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EcoWaste Coalition appeals to major retailers to make their reusable bags affordable to consumers

MANILA, Oct. 28 — An environmental network has requested major retailers to bring down the price of their eco-friendly bags to attract more Filipinos, especially consumers on tight budgets, to drop use of plastic bags in favor of reusable bags.

Beginning next month, participating malls and supermarkets will observe every Wednesday of the week as “Reusable Bag Day” by not giving free plastic bags or charging a fee for plastic bags used.

Reusable bags, noted the EcoWaste Coalition, come with a hefty price tags that are not attractive to ordinary consumers who would like to shun plastic bags but are constrained by their capacity to pay for reusable bags.

“The cost of procuring reusable bags may be getting in the way of popularizing reusable bags among the majority of our consumers,” said Sonia Mendoza of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics.

“Budget-conscious consumers, even if they appreciate the ecological benefits of reusable bags, are put off buying anything expensive,” she observed.

Based on the market investigation conducted 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, Robinson P90, Shopwise/Rustan P99.50 for canvas bags and P60 for waterproof bags, and 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 will join the green bandwagon,” Mendoza said.

“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,” she emphasized.

Mendoza specifically proposed the promotion of 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, knowing that plastic reusable bags will, sooner or later, disintegrate and pose disposal problems.

For her part, Gigie Cruz, another member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics, advised consumers to make a “financial sacrifice” as she exhorted them to put in some money for reusable bags – if they are not able to make their own – for the sake of 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," she said.

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, reminded Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos of the Philippine Earth Justice Center.

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.

Also, expenses for giving complimentary or low-cost reusable bags, the EcoWaste Coalition said, 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.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that retailers should actively encourage their customers to make and bring their own reusable bags by providing financial and non-financial rewards such as discount, rebate or movie or museum pass for earth-friendly patrons.

To further instill the reusable bag habit among shoppers, the EcoWaste Coalition also proposed that shop cashiers and attendants should make it a practice of asking customers “May dala kang reusable bag?” (“Did you have a reusable bag with you?”) (PNA) LOR/PR/mec

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