Filipino villagers swap trash for rice in fight against plastics

A pile of garbage including plastic waste, in downtown Manila, on Sept 4, 2019.
A pile of garbage including plastic waste, in downtown Manila, on Sept 4, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (REUTERS) - A village in the Philippines is trying to tackle the scourge of plastic waste by offering rice to residents in exchange for their trash.

Residents of Bayanan outside the capital, Manila, can get 1kg of rice, the staple food for Filipinos, for every 2kg of plastic waste, which is handed over to the government for proper disposal or recycling.

The South-east Asian nation is among the world's top marine plastic polluters, studies show, with laws on solid waste poorly enforced and no regulations on packaging manufacturing.

"I weighed in at 14kg of residuals, so I got 7kg of rice grains. This is a big help for us to have 1kg of rice for the day," Ms Veronica Dolorico, a 49-year-old supporter of the programme, told Reuters.

"I feel that our surroundings are really dirty. If only I could, I would pick up all the plastics along the road when I walk outside," she added.

One kilo of rice costs about 30 to 40 pesos (S$0.80 to S$1.05), which is costly in a country with a fast-growing economy but high rates of urban and rural poverty.

One-fifth of the population of 107 million people live below the national poverty line, with monthly consumption of less than US$241 (S$330) per person.

Bayanan collected more than 213kg of sachets, bottles and plastic bags in August, said village chief Andor San Pedro, adding the food-for-trash swop is teaching people how to properly dispose of their waste.