Barter store helps city get rid of plastic waste
CEBU CITY—Steel Mutos is all smiles as he drags a small sackful of plastic bottles along Mabini Street in downtown Cebu City.
When he reaches his destination, the newly opened Plastic Barter Store, the 12-year-old hands over his haul in exchange for a can of corned beef.
“I want to eat corned beef. I haven’t had a meal because there is no food in the house,” Mutos said in Cebuano.
The Plastic Barter Store has become a hit among children from poor families here. For a sack of plastic waste, the children get canned goods, rice, school supplies, clothing, slippers, shoes, even toys in exchange.
But when Mutos’ plastic bottles were weighed, they were not enough to get him a can of corned beef. He was 6 kilograms shy of the canned food.
Mutos and his friends were not a bit worried, though. His 2-kilo haul was recorded on a tally sheet.
All they needed to do was to scour the streets again for more plastic waste.
Exchanged for goodies
According to Gina Espenilla, who tends the Plastic Barter Store, the kids enjoy collecting plastic waste and exchanging them for goodies as they have nothing else to do.
The store’s more serious clients, she said, are families who line up as early as 9 a.m. with their plastic trash in exchange for rice or canned goods.
“Families really line up and ask for rice,” Espenilla said. “Some do not meet the required kilos of trash but we still give them rice, provided that they make up for the deficit next time,” Espenilla said.
The plastic store, which opened shop on June 15, collects between 70 and 90 kilos of water and soda bottles and other plastic wastes a day, according to Espenilla.
The plastics are fed into a grinding machine to produce hollow blocks, which the shop then sells to construction companies at P12 apiece.
The proceeds go to charity. The goods the store exchanges for plastic trash are mostly donations from private individuals through nongovernmental organizations like the 12 Baskets Movement, Rotary Club of Metro Cebu and Balay Samaritano, which houses the shop.
Espenilla said the shop wanted to promote environment conservation awareness in its charity work. Proceeds from the sale of the plastic hollow blocks go to charitable institutions.
No more throwaways
“Instead of throwing away plastic trash, people learn how to put these to good use. Trash bins used to be filled with plastic waste, now plastic waste can be exchanged for goodies,” she said.
Espenilla said an urban poor housing project in Talisay City used the hollow blocks compacted from plastic trash.
Plastic waste accepted at the shop includes bottles, bags, sachets from junk foods, and shampoo and hair-conditioning bottles.
For 2 kilos of plastic trash, one can get slippers. Four kilos are equivalent to a kilo of rice, while 8 kilos can be exchanged for canned goods.
Toys can also be bartered for 6 kilos of plastic, while clothing can be had for 4 kilos and school supplies for 2 to 4 kilos.
You want a pair of shoes? Collect 8 kilos of plastic trash.