A week after the election, several campaign materials displayed far and wide along the streets, establishments, even on school premises have been removed. However, some of these are still left unattended on the roadsides. During clean-up drives, tons of posters and tarpaulins have been recovered, which undoubtedly adds to the plastic pollution of the City.
These wastes are neither biodegradable nor combustible – they normally take a thousand years to decompose and burning them can only worsen their environmental impacts. The best way to deal with this issue is to resort to recycling and upcycling.
Elena Mabano from Toril Kalambuan, one of Davao City’s Lunhaw Awardees on Pollution Control, has taken the initiative to make something out of this recyclable trash, including some election materials. Most people look at them as nothing but junk. Still, to Ate Elena, like any other recyclable trash, these election wastes are raw materials waiting to be transformed into valuable handicrafts.
After getting sick, Ate Elena initiated this home-based business way back in 2012, which forced her to resign from her regular job. The concept of upcycled handicrafts provides a livelihood for Toril Kalambuan Association and contributes to City’s Solid Waste Management.
What many consider trash is valued differently by this group. This DTI-Certified group collects solid recyclables and compostable wastes from different areas in the City and transforms them into unique, colorful, and profitable products. The association now provides a livelihood for its members who work as garbage collectors, sewers, craftspeople, and designers after officially starting their business last 2014.
Upcycled handicrafts include personal accessories made from paper and bags, wallets made from tetra packs and used tarpaulins, souvenirs like decorative magnets, and key chains made from immature-grown durian and tamarind tree cuttings – all painstakingly made by hand.
Since the last election in 2018, she started working on upcycling election waste, such as tarpaulins and posters, as she has seen several materials left unattended and improperly disposed of every after the election period. Alarmed of its environmental impacts, Toril Kalambuan collects and accepts election materials to be upcycled into “pampalengke bags.” They can produce about 15 bags per day depending on the available resources and sell these items from 50 pesos-100 pesos.
The pandemic challenged Ate Elena and Toril Kalambuan. They lost some of their display areas, declining income generation. But this doesn’t stop them from pursuing their passion for helping with the solid waste management program of the City.
With the looser restrictions, Ate Elena is now displaying some of her items in Abreeza. She is optimistic that soon, her efforts will be appreciated and supported by Dabawenyos.
“Ang issue sa solid waste sa Davao kay dili maresolba sa usa ka tao lang. Let us continue supporting our government’s program to reduce our wastes, for instance, through upcycling. Maging responsable pud ta sa atong mga basura especially sa disposal niini.” Ate Elena shared.
Undeniably, Davao City faces an issue with its solid waste management. With the current status of our landfill, an initiative like Ate Elena’s should be supported and replicated as it plays an essential role in managing our wastes. And while supporting initiatives like this, it’s also crucial that we do our part as individuals to curb household waste rates and aim for zero waste.