Philippines – EcoSavers:Maintaining a “bank account” for solid wastes

A common pass book we know is one that contains cash deposits and withdrawal amounts in detail, but in the Entrepreneurs Multipurpose Cooperative in the town of Pavia, they issue pass books indicating kilos of bottles, plastics, and recyclables items as deposits.

The pass books belong to women entrepreneurs called Eco-Savers, majority women vendors and microenterprise operators, who in partnership with the local government of Pavia, are discharged with the responsibility of managing the town’s solid wastes, especially those generated in the public market.

Joy Palmada, manager of the cooperative, proudly shows the bundles of pass books to visitors and clients and those interested how the scheme works and how it has made Pavia a garbage-free municipality.

Joy said they started the project with the scheme introduced by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which revolves on the theme “Pagnenegosyo at Pangangalaga ng Kapaligiran, Pwedeng bang Pagsamahin?” With that they intensified their involvement in managing the cleanliness of the market where their members mostly come from, boosted by a Memorandum of Agreement with the LGU.

In 2009, they were introduced to the GREAT (Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of) Women Project, wherein their town, together with Badiangan and Miag-ao in Iloilo Province, were chosen for a three-year capacity building program for economic empowerment of women.

Municipal GREAT Women Technical Working Group Chair Baltazar Gumana said it was then that the women developed the idea of recyclables banking (Eco-saving), which gives them livelihood while managing the town’s garbage.

Joy said their Eco-Savers day is Friday where the vendors bring their garbage already segregated to the Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) located in a corner of the market. There they deposit the recyclables where a caretaker, Emalyn Gayuna, weighs them and assigns corresponding points to their garbage deposits for recording in their passbooks at the Coop office.

“For example, a kilo of plastics costs P8, with the Coop getting a share of 10 per cent, fixed for every item’s worth,” said Joy.

“What makes this scheme effective and the MRFs very functional is that there is a fixed schedule for “depositing” garbage and then contracted buyers, also members of the Eco-Savers, who immediately get the recyclables, so they do not stay in the MRF for long,” Gumana said.

The Coop has set periods for the depositors to withdraw their deposits in cash values, that is in May, before their town Fiesta, June before the opening of classes, October before all Saints’ Day, and December, either before Christmas or New Year.

“The amount is not that big, but we can see that the little income can go a long way also is buying basic needs for food and schooling,” Joy said.

The recyclable materials have also provided income for the buyers, when made into necklaces, plastic garlands, bags, cell phone holders, and other trinkets saleable to kids and teens.

Gumana said the Eco-Savers group is only one of the involvements of Pavia women entrepreneurs under the GREAT Women Project. Others are engaged in pottery making, trading, vending and restaurant business, as the implementing agency, the Philippine Commission on Women under the Office of the President, through the Iloilo Provincial Government, has tapped already organized groups for microenterprises.

He added that recyclables banking may be only a little effort and its success is not measured in terms of money earned from garbage but in proving that it is a solution to the solid waste management problem in Pavia.

“Further, we have learned that with all the barangays learning to effectively recycle, we don’t need a dumpsite. It is just a matter of building skills and attitude on waste management,” Gumana said.

Gumana said the scheme is also gaining momentum in schools as individual students and student organizations have already started having Eco-Savers’ pass books with the Coop. It is being replicated, with the Pavia Pilot Elementary School having signed a Memorandum of Agreement, while negotiations are being finalized with the Pavia National High School.

Meanwhile, Joy said that among the things their endeavours have taught them, especially as they manage the solid waste in Pavia market, is that they realized they have the obligation to support their municipality in terms of revenues.

“We have realized that we have contributed in solving the low tax collection, and to some extent the poverty of some of our poor vendors.” Joy Palmada said, with pride in her eyes.

“It feels so good, for us women, to be indispensable partners of the local government by being legitimate micro-entrepreneurs paying our taxes properly, not engaging in underground business,” Joy Palmada said, as she put back in a neat pile on her table, the Eco-Savers pass books.


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