UCA News

Filipinos trade plastics for rice to tackle pollution

The Philippines is the world's third-largest contributor to plastic waste, World Bank says
Workers clean up a beach in Zamboanga province of the Philippines in this undated photo

Workers clean up a beach in Zamboanga province of the Philippines in this undated photo: (Photo: Office the City Environment and Natural Resources, Zamboanga City)

Published: May 02, 2023 11:42 AM GMT
Updated: May 02, 2023 11:47 AM GMT

Residents in a Philippine province collected thousands of kilograms of plastics from the streets and water bodies and exchanged those for rice from the local government as part of a campaign to tackle pollution.

The pilot campaign ran in Zamboanga province in the Mindanao region throughout April and will be replicated in other provinces struggling to contain plastic contamination, said an official from the Office of City Environment and Natural Resources (OCENR) in Zamboanga City.

The agency director Marigold Aranza told UCA News on May 1 that in the past various campaigns to tackle plastic pollution failed but the latest one became successful.

Aranza said residents received one kilogram of rice for every two kilograms of plastics.

A total of 2,084 kilos of rice were traded to residents in Zamboanga over plastic bags and containers during the “Plastic for Rice” campaign, she said.

Aranza said they asked residents to deposit plastics instead of burning and throwing those into the sea.

Zamboanga City mayor John Dalipe said the program came as they found plastic pollution was on the rise in the region.

“We started in four to five barangays [local communities] along the coastlines. We noticed the increase of floating plastic containers at sea so we thought of a program on how to reduce them. A perfect plan would be to incentivize recycling,” Dalipe said in a press conference on May 1.

Dalipe said altogether a total of 4,144 kilos of plastic bags, not counting plastic containers, were freely given by locals.

“They gave more plastic containers which means the project worked. Some of them just wanted to get rid of their trash,” Dalipe added.

The OCENR Zamboanga chapter chairman Wilmer Cruz told UCA News that local villagers were first hesitant about the sustainability of the project because they did not know the organizers.

“They thought we were a scam… the idea sounds really odd – exchanging plastics for rice. It’s like exchanging trash for food. Who really does that?” he said.

“But when the local government through the Office of the City Mayor introduced us formally to the people, we slowly gained local support,” he added.

Families who participated in the program claimed they were encouraged to gather more plastics to have more kilos of rice to be brought home.

“We have become more conscious not only of what we throw but of what is in the garbage bin. We have slowly realized there is something good in the trash, so we went to other nearby villages to look for plastics so we can exchange them, too, for rice,” fisherman Rodel Enverga, 36, told UCA News.

Some residents went to grocery stores and gasoline stations to collect plastics.

“I know a grocery store here that throws a lot of plastics… even gasoline stations. So, I go there every other day to collect their trash and bring them home so I can exchange them for rice. Not only our bellies are full, but we also help the environment,” Nelly Cervantes, 41, a mother of two, told UCA News.

Cervantes claimed business owners who knew about the project later on sorted the plastics because they knew it meant food for the poor living province’s coastlines.

“They [business owners] instructed their keepers to segregate the plastic for us. Before, they all mixed them together. But now, they have learned to segregate because every kilo meant food for us,” Cervantes added.

The World Bank reported in 2021 that the Philippines is the third-largest contributor of plastic waste in the world, contributing to an estimated 0.75 million metric tons of ocean plastic every year.

“Dubbed as the ‘sachet economy,’ the Philippines is notorious for irresponsible trash haulers and open dump sites that cause the plastic to spill into the seas,” the report said.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Lent is the season during which catechumens make their final preparations to be welcomed into the Church.
Each year during Lent, UCA News presents the stories of people who will join the Church in proclaiming that Jesus Christ is their Lord. The stories of how women and men who will be baptized came to believe in Christ are inspirations for all of us as we prepare to celebrate the Church's chief feast.
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia