SAN JOSE CITY—On Sundays, residents queue at a collection and redemption center at the public market here. Their items for exchange? Bags full of plastic and paper refuse, as well as dried leaves, that they trade for school supplies, bars of soap, ecobags and umbrellas.
The scene is repeated on weekdays in rural villages here. As soon as the collection truck and employees of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) arrive, residents and students wait for their turn to submit their garbage and receive an item of their choice.
The activity is the highlight of the “Palit-Basura Project” (where garbage is swapped for various items) that was launched by the city government as part of a waste management program in this northern Nueva Ecija city.
Points and perks
“The garbage is weighed and given corresponding points,” said Viña Rose Umayam, Cenro campaign and advocacy coordinator. “The points earned entitle the resident to receive perks from an array of items donated by several establishments here.”
She said plastic wrappers and bags fall into Category A, while Styropor/Styrofoam food containers and cups, foil wrappers and drinking straws are in Category B. These wastes are submitted in separate containers. Also accepted are paper scraps and leaves.
Their corresponding points are: one for 1/8 kilogram of waste, two for 1/4 kg, four for half a kilogram and eight for a kilogram.
A resident needs to earn 40 points to receive a bar of soap. An umbrella is worth 100 points.
Residents can avail of the smaller items if they earn from eight to 16 points. These items were donated by local establishments whose owners volunteered to support the program.
The project, Umayam said, was the brainchild of Cenro chief Trina Cruz and was approved by Mayor Marivic Belena as a “mind-shifting strategy for compliance with the waste segregation law.”
“It’s a cultural problem that we are trying to overcome in this Palit-Basura Project. Most residents and individuals are still unmindful of the law, so the project was launched,” Umayam said.
A 27-year-old housewife said the project has a positive impact on the community.
“My two children collect wastes in their school and on the streets and place them in their school bags,” said Melody Grace Legaspi, a resident of Barangay Abar 1st.
“When they arrive home, they put them in sacks and on Sundays, they tag along with me to exchange the waste for school supplies,” she said.
Legaspi said picking up garbage has become a regular activity for her children and they make sure that their house and yard are free of plastic wastes and dried leaves.
She said her children have been encouraging their playmates to do the same.
Umayam said the collected wastes go to a shredding and pulverizing machine so these could be turned into materials for pillows and bricks.
She said 10 of 38 villages in the city have their own materials recovery facilities (MRF). Village officials, she said, implement a reward system to manage their garbage.
The city government bought two other shredding and pulverizing machines so these can be used by villages running their own MRFs.
“They use the pulverized materials for their own income-generating projects,” Umayam said.