This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
The Philippines is the world’s third largest marine polluter despite a waste management act that was approved over a decade ago. This is attributed to poorly enforced laws and no regulations on packaging manufacturing. The country sells pretty much all types of toiletries in plastic sachets.
But one village is attempting to educate its residents about proper plastic disposal.
Bayanan village in Muntinlupa City launched a program in September to improve waste management by letting residents exchange their plastic trash for a kilogram (2.2 lb) of rice. The trash is handed over to the government for proper disposal and recycling, Reuters reported.
Like most Asian countries, rice is a staple food for Filipinos who eat it with majority of their meals. A kilogram of rice costs about PHP 30-40 ($0.70), which is costly in a country where 21% of the population out of 107 million people live below the national poverty line, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Veronica Dolorico, a supporter of the program told reporters, “I weighed in at 14 kilos of residuals, so I got 7 kilos of rice grains. This is a big help for us to have one kilo of rice for the day.”
“I feel that our surroundings are really dirty. If only I could, I would pick up all the plastics along the road when I walk outside. I'll bring my bag and pick up the garbage if that is possible,” Dolorico said.
According to village chief Andor San Pedro, the village collected more than 213 kilograms (469 lbs) of sachets, bottles and plastic bags in August.
"Some people nowadays don't take initiative when there's no incentive. This is what we've thought to do so that they can have food,” San Pedro said.
Authorities hope that swapping food for trash will teach people how to properly dispose of their waste.
According to a report by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, the Philippines generates 2.7 million metric tons of plastic garbage each year, while other countries that are responsible for over half of the plastics that end up in the seas are China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Perhaps neighboring Asian countries could replicate this win-win situation which doesn’t only clean the streets, but also helps put food on the table.