HERE is a question we are confronted with almost every day: “Damo Usik?” Or “Wala Usik?” Usik is a Hiligaynon word for “waste.” Damo means "many," while wala means "none." Is it possible to dream of a world, a life, or a household without waste despite human consumption?
Last week, I was privileged to have been invited to join one of several series of multi-stakeholder roundtables, focused on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and agencies and organizations supporting initiatives for sustainability and sustainable development.
The activity was ably initiated by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation, Inc. (PRRCFI), the non-government organization (NG) behind Danjugan Island, Sea Waste Education to Eradicate Plastic (Sweep) and Wala Usik Tiangge+Kapehan. Their aim is to encourage and promote a circular economy in the city and the province as part of their continuing initiatives to reduce waste that goes into the environment through its project Wala Usik Economy. The project is funded by the "Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter" project of the European Union and the German Federal Government.
Circular economy is defined as an economic model whose objective is to produce goods and services in a sustainable way, by limiting the consumption and waste of resources such as raw materials, water, energy, as well as the production of waste.
We had some two hours of very insightful exchanges about business models which indirectly or directly reduce the use of materials that traditionally end up as waste such as single use plastics, papers, bottles and old items. What stood out for me was the chance to recollect about past practices like the milkman delivery model, where we consume beverages from a bottle which we return to the seller, oftentimes with a deposit fee or pondo, which we can recover upon return.
Another model is the refilling system for water, a practice common today with the sprouting of refilling stations. It made us think about the possibility of extending the model to other liquids or even solids. Once ingrained in our commercial system, this will certainly reduce packaging materials which are not reusable or recyclable. A creative approach is also solidifying liquids like shampoo to lessen the need for containers.
During the virtual workshop, we were provided a bento box, which has a cover and four compartments, a good way to experience different food items in only one packaging which is reusable. These simple models can really be integrated in our daily life. It takes a growth mindset that understands how important ensuring our environment is not destroyed by human activities.
Finally, we also discussed a model which is closer to home - barter. Having started the Bacolod Barter Community through a Facebook group on May 8, the revival of bartering has been widely embraced by many communities. Also in May of last year, I initiated the creation of a virtual group of barter leaders called the Global Barter Communities (GBC) where we envision a world where kindness is without borders and humanity is defined by the extent with which every race can help one another to survive the global impact of the pandemic and adapt to the “new normal.” Our barter communities served as platforms for people to meet and agree to exchange goods.
We aim to see more barter communities established by local stakeholders with a common mission to promote barter as part of our way of life as Filipinos. As founders, we commit to promote good values as the cornerstones of our respective barter communities. We redefine the traditional barter system as a new norm of helping one another and shall not in any way promote commercialism and materialism but positive values such as generosity, determination, honesty, patience, integrity, gender sensitivity, equality and ecological awareness.
In our GBC handbook and in accordance with tradition and laws, we refer to barter as exchanging goods and services based on the mutual and voluntary decision of two persons. It is not selling, for the goods or services are not exchanged based on price but value. It is not also donating for the good is not given without anything in exchange. The price of the item or service is never equal but the happiness and feeling of satisfaction should be equal. Hopefully, the barter system also becomes a potent model to promote a circular economy.