Sorting Sunday

Today was not my typical sleep-in Sunday. I woke up early, got dressed, then headed off to Pandacan, Manila. My destination? Sto. Niño Parish Church on Jesus St. I don’t usually go to church, but this one’s different. The church plaza is the site of a plastic waste recovery effort that takes place every 4th Sunday of the month, an event dubbed Plastikan sa Sunday!

Sto. Niño Parish Church in Pandacan, Manila

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) started this recycling project and cascaded it to the churches. The New Coventant Prayer Community (NCPC) took this on for the Sto. Niño Parish Church, and they’ve been at it for 3 years. As a part of the Pandacan Ecology Ministry, they’re dedicated to keeping their community clean, and their efforts have paid off. The amount of flooding in Pandacan has decreased considerably.

The world is in your hands, Plastikan sa Sunday, recycling plastic

When I arrived, I was greeted by Kuya Jake Ermino. He was putting up banners while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive. They start at 8am and close shop at 4pm. Titas Emy Tiples, Rose Santos, Nits Baton, and Yolanda Salcedo are the regular volunteers. They welcomed us first-timers with open arms and were extremely patient in teaching us what to do and answering our questions about where to put what.

Jake Ermino putting up banners for Plastikan sa Sunday!

There were many new volunteers today. During the first few hours, 5 LANDBANK employees came to fulfill their requirement of performing at least 24 hours of community service per year. Their employer really holds them to their duty as civil servants. In the afternoon, 5 students from University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB) came to learn the process so that they can replicate the system in their school. Two of us, Jana and Ana, spent the whole day in the company of the dedicated and active Titas of Manila. They fed and watered us like we were their children. We were in very good hands.

Barangays in the Kahilom area in Pandacan collect their constituents’ trash during the month. The collections are then dropped off at the church plaza on sorting day and are weighed for record-keeping and the barangays’ and the ministry’s reports. These deliveries occur throughout the day, but ideally, drop-offs should be made early so that no one has to stay past 4pm.

styrofoam, Plastikan sa Sunday, recycling
Donations are weighed as they are delivered

Donations consist of sando bags, styrofoam, plastic wrappers, and laminates (shampoo/conditioner sachets, chips/snack packaging). These should already be clean and dry. Used cooking oil is accepted too. This is the environmentally-friendly alternative to throwing the liquid down the drain.

The ministry encourages people to sell whatever they can to the junk shops first, as they don’t want to interfere with people’s livelihoods. Nevertheless, plastic bottles and paper/carton still end up being donated month after month. The ministry will segregate these items and sell them to the junk shops themselves. Whatever they earn from the sale, usually around 30 pesos, will become part of their funds.

plastic, recycling, Plastikan sa Sunday
Guard cat inspects the dropped-off trash

There is one dreaded item, however, that should NEVER be included in anyone’s bag of donations — used sanitary napkins. It’s not something the industry partners can use or process, and it’s a nasty surprise for the sorters. We encountered 2 of those today… not a pleasant experience 😦

So where does the sorted waste end up? Industry partners, Philippines Plastics Industry Assotiation (PPIA) and Unilever, transform them into bricks and plastic chairs. 100 kilograms of laminates become 1,000 bricks, which can be distributed to the barangays that donated their waste.

Drop by anytime to help. Donate your (clean) trash and your time. If 75- and 76-year-old titas can do it, so can you! They appreciate any help they can get. Register through iVolunteer Philippines or contact Activity Coordinator Primadonna “Donna” Duran at 09332346689 or donnaduran113@gmail.com. She’s also one of the regular sorters.

Titas Emy Tiples, Rose Santos, Nits Baton, Yolanda Salcedo, and Primadonna Duran of the New Covenant Prayer Community

The ministry aims to inspire other communities to replicate this effort. If volunteers can do it, so can local government units (LGUs). For advice on how to create a plastic waste and used cooking oil recovery and recycling drive in your community, contact Program Director Lilibeth Espinola at 09178283672 or betchabygollybit@yahoo.com. She’s present on sorting days as well.

Some advice for those who intend to volunteer:

  1. Bring rubber/plastic gloves and a face mask. You will be handling trash, and it’s good to have protection. They do have soap on-site so you can wash up afterwards.
  2. Wear comfortable clothes. There will be a lot of bending involved. As the activity is held next to a church, show respect by not wearing anything revealing. Again, a lot of bending over will occur.
  3. Come with a positive and helpful attitude. Don’t use this as an occasion to spend even more time on your smart phone. Do your part so the work gets done properly and efficiently.
  4. Invite a friend along. Make new friends there. Learn from the experience. Take the lessons home with you. Have fun! The titas have so many stories to tell. Sorting trash needn’t be boring.

The next Plastikan sa Sunday! is on August 27, 2017. Sign up now!

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