Quezon City. As the “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” is observed on 28 April, a waste and pollution watchdog renewed its plea for the protection of the informal sector against dirty recycling practices.
The EcoWaste Coalition through its Task Force on Waste Pickers drew attention to the unhygienic and dangerous working conditions of the informal sector, particularly those who forage dumps and bins for materials that can be reused or recycled.
“While informal recycling provides much-needed livelihood to thousands of marginalized families, the job entails a lot of health and safety risks that are often overlooked by the society,” Anne Laracas of the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Laracas cited a study made by non-profit groups in Cambodia, India and the Philippines confirming that informal recycling, while providing a source of income and subsistence for the poor, is burdened with grave health and safety risks.
The problem with informal recycling is that, on the whole, recyclers have to rummage through mixed garbage that can contain potentially toxic and hazardous substances. In most cases, recyclers handle all types of wastes alike and do not take the necessary precaution against exposure and contamination from dangerous materials.
“Because of the lack of enforcement of waste segregation at source and extended producer responsibility (EPR), we find the informal recyclers retrieving and reprocessing recyclables in the most unwholesome and polluting conditions,” Laracas said.
To address the concerns of the informal recyclers and avert a public health crisis, the EcoWaste Coalition seeks the implementation of policies and measures that will attach importance to the health and safety of informal recyclers and accord them with essential protection from toxic and hazardous garbage.
At the community level, the EcoWaste Coalition urges all households and other waste generators to sort their discards at source for safer handling and recycling, while local government units integrate informal recyclers into their ecological waste management boards and plans
At the national level, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes the adoption of a policy that will make manufacturers responsible for what they create throughout the whole product cycle. With EPR, manufacturers will be compelled to design better products that are safer for the people and the environment, more durable and more recyclable.
The annual “World Day for Safety and Health at Work” is coordinated by the International Labor Organization to promote safe, healthy, and decent work and to prevent accidents, diseases and deaths resulting from harmful work.
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