From trash to cash for a cause Motolite, PBSP mark recycling program

IMAGINE if 4,000 tons of used lead acid batteries (ULABs) were disposed indiscriminately in our waterways over the last 10 years. The lead content in these batteries would have leaked into our rivers and poisoned animals. Worse, it may have caused health injuries to people who have ingested it.

Imagine if hundreds of children have been exposed to this neurotoxin and have developed intellectual disabilities which deprived them of enjoying their lives as regular kids. The World Health Organization points to lead as the cause of 143,000 deaths each year in developing regions.

Fortunately, the proper recycling of these extremely hazardous wastes under the Balik Baterya Program of the Oriental & Motolite Marketing Corporation (OMMC) and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) has made the country a little safer and also contributed significant benefits to the education, environment and health sectors.

A deeper purpose

Over the last 10 years, some Php99.8 million worth of proceeds have been raised from 4,000 tons of ULABs that were collected from 180 donor companies. These were used for the donation of 4,596 textbooks and storybooks to public schools, improvement of reading skills of 2,607 children, provision of 714 schools desks, training of 142 teachers on remedial reading, assistance to 117 public schools, establishment of 100 learning resource centers, construction and repair of 34 classrooms as well as toilet facilities in schools.

In environment, 25 hectares were planted with trees while 1,508 households benefitted from road and drainage improvement works. In health, 1,828 individuals were oriented on tuberculosis while 127 TB educators were trained.

Launched in 2006, the Balik Baterya Program involves the collection of ULABs for proper recycling (including the recovery of reusable components for the production of new automotive and industrial batteries). Its hazardous components are treated through the Evergreen Environmental Resources, Inc. (EERI), an ISO 14001- and 9002-certified facility. EERI is an accredited recycler of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

To encourage more companies to donate batteries, Motolite buys the ULABs at a premium value. The proceeds are then used to fund various projects on education through the LEAP (Learning Enhancement Assistance Package) being implemented by PBSP. These include provision of new classrooms, schools desks, books, supplemental feeding for children, teachers training, and the conduct of reading sessions. This year, the Program expanded its range of projects by adopting water-related initiatives and activities supporting Senior High School Program.

Reaping multiple benefits

OMMC and PBSP recently celebrated the milestones and accomplishments of the Program with its staunch partners who all worked together to achieve a shared mission.

Its donors from across the country, including top three donors PLDT, Inc., Smart Communications and Meralco, were feted with plaques of appreciation for their significant contributions and commitment to the cause.

PLDT joined the program in 2007 and has become the top donor with Php48 million raised from more than two million kilos of batteries donated. It is also the first corporate donor that used its proceeds for building classrooms all over the country. So far, it has repaired and built 29 classrooms, turned over 54 learning resource centers, provided two computer laboratories, and rehabilitated walkways and drainages benefiting almost 1,000 households out of its ULAB donations.

Jessie Sarmiento, Smart Communications’ Assistant Vice President for the Corporate Services Group lauded the program, saying that it has really given so much value for the large sums of money spent on these batteries. Being the second top donor, Smart was able to churn out a total of Php27 million worth of proceeds from their donation of 1.15 million kilos of ULABs.

“For us alone, the impact of this is very much worth the cost of our batteries which mostly come from our cell sites. One piece of battery costs Php27,000 and one set is composed of four pieces. You cannot use it after its useful life because quality is affected. In one year, we dispose more than 100,000 kilos of batteries. With this program, there is no waste and the cost of the batteries are worth it. I think the contribution of this is really huge, not only in terms of the volume of batteries it recycles but also to the recipients of the proceeds – the students, schools and the environment. Because of this, we are able to address proper disposal of batteries and at the same time, give back to the community,” Sarmiento said.

In terms of operational efficiency, he added that the program enabled them to save funds as they no longer spend on transportation and manpower costs in disposing the batteries because Motolite picks it up in their office. He also revealed that they are planning to invite their truckers and other partners to join the program.

Balik Baterya’s third top donor, Meralco has always been into 5S and recycles its junk from both hardware and hazardous materials. Before, the batteries from its vehicles and stations follow the usual disposal process which is through garbage collection. But since they joined the Balik Baterya Program in 2015, Meralco has since become a staunch supporter of the program, donating 71,000 kilos of batteries from their vehicles, stations and radio towers in Bulacan, Quezon and Batangas worth Php2 million.

In fact, the success of the Program has inspired them to start their own recycling project.

“We are proud to be part of the Program and to help schoolchildren. The Program has been inspirational in the sense that we have found an application. We are in the middle of talks with a Japanese company that safely disposes fluorescent lamps with mercury content. Meralco can be a channel where within our franchise we can ask our customers to dispose properly their mercury lamps through the company, in partnership with the Japanese company,” shared Antonio Abuel, Jr., vice president and head of Meralco’s Organizational Safety and Resilience Office.

Abuel added that they are also planning to expand their coverage in the BB program by involving their contractors who maintain a huge volume of vehicles.

As one of the pioneer donors of the program, PLDT, Inc. Community Relations Head and Public Affairs Consultant Evelyn del Rosario is hoping that more institutions, companies, and government will support the program to enable Motolite, PBSP and its partners to achieve more and sustain its efforts to conserve the environment.

“I think everyone should help, even government agencies and local government units. What I envision is that we will all collect these ULABs from Aparri to Jolo, make money from this and fund important projects for education and the environment,” she said.

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