Spoiled waste
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas (The Freeman) - July 6, 2019 - 12:00am

Do you still see many child waste pickers or scavengers out in the streets? Remember the young boys who called out if households had bote and dyaryo to sell? Remember children in dirty, tattered, oversized shirts carrying sacks or pushing karitons full of collected garbage?

In the late 1980s, our research followed several child scavengers through the streets of Quezon City. Starting early in the morning, they endured the hot sun, the stench and heavy weight of their collected garbage which they later sold to small community junkshop dealers.

The child scavengers earned less than a P100 for a whole day’s work. In turn, as their collected waste moved on to bigger junk shop dealers, then ultimately to companies that segregated and recycled the child scavenger’s collected bottles, metal scraps, and other items, the profits got bigger.

The child scavengers for their whole day work received so much less than the thousands and millions earned by the bigger junk shop dealers and companies that recycled their collected waste!

The frail shoulders of the poor child workers carried the weight of a world that cared more for profits, that cared more for waste, than for the poor children!

The hard work and sacrifice of the children also helped clean up the waste thrown by the uncaring and the irresponsible. So young, yet so brave and so wise to carry on the weight of cleaning up, of producing profits for an uncaring world.

The child scavengers’ sacrifice and wisdom inspired us to advocate for responsible waste management since then. If the child scavengers were able to realize the true value of segregated waste, why couldn’t adults see and adopt the wisdom of these children?

Lately, less child scavengers seem to be out in the streets. Instead, with their families, they now live near landfills and dumpsites or at smoky mountains of waste unfit for human beings.

They and their families can barely earn a dollar or two each day. In contrast, governments provide millions, even billions in budget for waste!

Waste is collected and managed by a paid crew, transported on garbage trucks worth millions, dumped in hectares of land, sprayed with expensive stench-removing chemicals, and provided expensive technology!

How can waste get so protected and spoiled, pampered, with huge budgets, lands, labor, and service more than our children, our people, our natural environment?

Waste that is irresponsibly disposed, improperly, ineffectively segregated ends up ugly, smelly, dirty, risky for health and unwelcomed in any community, anywhere.

Let us learn from the child scavengers who wisely realized early on in their young lives that trash is treasure, that segregated waste --paper, bottles, metals, others-- can be sold, reused, and recycled. Segregated wet waste from kitchens, markets, canteens, and restaurants can be turned into compost. Other food wastes can be shared with the hungry.

Try to properly segregate your own, household waste and reduce, eradicate smelly, ugly, uncollected mixed garbage in your homes, streets, and communities.

Garbage collection is NOT the solution. Garbage segregation, at the source --individual hands, households, communities, schools, offices, others-- IS the answer to and CAN end the garbage problem.

Start to segregate, reduce, reuse, and recycle waste.

Stop throwing wet waste, instead compost and produce fertilizer for home, community, and institutional gardens! Reduced or zero waste will lead to less or no unnecessary expensive collection of smelly, unsegregated garbage from streets and communities.

Waste segregation can end the days and practice of spoiling waste.

NO to millions and resources unwisely squandered for spoiled waste! YES to immediate, widespread waste segregation by responsible people and communities!

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