Stop! Save that plastic bag! A church-based volunteer group in Pandacan, Manila is calling on barangay officials to bring plastic waste to the Sto. Nino Church at Jesus St. near the Caritas Center. Every fourth, Sunday volunteers will sort through collected plastic waste that will then be picked up by an industry partner for recycling into pavers or bricks.
Plastic collection and weighing at the Sto. Nino Church plaza along Jesus St.
In last photo are the pavers and bricks from melted plastic.
The group has been going from barangay to barangay in the parish, hoping for cooperation. So far, eight out of 29 parish barangays are actively participating. For every 170 kilos of collected plastic waste, they receive one thousand pavers that can be used for construction projects.
According to volunteer Lilibeth Espinola, the initiative was launched as part of the parish’s ecology ministry. The group is hoping the initiative will serve as a model that local government units (LGUs) can emulate. All LGUs are supposed to set up their own sanitary landfills and/or material recovery/recycling facility in compliance with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act No. 9003 signed into law in 2001. The law calls for waste segregation, recycling, and composting, with zero-waste as the goal. Sadly, 15 years into the law, the Philippines still is notorious for being among the top polluters of the ocean resulting from poor waste management. I think it is safe to assume that implementation of the Law has been lax. Lack of funds has often been cited by LGUs as their reason for non-compliance.
What this group of volunteers is showing is that lack of funds need not be a deterrent. People just need a bit of ingenuity , resourcefulness, and willpower to make recycling work. The initiative calls for the collection of plastic not normally purchased at junk shops. “We don’t want to compete with junk shops that buy plastic bottles,” says Espinola.
Recovered items since the group started in September 2014 amounted to the following: 158kg (sando bags), 186kg (styro), 1,486kg (laminates), and 251kg (mixed). “So many (barangays) are not yet participating yet we were able to save so much!” Espinola observes.
Volunteers collecting and sorting through plastic waste at the Good Earth Day Festival in Pandacan, Manila last April 24.
The material recovery team at the parish church plaza accepts these types of waste materials:
- laminates such as empty sachets and snack packaging
- sando bags
- plastic wrapping and packaging material
- styro foam
- used tetrapacks
- used plastic cups
These will be melted by the industry partner and transformed into something useful. To facilitate sorting and segregation plastic waste must be clean and dry, Espinola stresses.
Right now, the facility is open only every fourth Sunday because of few volunteers. Pandacan residents are encouraged to save their plastic waste and bring it to their barangay officials who will take care of transporting the plastic waste to the church plaza. According to Espinola, all barangays have a Clean and Green Committee. Residents must encourage their community leaders to implement plastic waste recovery and recycling as mandated by law.
Bricks and pavers are awarded to Pandacan barangays that participated in the plastic waste recovery and recycling initiative.
What about other areas in Manila and the rest of the country?
Espinola advises citizens to approach their barangays about setting up a recycling program. They can also approach their parish church about setting up an ecology ministry as instructed by the Pope in his latest encyclical on the environment.
I think when it comes to the environment no time should be wasted waiting for LGUs or institutions to act. Private citizens and volunteer efforts can make a difference. If we all take action we can save the planet from becoming overrun by trash and pollution. Recycling though is just one way to manage our waste. We also need to reduce our consumption especially of disposable items. We need to compost leftover foodstuff instead of throwing them out as garbage.
For inquiries about this initiative, if you wish to duplicate this initiative in your community, or if you wish to volunteer in Pandacan contact Lilibeth Espinola at 09178283672 or 0922 8126303. Please note that May collection at the Sto. Nino Church Plaza has been moved to the 29th (Sunday).
Photo credits: Lilibeth Espinola and Jeanel Francisco Pangindian
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