To reduce trash, Manila tries scheme keeping sachets ‘in a loop’
MANILA, Philippines — In a bid to reduce the use of plastic sachets that end up choking the metro’s waterways, a personal care company is offering residents of an urban poor community a unique incentive: Turn in the empty packets and get free products — packaged in similar single-use sachets.
The idea, said Lavin Gonzales, of Unilever’s corporate communications, is “to keep the plastics in a loop.”
Instead of throwing away the sachets after using up the products they contain, consumers can instead keep and collect the plastic packets as part of the “Kolek, Kilo, Kita” (collect, weigh, earn) program launched on Saturday by the Manila city government, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Program, Unilever Philippines, Cemex and Republic Cement.
Targeted by the program is Tondo’s Vitas community, where the mostly indigent families live near the industrial shipyards lining Manila Bay.
Working mainly as scavengers, the residents here can only afford personal care products packaged in small plastic sachets often good for one or two uses. The empty sachets are usually thrown into open garbage dumps and are washed into the bay and surrounding waterways.
Instead of throwing away the single-use plastic, residents in Vitas, Tondo, can now collect the empty packets and exchange a kilo of them for P10 worth of Unilever products packaged in similar sachets. This is often equivalent to two sachets of shampoo, or a small bar of soap.
Residents who receive free products in plastic sachets can then keep and save the empty sachets for the next collection.
Waste to energy
The plastic wastes will be collected monthly in a designated point for each barangay zone and turned over to Cemex and Republic Cement. The discarded plastic will be used in the company’s waste-to-energy systems in a bid to switch from coal in its manufacturing process.
Unilever expressed hopes that the program would encourage consumers to collect the used sachets instead of discarding them as trash, knowing that they are equivalent to goods. The company believes that the program will help it achieve its 2025 goal of collecting more plastic than it is producing.
Unilever was among the multinational companies flagged in a recent global audit as one of the world’s top polluters, mainly because it packages most of its products in single-use sachets affordable to low-income economies like the Philippines.
The global audit report, titled Branded Volume II, aims to hold top corporate polluters accountable for their single-use packaging that harm the environment and for fostering a “disposable mentality” and “throwaway culture.”
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