USAID Grantee Celebrates Successful Zero-Waste Stores in Philippines
The Sea Waste Education to Eradicate Plastic (SWEEP) model was built on one simple idea: reduce plastic waste in the Philippines by designing convenience stores that don’t use single-use plastic sachets. Implemented by the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Conservation Foundation Inc. (PRRCFI), the project recently ended after two years of successful plastic waste reduction activities on Negros Island supported by USAID’s Municipal Waste Recycling Program (MWRP).
SWEEP focused on the 60 billion single-use sachets that are consumed in the Philippines annually, primarily sold in small neighborhood convenience stores called sari-sari stores.
The project established eight wala usik (“nothing wasted”) stores, zero waste alternatives to typical sari-sari stores that replace single portion, single-use sachets with refilling dispensers and reusable containers at the same price point. The stores were designed in close collaboration with sari-sari store owners who participated in design thinking workshops to apply their knowledge of customer behavior in the new store models. The wala usik stores also made use of data that the project generated through a series of waste audits to better understand the types of waste produced in communities.
After only seven months of operation, this small group of stores diverted 45,000 pieces of plastic sachet waste from entering the ocean. One store owner shared that in a single month, she sold 10 liters of dishwashing liquid in refillable containers– a volume that would ordinarily require 500 sachets. In a year, the impact of her store’s dishwashing liquid sales alone will eliminate 6,000 pieces of sachet waste.
The success of the model and its potential impact at scale caught the eye of major private sector actors throughout the project. Nestle is partnering with one of the wala usik stores to pilot a branded refilling dispenser to address consumer brand preferences. Globe, a major telecommunications company, invited SWEEP to implement their model at the Masskara Festival, a month-long festival that is among the largest in the Philippines. SWEEP provided waste-mitigation tools for festival goers, such as reusable bottles, water refilling stations, and waste segregation bins.
At the project’s closing Plastic Waste Solutions Summit in February, the SWEEP team sought commitment from partners to continue building on the project’s successes.