PHINLA tricycles make waste collection easier, increase income of resource collectors

Every day, we produce tons of garbage of various sorts. Most people when they throw rubbish, they do not think about where all these really go. But as they say, one person’s trash may be another person’s treasure.

Meet Daryl who thrived from “precious” garbage. He is a 24-year-old resource collector from Cugman, Cagayan de Oro and the youngest among six children. Growing up without a father, young Daryl helped his mother make ends meet by digging through garbage piles in search of materials that can still be sold to junk shops. Consequently, Daryl lagged behind his peers and eventually dropped out of school from as early as second grade.

Now a father of four, Daryl makes every effort to give his family a better life than what he had. He accepted construction jobs and worked as a signage installer. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic happened, Daryl lost his job and this situation compelled him to revisit his life as a resource collector.

“Iyon lang naman ang alam ko talagang gawin. Wala naman kasi akong pinag-aralan, pero gagawin ko lahat para sa pamilya ko, basta marangal na trabaho (I did not finish my studies so it leaves me with very limited choices, but I will do everything for my family as long as it is a decent job),” Daryl shares.

Randy, a resource collector from Mintal, Davao City shares the same thoughts. Randy and his wife together provide for their four children by working in the recycling sector. Randy works as a resource collector, while his wife works in a junkshop as cleaner of collected recyclables.

His family’s meager means forced young Randy to drop out of school. The eldest among seven siblings, Randy started accepting painting jobs and construction work, until he found himself in the recycling sector.

“Mahirap ang buhay ng isang resource collector, pero masaya. Masarap sa pakiramdam na ‘yong income mo, pinaghirapan mo para sa pamilya (The life of a resource collector is not easy, but it’s fulfilling. Working hard to provide for your family is a reward in itself),” says Randy.

It’s a job he is proud of, but Randy admits that he often hears belittling remarks. There were instances when he was denied entry to certain villages because he was using unregistered vehicles and because he did not have any certification from the barangay office.

It’s a job that is hard as it is, but it would have been made more bearable if resource collectors like them had more proper support. The lack of amenities increases the difficulty of the job and the risks they face every day. Randy, Daryl, and their fellow resource collectors had no gloves or appropriate shoes, and they were often left with no option but to sort through masses of garbage barehanded. Collectors who have the appropriate equipment and vehicles also have better opportunities to collect more recyclables.

Daryl, for instance, had to rent a vehicle out of his own pocket to transport the materials he collected. They could not afford to shell out a portion of their earnings to buy protective equipment because that would mean less food on the table.

Daryl and Randy are among the informal waste workers that PHINLA reached out to. PHINLA’s partnership with the local government works towards bringing informal waste collectors into the formal economy, which means higher income opportunities and a more dignified work environment.

“Sobra talaga ang pasasalamat ko kasi dumating ang tulong dito sa amin. Malaking bagay sa akin na isa ako sa nabiyayaan ng PHINLA. Dati, pangarap ko lang magkaroon ng sariling tricycle. Araw-araw na akong nakakakolekta dahil may sarili na akong tricycle (I am so grateful because I have been chosen as one of PHINLA’s beneficiaries. I used to dream of having my own tricycle. Now that I have my own unit, I can collect recyclables everyday),” Daryl says.

The same is true for Randy who shares that his earnings tripled since PHINLA came to Mintal. Inner-city areas with narrow roads are now reached and resource collectors can collect more waste on fewer trips.

“Dati, talagang karaniwan nang pinagtatabuyan kami. Noong wala pa ang PHINLA, mahina talaga. Palapit pa lang, aayawan na kami. Kapag pumapasok kami sa isang kalye, madalas naming marinig na baka anong damputin o nakawin namin. Minsan pinandidirihan. Masakit isipin, pero kayod pa rin (People used to drive us out and look down on us. Some villagers would think that we were thieves, but that was before PHINLA came),” Randy shares.

Daryl and Randy are also among the PHINLA beneficiaries who will undergo financial savings training that aims to empower resource collectors to establish their own savings group and create more income-generating opportunities.

“Nowadays, the perception of waste as an undesirable thing with no value has dominated towards disposal. Especially with the pandemic, threats to public health and the environment are higher than ever. This is one area where PHINLA intervenes: to provide equipment which the community members can use in receiving, collecting, sorting, and processing materials to increase their recovery leading to improved waste diversion and increased income,” says PHINLA Project Coordinator John Benedict Asuncion.