From Rural to Urban: The Plight of Waste-Pickers
Grace P. Sapuay
President, Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines (SWAPP)
7A South J Street, Sacred Heart, Quezon City
Solid waste is an urban phenomenon which has created a new type of employment opportunities that has attracted the rural migrants who come to the city seeking other means of livelihood. Dumping grounds in the cities have such opportunities in waste-picking since this activity requires practically no skill – a job which can easily be done by migrants. Waste-picking offers income opportunities that can be easily done without the need for documents and employers. Unknown to many, this group of workers have become vital to the recovery of recyclables. Yet, they are the least recognized of all workers in the urban setting. All over the world, the waste-pickers survive dealing with waste yet expose their very lives to toxics and diseases which are threats to their health.
In the Philippines, they are responsible for removing tons of recyclables from dumpsites. But there is not much study about who they are, how they live, and what the government does to help uplift their lives. The way they live and survive puts a question on humane treatment to this group of people whose activities are contributory to solving the urban problems in solid waste management.
This study presents the profile of waste-pickers, local situations and conditions of the dumpsites in some selected municipalities in the Philippines. The study aims to present some aspects in the lives of waste-pickers and the issues they face such threat of losing their jobs in the event of dumpsite closures, as well as the opportunities that they can avail if they are given the proper training. The challenge right now is how to upgrade the status of these waste-pickers to certain level of recognition, further improve their livelihood through allied enterprising activities, and provide them the dignity they deserve as agents of solid waste management. This paper endeavours to present these scenarios.
Keywords: Wastepickers, Solid waste management, Rural to urban migration
Mrs. Grace P. Sapuay holds a Bachelor of Science degree (major in Marine Science) from the University of the Philippines, Diliman in 1983. She finished her Master of Science degree in Fisheries major in Fishery Biology at the University of the Philippine in the Visayas in 1987. In 1988 she was granted a Monbusho Scholarship by the Japanese Government’s Ministry of Education (Monbusho) and pursued a Master’s Degree in Fisheries specializing in fishery resources from Kagoshima University, Kagoshima City, Japan. Last April, 2013, she graduated with a Diploma in Urban and Regional Planning degree and has recently passed the licensure exam in Environmental Planning.
Ms. Sapuay has been working as a freelance consultant in various fields such as environmental management, solid waste management, coastal resources management, coastal planning and other projects requiring her expertise as a fishery and marine biologist, solid waste management specialist, environment specialist and environmental planner.
She is the founder of the Kalipunan ng mga Kabataan para sa Kalikasan Kalikasan), an organization which helps to raise the awareness of children and youth in various environmental issues affecting the country and the world.
At present, she is the president of the Philippine Association of Japanese Ministry of Education Scholars (PHILAJAMES), the President of the Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines (SWAPP); a member of the UP Planning and Development Foundation (UP PLANADES) and the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP). She continues to do her work on environmental advocacy.
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