Shopping into a New Environment-Friendly Habit

(written 2007, retrieved 2009, posted @ 2011)

PLASTICS and other reusable items make up about 40% of the total garbage collected in the country daily and most of them are plastic bags. This is disturbing because the over-all waste disposal problem still remains unsolved and is even piling up. With this, the SM Supermarket and Unilever Philippines created a project to minimize plastic consumption and start a new shopping habit.

Last June, 2007, the SM Supermarket introduced to the public the Green Bag- a washable and reusable bag used in shopping replacing plastic bags. It is the pioneer in the campaign for reusable bags in the country. This 19 x 17 inches bag, size of two regular sized grocery bags, can last for approximately two years or at least 100 grocery trips. It is made from polypropylene, a kind of recyclable plastic that is non-toxic and allergy-free.

This new shopping buddy is given free to all SM Supermarket shoppers. With a minimum purchase of Php 500.00 of all yellow tag items including at least one Unilever product, one can avail one Green Bag at the SM Supermarket Redemption Booth. And if a SM Advantage cardholder, two reward points can be earned whenever the card is used.

This project of SM and Unilever is one of the many projects implemented by other environment concerned organizations regarding R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act passed by National Solid Waste Management Commission’s Deputy Executive Director Emy Aguinaldo in 2000. This act implemented waste segregation and recycling program but was not thoroughly campaigned because of budget shortage. And so the commission requested companies, malls, organizations and the like to spear-head the campaign for this act.

The SM Concerned and Responsible Eco-Shoppers Program (or SM CARES) approached Unilever to sponsor their project last January and without hesitation agreed to their plan. With this partnership, Green Bag was born.

This project aims to teach shoppers responsible shopping and a new habit that promotes saving the environment. They aim to “turn shopping into a more eco-friendly experience” as they claim in their ads.

At its first week, there are about 20,000 Green Bags released in the SM Supermarkets which received an overwhelming response from the shoppers. The customers loved the bag so much that stocks has run out. Try to purchase one now and it will just turn you down. “I’m sorry but Green Bag is out of stock. The next batch will be released in August and it is already reserved,” said a sales representative in the SM Manila supermarket. This bag is surely one of a kind because it is made and imported from China.


The Modern Day Bayong

The Green Bag, if one might say, is the modernized version of bayong our elders used in shopping decades ago. But unlike the abaca-woven bayong, the Green Bag is likely to carry light things only because its fabric is thin. One can only carry few canned goods and bottles to prevent the handle from breaking off.

However, with the use of this recyclable bag, the plastic bag consumption is expected to decrease at least 200 bags for two years. This project is strongly supported and promoted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the National Solid Waste Management Commission. According to the two government agencies, it will help reducing plastic wastes and the pollution it threats our environment with.

Plastic is a non-biodegradable material and non-recyclable but is reusable. Unfortunately, people mostly reuse these bags into trash bins or containers for their garbage. And since it is non-biodegradable, it is burned in the landfills. When plastics are burned, it emits a toxic smoke that causes not only air pollution but also sickness to those people near the dump sites.

The Public Approval

In its first week, the Green Bag was given thumbs up by the shoppers. “It is amazing because shoppers, though in a little way, can help reduce the waste problem by using the Green Bag,” said Abegail, a weekly shopper at SM Supermarket Bicutan branch. A new breed of environment-responsible consumers is surely created by this new “green” trend in supermarket shopping.

Followers of the Green Trend

Several environment-concerned organizations and citizens have started projects similar with the Green Bag project.

However, their bags were of pure recycling. These groups collected several campaign tarpaulins used last election and juice tetra packs. These were sawn to produce trendy recycled bags.

These projects aim to create an eco-friendly society and save our mother earth by reducing the greenhouse effect land fills produces every year. Limiting plastic bag consumption is just the beginning in becoming responsible for the environment. If this program will be executed well, soon the people will learn how to manage their garbage in their own homes. With a little push from the government, sooner or later waste segregation and recycling will become a habit and the waste disposal problem will be solved.

The Green Bag project has ended last September and though this, campaigns for replacing plastic bags has not ended. Unfortunately, financial matters have hindered their way to rural and slum areas.

Maria Espie

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