Ma Vilma, recycling champ with a heart of gold

Ma Vilma Ortega is a woman with a heart of gold who's helping to clean up litter while supporting vulnerable communities.

Communities - Our People

June 25, 2021


If everyone took a page out of Ma Vilma’s book and ran with it, I can only imagine the improvement it would have in the world.


If everyone took a page out of Ma Vilma’s book and ran with it, I can only imagine the improvement it would have in the world.

Administration Officer Ma Vilma Ortega is the go-to person in her team, always smiling and helping others through any challenge she faces. Even more remarkable is her amazing contribution to vulnerable communities, using refunds from recycling drink containers through NSW’s container deposit scheme.

Originally from the Philippines, Ma Vilma lived and worked in New Zealand for nine years before moving to Australia in 2017. She joined Cleanaway in 2018 and eventually took a role at our Glendenning site in NSW, led by Branch Manager Daniel Saliba.

“In the Philippines, I saw people struggling and I promised myself that if I was ever fortunate enough to get a chance, I would help them in whatever way I can,” said Ma Vilma. “I had been sending help and doing charity work in the Philippines, like providing school supplies to children, food relief and food vouchers to people affected by typhoons and COVID-19 lockdowns, care packages for my former schoolmates and friends, and financial assistance to some people experiencing sickness and death in their families.”

Providing donations on top of her personal expenses was sometimes a struggle financially for Ma Vilma, but she didn’t want to let that stop her from helping people. In March this year, Ma Vilma found a solution for raising more funds when she started collecting bottles to recycle through NSW’s container deposit scheme, Return and Earn.

“I can continue my charity work on a regular basis and devote more time to it – I have generated several hundreds of dollars since I started using the scheme in March. I was able to feed about 270 children in April and May and 150 in June, as well as providing 30 Mother’s Day surprise packs for my friend,” Ma Vilma explained. “The container deposit scheme helps me a lot in augmenting my personal funds to continue my charity and, importantly, I’m also helping to clean up Australia.”

Finding the funds is not the only challenging aspect of Ma Vilma’s charity work. “Finding the time to do the collection, sorting and trips to the return points is sometimes challenging. Another thing is planning and scheduling the areas and availability of my friends who do the work in the Philippines,” she described. “It all requires time and effort, but it pays off when you see people appreciating what you do. It makes you feel inspired to do more.”

One of the people inspired by Ma Vilma is her manager, Daniel Saliba. “Since she joined the business, we have been able to run so much more efficiently, which has helped to grow the business. This is mainly because Ma Vilma is such an intelligent woman, and she absolutely smashes a home run with everything that’s thrown her way.”

“Her positive attitude has an effect on the rest of my team, putting everyone in a good mood and more willing to take on any challenges,” he said. “The world needs more people like her in it. If everyone took a page out of Ma Vilma’s book and ran with it, I can only imagine the improvement it would have in the world. We are certainly blessed to have her in our team!”

Ma Vilma’s colleagues at Glendenning and other Cleanaway sites have got onboard her charitable work by adding to the collection of containers that she takes to refund points. She also collects containers that have been littered, which she empties and sorts. “Our yard supervisor, Tim, set up a drum container and labelled it so that Glendenning staff know to put their empty containers in there for me to collect. They are so kind and supportive; I can’t thank them enough for that,” she said.

“Australians are so blessed in everything this country has, but it’s not the case in other countries like the Philippines where some people cannot even afford to have three meals a day. I have seen how families struggle just to have something on their table to eat. With the pandemic and lockdowns, the situation has just gotten worse,” Ma Vilma explained of what drives her to continue her fundraising work. “Once COVID restrictions have lifted, I will definitely go back to the Philippines for a week or two to lead the charity work myself.

“I owe the success of my charity work to all the people who are supporting me – from my neighbour to my friends, and most of all to our team here at Glendenning. Thank you for being a part of this journey.”