Waste Workers are Frontliners

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JTA is proud to support the great work of the Mother Earth Foundation.  This article written by Raphaelo James Villavicencio and Zenaida Borlongan.

Despite heavy rains, scorching heat, and even the pandemic, Waste Workers in the Philippines will not be stopped from collecting separated wastes and saving precious materials from being thrown away.

Waste workers, as self-determined by the group, consist of community waste collectors, waste collection vehicle drivers, Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) caretakers and composters, as well as monitoring officers.

Their significant contributions include lowering methane emissions in landfills through decentralized composting and recovering valuable discards for recycling. However, while there’s an obvious risk in their noble job, these heroes receive little to no protection and support from the government.

large group of people with banners

MaNaWWA Election of Officers. Photo Credit: Rannie Lebria

For that reason, the Malabon-Navotas Waste Workers’ Association (MaNaWWA) with the help of the Mother Earth Foundation (MEF), agreed and decided to officially register their group under the Philippines’ Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) office. Proud to be the first Waste Workers’ Association in the country to be DOLE-registered, MaNaWWA aims to formally organize waste workers in order to build their capacity and uplift the dignity of their labor and campaign for a better working environment for the group.

group of people with banners

MaNaWWA Consultation Meeting. Photo Credit: Rannie Lebria

Eventually, some agencies started to recognize and support the MaNaWWA association, but the group felt that they could go further and help other colleagues struggling to protect themselves from the hazards of the essential work and services that they are providing for the community. The collaboration of MEF, MANAWWA, and other key organizations aims to gather different waste workers’ groups around and outside the Philippines to discuss pressing issues, exchange experiences, and best practices around their work, health and safety during the planned Waste Workers’ Congress in January 2024.  They envision the formation of a nationwide association of waste workers, as there is strength in numbers, and the enactment of a Magna Carta for Waste Workers in the Philippines.

people seated at tables in a meeting room

MaNaWWA Skills Training. Photo credit: Rannie Lebria