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Lessons from a Junk Shop Owner Who is Also My Dad

A collected trash from my dad's junkyard

Trash is cash.  This everyone knows, but don’t appreciate as much as I do. In Tagalog, ‘may pera sa basura.’ The soda and spam can, when taken together are worth P60 per kilo. And so is the plastic cellophane and paper, liquor bottle, condiments bottles, shampoo bottles, broken refrigerator, computer chips, rundown gate, car ream, car batteries and even bottle shards (bubog) have their values in a junk shop.

The program “may pera sa basura” is also the reason that government-owned properties are getting lost along with street lights, public railways and even the bridges are being stolen. In the recycling business, I became of the “anti-fencing law” (which I don’t agree with).  Almost every scrap you see can be sold to a junk shop. You see it as trash but to us it is cash. 


Junk shop is a playground. 

When I was young, we were not allowed to go outside our gate to play with other kids just because we were new in the area then. We just stayed at ‘home’ which is also the junk shop. I see my parents put bottles inside the sack or assist customers every day. Since my sister and I had nothing to do, my dad would ask us to pick up little pieces of scrap iron such as rusted nails, screws and the like, which I gladly did because I would think of myself as my dad’s customer selling the scrap iron to him.

He would weigh what I picked then eventually pay me for my scrap iron per kilo. As a kid, this was how I played. Looking back, I guess my childhood was really different from others yet a lot of fun. I got to play with my dad through my own version of role-playing while earning my own money at an early age. 

I also remember how my sister was so happy having her first Barbie doll which we got from the scrap plastic that our parents bought from our customer. We were not rich but we got everything in our yard including Barbie dolls. I always say that the junk shop was my playground and the scrap items were my toys. Imagination is the only key. 


House decor may also come from scrap.

The home decors you find in antique shops are also aplenty in junk shops. My mom got a giant bronze tiger decor from scrap and displayed it in our house. With just a lot of cleaning, the tiger looked really great. We also had a giant bronze plant pot in our stairway which with mom’s artistic hands became a nice house decor. If my mom fills up our house with items from the shop, we would not be able to move around anymore.

Segregation of collected empty bottles


There is ART in piling garbage. 

People have ways of expressing art and my father expressed his art in piling garbage. We only have a small lot for a junk shop and we need to optimize the space. My dad would usually arrange things where he can count the bottles even when they are already inside the sack. Bottles should always be arranged safely on a truck for delivery to our buyers.

The scrap iron should also be piled perfectly on the ground to maximize space or piled on a truck for it to weigh more. The same is true with tin cans and GI roofing sheets that have to be perfectly piled on trucks so that they don’t crash while being delivered to the buyers. Everything has a technique and it takes time to master it.

I’m amazed that every time my parents would arrange bottles inside a sack, they made sure I master the art of doing it. 


The junk shop, like any other business, also uses strategy to make the business prosper. One has to know how to handle people properly. My dad trained people to be able to do specific jobs properly. He made sure that everyone on the team has their own specific task to incorporate.

Handling the customers well is a must. The customer will always be the life of a business so they must be treated well. The prices of the product must be played well. The prices of the scrap are always changing so as the owner of a junk shop, one must always update the customers and the margin of the prices must always be maintained.

Metal Cans Becomes

Metal Becomes

"Tin" cans are actually steel cans coated in a thin layer of tin. The tin and steel are separated during the recycling process.

Cardboard Becomes

Cardboard Becomes

Majority of our recycled cardboard can be a different paperboard, bags, corrugated cardboard or another cardboard.

Newspaper Becomes

Newspaper Becomes

Many of the newspapers and magazines collected are recycled in the manufacturer of paper plates and associated paper goods.

Glass Bottles Becomes

Bottles Becomes

Used glass containers can be reused indefinitely. It is actually easier to manufacture new glass containers from recycled glass.