SWM at the Negros Market

Alan Gensoli
Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's confirmed. In a meeting held just yesterday afternoon, the Bacolod Anti-Baha Alliance, an NGO advocating ecological solid waste management (SWM) and other efforts to end flooding, has accepted the challenge to run an SWM demo area at the Negros Farmers’ Weekend Market in Bacolod City. Scheduled to open this Saturday, March 16, the market is a public education effort of DC Cruz Trading Corp. and Herbe Foundation. Sitting on a 1.2-hectare property, shoppers will have access to farm-fresh produce and agricultural technologies, among others. With this strong leaning towards sustainable farming and a healthier way of life, it would be a disservice if we allow the place to be defiled by plastic bags.

With some construction work needed, we estimate the SWM demo area to begin towards the end of the month. The actual demonstration of how trash is segregated, step by step, achieves so much more than endless hours of lecturing or distributing tons of flyers translated in all languages of the Philippines. Trash segregation is a science no doubt, but it isn't rocket science either. Once started, an average household can easily sustain it. Bacolod City has already built a sanitary landfill and recently engaged the services of a private company to collect trash.

We just need massive education on trash segregation to complete the SWM equation. Bacolod also has a local ordinance regulating plastic bags, and it would be a shame if that cannot be implemented just because people have not been educated.

With this collaboration between the Negros Farmers Weekend Market and the Bacolod Anti-Baha Alliance, local residents will have a regular place to go to learn SWM. Homeowners are the first target, because our laws require that garbage be segregated at source, and the household is the source of garbage. In most households, it is the househelp that will do the segregating, so homeowners should send their househelp to attend the demos. Retailers comprise the second target. Retailers at the Negros Market, like farmers selling fresh produce and food court vendors, will be required to recycle their recyclables (like plastic spoons and forks) and compost their biodegradables (like food scrap), right at the SWM demo area. And so, expect to see a composting pit as well, and learn how to do it. This effort comes with a prayer, that homeowners and retailers who attend the demos will finally practice SWM in their residences and businesses, and that they will spread the practice to other households, like their neighbors and relatives' homes, and to other businesses through their retailers associations.

I have a greater prayer. I pray that all those who come to visit and shop at the Negros Farmers’ Weekend Market will be open to adopting a new lifestyle defined by the absence of plastic bags. Let's strut around proud of our bayongs, our reusable katcha shopping bags, even roll-aboards, since this is 1.2 hectares and there will be plenty of walking around and shopping.We might as well, for at this market,the use of plastic bags will be regulated according to the law. City Ordinance 562, or Bacolod's Plastic Bag Regulation Ordinance, which took effect back on Nov. 23, 2012, provides the following salient points:

SECTION 3(a): "No business establishment, fastfood outlets, market vendors, food kiosks, sari-sari stores, ambulant vendors, and the like shall utilize, sell or provide plastic bags and/or sando bags as packaging material to customers." This refers to the plastic shopping bag, with convenient handles, used to contain several items we buy. Banned! Illegal!

SECTION 3(c): "Plastic bags with no handles, holes or strings commonly used as primary packaging for wrapping unpacked fresh foods at supermarkets, wet and dry markets, restaurants, canteen and the like shall not be included under the scheme as the usage of such plastic bag is justified on the grounds of public hygiene." This provision clearly specifies plastic bags WITH NO HANDLES, so I hope vendors will not try to pass off sando plastic bags as primary packaging, because sando plastic bags are outlawed by Section 3 (a).

Moreover, let's endeavor to have a total lifestyle change and avoid using plastic bags altogether. Vendors, where possible, why don't you use banana leaves as primary packaging? Our ordinance is considerate, even tolerant, but it does not prevent us from taking the initiative to do better.

SECTION 7: "Biodegradeable plastic bags shall be exempted from the coverage of this ordinance, subject to any future national legislation and in compliance with a Philippine National Standard (PNS) promulgated by the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology and other agencies concerned." Please know that at the time of this writing, the DTI has not yet released the PNS, which means no one (not even national-brand stores) has the legal right to produce, distribute, and use biodegradable plastic bags, sometimes referred to as oxo-biodegradable plastic bags. Thus, in compliance with the city ordinance, biodegradable or oxo-biodegradable plastic bags will not be allowed at the weekend market.

The Negros Farmers Weekend Market should feel like a different world. Like Shangri-La where no one grows old. Like Subic where all drivers stop at the stop sign and do not rev up to ram down pedestrians. As you enter the Negros Farmers Weekend Market, you will be "wowed" that there are no plastic shopping bags. Imagine that. See you there, March 16.*