Thursday, September 20, 2018

Pena: Reusable housewares

WHEN I was young, I bought vinegar and bagoong (fermented shrimp) in “tingi” ( retail) in the neighboring sari-sari store. For this, I have to bring a container which is usually a coffee cups or glass from Nescafe or Blend 45. In those days, coffee comes in re-usable glass unlike today where they are packaged in sachets.

There were many good practices in the old days. We have the bottle deposit system. Lending of house wares was common among neighbors whenever there are large gatherings or celebrations. This is the reason why plates, bowls, forks and spoons have engravings or nail polish to identify the owners.

Today, these practices are almost gone. No thanks to plastic and disposable wares. The “tingi” system is still here, but coffee, milk and condiments are now in non-recyclable and disposable packaging. These changes made life more convenient but has contributed greatly to the increase in solid waste. A sampling done by an environmental group in a reclaimed island in Manila showed a large percentage of sachets among the collected non-biodegradable waste.

We are reaching the point of being buried in our own waste. We are polluting our oceans and rivers in the name of convenience. It would help if we bring back the old practices of using reusable containers. It’s good that there are people and corporations that have started doing these. Let me mention some of them.

The German city Freiburg created a hard plastic take-out cup with a disposable lid that can be disinfected and re-used up to 400 times. Called the Freiburg Cup, the customers can obtain it with a €1(P 62) deposit and return to any one of the 100 participating businesses across the city. Participating stores have an identifying green sticker in the window.

The famous coffee shop, Starbucks, introduced a 5 pence (P 3.50) surcharge on disposable coffee cups in 35 locations across central and west London. Though it was only a trial designed to measure waste and figure out effective ways of reducing waste, it has been highly successful. In a preliminary report, Starbucks says it has seen a 150 percent increase in reusable cup use, based on the number of people redeeming the 25p (P 18) discount on reusable cups.

In the city of Brussels, the idea of a re-usable take out container was introduced. Called the Tiffin Project, it connects eco-minded residents with restaurants that are willing to accommodate reusable containers. The idea is that people will sign up with the Tiffin project online, purchase a stainless steel container and use this whenever they buy takeout food. As a member of the Tiffin project, they will get a 5 percent discount.

Here at home, I read in the news that the City of San Fernando gave reusable water bottles to its employees as part of their zero-waste program. City hall will no longer be providing water in PET bottles. In the company where I work, the canteen has stopped using single use plastic bags more than a year ago. Employees who buy take-out food must bring their own containers.

Let’s bring back our good “zero waste” practices. Our collective effort will help reduce, if not eliminate, our garbage.