac.
The problem with garbage collection has been brought up with the municipal government, according to Nanay Sionila, a folk healer (albularyo). So far, nothing has been done about it. She says she is exhausted to raise this concern some more to the government. (Due to time constraint, government officials of Mabitac were not asked about the waste management issue of Sitio Binakuran.)
Nanay Shirly is aware of the consequences of garbage burning. “Hindi ba’t masisira ng masisira yung ozone layer natin?” she asked. (It destroys the ozone layer, doesn’t it?)
They asked Dennis Millan, an account officer of Tawid Sa Pag-Unlad, Inc. (TSPI) if the organization TSPI offers programs or projects that relate to solid waste management. However, he said current programs that can help address their concerns are limited to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) program.
According to the Health and Environment: The Vital Link, published by the Department of Health, uncollected solid waste will eventually decay and will become a conducive environment for bacteria and parasite to thrive. Furthermore, it may become a breeding ground for disease carriers such as flies and rodents; this will put the health of the people, especially the scavengers, at risk.
In addition, the toxic waste that may come from the garbage may seep into the soil, surface water, and ground water, which will contaminate the source for drinking water (in most areas).
In the article, “Global Emissions of Trace Gases, Particulate Matter, and Hazardous Air Pollutants from Open Burning of Domestic Waste” from the journal Environmental Science and Technology, possible health risks that may come from burning garbage include: decreased lung function, neurological disorders, cancer, and heart attack.
So far, the mothers have not told about catching illnesses related to burning trash. What they have said, during one of the interviews, is that the children may sometimes have parasitic infections or bulate. Nanay Shirly has mentioned that this might be happening because the children spend plenty of time playing in the soil.