A Philippine village exchanges plastic for rice

In a village outside the Philippine capital city of Manila, Vernoica Dolorico roams the streets in search of plastic.

She's known as the 'Environmental Auntie', collecting trash from her neighbours or simply picking it off the ground.

(SOUNDBITE) (Filipino/English) BAYANAN VILLAGE RESIDENT, VERONICA DOLORICO, SAYING:

"I feel that our surroundings is really dirty. If only I could, I would pick up all the plastics along the road whenever I walk outside, I'll bring my bag and pick up the garbage if that is possible.

In this village, bags of plastic are more than just waste.

Every kilogram of plastic is worth half its weight - in rice.

For people living under the poverty line, a kilo of rice worth 70 cents can be a financial strain.

For Dolorico, a mother of four and the wife of a rickshaw driver, the plastics-for-rice programme is worth every grain.

(SOUNDBITE) (Filipino/English) BAYANAN VILLAGE RESIDENT, VERONICA DOLORICO, SAYING:

"It weighed in at 14 kilos of trash, so I got 7 kilos of rice grains. This is a big help for us to have one kilo of rice for the day."

The Philippines sits among the world's top marine plastic polluters, according to a joint report by Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey.

The country's law on solid waste is poorly enforced and doesn't regulate packaging manufacturing.

But the village programme is a small step for the country.

Village captain Andor San Pedro says while the programme won't help reduce plastic consumption, it can still teach people to properly dispose of waste.

(SOUNDBITE) (Filipino) BAYANAN VILLAGE CAPTAIN, ANDOR SAN PEDRO, SAYING:

"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 says that in August, over 213 kilos of plastic was collected, and was given to the government - for recycling.

He also says the win-win programme is only generating more interest among families:

A cheaper meal - in exchange for cleaner streets.

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