IT STARTED with one cup. Twenty-three-year-old Remar Grace Montecillo envisioned having a litter-free community. Remar saw how businesses, even her family's business, produce a lot of plastic cups in a day.

To minimize their trash, they encourage and give discounts to their customers who bring their own tumblers or cups and reusable straws.

"When the pandemic started, Catmonanons started going home. And I noticed two major changes. First, one is for the good. Small businesses started to pop up. While plastic cups and bottles also started to pop up, lying around our town. It was when our family's small business started, we realized we did not want our cups to be just [littering] around. So we thought of collecting and recycling them into planters, then bartering them to anyone who can give back our [used] cups," said Remar.

However, she said to achieve a greener and sustainable community, she should not just limit herself to their own cups.

Thus, she initiated a trash collection in her hometown in Barangay San Jose, Catmon, in northern Cebu that encourages Catmonanons to collect their trash in exchange for a reward: a delectable milk tea.

"A cup for a cup" project started on April 19, 2021.

"Di ba ta malugi ani?" Remar told SunStar that this was the first question her family told her when she shared about the project.

She said the cause relies on donations through a Buy-A-Cup system.

"We're just a 2-month old business. We're really small and we cannot afford major expenses as of this moment. So this project heavily relies on donors. That's why we have a buy-a-cup system wherein my friends or even strangers donate P75."

Every P75 from a donor entitles to one milk tea which will be received by an individual who can collect 75 pieces of plastic cups and bottles.

As of April 27, A cup for a cup project was able to collect 7,710 pieces of recyclable plastic cups and bottles.

Overwhelmed by how her project turned out, Remar plans to replicate the cause to other communities.

The goal is to reach 10,000 cups. Aside from monetary donations, seedlings, fertilizer, and gardening tools are also accepted as donations to sustain the cause.

Remar also said that her family thought of giving other commodities aside from milk tea if the project will grow bigger.

She is also thankful that the local government unit in Catmon supports the project.

Support from LGU and non-LGU

San Jose Barangay Captain Ferdinand Allego saw how beneficial Remar's cause is.

Allego said that it does not only lessen the trash in Catmon but it also encourages Catmonanons to grow their food by planting.

The barangay captain said to help sustain the cause, he has tapped the town's agriculture office to provide seedlings and the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation of Catmon to volunteer in the production.

Remar also thanked JCI Sinulog Cebu for supporting the project.

JCI Cebu Sinulog president Darz Rojo said their organization allows its members to apply what they learn to formulate a sustainable solution in the community.

"We commend members like Remar Grace Montecillo for this initiative. With the support from the local governments and various stakeholders, we can help more people while helping the environment. We are exploring options to apply the concept to the various location within the province," said Rojo.


Once collected, the recyclable cups and bottles are cleaned and cut. After, seeds will be planted and transferred to the mini nursery Remar's family made.

They will wait for a couple of weeks for the plants to grow and distribute them to the puroks in the town.

The local officials will be the ones to distribute them to their respective constituents in exchange for recyclable cups and bottles.

One purok in Barangay San Jose has benefited from Remar's project wherein some plants were displayed at the Sugbusog garden.

Remar has encouraged the youth to take this ongoing pandemic as an opportunity to help provide a solution to the environmental problems in their communities.

"To the business owners, if a 2-month old small business made a difference, I have higher hopes to others [too]. We will not just think about business but also for the good of the entire community," she equipped.