ONE of the causes of the garbage problem is packaging, especially plastics and non-recyclables. A good example is sachet, a small and cheap retail version of everything from personal care products to condiments.

It rides on the pinoy “tingi” culture and allows low income consumers to buy quality products at affordable prices. In a waste audit conducted in Freedom Island by Greenpeace-Philippines and the group Break Free from Plastic (BFP) movement, the most common item found was sachet.

Buying in bulk, which is supposedly cheaper, eliminates the need for sachets. But this option is for the moneyed. Another alternative is to go for refill. Not all products come with this option. It is purely voluntary on the part of manufacturers, unless there’s a law that would compel them to do it.

It is good to know therefore that recently, 25 of the world's biggest brands announced that they will soon offer products in refillable, reusable containers. Items such as Tropicana orange juice, Axe and Dove deodorants, Tide laundry detergent, Quaker cereal, and Häagen-Dazs ice cream, among others, will be available in glass or stainless steel containers, instead of single-use disposable packaging.

The project is called “Loop” and it is the result of a partnership between these brands and Terra Cycle, a waste management company that first pitched the idea to these brands a year ago at Davos, Switzerland.

Loop will start as a pilot project, launching in May 2019 for 5,000 shoppers in New York and Paris who sign up for it in advance. It will expand to London at the end of the year and spread to Toronto, Tokyo, and San Francisco in 2020. If it is successful, more partners could join Loop and products would eventually become available on store shelves. I hope it will reach the Philippines.

In the Philippines, we have our own version of this project. Dubbed “Refill Revolution,” it was initiated by the Environmental Management Bureau of the DENR.

According to EMB-Central Luzon director Lormelyn Claudio, this project aims to promote and bring awareness to the concept of refilling from bulk containers “which helps cut back on plastic production, consumption and packaging and translate to less air and water pollution.”

Refill revolution was launched in Central Luzon on Earth Day last year, in Guiginto, Bulacan. Unlike the Loop project, this local initiative is only a one-day refilling event for condiments (vinegar, soy sauce and fish sauce, including cooking oil) toiletries and other household essentials. Prices of product refills are significantly lower than the existing retail prices. Aside from Bulacan, this activity was also held in the City of San Fernando last June 14, 2018. About 1,500 residents participated.

Participating companies include HAHSY Industries Inc., Wellmade, Coca-Cola, Froneri (formerly Nestle), Mister Donut and Big E, Pepsi, Interbev Unilab, SNE Corp, SunWorld, and Universal Robina Corporation.

I hope that more companies will participate, and that they will find ways to bring this refill system down to the sari-sari stores.