Climate and Environment

DENR wants just compensation, protection for waste pickers

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DENR wants just compensation, protection for waste pickers
A scavenger picks up plastic trash from Manila bay despite the rain and waves as monsoon rains affect the city on September 16, 2019.
AFP/Maria Tan

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants to improve the status and work conditions of garbage pickers who play a critical role in the country’s waste recovery and disposal, its chief said Wednesday. 

Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga is pushing for the integration of informal waste workers into the formal system of solid waste management under the Extended Producer Responsibility law. 

“This means our waste workers that are not formally employed will be justly compensated, covered by occupational safety, and given social protection for their contribution to the solid waste management industry,” Loyzaga said in a Palace briefing. 

The informal waste sector in the Philippines is primarily composed of waste pickers in dumpsites and communal waste collection points. 

Waste pickers are at the forefront of the waste crisis, but they are neither involved nor consulted in policy discussions around waste management. They are also exposed to a wide range of occupational hazards. 

Loyzaga earlier said that there is an opportunity to promote the social inclusion of waste pickers through the circular economy—or the system that minimizes waste and maximizes the efficient use of resources—and the EPR law or Republic Act 11898. The EPR law requires large companies to adopt and implement policies for the proper management of plastic packaging waste. 

Local government units can also help improve the lives of waste pickers by conducting financial literacy programs and building their entrepreneurial skills, the DENR chief said. 

She added the need to capacitate local governments and other sectors to implement a robust system of data recording, tracking and reporting.

EcoWaste Coalition, which has been advocating for the inclusion of waste workers in solid waste management, welcomed Loyzaga’s statement. 

“We support the statement of Secretary Loyzaga on ensuring social inclusivity for waste pickers in government programs to address poverty reduction and social justice for all, as a rights-based approach and standard,” it said. 

According to the group, mainstreaming the role of garbage pickers and addressing the lack of access to productive resources were formally adopted in the Manifesto for Waste Workers and addressed in an International Labour Organization standard—ILO Recommendation No. 204 on the transition from the informal economy—where the Philippines is a signatory.

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