I see underemployed people collecting plastic on the streets everyday. They even come by door in the mornings. They sell that plastic to bigger collectors that then truck them into plastic yards.

The yards buy the plastic at around P22/kg ($0.50 approx). At the yards people then sort plastic according

to grade, peel off the labels, clean then grind it. Whole families work at these yards. Even children are employed. Salaried employees make between P200 to P500 a day (approx. $5 – $11), the plastic peelers (many of them children) make are paid by the kilo and make much less. The cleaned and ground plastic is then resold to corporations to be recycled into new plastic items for about P55/kg.

To the right you see a man sifting plastic bits out of the cleaning vat.

Here kids sort out the plastic bottle caps by grade (indicated by colour: clear, then white, and up to black). Some of these kids no longer go to school and work to help their family fight off extreme poverty. The two above are still in school. At the time of the photo it was mid-semester break.

The question of child labour becomes a much more difficult one in the Philippines when the choice is not just to go to work or school, but to eat or not. Even if an urban poor child were to go to school the statisitics are depressingly low for them to find meaningful work after graduation.

Many families have decided to set up makeshift homes in the plastic yard to save money on rent and transportation. This family home of wood and corregated iron has no electricity and houses a family from the provinces. They moved here a year ago to look for work. These kids are still in school and don’t work in the yard.

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