MANILA, Philippines — A thirty-year veteran of various landfills and wastes consolidators, Gloria Bandojo stands proud amid her unconventional workplace in Payatas, Quezon City—a dumpsite that she herself says is “dirty and smelly,” with no hint of disdain. After all, it is this dumpsite that has enabled her to send her eight children to school.
“Marangal na hanapbuhay ang pagbabasura namin [Being a garbage collector is an honorable profession],” states Bandojo. “Hindi ko maatim na humingi, umasa o magnakaw sa iba. Tsaka kundi dahil sa amin, baka ga-bundok na ang basura ng Metro Manila. [I do not want to simply beg, rely on others or steal just to survive. Besides, without us, garbage in Metro Manila would be a mountain full.]”
In San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, Marianita Maraat is in a similar situation. A solo parent of five children ages eight to 16 years old, Maraat could only look back on how miserable their lives were.
“Dati, araw-araw akong nag-iisip kung paano ko maitatawid ang maghapon ng mga anak ko. [I used to worry how I would get my children and I through the day.]” she said.
Having learned upcycling skills from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), she collects plastic packaging to make into wallets and bags.
Now, she can earn as much as P17,000 every month especially during the Christmas season. “Ngayon, napag-aaral ko na ang mga anak ko sa private school [Now, I am able to send my children to study in private schools],” she shared.
She also supports other wastes pickers by providing a kilo of rice in exchange for a kilo of clean, dry plastic wrappers, which she uses for her trade.
Bandojo and Maraat are just two of the hundreds of ordinary Filipinos—usually female breadwinners—who play a valuable role in the sustainable waste management program of Republic Cement’s resource recovery arm ecoloop.
By partnering with local government units (LGU), waste consolidators, as well as manufacturing companies that utilize plastic packaging, Republic Cement seeks to close the loop and prevent plastic waste from ending up in landfills and oceans.
ecoloop hauls and converts most of these wastes through a revolutionary cement manufacturing process called co-processing. It involves the recovery of residual minerals and energy from the wastes, which are then utilized in the processing of cement itself.
“Making a difference in the environment is what makes me wake up in the morning with energy to start my day,” shared Angela Edralin, director of ecoloop.
“There are challenges along the way but being a woman has allowed me to make a unique contribution to this field that will hopefully pave the way for other women to do the same or even better,” she added.
San Jose del Monte CENRO engineer Thelma Bautista similarly beams with pride on how seemingly useless waste can provide valuable livelihood opportunities for others.
“Ms. Maraat is a living testament that garbage can help better one’s life,” she says of her protégé. “Napakasipag niya kaya masarap tulungan. [“It’s gratifying to help her because she’s very industrious.]” she said.