Informal waste collectors receive boxes that contain their uniforms, gloves, and face masks.

Some 60 informal waste gatherers or “mangangalakal” in Puerto Princesa received tailor-made uniforms of their own designs, thanks to a social enterprise dedicated to helping them improve their lives.

The uniforms were designed to protect the waste gatherers from the elements and harmful chemicals while doing their work. They also received gloves, face masks, and face shields in a small ceremony held on Wednesday, October 13.

The waste gatherers are part of a training program under ECO-Kolek, a business startup based in Puerto Princesa City that aims to create a better system of waste gathering. Its founder, John Gastanes, explained that the uniforms were hand-made by those living in the coastal community in Abanico Road, but were designed by the waste gatherers.

“Sa ngayon ay 60 ang nakatanggap ng mga uniforms nila. Itong pagbibigay ng kanilang mga uniform ay pangalawang tranche ng mga programs nila, ang unang tranch ay ang nag-uundergo sila ng training para maging mga community leaders,” he said in an interview.

“Sila mismo ang nag-design ng mga uniforms nila, at ipinatahi ito sa mga nakatira sa may Abanico, sa may coastal area,” he added.

In January, ECO-Kolek received a $250,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This amount was to be used for funding community training programs for the waste collectors and design a system where individuals in Puerto Princesa can easily drop off their recyclable waste to a collector.

“Eventually, magkakaroon kasi ng digital platform para sa mga collectors at sa mga gustong magbigay ng basura, para mas madaling mabigay sa kanila ang mga waste materials,” he added.

Aside from the uniforms, the waste collectors are also expecting to receive specialized vehicles for their daily collections.

“’Yong mga vehicles, per group ‘yon.  Mayroong mga clustered barangays kung saan sila iikot. May iikot, at may maiiwan sa consolidation kung saan ang sorting ng mga basura at shredding ng plastics,” he added.

Gastanes explained that the goal of the ECO-Kolek program is to make lead and maintain their own modernized waste gathering system. He added that under this system, the gatherers can charge standardized prices for the materials they collect and do proper recycling and repurposing of waste materials.