GLOBAL CHALLENGE: Dumped plastic garbage

LOCAL SOLUTION: Colourful up-cycled bags made by Philippine villagers

Inay is 68 years old. She is the mother of 11 children and soon 12 grandchildren. As it’s typhoon season in the Philippines, Inay has plenty of time to make colourful bags out of the discarded plastic packaging that litters the countryside.

Inay is at the centre of a family run small-scale enterprise. One that brings in much-needed extra cash for her family. The orange, blue, white, pink and green bags she makes from plastic waste are exchanged for pesos to buy fresh fish and veggies at the local market. Working alongside Inay is her pregnant daughter Elsi, who folds the little pieces of washed plastic, sews the edges and attaches colourful zippers to the new designs they create.

Both learned a specific folding technique to turn plastic packaging used for potato chips, cookies, washing powder, milk powder and other products into colourful, multipurpose bags. They are creating funky bags out of local waste; up-cycling at its best (= converting waste into better quality products).

The technique was introduced to their village in the Mabini District of Luzon Island by a Filipino woman, who had returned home after living in Hong Kong for 23 years. Now many villagers are transforming plastic packing into cool urban bags to carry money, headphones, mobile phones, keys or whatever fits.

Plastic garbage is a problem all over the world. But in developing countries like the Philippines it’s gigantean. The “Smoky Mountain” of Manila is one of the most infamous rubbish dumps in the world.

The Philippines is also famous for its great dive sites. The coral reefs are magnificent. So too are the coral fish, whale sharks, sea turtles and dolphins attracted to them. Plastic garbage is a major health and environmental threat to the marine life. Sea turtles often swallow plastic bags thinking they are jellyfish. They then choke and die.

In the provinces, there is still an overuse of plastic. As there is hardly any waste collection, most villagers burn the plastic waste, which produces toxic smoke every morning. Often they bury it, which contaminates the groundwater. Or just leave it on the side of the road or at the beach where it attracts cockroaches. Of course, a beach full of plastic garbage is not only unattractive to tourists but also a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which then can transmit life-threatening dengue fever to the local population and tourists alike.

Therefore the funky bags up-cycling project is not only:

– a cool design idea and

– an extra income opportunity for village-families but also a great way to

– protect the magnificent nature of the islands and help to

– develop eco-tourism along the marine national parks of the Philippines.

If you would like to know more about this local project #2030NOW, or would like to purchase the funky colourful up-cycle bags (we still need a nice name for it:), please contact

eWa ferens – the (Online) Coach on a Tropical Island.


Pictures by Thies Raetzke