The Philippines’ plastic recycling rate stands at only 28% according to a 2018 report by the National Solid Waste Management Commission. Of the 2.7 million tons of waste generated annually, a staggering 9,000 tons end up in landfills or at sea due to a lack of recycling facilities and improper disposal of waste.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to use disposables and rely more on e-commerce to get their essentials, the use of plastic became even more prevalent. To mitigate an impending waste crisis, improved collection and recycling of plastic have become even more critical.
Reducing the amount of plastic that reaches the landfills and the oceans is a key priority for Coca-Cola Philippines as aligned with its World Without Waste vision, where they aim to collect and recycle the equivalent of every bottle they sell by 2030.
The Blastik Project began as a component of a project launched in 2019 by the Philippines-based NGO Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation, Inc. (AIDFI). The project piloted a village-scale plastic recycling center funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the international philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company, with the aim of boosting environmental awareness, providing livelihoods and financial assistance, and recycling more plastic.
After the project’s successful pilot run, Coca-Cola Philippines – through its social investment arm Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines – took over the financing of the partnership with a grant that runs from 2020 until 2023 with PeacePond – an organization that advocates solid waste management, organic and natural farming, education, culture and the arts, livelihood opportunities, and women and child empowerment, taking the lead in sustaining and expanding the project. The continuation of the Blastik Project hopes to unlock and share this value with more people both in cities and in the countryside.
A Vehicle for Change
The PeacePond Farmers Association (PFA) in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, is the main proponent of the Blastik Project in communities. These farmers, or as they call themselves, the Blastik Eco Rangers, main responsibility is to educate and empower the community about proper waste segregation, recycling, and livelihoods through community workshops/webinars and ensure the proper implementation of the project. PeacePond, through the Blastik Project, aims to educate and empower the communities on proper waste segregation, recycling, and livelihood.
Among the beneficiaries of the project are Jo Guanco, a 53-year-old solid waste management advocate and the secretary of the PeacePond Farmers Association, and Junjun Gantes, a 54-year-old PeacePond farmer.
Jo and Junjun have been part of the Blastik Project since 2019. The initiative helped them understand the value of collecting and recycling used and clean plastic bottles. As Blastik Eco Rangers, they look at these used recyclable plastic bottles not as trash but as materials that can be used over and over again. Recyclable plastic bottles, as they have seen in the past years working on the Blastik Project, are seen as a versatile, lightweight material and, therefore, can be collected, recycled, and used repeatedly. With this new way of looking at used collected plastic bottles as a valuable resource material, Blastik Project was able to open more livelihood opportunities for the people in their community – ultimately, giving them another source of income and way of putting food on their tables.
“Sa Blastik Project po, itinuturo namin ang importansya ng segregation at recycling sa aming mga kapitbahay at kalapit na mga barangay. Kami po ang naka-assign na mangolekta at nakipag coordinate sa mga barangay para sa schedule ng pagkolekta at kung minsan ang mga offices na ng barangay ang kumukontak sa amin para kunin ang plastic bottles dahil alam na po nila ang tungkol sa Blastik Project,” shares Blastik Eco Ranger, Jo Guanco.
(With the Blastik Project, we’re able to impart our knowledge and educate our neighbors and people from nearby barangays on the importance of waste segregation and recycling. As a Blastik Eco Ranger, I manage and assign the schedule of recyclable collection per area. There are also instances where the barangay proactively contacts us to schedule the pick-up in their area.)
Through the Blastik Project, plastic bottles and caps are collected and upcycled into wall tiles, desks, chairs, kitchen cabinets, bowls, plant pots, home décor, and more. Some PET bottles, mixed with sachets and plastic bags, are turned into pavers for footwalks and garden footpaths. Other PET bottles were transformed into free-standing walls for six structures in PeacePond while some are used for bottle gardens in the organic farm. Plastic labels are turned into handcrafted wallets, purses, bags, gadget pouches, laptop sleeves, and even face mask cases.
“Malaking tulong rin po ang Blastik Project (at Coca-Cola) sa aking pamilya, lalo sa pang araw-araw naming pamumuhay. Dahil dun sa organic garden, nakakakuha kami ng gulay na maaaring ipakain sa aming mga pamilya at binabahagi rin namin ito sa aming mga kapitbahay at kapwa Eco Rangers.” shares Blastik Eco Ranger and PeacePond farmer, Junjun Gantes.
(The Blastik Project [and Coca-Cola] greatly helped my family, especially in supporting our daily needs. Through the organic garden in our backyard, we’re able to get fresh produce that we can cook for our family, and we also share the excess vegetables with our neighbors and other Eco Rangers like us.)
The Blastik Project is rapidly expanding because the program is effective and easy to replicate. In fact, the initiative is being replicated in several communities including, but not limited to, over 600 beneficiaries from Bakyas Community in Oringao, Kabankalan, Ellite Ads Corp. Paranaque, and Ellite Ads Corp. Carmona. The Blastik Project also has active partnerships with Seda Hotel in Bacolod City and Southland College in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.
A Promising Future
Even with the challenges presented by the pandemic, the Blastik Project has collected, processed, and recycled approximately 15,422 kilos (or a little more than 17 tons) of mixed bottles, bottle caps, sachets, and plastic labels.
Coca-Cola is a company known for its innovation, whether in product development, brand building, or facilitating positive change in the community. As the world evolves and modernizes, opportunities for environmental protection and innovation also arise. With projects like the Blastik Project and over 40 more zero-waste communities supported by the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, communities are increasingly seeing the value of plastic waste segregation and recycling.
“We are happy and excited about the Blastik Project’s initial success,” shares Cecile Alcantara, president of Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines. “The Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines will continue to partner with like-minded organizations and communities, supporting initiatives towards a world without waste.”
Read more about the World Without Waste vision of Coca-Cola and their initiatives here https://www.coca-colacompany.com/reports/business-environmental-social-governance-report-2020 and watch the Coca-Cola and Blastik Project partnership HERE. To get updated on what Coca-Cola is doing in the Philippines, follow the Facebook official page.