Plastics turn into bags, give villagers livelihood | Inquirer News

Plastics turn into bags, give villagers livelihood

/ 10:01 PM March 12, 2011

THESE DAYS, the usually slow-paced barrio life of Tagbaobo, a coastal village in the Island Garden City of Samal, is interrupted by young adults gathering plastic bags—the ones that dot the white-sand beach and floating in the waters.

The plastic bags, some of which carry names of popular brands and shopping malls, will soon find their way back to the market or the malls as sports and school bags, apparently a source of livelihood not only for the young adults, many of them out of school, but also for their parents who only rely on fishing.

“Everyone here is just excited about this potential source of livelihood. This only goes to show that there is money in the things we thought are already useless—the things that we just ignore and consider trash,” said Tagbaobo village chair Zenaida Marin.


Productive youth


She, too, is grateful that the youth in the village is “nowadays doing something productive not only for themselves but also for the environment.”

“We know how the environment, which is our source of life, has been destroyed by human negligence. This project will surely benefit those who are lacking in source of livelihood and at the same time, will be very good in our campaign to protect the environment,” she said.

Behind the project are Gene Rose Tecson and Joseph Castillo—strangers to each other but certainly not strangers to the cause of taking care of the environment and empowering communities.

Owner of a beach side property, which is part of a 4.3-kilometer marine protected area, Tecson has been helping the community of Tagbaobo find an alternative source of livelihood apart from fishing. Many of the fishermen in the village used to do be engaged in illegal fishing, even using fine mesh nylon nets which also destroy the corals while catching younger and smaller species of fish.

Starting with hammocks

“We started teaching some of them how to make hammocks. We provided the materials and they are marketing their products now. However, we have received reports about practices of illegal fishing using compressor and even cyanide. And the barangay police are helpless because they say that these people are armed,” she said.


The best thing that Tecson could do, to deter the illegal fishers, was to donate some flashlights, a floodlight and a megaphone to the barangay police.

“But the need to protect the sanctuary became more immediate. My daughter Maiki (the chair of the Sangguniang Kabataan) then said that she wanted to have a resource person to talk about the importance of the sanctuary to the youth so they can find ways to protect it as well as initiate projects as an alternative source of income,” she said.

And so Joseph Castillo enters the scene.

“I called a friend to ask for a resource person who could talk about marine protection and Joseph overheard him. And that was it. Joseph talked to the fisherfolk about his technology,” she said.

No patent

Married to a Dabawenya, the 27-year old Cebu-based entrepreneur and environmental activist introduced to the residents his technology called Zepter or zero plastic through recycling. The Zepter, as Castillo described it, is a “household technology.” He is not even scared to share the secret of his technology, proof that he wants to see his advocacy multiplied and become popular in the country.

“All you need is a flat iron, plastic bag, a certain kind of paper, creativity and skills, patience, and passion to come up with a good material,” Castillo said.

One of the products is a cosmetic pouch that is being used by Castillo’s wife. He said he also intends to manufacture yoga mats and shoes.

The production of Zepter is simple: One only needs to iron a plastic bag and out comes a sturdier plastic material that can be transformed into bags.

Castillo has already commissioned a home-based bag-maker in Davao to create a line for him which he will export to the United States.

Green brand

The line will carry his freshly-registered company’s name, Joegreen.

“Many of us are not aware about it, but trillions of plastic bags are being produced every day and we could only imagine how damaging these plastic bags can be to the environment. These plastic bags are persistent menace,” he said.

“Apparently, these materials are the number one cause of these floods that we get to experience every now and then. And even burning plastic is also one of the biggest contributors to ozone thinning,” added Castillo, a college drop-out.

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Castillo explained the he patterned Zepter from the more popular technology of making bags out of used tarpaulin materials.


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