Baguio’s Garbage Collectors/ Volunteers Impact On Festive Seasons

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There’s an attitude and behavior gap for many residents in Baguio City, and others from nearby areas as well, when it comes to proper garbage disposal.

There are, on one side of a coin, those who diligently take to heart the fundamental attitude of judiciously making sure their garbage is properly segregated in the household before it’s delivered to collection points in their barangay, or when in public places, unfailing putting trash in bins or containers marked biodegradable and non-degradable.

On the coin’s other flipside, remains an undetermined proportion of the city population and non-residents who generally scoff at the idea of proper waste management, stick to a negative attitude, dump their garbage in one pile or deposit these in gutters, streets, holes and nearby bushes.

Such a problem resurfaced during the peak Christmas and New Year seasons when street sweepers of the General Services Office (GSO) have to contend with litter thrown recklessly around city parks and other sites.

One glaring example is along Bokawkan or Buhagan Road, along the fenced site of the property of the Bureau of Plant Industry, Department of Agriculture (DA-CAR). Unconcerned citizens nearby often hurl surreptitiously garbage in plastic over the fenced government-owned property, landing in the midst of shrubbery and wild sunflowers naturally growing there.

Such observations were brought to the fore during talks with regular   garbage collectors (city-paid and attached to the General Services Office (GSO), and volunteer garbage collectors who accompany GSO personnel during collection. They declined to be identified.

They said in the many years’ experience in garbage collection, they have learned through interaction with citizens the level of basic knowledge regarding waste disposal between those who take care of their trash seriously and those who don’t. They described both as, “both sides know what is good and bad,” when it comes to proper garbage disposal.”

Despite that basic knowledge, those scornful of proper waste management exhibit an attitude problem, garbage collectors and volunteers deem.

For those without positive approach, garbage collectors and volunteers view it as an act of, “awan disiplina,” (plain lack of discipline) or utter disregard for cleanliness.

There were numerous instances collectors and volunteers related of the past when they chanced upon residents about to deposit their refuse in collection sites and they asked, “Na-segregate met lang ba ti basura yo, apoh?” And the sarcastic reply of some residents was, “Pagan-anok ngay nga agsegregate ket trabaho yu dayta!”

Hearing such sarcastic comments, collectors and volunteers merely hung their heads resignedly and went about the job, learning a lesson never to repeat such questions to any depositing their litter in collection points.

Gah! Without paid collectors and volunteers, we would be wallowing in our own filth, with rats, cockroaches, worms and other parasites living in these that could easily come back to our homes to eagerly take a crack at us.

While such negatively-minded persons think waste disposal an important household concern, it’s not an important issue at the forefront of their minds, merely a household chore nuisance.

The fleeting or brief nature in which proper waste disposal considered to them appears insufficient to establish and maintain habitual patterns of waste management.

A challenge, therefore, according to collectors and volunteers, is to successfully make the connection or association between people’s waste disposal behavior and concerns in the same way as they associate things they consider very important, like having a home or car of their own, using good clothes, the need for light and water, the need to use a brief or a panty or not walking naked in public.

In essence, such observations boil down to indiscriminate waste disposal being recognized as a major factor in environmental pollution and associated with health problems.

One garbage volunteer collector, Roland Obello, who, among the volunteers agreed to be identified for Herald Express’s news feature by answering certain questions, said there are about 150 garbage volunteers who accompany the city-paid garbage collectors during garbage collection rounds in Baguio City.

On the other hand, Obello estimates there are around eighty plus city paid garbage collectors, these employees being outnumbered by the volunteers.

Obello said the volunteers are organized and headed by Felizardo Ah-ul, who is the incumbent president of the garbage volunteers group.

Usually, five or more volunteers accompany one regular garbage collector in one   of the city’s garbage truck, driven by a GSO-assigned   employee whenever on collection duty in pre-determined destinations in the city and barangays.

Hardy and persevering, the volunteers wade into piles of trash in collections sites, heave them onto the trucks that haul these away before dawn breaks.

Residents observant enough can easily discern that their garbage collection dump site has been freed of waste disposed by the barangay for that week.

Regular collection of the city’s trash is as important as having light and water at home, for a delay in trash collection can easily blight the city’s image as “Summer Capital of the Philippines.”

Atop the garbage truck, volunteers work tirelessly to segregate. Whatever recycled materials which can be re-sold are set aside. Profit is then evenly distributed among the volunteers.

Such recycling removes a heavy burden on the part of GSO tasked to haul the tons of city garbage to as far as in Capias, Tarlac.

Needless to say that the city GSO would have to face a daily Herculean task on its hand in garbage collection without help of the volunteers.

According to a previously city-approved Waste Analysis and Characterization Study (WACS), Baguio residents churn out daily over 400 tons of mixed trash, over 160 tons of it being residual or unused waste and the remaining are recyclables or biodegradable.

During festive seasons, garbage generated increases markedly, the volunteers said.

WACS is implemented every two years by Local Government Units (LGUS) to help these ascertain flexible and applicable Solid Waste Management (SWM).

But behind the mere process of hauling of garbage is their major contribution – of both regulars and volunteers – of consistent Solid Waste Management (SWM) within the city, which, if left unattended, will negatively undermine the general well-being of the city and its residents.

On a gray area, regular garbage GSO personnel and volunteers are constantly exposed to numerous health perils and other dangers in their performance of ridding the city’s piles of trash.

These prevailing conditions at the workplace prompted former city councilor Leandro Yangot to author before, a proposed ordinance appropriating a certain amount for group insurance of both regular garbage collectors and volunteers.

However, City Secretary to the Sangguniang Panglunsod, Atty. Brenner Bengwayan revealed that Yangot’s ordinance, failed to make it during the second and final readings.

Solid Waste Management (SWM) is a multi-dimensional issue that integrates efforts of environmental, health, household, institutional, economic and political bodies.

To make progress in SWM, new systems, including radical ideas, must be embraced by communities which must be participatory, integrated and adaptive in confronting garbage problems and littering.

Littering is any kind of waste thrown in small or large amount in places where these should not be placed. For in time, even in short duration, these become heaps.

All should be reminded such practice is unlawful, whether at barangay or city levels, since additional money is shelled out in cleanup cost. It also portrays a bad image of Baguio City.

Most frequent littered stuff described by the collectors and volunteers are fast food packaging, plastics, used drink containers, bottles, wrappers, broken glass, food stuff, green waste, electrical parts, and the like.

But practices like leaving trash besides an already overflowing trash container, deliberate throwing of items from vehicles or abandoning trash at the roadside qualify as littering.

Littering and poor garbage disposal can never be an accepted activity as it impacts Baguio City’s environment in multi-faceted ways that are nothing but contradictory and adverse, the collectors and volunteers added. — Bony A. Bengwayan