According to a report by The Tribune, the Philippines generates 2.7 million tons of plastic waste annually. Half a million tons of that leaks into oceans, which make the country the world’s third largest ocean polluter. (Did you know around three million diapers are discarded in the Philippines daily, or 1.1 billion diapers annually?) The less we use plastic, the better.
Two towns in the Philippines recognize how every little step towards a plastic-free lifestyle counts. So they are rallying their townsfolk to help the environment and the underprivileged youth, too.
The towns of Marcos, in Ilocos Norte, and Nagcarlan, in Laguna, are conducting a "Palit Plastic Bottle" program. Anyone with plastic bottles can use it as currency to purchase school supplies like pencils, crayons, pad paper, and notebooks.
In Ilocos Norte, the project — a store attached to a bike, traveling from one barangay to another (pictured above) — is spearheaded by Escoda Peacemaker, a non-government organization whose members are mostly young adults. In Laguna, it is a sari-sari store booth initiated by the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay Banilad.
One plastic bottle can be exchanged for one pencil while two plastic bottles get one a notebook. Four plastic bottles are the equivalent of a box of crayons. All the collected plastic bottles will be recycled into trash bins and pots in vertical gardens.
Both groups started the initiative to help those who cannot afford school supplies for the incoming school year. Using plastic bottles as currency gave their mission another purpose that's less destructive to the environment.
“Kung maob-obserbahan kasi ay maraming namumroblema na mga magulang sa kung saan sila kukuha ng pambili ng mga school supply,” Romnick Agag, secretary of Escoda Peacemaker, told ABS-CBN News.
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“[We want] the environmental youth army to realize that their small actions have [a] big impact in saving our environment,” Banilad village Youth Council president Laurence Sombilla told Coconuts Manila.
Thanks to generous donors, whether it's cash or school supplies, the two groups have implemented a simple back-to-school program that can easily be replicated all over the country. Based on the comments and feedback the two groups have been getting on Facebook, a lot of people loved the idea, even suggesting to not limit it to plastic bottles but plastic bags as well.
It's not the first time a "palit plastic" initiative had been implemented. In April 2019, a kilo of plastic bottles and wrappers were exchanged for a kilo of rice in a couple of towns in Cavite. In June last year, a similar program for plastic bottles and wrappers were traded in for school supplies in Arteche, in Eastern Samar.