Mother of six finds independence in garbage recycling business

Alma Labis, 37, mother of six, owes her family's financial independence to the thriving garbage recycling business here.

From an initial capital of P700 in June 2005, Labis said Love Best Junk Shop, their "small-time" buy and sell junk store in Matina Aplaya, now earns an average of P75,000 which is "enough to send our children to school."

She has two children in college, one in high school and two in elementary. Her youngest is still a baby.

Labis talked to reporters in a press conference introducing a one-day event intended to promote materials recovery as one option for addressing the city's solid waste problem.

She joined chamber officials and representatives from other business entities Monday in promoting the city's 7th Recyclable Collection Event which will be held at the SM City Car Park on June 30.

The event is a collaboration of government environment institutions, business groups, companies among others.

"Many people still cannot appreciate that there is money from garbage," she told MindaNews.

She said aside from being attuned to the city's solid waste management thrust of segregating waste, people can actually earn from garbage.

Love Best Junk Shop will be among nine shops that will put up buying stations during the event.

Labis said her work involves dealing with some 10 suppliers who call her on materials avaialability. She then brings the goods using a family-owned assembled vehicle to the wholesale buyers in Calinan and Ulas districts in the city's suburbs.

The recyclable goods that are easily sold include scrap iron, plastic water containers, paper, old car batteries, tin and aluminum cans, batteries, and bottles.

She said they even buy old computers and CPUs and busted refrigerators and washing machines.

Labis said she was able to recover the P700 capital in 2005 within four days.

She admitted that what used to be just a "sideline" had become a major source of income for the family.

She said she now earns more than her husband, who works as a jail warden in a town in North Cotabato. She said her husband will join her upon retirement and is in fact eyeing his retirement money to infuse into the business.

She said they are looking at opening a carton (paper box) factory in the future.

The neophyte businesswoman said she remains humbled by the success of what used to be a backyard business. She smiled to reporters when teased that someday she will become a millionaire and will be called "Doña."

Labis said they are considering membership to the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., the most influential local business group in the city.

In her two years in the business, however, Labis said she found most Dabawenyos are still not aware of recycling both as a habit in solid waste management and as a source of income. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)