Time is right for refilling stations for consumer products

LIFESTYLE
By Mike Baños
March 10, 2020

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CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - Local environment and consumer groups have hailed the inspiring initiative of refilling stations for consumer products in Metro Manila, saying “the time is right” for similar initiatives in Mindanao’s fastest growing city.

The local governments of Taguig and Quezon City recently launched their environmental initiatives that aim to reduce plastic waste and improve solid waste management in their localities.

In Taguig, the city government aims to attain an 80-percent solid waste diversion by 2023 through joint efforts of LGUs and the public and private sectors.

Mayor Lino Cayetano unveiled Taguig's Zero Waste Plan during a recent quarterly meeting with some 150 barangay and city leaders.

Under the plan, the city government will establish a Sustainable Livelihood Office, require all future infrastructure projects to have a materials recovery facility, support a "no single-use plastic" drive, and implement an information dissemination campaign focusing on proper waste segregation.

“We are pledging our full support to the Zero Waste Plan. We will make sure all the barangays implement everything in it. We will also onboard experts and build all the required hardware to make our beloved city truly green," Cayetano said.

 

Nutri-Asia Inc. first launched a pop-up store at The Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) last August dubbed Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) that remained open until September 12.

The store encouraged visitors to bring their own clean plastic or glass bottles to the pop-up store to get a refill of condiments, sauces and cooking oils at discounted prices.

Products offered at the refilling station included Datu Puti soy sauce, Datu Puti vinegar, UFC Banana Catsup, Golden Fiesta Palm Oil, Golden Fiesta Soya Oil, Golden Fiesta Canola Oil and Golden Fiesta Corn Oil. These items were sold 5-15% cheaper than their suggested retail prices. The store also gave a 40% discount to buyers of locally-blended juice drinks.

The BYOB booth was frequented by working moms, young professionals and residents of the area who got a minimum 200 grams of their desired products and a maximum of 2 liters.

According to NutriAsia staff, customers brought at least two empty bottles for refill; others just dropped by their store to donate plastic containers.

NutriAsia has partnered with the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a series of refilling activities across Central Luzon since last year.

Jerome Manangkil, one of the visitors, expressed his appreciation and support for NutriAsia’s initiative, saying: “Iyong mga ganitong event, okay siya. Mas mura na, same quality pa ng mabibili mo sa mga supermarkets. At good siya sa environment.”

For returning customer John Allan Adriatico, the BYOB campaign was good news to practical consumers like him. “Actually, second time ko na rito. Mas affordable at makatutulong ka pang mabawasan ‘yung mga plastic na basura,” Adriatico said.

Carenderia owner Vanjie Esperanza also found the campaign beneficial to small business owners. “Malaking menos sa gastos at tulong sa araw-araw. Kasi may maliit na carinderia kami sa amin, kaya noong nabalitaan ko ‘to, hinanda ko na agad yung mga bote-bote rito sa bahay. Mas maganda kung magkakaroon nito malapit sa amin,” she explained

Meanwhile, Quezon City started its ban on single-use plastics in hotels, restaurants and other establishments last month.

QC Mayor Joy Belmonte said she has been pushing for the plastic ban since she was vice mayor.

Belmonte saw the urgent need to implement such ban after the Philippines ranked high in the list of the world's biggest plastic polluters.

In support of LGUs' sustainability efforts, NutriAsia Inc. set up its "Bring Your Own Bottle" stores in Taguig and Quezon City.

NutriAsia incentivizes consumers who reuse their plastic bottles by giving them big discounts on its condiment and sauce products.

Belmonte said that their partnership with NutriAsia shows the city's strong commitment to environmental sustainability.

“We are glad that NutriAsia chose us to be the first local government unit to engage with in this eco-friendly initiative,” Belmonte added.

Encouraged by these initiatives, consumers clamored for similar refilling stations to be set up around Cagayan de Oro city.

“When we had a sari-sari store long time ago, I remember people bringing their soft drink bottle to buy kerosene, no plastic was used during those days,” recalls Mel Francisco C. Cucueco.

“We do not have much choice but to bring our own bottles. Ban single-use plastic bottles now,” said environmentalist Bencyrus Ellorin, former executive director of environment watchdog Task Force Macajalar.

“Timely and environmentally friendly,” said Ronilo Ravanera, a founding member of the local consumer group Konsumanteng Kagay-anon, Inc.

“Yes yes kaayo! We at the Council can help them also disseminate,” said Dr. Hilly Ann Roa Quiaoit, executive director of the Cagayan de Oro River Basin Management Council

“Dapat. Kung hindi ngayon kailan?” said Raoul T. Geollegue, a former DENR Regional Executive Director who is now a consultant of the environment group Hineleban Foundation which is engaged in the reforestation of the mountain ranges of Mindanao by partnering with Indigenous Peoples living in the buffer zone areas, introducing Arabica coffee as a source of livelihood, and  transforming the IPs to guardians of the forest.

Still other consumers are encouraged by the refilling stations, coming as they do on the heels of the city government’s strict implementation of the ban on single use plastics in supermarkets and public markets.

“Seriously, I practice bring-your-own-container when I buy fish from the street vendor,” said Elson T. Elizaga. “He puts a cellophane of fish on a weighing scale. Then I transfer the fish to our bowl and return the cellophane to him.”

The Philippines throws away 60 billion sachets every year, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) estimates based on its five-year waste audit. These wastes remain in our environment for thousands of years, polluting our lands, seas, and air.

A total of 48 million shopping bags were used per day, adding up to more than 17.5 billion a year, GAIA said. 

A 2018 study by the United Nations Environment Program showed that the Philippines is among the top five countries that produce the most plastic waste in the world. The world produces 300 million tons of plastic waste annually, 99 percent of which are non-renewable chemicals like high-density polyethylene mostly used in shampoo bottles.

Other companies such as Unilever and Human Heart Nature also launched earlier similar refilling stations for personal care products and cosmetics, and home cleaning products.

Unilever’s  All Things Hair Refillery Station pilot ran in March -April 2019 in Trinoma, Glorietta 3, and Alabang Town Center.

Consumers brought their empty, clean shampoo or conditioner bottles to the refilling station, refilled these at the matching product pumps, and paid for their products based on the weight of their refill. Even those without empty bottles were able to buy refillable bottles for only P10 each, thus minimizing plastic waste from their households, and got their products at a much cheaper price.

Similarly, eco-friendly advocate Human Heart Nature (HHN) also rolled out 2 refilling stations in its flagship store in Commonwealth and in a Quezon City mall last March, 2019 for its "fast-moving" home care products such as liquid detergent, dishwashing liquid and baby bottle and utensil cleanser which were sold per gram. 

HHN founder Anna Meloto-Wilk said consumers just needed to bring empty, clean, dry and sanitized bottles for product refills, and they are now working with designers to come up with simpler versions for nationwide implementation. 

HHN is also lobbying with the government to allow refilling for cosmetic products to further reduce waste.

Together with environmental advocates and nonprofits like Save the Philippine Seas, Mother Earth Foundation, Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines, and WWF Philippines, Meloto-Wilk has filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to change the existing rules to be more responsive to refilling setups.

They also have an ongoing online petition where they raised three opportunities that deal with safety, traceability, and adaptation of the products for the agency to enhance the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9711 (The Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009).

Meloto-Wilk argues that that if water refilling is allowed provided refillers comply with set standards, a similar setup for cosmetics and home products should also be accommodated.

“We seek to bridge the policy gaps and promote a sea change in the way responsible Filipino companies and ordinary citizens use plastic—not just temporary measures, but permanent and lasting policies, structures, and systems,” the proponents argued in their petition.

Besides Unilever and HHN, other brands such as Lush, Ecobar and Suds have starting selling shampoo bars to minimize the use of single-use plastic containers./

For more information about BYOB, visit https://nutriasia.com/bring-your-own-bottle/


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