Saturday, May 21, 2011

use of plastic banned, even for food to go

The move to ban the use of plastic bags in the Philippines is gaining ground. Los Banos, Calamba City (to some degree), Cebu City, and Muntinlupa City are some of the places I've been where people are encouraged to bring their own bags. Grocery outlets sell cotton bags and bayong which shoppers can use to put their purchases and can boost their loyalty card points. Bench has the "Bawal ang Mapapel at Plastic" campaign. Senator Loren Legarda filed the Total Plastic Bag Ban Act (Senate Bill 2759) this year. Engr. Reynaldo Esguerra talked about the life cycles of plastic bags and other packaging materials in the Philippine Chemistry Congress.

In Australia, BYOB means "bring your own bottle", a reflection of how the Aussies love to drink wine from their stash when eating in restaurants. In the Philippines, BYOB means "bring your own bag".

Lucban, Quezon also has an ordinance on this. I got my taste of the plastic ban, Lucban style, on Pahiyas weekend. 

The temperature, even on the foothills of Mount Banahaw, was scorching hot as noon approached. While exploring the route of the procession and looking at the colourful decorations, Dennis, Mico, and I noticed a lot of street food vendors. They were NOT packaging the food in plastic bags. Instead, they were putting them in paper plates. This made it easier for us to eat the kiping while walking and forced us to finish it all off before the crispiness was lost. 

Since the Pahiyas Festival draws such big crowds from all over to Lucban, Quezon, people sell lots of souvenir items. This year, I noticed, that a lot of these stores and sidewalk stalls sell woven baskets of different shapes and sizes. Many were made from leaves, just like traditional baskets, while others were of plastic (which made them more durable than the leaf baskets). Some also feature artwork made by kids. Mico bought a couple of these bags in anticipation of shopping. A lot of the tourists also carried similar bags laden with goodies. 

That ban on plastic shopping bags had made Lucban's main attraction, the kiping-decorated houses, really sparkle. No unsightly plastic bag on the roads to distract tourists.

We passed by a quaint but popular restaurant called Salud's somewhere along the procession route at the perfect time to eat something cold. Since we were supposed to leave Lucban soon, we got halo-halo and mais con hielo to go...

mais con hielo to go

This takes the no plastic policy to the extreme. In fact, this could give any food quality assurance auditor nightmares! The sharp edges of the can could cut a customer and metal filings could have been left inside the can if it wasn't washed thoroughly. HACCP was obviously not enforced. It's not the safest way to eat mais con hielo but it really looked so good, so I just paid careful attention while chewing. What the restaurant owners could've done, though, was package the food in plastic cups and then provide trash bins outside the store for people who decide to eat their halo-halo on the street... or say that they didn't do take-out food.

Let me just say that I am all for the wise use (but not the total ban) of plastic bags and plastic disposable items. Filipinos tend to reuse these anyway because they're expensive. However, I cannot support  extremes, bordering on stupidity, such as reusing emptied tin cans as containers for halo-halo and mais con hielo because they pose dangers to consumers. 

Consumer safety is key in any food business venture.