WITH hopes to teach public and private sector groups on how to lessen the plastic footprint among communities, a small farming community in a southern Negros Occidental locality is taking a bold step poised to empower Negrenses and Filipinos in combatting pollution for a cleaner and healthier Philippines.
Inside a less than five-hectare farm and fish production area at Barangay Enclaro in Binalbagan town that promotes integrated and diversified farming alongside environment protection and conservation, thrives a full-circle plastic bottle collection and recycling initiative called The Blastik Project.
The Blastik or the Balik Plastic Bottle Project is a full-circle plastic bottle collection and recycling program initiated by an association of farmers called PeacePond. It adopts a “full-circle” concept as everything in a plastic bottle like caps, body and bottles gets recycled -- nothing goes to waste.
Launched on July 18 this year, the project is designed for easy replication in barangays, local government units (LGUs), organizations, and small companies.
Checcs Osmeña-Orbida, project head, said PeacePond had always hoped for a more substantial program in its solid waste management efforts. It has worked with the Coca-Cola Foundation and Aid Foundation Inc. (AIDFI) in the Agos Ram Pump Project for six years.
Osmeña-Orbida said when the two foundations invited them to implement The Blastik Project this year, they knew that this would the ultimate solid waste management project PeacePond has been looking for.
“The Blastik Project wants to act as information, education and communication center for the reduction of our plastic footprint,” she said, adding that “this way, we ultimately prevent too much plastic waste in polluting our oceans or defiling our farmlands.”
The project also hopes to teach communities of the economic viability of plastic bottle recycling.
Aside from instant savings for infrastructure expenses as recycled plastic can be used as materials, it also provides income for members of the community by turning waste to Kupin2 plastic label wallets, furniture like chairs, decorations like holders and shades, and wall tiles, water proof and termite proof walls, chairs, holders, cases and shades, among others.
Citing reports of Greenpeace, the project head said the Philippines is the third largest ocean polluter in the world. For an archipelago smaller than the land area of California in the United States, she said, this is a disturbing news.
In a five-year trash audit released by environment group Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) earlier this year, more than 200 million plastics are being thrown by Filipinos every day. The biggest pollutant is the single-used plastic.
“If we Filipinos will not change our ways, these statistics will rise alarmingly and in just a few years, we may find our waste problem unmanageable,” Osmeña-Orbida said.
Filipinos, she said, have a “accumulate and throw away” mentality when it comes to waste. We buy and buy and buy and carelessly throw things away. Recycling efforts are low in remote communities.
How the project works? Simple. Plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles are collected by farmer-members serving as “eco rangers” through the low carbon e-bike. Residents may opt to sell their bottles for cash or trade for eco-bags.
Bottles are weighed, washed and dried. Then, bottles, caps and labels are segregated and temporary stored in a materials recovery facility (MRF).
Low-cost AIDFI machines turn bottles into amazing products. Bottles are shredded into flakes used as pavers for foot walk and aggregates in floors while labels are handcrafted.
For the project head, the biggest challenge of The Blastik Project is teaching small communities like the barangays to efficiently manage their plastic waste. Also, convincing LGUs to implement the project knowing that garbage truck hauling may be an easier short-term solution but sanitary landfill costs will be long-term problems.
Amid these challenges, they remain upbeat to provide opportunities for groups coming to PeacePond and learn how the project works. There, they will learn about waste collection and segregation, recycling machine demonstration, learn how to recycle and make recycle products from PET bottles, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) caps, and plastic label.
The learning workshops also started during the launching day. PeacePond is optimistic that the initiative, initially, has already sparked an idea of a cleaner, healthier and more environmentally-conscious community.
In terms of support, The Blastik Project needs those of the barangays and LGUs who are interested in reducing plastic waste.
Osmeña-Orbida said by coming over to PeacePond and studying some of its solid waste management schemes, they may be interested to apply these in their own communities.
“Through this project, we are looking forward to a cleaner and healthier Philippines, a drastic reduction of our plastic footprint, and a more environmentally-conscious culture for Filipinos,” she added.
PeacePond is the only farm tourism site in the southern part of Negros Occidental accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT). In fact, it is the only DOT-accredited establishment in Binalbagan.
Aside from farming and agripreneurial activities like coconut by-product productions, the farm also hosts the Plastic Bottle Learning Center and Eco Seed Factory aimed at promoting health, education, information dissemination, and food security especially among small farmer-families.
Osmeña-Orbida, who is also the vice president of the association, stressed the problem of our country’s waste should not be blamed on government, politicians or other institutions.
The ultimate solution to our waste problem is the person