Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The uplifting story of the discarded juice packet…

What do discarded juice packets, fashionable bags and survivors of sexual exploitation have in common? They are all concerned, one way or another, with environmental justice. And as environmental justice is the theme of this year’s Fair Trade Fortnight (3-18 May), they are more than worth writing a few words about.

The foil drink pouch is a popular way to sell fruit drinks in the Philippines. The juice is consumed in vast quantities throughout the Philippines. The problem is that the foil pouches are a major environmental hazard that litter the streets. But, the indestructibility of the foil pouches has proved to be a silver lining for the poor of Olongapo City and surrounding towns. Every Friday afternoon at the Olongapo rubbish dump, the PREDA (Peoples Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance) waste management and purchasing team arrive to buy thousands of foil pouches from over 100 waste collectors. The collectors are the poorest of the poor and include single mothers and teenage school drop outs. Before the PREDA recycling project, the waste collectors struggled to survive from their slim pickings on the dump. But the PREDA project now provides a small income to buy healthy food and other essentials that were once only a dream.

The juice pouches bought from the waste collectors and ten schools involved in PREDA’s environmental education programme are washed and sanitised and then distributed to around 45 home-based sewers including abandoned wives with hungry children, survivors of sexual exploitation and out of work sewers. These sewers work with skill and dexterity to turn the recycled juice pouches into bright and colourful bags, sun hats, backpacks, wallets, belts and slippers. They are paid for each piece they produce, and some sewers are now able to earn more than the average Philippines wage. The fashionable bags and other items are then shipped around the world to Europe, Australia and New Zealand for sale as fair trade products.

Beyond the bags, the PREDA project creates awareness of environmental fragility, and motivates and organises clean up activities in the communities. It provides sustainable home and community based employment for the sewers and waste collectors. It improves the status of local women by empowering them with good earnings, interest free loans, and skills training in using recycled material. It is an alternative to begging and helps to protect their children from being trafficked. It is a project which simply lives and breathes ‘environmental justice.’

Environmental justice is more than just another slogan designed to make us feel guilty about our over-consumptive Western lifestyles. It is about seeking justice for the world’s poor as the adverse environmental effects of climate change begin to be felt around the world. Ironically it's those with the smallest carbon footprint who are likely to be the biggest losers as a result of climate change. Adverse effects of climate change will be an additional burden on top of already existing economic vulnerability. Environmental justice focuses on this group of people.

The UN Development Programme has already warned that climate change will hit the world’s poorest countries, raising risks of disease, destruction of traditional livelihoods and leading to huge population movements. The recent Greenpeace ‘Blue Alert’ Report predicts that 75 million people will be displaced in Bangladesh with the rising sea levels triggered by a projected increase in global temperature during this century. Closer to home, the fate of low-lying Tuvalu in the Pacific is of huge concern, and the prospect of 12,000 environmental refugees is a real possibility.

How does fair trade support environmental justice? Fair trade offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to conventional trade. Fair trade encourages the production of items that have a minimal impact on the environment while creating terms of trade that ensure that these processes remain sustainable for future generations. The cost of helping producers with environmental sustainability is often built into the fair trade price. Fair trade enables both producers and consumers to make a real contribution to environmental justice.

For example, Trade Aid encourages consumers to look at the carbon footprint of production of consumer items in addition to the current trend of examining an item’s air miles. Although air miles can be a useful indication of a product’s carbon footprint, the vast differences in lifestyle between developed and developing countries which affect production processes are also worth considering. A fashionable PREDA juice bag from the Philippines made from recycled waste material by sewers in their own homes, with minimal electricity and without heavy machinery, has a low carbon footprint, even after sea freighting it to the market.

It is only by collective action that the promise of environmental justice will be realised. To become a reality, environmental justice requires action from rich and poor, north and south, developed and developing, with all taking collective responsibility for the future of our planet. As Sue Waugh, one of the artists in Christchurch Trade Aid’s “Junk to Green Funk” art competition said, “we all need to make a conscious decision to challenge and prioritise our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world, for present and future generations.” scoop.co

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home


This is a joint private blog of volunteers from Subic Bay. It is being maintained primarily to collate articles that may be of importance to decision making related to the future of Subic Bay and as a source of reference material to construct the history of Subic Bay.

The articles herein posted remains the sole property of original authors and publications which has full credits to the articles.

Disclaimer: Readers should conduct their own research and due diligence before using any article herein posted for whatever intended purpose it may be. This private web log will not be liable for any loss or damage caused by a reader's reliance on information obtained from volunteers of this private blog.

www.subicbay.ph, http://olongapo-subic.com, http://sangunian.com, http://olongapo-ph.com, http://oictv.com, http://brgy-ph.com, http://subicbay-news.com, http://batanggapo.com 16 January 2012