I came across an article five years ago describing how the author didn’t produce trash for two years. I may have just browsed through that article or might have even skipped it all together. In my mind, going “zero waste” is absolutely rubbish. How do we go about living our daily lives without plastic? Especially in the Philippines where I live, most products are wrapped in disposable plastic; we need plastic to segregate trash, food waste is unavoidable and going completely green seems too radical for the majority of Filipinos.
Zero Waste Month
Just recently, I came across another article which states that former president Benigno Aquino III signed a Presidential Proclamation No. 760 declaring January as Zero Waste Month. By order of the president, this advocacy urges businesses and households to design and manage products as well as their processes to reduce or even eliminate the volume of waste.
First Zero Waste Fair in the Philippines
Odd, since not much awareness has been brought to the public about this zero waste advocacy. Five years ago, going zero waste was not a popular concept although various nongovernmental organizations in the country have been trying to mainstream zero-waste living. At the first ever Zero Waste Youth Convergence organized by Mother Earth Foundation 5,000 youth leaders came together to find ways to promote Zero Waste Month. In January 2015, on a mission to mainstream the movement, the group launched the Zero Waste Fair.
Since then, the movement is becoming the new normal, widely promoted by the Facebook Group ‘Buhay Zero-Waste’ translated to ‘Zero Waste Life’. It currently has over 38,000 members bombarding newsfeeds with news and tips about how to live trash-free. Members share practical zero waste tips, photos and success stories in the hopes of inspiring others to further reduce their waste.
Here are some of the posts from that group:
Eco-Bricks made from trash
In the municipality of Orani, Bataan, broken glass, ceramic pieces and plastic wrappers are being turned into “eco bricks” to be used in the construction of a park to be built in the province. The crushed glasses and torn pieces of plastics will also be used to build pavements for their public markets, thereby reducing waste and saving the local government a lot of money. According to Bopbop Orani, a member of the Buhay Zero-Waste group who shared the news, the town of Orani in Bataan province shells out 10 million pesos a year for waste management services to pick up trash and dump it in landfills. Since 2018, the municipality now enforces a strict ecological waste plan that is committed to constructing systems for processing compost and recyclable materials.
Mary Jane Cablido, another member of the Buhay Zero-Waste group shared a photo album of a plastic-free wedding reception where banana leaves and banana trunks were served as food containers and plates.
First ever zero-waste store in Cebu
A group member of the Buhay Zero-Waste Facebook page posted this video clip of the first-ever zero-waste store in Cebu.:
Amgu grocery store located in Barangay Kamputhaw, Cebu City, opened in April this year. As a plastic-free bulk food store, all customers are required to bring their own refillable containers.
Store owners Ivy Jane Sumabong and Rangi Joy Madarang launched the zero-waste store to create awareness of the waste problem and make it easier for local residents to shift to a sustainable lifestyle. The store’s name ‘Amgu’ simply means awareness so opening an all-organic store that helps raise awareness of environmental issues may encourage people to start living more consciously.
Here are other ways the Philippines is going zero waste:
Trash to cash
Since 2015, all 51 SM Supermalls in the country hold an SM Cares program every first Friday and Saturday of the month. This activity allows customers to bring trash to exchange for cash.
Zero-Waste school cafeteria
Moving down south to the province of Negros Occidental, a high school cafeteria goes zero-waste by replacing plastic disposable items with bamboo mugs, banana leaves plates and coconut shell bowls for the students. The “Wala Usik” (aka Zero-Waste) Canteen in Bulata National High School in the town of Cauayan started the school year with an eco resolution of reducing plastic waste. By going zero-waste, the school promotes a healthier lifestyle by avoiding the selling of processed food that comes in single-used plastics. Instead the school encourages students and faculty to eat fresh food prepared using locally grown produce.
The province of Ilocos Norte recently joined other eco-conscious municipalities by restricting the use of single-use plastic. Just last week, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan had approved the second reading Draft Provincial Ordinance No. 2019-05-074 sponsored by governor-elect Matthew Joseph Manotoc. The ordinance states that certain use of plastics must be restricted and violators will face a fine of P200 to P5000. Some of the other places in the country that follow the no-plastic policy are: El Nido, Palawan; Los Banos, Laguna; Cebu City Hall; Bacolod City; the public markets in San Fernando, La Union; the government Offices in Negros Oriental; Baguio City, Benguet; some towns in Pangasinan; Pilar, Surigao del Norte and Boracay Island.
Furthermore, various zero-waste fairs have surfaced with eco-friendly merchants coming together to promote sustainable shopping. One active community of sustainable businesses, The Good Trade PH, don’t just hold trade fairs but also offer workshops and talks to educate people on how they can live more sustainably and reduce their waste.
Philippines is stepping up and becoming more aggressive in how it promotes zero waste living. Five years ago, these concepts may have seemed too much of an ask of Filipinos, but with pollution choking the country’s waterways and beautiful islands and climate change impacting the region, the country and its people are committing to do more and with an awakening community who stop until the ripples have reached the entire nation, a Zero-Waste Philippines seems possible.
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Feature image via The Good Trade Philippines.