Thursday, November 4, 2010

Appeal to retailers: Make reusable bags affordable

It’s in the bag! It’s now chic to use a reusable bag (or bags). At
home, we have a mounting collection of reusable bags, and now, we make
it a point to leave some of these reusable, eco-friendly bags in the
trunks of our cars so we can use them — again and again and again —
whenever we go to the supermarket and as much as possible, cut down on
our use of plastic bags. The more chic-looking bags my sister and I
use as our weekend go-anywhere tote/shoulder bags — call us
“bagabonds.” They’re light and just right for lugging around. The only
disadvantage was, once, a pickpocket got his hands into my sister’s
canvas bag (it had no zipper) and ran off with a plastic envelope
containing some cash that was sticking out of the bag. After that, my
sister retired the rather tired reusable bag and got one from her
collection that had a zipper.

Where am I going with this? Well, the last time I bought a reusable
bag, it cost me P35 for two bags (on a buy one, take one offer). That
still amounted to a pricey P17.50 for a humble sack of a bag. And now,
a concerned environmental network is asking major retailers to bring
down the price of their eco-friendly bags to attract more Filipinos,
especially consumers on a tight budget, to drop the use of plastic
bags in favor of reusable bags.

Reusable bags, notes the EcoWaste Coalition, come with hefty price
tags that are not attractive to ordinary consumers who would like to
shun plastic bags but are repelled by the not-so-budget-friendly cost
of these reusable bags.

Sonia Mendoza of the EcoWaste Coalition’s task force on plastics
laments, “The cost of procuring reusable bags may be getting in the
way of popularizing reusable bags among the majority of our

She notes, “Budget-conscious consumers, even if they appreciate the
ecological benefits of reusable bags, are put off buying anything

Based on the market investigation conducted recently by the EcoWaste
Coalition, prices of certain reusable bags range from P25 to P295.

Hi-Top Supermarket’s reusable bags are sold for P25 each; SM at P35
each; National Book Store, P65; Healthy Options, P75; Robinsons, P90;
Shopwise/Rustan’s, P99.50 for canvas bags and P60 for waterproof bags;
and The Body Shop at P295 each.
“We definitely welcome the initiative of these market leaders to
introduce eco-friendly bags and we hope that more supermarkets and
stores would join the green bandwagon,” asserts Mendoza.

On the other hand, she stresses, “Any scheme that will allow consumers
to get their reusable bags for free or at a discounted or subsidized
price will hopefully bring about increased preference and demand for
reusable bags.”

Aware that plastic bags will sooner or later disintegrate and pose
disposal problems, Mendoza specifically proposed the promotion of a
home-based, job-generating industry in the provinces, with support
from the private and public sectors, that can flood the market with
more affordable and durable eco-friendly bags that are preferably made
from non-plastic, cloth-based, and locally-sourced materials.

Gigie Cruz, also a member of the EcoWaste’s task force on plastics,
enjoined consumers to do their bit for the environment. “We request
consumers to consider making a financial sacrifice in terms of buying
reusable bags, which in the end will yield fabulous benefits in terms
of decreasing the environmental and health impacts of plastic bags,
particularly in reducing disposal and clean-up expenses that our
government is paying out of taxpayers’ money.”

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition from the Angkan ng Mandirigma,
Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care
Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice
Center, and Soljuspax suggest the following options to bring the
prices of reusable bags more within the means of Filipino consumers:

• Major retailers can produce X number of reusable bags that they can
give away in a day to their customers while the next bags will have to
be purchased at cost as part of their corporate social responsibility

• Retailers can partner with civic organizations who can give out
reusable bags to poorer communities while doing an awareness-raising
campaign on the significance of switching to reusable bags.

• Retailers can venture with barangays in producing reusable bags as a
livelihood program for community women who can sew bags from used
clothing or fabric materials donated by residents. Retailers will only
need to pay for the sewing cost at P5-P10/bag.

• Retailers should consider providing free or low-priced reusable bags
during the anticipated Christmas shopping spree in December as a
gesture of gratitude to their loyal customers.

Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of the Philippine Earth Justice Center
gives this (eco-)friendly reminder: Expenses incurred for minimizing
plastic waste, which is in line with the goals of Republic Act 9003 or
the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, are deductible from gross
income. Chapter IV of RA 9003 provides for various incentives to
encourage and support local government units, business enterprises,
non-government organizations, and other entities to actively implement
ecological solid waste management, including waste prevention,
reduction, reuse, and recycling activities.

• Another priceless peso-saving tip from EcoWaste: Expenses for giving
complimentary or low-cost reusable bags can be sourced from
operational savings such as from reduced electricity bills due to
planned energy conservation program (e.g., less use of Christmas
lights during the yuletide season), or from revenues from the sale of
recyclable packaging materials such as corrugated boxes.

• Retailers should encourage their customers to make and bring their
own reusable bags by providing financial and non-financial rewards
such as discounts, rebates, or movie or museum passes for
earth-friendly patrons.

• To further instill the reusable bag habit among shoppers, the
EcoWaste also proposes that shop cashiers and attendants should make
it a habit to ask customers, “Did you have a reusable bag with you?”

Well, do you?


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