From Informal Waste Collectors to Recycling Business Owners
Throughout Metro Manila, Philippines, government solid waste management (SWM) services have been unable to keep pace with the region’s rising population. To help address this challenge the USAID-funded Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP) provided a grant to Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for a market-based SWM project, implemented in select barangays in Navotas and Malabon, large cities located in the National Capital Region. Among other activities, CRS trained and mentored 89 interested local residents as door-to-door waste collectors to improve SWM services in the target barangays. Each trainee, also called a “Livelihood Beneficiary”, received a $325 (USD) livelihood grant to cover costs associated with starting and operating a SWM business.
One of the trainees, Ms. Lilin Dela Cruz, had previously engaged in SWM activities by selling small quantities of reusable waste to junk shops. Without proper training, however, she and her husband Carlito had limited knowledge on the most effective sorting and collection techniques, as well as other entrepreneurial approaches that could be used to increase their income.
Following the CRS training, the couple used their livelihood grant to purchase the equipment necessary to run an SWM operation: a pushcart, weighing scales, and uniforms. The couple then began door-to-door waste collection in assigned streets within their neighborhood, initially providing services for 100 households and later expanding to cover 200 households by the end of the project.
Each time they collect waste, the couple receives a voluntary donation of one to five pesos (about $0.02 to $0.10 USD) from households that benefit from their waste collection service. The service operates on a schedule agreed upon by the community and barangay SWM officials to collect biodegradable, recyclable, and residual waste on specified days and coordinates pickup with city garbage trucks. The service has been very well received within the community. In addition to SWM benefits resulting from their business, Lilin and Carlito’s income has also steadily increased through their collection service. Prior to starting the business, the couple earned a combined monthly income of about $100 (USD) but by the fourth month of business operations, their income increased to about $293 (USD). The couple has also applied their entrepreneurial skills to other waste diversion ventures; Carlito collects discarded items for repair and repurposing, and the couple is now proudly expanding their business operation to include a junk and repair shop located in their backyard.
Hear more from Lilin and Carlito here.
 The smallest administrative division in the Philippines.