Now this is a fair trade. With its promise of useful rewards for its participants, the National Ecosavers Program (NEP) is a recycling campaign that’s easy to get behind. Launched last week with festivities at the Manila Arroceros Forest Park, the NEP is a Metro-Manila-wide program where public school students take the initiative and receive tangible benefits from their recycling efforts. The idea is simplicity itself: You donate something to be recycled, and you get something in return.
Students participating in the NEP will each be issued an Ecosavers Club Passbook in which they will receive equivalent points for whatever they recycle. “They will get something useful [such as school supplies], possibly even cash, in exchange for the recyclables they turn in to their schools,” said Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.
Selected recyclers and junk shops will pick up the recyclable materials. A program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Education, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, and the Galing Pook Foundation, the NEP will first be implemented in 763 public elementary and high schools in Metro Manila in the hope of reducing the 8,000 tons of garbage gathered from schools and homes in the National Capital Region. Everyone pitches in.
Everyone has their own part to play. The DENR, which has allocated P50 million for the program’s rollout, is the agency in charge, with the DepEd training the teachers and principals in the particulars of the program. The DILG and the MMDA will handle the logistical task of collecting the gathered waste material. The biggest role, of course, will be the one played by the dedicated students who are at the heart of the NEP.
The idea of schools leading a recycling effort is not exactly new. Makati City’s public schools began their own program called “Batang Bantay Basura” in 2007, while Quezon City’s public schools had their own recycling campaign called “Green Learning, Green School Brigade” in 2008. And there are surely other city- or municipality-wide efforts involving local public schools.
The NEP is important, however, because it is the first coordinated metro-wide campaign involving all of its public schools, backed by the considerable resources of the national government. It is the evolution of the local initiatives. If it proves successful, the NEP can be the kind of kick-start that national recycling actually needs apart from the uneven and unheralded segregation efforts of local government units.
And it does make a lot of sense. The NEP promises to be effective because it allows for an immediate and concrete benefit in recycling apart from the long-term effects aimed at safeguarding the environment. The students will be the ultimate beneficiary of whatever is made from the recycled materials. It’s almost like Mother Earth giving them something back for their efforts. Likewise, the mechanics of the NEP will serve as a continuing lesson for students on the advantages of recycling household waste.
The next logical step is an expansion to public schools in other cities nationwide. It’s too good an idea to be limited to the NCR. Imagine the kind of environmental benefits that can be gained from all the public schools from all the regions participating in the NEP. Imagine all the useful supplies that public schoolchildren can receive with a national implementation.
Later, the NEP can eventually be expanded to include the private schools in a different, similarly meaningful “public-private” partnership. Imagine the resources and personnel that can be gained from every school, of every kind, from everywhere, joining forces to help both the Earth and their needy students.
“By establishing some form of incentive for managing their solid waste, we are encouraging students to sort their waste and minimize the generation of garbage in their homes,” Paje said. The national government clearly believes in the merit of the NEP. If the program works, the continued support of the concerned agencies will be needed to see just how far it can go.
The NEP is an inspired idea to engage students in bringing about positive change for the environment. There’s wisdom in involving the young in a sustained effort to conserve, and not waste, resources; it’s a small but significant effort that can truly move mountains—of trash.