By Jove L. Benosa, CRS Deputy Program Manager
Unruly and cramped settlements, uncollected garbage in every corner, stray animals, crawling and flying insects feeding on mounds of mixed wastes. Such scenario greets outsiders as they enter Brgy. Baseco (Barangay 649, Zone 68), a 54-hectare river delta found at the mouth of Pasig River and Manila Bay, and home to 59,847 informal settlers or urban poor residents. As an urban poor community, the barangay has numerous challenges with employment, disaster risks and deficient public services, particularly for solid waste management (SWM).
Brgy. Baseco was chosen in 2013 as one of 22 target barangays by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in partnership with Caritas Manila for a new project aimed at Strengthening Urban Communities’ Capacity to Endure Severe Shocks (SUCCESS). This is a 2-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) aimed at strengthening the resilience of flood-prone barangays in/around Metro Manila through an integrated approach by providing community-based disaster risk reduction (CBDRRM) training; capacity building support to barangay officials and households; assisting in SWM planning and monthly community clean-ups; encouraging community savings and internal lending committees (SILC, informal groups where the poor gather to save for times of crisis); and establishing livelihoods for SWM, to sustainably collect, dispose and process waste.
Solid Waste Management (SWM) situation of Baseco, Manila
Baseco has a significant solid waste management problem where each household generates an average of 2.19 kilos of mixed waste daily. Residents threw garbage indiscriminately at anytime and anywhere that create unsightly mess along the busy streets and corners. “Households don’t seem to take their significant part in waste segregation, and officials often met a hard time enforcing SWM ordinances” explained Kag. Marcdolph F. Navalta, Chairman of BSWM Committee in Baseco.
The City of Manila’s waste collection contractor – Integrated Waste Collection/IPM has acknowledged they do not have the capacity to collect all the garbage in Baseco on a regular basis. As a result, households throw out their garbage anytime they wish and leave them at street corners where the pile is scattered by dogs, children or waste pickers. Due to the irregular collection schedule and lack of a door-to-door waste removal service, this has resulted in large spreads of accumulated waste throughout the barangay, particularly along the busy and narrow streets.
Drawing up SWM Plans with Barangay officials
RA 9003 mandates every barangay to implement household waste segregation and collection. To address the garbage problem, CRS engaged the barangay officials in studying the problems and helped draw up their barangay SWM plan and supporting ordinances led by a functional BSWM Committee. Using a waste analysis and characterization study (WACS), officials were also able to understand better the garbage issue and identify clear targets for waste diversion. WACS result yielded the barangay’s daily waste output of 2.19kgs which is comprised by 60% biodegradable, 9% recyclable, 30% residual, and 1% special or hazardous waste.
The same law (RA 9003) requires establishment of a Materials Recovery Facility/MRF (a temporary area for waste sorting, storage and processing) for handling a community’s waste. There was once an MRF in Baseco, but it is currently non-operational, aside from being perennially water-logged. A new building has been cited by the barangay for an MRF but its reconstruction is still being negotiated with a private donor. In the meantime, CRS has helped drafted a proposal for its site development, and has tapped ING Bank as potential donor for developing the new MRF.
Also under project SUCCESS, a monthly community cleanup of resident-volunteers was organized to collect sacks of garbage – mostly plastics, and other residual wastes from major street corners. This has helped cleared up unsightly piles of uncollected garbage on a monthly basis.
Implementing the BSWM plan however has been mostly led by the barangay officials and has not yet enjoined active participation of its residents. Officials knew that to be able to solve the garbage problem, regular door-to-door collection has to be implemented, primary segregation has to be taught at the household level, and that full community participation has to be generated.
Piloting Door-to-Door Waste Collection at the Household Level
Through Purok Coordinators (P2s), CRS and the Caritas Manila helped map out the barangay by identifying pilot purok or supportive street blocks in the barangay. To be able to reach out to individual households, intensive information, education and communication campaigns were made through point persons called SWM ambassadors. Individual households were mentored on the type of wastes and the proper way to segregate them. They were likewise informed on collection routes and schedules for each type of wastes (e.g., biodegradable, recyclables and residual or special wastes). The barangay (through the BSWMC), supported by issuing announcements and supporting ordinances towards its full implementation.
Small plastic receptacles were also distributed to 100 households for collecting wet kitchen waste to serve as animal feed stock to be collected separately by local swine raisers. Meanwhile, 6 street sweepers volunteered as door-to-door (D2D) collectors and were given orientation on ecological solid waste management, trained on secondary sorting, and simulated D2D in the pilot street block/s.
What made the pioneering activity click among the residents are the innovative approaches and unique strategies employed by CRS through the local collection team. These include playing of catchy novelty songs to announce the arrival of D2D activity in the community; collectors’ wearing of proper gears and uniforms; observing on-time primary collection schedule; and income generation through voluntary donation among conscientious households. Some local stores even offer goods or snacks to assigned collectors as counterpart. The collected donation serves as additional incentive for D2D collectors to do a more efficient job; aside from profiting in the sale of collected recyclables.
Sustaining the SWM Initiatives through Livelihoods
From a 10-day trial period, the piloting activity has since been continued and sustained by the D2D collectors with chief supervision by the P2s. From an initial set of 100 household adopters, primary collection has now expanded to over 1,000 households covering 4 street blocks in only 2 months. From a meager P200 average donation initially, collection income has increased tremendously to P700 average from among the 1,000 households.
The scope of the primary D2D collection areas will further increase with the planned formation of 7 more D2D collection teams and operation of 2 small junkshops as SWM-based livelihoods in the area. This will increase the number of service areas to cover almost half of the entire barangay, and service over 5,000 more households.
In support of this new initiative, are the grant opportunities from CRS that aim not only to augment income but to support SWM initiatives in the barangay. Through small grants, 10 qualified beneficiaries have been in Baseco, and are provided with material capital and training support to jumpstart their chosen livelihoods. The collectors can now generate additional income by receiving donations or, fixed service fees from the households, aside from the expected sales of collected recyclables. They also benefit from the proper orientation, basic technical skills and advance business management training and mentoring provided by the assigned P2s which by now, has now been designated as SWM Coordinators.
This improvement of SWM service tied up with the supporting livelihoods has strengthened the resolve of the barangay and its residents to institutionalize SWM, expand to interior or hard-to-reach sites; and foster active cooperation of local households.
From the smelly, cluttered and unsightly piles of garbage, Baseco streets have now become clean, organized and orderly. “What seemed unthinkable at the beginning, has now shown great promise and has brought positive impact to the once filthy community” summed up Kag. Navalta.