Aid for Garbage Pickers in Manila

Posted: January 21, 2011 in Rights around the world
Tags: , ,
Trach pickers in Manila

Scores of people survive by collecting rubbish for recycling. Photo:APHEDA

For anyone who has visited Manila’s garbage dump, the first things that strike you are the stench and the flies – millions of flies.  Then you notice the people, hundreds of them crawling over the huge mountain of rubbish, collecting anything that could be sold for recycling.  It’s not just the usual recycling items of paper, glass or aluminium cans, but also old tyres, wood and plastic bags. Anything made of metal such as bedsprings from old mattresses, and even discarded, worn out shoes become valuable for those who have none.

There are over 700 families surviving on this dump north of Manila, Philippines. Another 1,000 families live off the second dump at Payatas, east of the city.  A whole family of parents and children can work all day, and the family will usually earn the equivalent of $1.50 a day for the material they gather and sell to recyclers.

 As trucks of rubbish arrive and dump their load, young and old crawl over the rotting material, looking for anything of value.  Other trucks arrive to take away the cans and bottles, separated into sizes, colours, glass and plastic, ready to be taken back to factories for reuse.  Even old wood is buried under dirt and burnt so it becomes charcoal which can then be sold.

Shanty house on the dump

Home for those living on Manila's dumps. Photo:APHEDA

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has a small project with their partner, the Institute for Occupational Health and Safety Development (IOHSAD) trying to improve safety conditions for people, especially children, at the dumps.  Medical waste, including needles and broken glass are the main problems, with any cuts quickly becoming infected.  Hookworms are also a major problem, and the children are tested and treated when funds permit. The children are encouraged to use old discarded shoes, even if they don’t fit, as it is safer than bare feet.  Other problems are diarrhoea and respiratory infections, especially TB.

The families have been organised and are helped to push the government for better services.  The nearest school is about two kilometres away and enrolment fees mean that only 30% attend primary school and just 3% begin their secondary school education.  The nearest water pipe stops about one kilometre away, so children carry water into the dump to sell.

Credit for words and images: Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA

  1. […] There are a tidal wave of people seeking to work in these jobs. As they hurl themselves upon the local job market, the last thing in the world they are going to do is jeopardise their job-seeking chances by making unusual demands. The alternative is to make a living by even more precarious means such as garbage-picking. […]

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