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Plastic o Bayong?
by Jogin Tamayo

Nanay used to tend a sari-sari store just across the street of St. Vincent Church along Campo Filipino. On weekends, I would wait for her to come down a six-seater Lourdes jeepney with two heavy bayongs (woven buri bags) laden with store items to be sold for the week.

I would rush to meet her to carry one of her smaller bayongs – the one that would bear the puto, maja blanca, candies, and the week’s newest Hiwaga, Tagalog, and Aliwan komiks. The bigger one would bear the store’s goods including vegetables, canned goods, meat, and fruits.

The bayong would also serve as an ‘aerial food container’ usually hung in the kitchen to prevent rodents from partaking of our stocks.

The same bayongs would serve my mother well for many years.

Thirty-five years, hence, the bayong has been retired by the birth of the ‘unfriendly’ plastic sando bags.

Today, I do marketing chores and I am sold sando bags by little children out to eke a living. There is a plastic bag for a kilo of pork, another bag for the beef and chicken, and a bigger sando bag to place all the meat in. More sando bags are given for every bunch of sitaw, kangkong, sili, and gabi. A half-kilo of cooking oil is also wrapped in another plastic. Another kid begs me to buy another sando bag for all my merchandise.

All in all, I have a total of nine plastic bags in one trip from the market. Imagine how many sheets I would have in a week. Fortunately, there’s this segregation thing where I am asked to separate them in multi-colored trash bins.

While the proverbial plastic sando bags have become a regular fixture everywhere, from wet markets to classy malls, the same has also contributed immensly to the deterioration of our environment.

Plastic bags, cellophane sheets, and even the tiny candy wrapper that litter the streets can cause the clogging of waterways. When Typhoon Feria hit the city in July 2001 and Typhoon Igme in July 2004, waterways and canals along Session Road were clogged and the main culprits were again the plastic bags.

A huge chunk of the 260 tons of trash churned by Baguio daily is biodegradable. However, of the nonbiodegradable wastes, a huge volume is composed of plastic bags.

In Metro Manila alone, the 2006 assessment of the trash floating on Manila Bay, found that plastic bags as well as synthetic packaging materials like styrofoam make up more than three-fourths of the trash there, according to the Manila-based EcoWaste Coalition. The coalition also said that plastic bags accounted for 51 percent of the trash.

Plastics take a thousand years to dissolve and may cause toxicity to soil, plants, animals, and human beings in the long run.

And Baguio has started to wake up with uncollected trash on its frontyard after its Irisan dumpsite was forcibly closed by irate residents there.


In 2007, the city council proposed the ‘Bayong Ordinance’ which would require all local supermarkets and groceries to stop using the plastic bags.

The ordinance would also see the gradual replacements of plastic bags used for packing dry goods and grocery items with paper or buri bags or other biodegradable containers in all supermarkets, groceries, and other retail business establishments here.

The Bayong Ordinance aims to make these establishments plastic-free in five years or come 2012.

Then Baguio mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr. said the “Balik Bayong Program” was the city’s way of promoting natural packaging and at the same time support its zero-waste management program.

Actually the Bayong Project was nothing new with the Alay sa Kalinisan Inc. (ASKI) launching the Balik Bayong Program in 1998. However, ASKI’s goal then was to encourage its use in the Baguio public market only. The program had a warm reception but the ASKI could not fully implement it because of lack of legislation, Bautista said.

In La Union sando bags have been banned in the province’s markets. Meat and vegetables were wrapped in newspapers before being handed to consumers.

Green Bags

With the strict implementation of the “no segregation, no collection,” then, enterprising residents started making use of recyclable materials including sewing juice packets into new bags.

“So it’s not only the traditional bayong made of buri but new bayong made of trash,” Bautista said.

At the city market, however, the old buri-bayongs have been replaced with woven hard colored plastic straw. Gone also are rounded baskets made of rattan.

Establishments now cringe at the prospect of having to spend more for the costlier recyclable bags or ‘green bags.’

With the green bag as the ‘in’ thing, some giant supermarkets here have created and designed green bags to complement the shoppers’ needs.

In 2009, in their bid to help save the environment from further deterioration, giant mall chain SM started encouraging the use of vibrant green recyclable bags complete with an artist’s drawing through the “My Own Bag” campaign.

Other establishments launched their own ‘green bags’ albeit using their respective corporate colors with Tiong San stores offering their ‘red bags’. SM’s green bag costs around P35 each.

With the more environment-friendly recyclable bags, this will help reduce the use of plastic – preventing around 3.3 million plastic bags from adding to the earth’s mounting waste problem.

Green bags, sometimes called ‘smart bags’ or ‘eco-bags’ are made from non-woven polypropolene (NWPP). NWPP bags may also be used as promotional bags and shopping bags.

Green bags now come in different types and for different purposes. Mostly, they are sorted by color or purpose. Recyclable metals go into one, paper products in another, and glass in yet another. Sometimes, they are just generalized products like wood, for example, that have their own bags. Most also have their own colors, like blue, brown, or green.

You may wonder why reuse is so important.

First and foremost, reuse reduces waste and decreases or postpones the garbage going into our landfills.

At the same time, it gives you or someone else the opportunity to use an item productively and save the expensive buying of something else to satisfy your need.

With the desire to help the environment, there is a growing awareness among people seen by the amount of materials that are being recycled. By using recycled bags, we are able help the environment and at the same time, making it easier to get recyclables down to the local recycling facility.

Recycle and Reuse.

While there might be recycling, there is also ‘reusing,’ which can also affect you and your community.

Reuse is actually different from recycling. Recycling is using carefully discarded items to make a new product. Reuse involves using the items in another way, when their primary use is finished.

This reuse extends the life cycle of an item because it becomes useful in the meantime and remains in circulation instead of gracing the top of a garbage pile in a landfill.

Meanwhile, let’s just give another try at the good ol’ bayong of nanay or your lola. It may just be our little way in easing the burden of stressful products against Mother Nature.
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