New gender and plastics study reveals need for equal roles in waste management

November, 11 2022

"Women are a majority of the informal economy because they are drawn to part-time, insecure, and possibly hazardous work like waste collection."
<h1>New gender and plastics study reveals need for equal roles in waste management</h1><p style=
Researchers conducted focus group discussions with women from Barugo, Leyte to talk about their waste management responsibilities. Source: LGU of Barugo.

A new study on plastic pollution revealed that there is gender inequality in waste management, wherein women are expected to carry more responsibilities than men.

The study conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines, Angat Bayi program, and University of the Philippines Center for Women and Gender Studies (CWGS) found that people believe a woman’s duties include waste reduction, segregation, and recycling since they are associated with her role as a homemaker of the household.

“Women make up a large part of the informal economy because women are drawn to part-time, insecure, and possibly hazardous work like waste collection because this work is more readily available for them and is done in conjunction to, if not as an extension of, their reproductive and community roles,” the study stated.

Other reasons include that women are believed to have distinct qualities from men such as being meticulous and organized.

WWF-Philippines conducted the study through a survey this year with 170 women to measure their perception of plastic reduction and recycling. Of this number, 68% come from the 26-42 age group, 38.2% are college graduates, 95.3% are employed, and 51.8% are from the National Capital Region.

Using inputs from the survey, WWF-Philippines facilitated key informant interviews with different stakeholders (local government, street sweepers, informal waste collectors, etc.) based in three project sites: Batangas City, Barugo town in Leyte, and Cagayan De Oro City. After the interviews, there were also focus-group discussions (FGDs) with members of the informal waste collection sector – street sweepers and collectors who do not earn a formal salary or receive benefits.

The FGDs revealed that informal waste collectors, who are mostly women, experience discrimination and are expected to cover beyond the scope of their jobs despite working on a voluntary basis.

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Researchers conducted key informant interviews with women in Cagayan De Oro. Source: Photo taken by Pria Tacandong.

The study is funded by The Incubation Network under the Equality in Plastics Circularity program – an impact-driven initiative aiming to prevent plastic waste from flowing into the world's oceans while tackling pressing issues around social and economic gender inequalities across the plastic waste value chain, particularly towards women waste workers.

In line with its findings, WWF-Philippines is calling for a human rights-based approach in stopping plastic waste leakage in our oceans by 2030. The human rights-based approach means all would take part in waste management regardless of gender. It takes into account the social, economic, and environmental layers when addressing plastic pollution.

“We need our solid waste management plans to have a gender perspective and to communicate a well-distributed role for solid waste management from our homes to the community,” said Czarina Constantino-Panopio, WWF-Philippines No Plastics in Nature (NPIN) National Lead.

For policymakers, WWF-Philippines is pushing for ordinances on “supporting a gender-inclusive solid waste management system” that would also provide support for all formal and informal waste workers.

The proposed support comes in the form of a local registry for the workers and the provision of protective gear, health insurance, and access to safety, and livelihood training.

The organization is calling for gender inclusion in local policies as well as in the new Extended Producer Responsibility law’s implementing rules and regulations.

Apart from the study, the collaboration also produced communications and policy toolkits to guide policymakers about gender and how this should be integrated into their plastic-related policies. WWF-Philippines will also launch a campaign to push for shared responsibility from home to the community on solid waste management.

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines is an environmental non-government organization committed to create an impact on biodiversity protection and responding to the climate crisis -towards a safe and just recovery. WWF-Philippines works with a host of partners including national and local governments, to co-create inclusive, innovative, and interdisciplinary solutions that emphasize the role of science in the service of life.

WWF-Philippines' focus is on scaled solutions with our partners to match the enormity of the tasks required to address the urgent environmental challenges facing the present and next generations of Filipinos. Its mission is "to stop, and eventually reverse the accelerating degradation of the Philippine environment – to build a future where Filipinos live in harmony with nature."