EcoWaste Coalition mourns death of teenage scavenger as it seeks government action to avert dumpsite injuries and deaths

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog expressed its grief over the gruesome death of waste reclaimer Robin Bayaborda, 14, in a fatal accident on Friday, January 15, in Pier 18 located at Sitio Damayan, Barangay 105, Tondo, Manila.

Ramona Bayaborda, elder sister of Robin, told EcoWaste Coalition volunteers who went to the site last Saturday that her brother was smashed to death by the compactor blades of an incoming Leonel garbage truck as he hitched a ride at the back of the vehicle early Friday morning.

Robin, an out-of-school youth who lived and worked in Pier 18, a transfer station for Manila’s garbage, had been reclaiming recyclables in the area for the last six years, earning a measly 70-100 pesos daily which he would give to his mother.

His body lies in state at a makeshift funeral hut near the family’s home inside Pier 18.

“We mourn young Robin’s sad and grisly demise while trying to eke out a living for his family. His death should not be in vain and should justly spur action that will put an end to countless dumpsite-related injuries and deaths,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The dangers of scavenging are a glaring reality for many Filipinos engaged in wastepicking, but amid walloping poverty, it is not likely to be discontinued soon. In the face of this situation, measures must be taken to ensure the safety of wastepickers,” he added.

Robin’s death, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should prompt short-term as well as long-term measures that will prevent and reduce the occupational risks and health hazards associated with reclaiming recyclables at trucks and dumps.

Such measures should include a formal dialogue with trash collection service providers and their drivers, waste reclaimers, local authorities and civil society groups to agree on practical arrangements that would avoid accidents involving garbage trucks, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The group also cited the need for seminars and workshops that will equip waste reclaimers with vital information and skills on occupational health, including preventive actions to minimize exposure to harmful chemicals.

As a long-term intervention aimed at providing them a safer and more decent livelihood, the EcoWaste Coalition is pressing for Zero Waste and the priority hiring of wastepickers in community Materials Recovery Facilities as well as in public and private recycling enterprises, where their vast experience and skills in sorting waste resources would be an asset.

Wastepickers are efficient recyclers and contribute tremendously to the reduction of emissions that drive climate change. By retrieving recyclables from bins, trucks and dumps, wastepickers ensure that the extraction and processing of natural raw materials are lessened.

However, a 2004 research by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Mother Earth Foundation, done in collaboration with groups in Cambodia and India, showed wastepickers as the most vulnerably placed in terms of occupational and health risks in the entire recycling chain.

According to their study, occupational accidents routinely occur in waste dumps. They range in severity from cuts and lacerations caused by broken glasses and other sharp objects, to wastepickers being crushed under garbage trucks.

“Dumpsite injuries and deaths have been happening for the longest time in Pier 18 and in other waste disposal facilities. It’s high time society responded in a constructive way and made the valuable jobs of waste reclaimers safer, more eco-friendly, and economically more beneficial to them,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The EcoWaste Coalition recalled that in December 2009, a 10-wheeler truck rammed through the Rodriguez dumpsite in Rizal, killing five scavengers, including a pregnant woman, whose bones and skulls were reportedly crashed after being rolled over by the wayward truck.