Government Urged to Implement Zero Waste to Combat Child Labor in Waste Sector

“A child’s place is in school, not in streets, dumps or sweatshops.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting ecological and socially inclusive Zero Waste resource management, stressed this point as it bewailed the huge number of Filipino children toiling in unhealthy and dangerous jobs, including waste picking.

Data from the 2011 Survey on Children by the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed that 5.59 million children aged 5 to 17-year old were already working and of which 2.993 million were engaged in hazardous labor.

“We are appalled by this outrageous number of working children in the country who are deprived of their rights to education, health and safety,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“While it is hard to ascertain how many of the 5.59 million child laborers toil as waste pickers and reclaimers, there is no question that what they do is fraught with real danger,” she said.

“Children who pick up recyclables from garbage bins, trucks and dumps or recover metals from e-waste and other hazardous discards are constantly at risk of being exposed or harmed by sharp objects, pathogens, toxic chemicals and mixtures,” Vergara explained.

The poor implementation of waste segregation as required under R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, aggravates the health and physical hazards of foraging through mixed and contaminated garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

“The government should faithfully and effectively enforce the ecological waste management system already enshrined in law, which will translate to better working conditions and livelihood options for the informal waste sector and their families,” Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

“The current waste dumping approach exacerbates the problem of child labor in the country and should be rectified. Children should be in school and not working in dangerous, life-threatening conditions in streets, dumps and sweatshops,” he stated.

“The deadly garbage slides in Payatas and other dumpsites, which have claimed numerous lives, will happen again and again unless we move away from the current wasting and dumping approaches,” Hernandez said.

The results of the 2011 NSO Survey on Children should prompt the government into implementing the “National Framework Plan for the Informal Waste Sector in Solid Waste Management” that was completed in 2009, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The said Framework envisions “an empowered informal waste sector that is recognized as a partner of the public and private institutions, organizations and corporations in the promotion and implementation of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) with the end in view of alleviating poverty.”

By implementing the Framework, efforts will be carried out “to integrate the informal waste sector in solid waste management system by providing them with a favorable policy environment, skills development and access to a secured livelihood, employment and social services.”