Turning Trash to Treasure

In recent years, the escalating concern over the surging tide of plastic waste has ignited collective consciousness among private and public entities, local communities, and individuals alike.

In an aim to address this global concerns, a transformative movement on environment is taking root in the heart of Luzong Elementary School in Pagudpud town.

Who would’ve thought that your old soda bottles would become the currency for securing your educational treasures?

In this school, students embark on a cash-free shopping spree while saving the environment.

For Lea Domingo, teacher and project leader, named this environmental conservation initiative as “Luzong Elementary School Waste Exchange Store” (LESWES) which stands as a beacon of innovation in the battle against plastic waste.

The project is a multifaceted initiative that not only highlights the importance of proper plastic waste disposal but also advocates recycling and repurposing as integral components of plastic management and mitigation.

Every year, they launch sub-projects of LESWES.

In January 2020, they launched Project 1.0, which is “Ronda Basura, Para sa Mas Malinis na Eskwela.”

After the successful implementation of Project 1.0, they rolled out Project 2.0, titled “Bawat Bata May Ayuda.”

They used the initial fund of LESWES amounting to P5,000 and the additional donations given by non-government organizations, local government units, and North Luzon Renewables Energy Corp. (NLREC) to give financial assistance to the learners of the school during the pandemic.

On its third year, they implemented Project 3.0 with the tagline “Pagreresiklo May Kitang Aasahan.” Since they collected plastic bottles, they used them as planters in propagating ornamental plants and sold them to different organizations to sustain the project.

Recently, in Project 4.0, NLREC, Sustainabuild signed a Memorandum of Agreement that they will give P100,000 worth of products exchanged per year to the LESWES.

At the core of LESWES store’ is a dynamic system that incentivizes responsible plastic waste management. The system follows an easy procedure: COLLECT, CONVERT, EXCHANGE.

Students and community members are encouraged to bring in their plastic waste which is then sorted, processed, and transformed into valuable products such as eco-bricks, and eco-plant vases, among many others.

In return for their contributions, participants receive credit points that can be redeemed within the exchange store for a wide array of products such as school supplies, kitchenware, basic goods such as rice and other essential grocery items.

This innovative approach not only instills a sense of social responsibility and environmental awareness but also creates a sustainable ecology where the community actively participates in mitigating plastic waste issues.

Domingo’s project not only secured approval and support from the NLREC but also garnered attention from the local government of Pagudpud, Sorsogon City, and inspired other elementary schools including Burgos Elementary School.

This domino effect has drawn in pupils, co-teachers, and a multitude of stakeholders, becoming a symbol of how grassroots efforts can lead to transformative change in the fight against plastic pollution.

Through the initiative and good practices initiated by LESWES and the proponent of the project, it has been replicated by other provinces, barangays, regional and national schools, and many others.

LESWES is now considered a front-runner at the regional and national level in terms of sustainable, eco-friendly schools due to environmental practices in protection and conservation.

“Together with our partners and linkages, we are bringing this project down to the community to make it more accessible and convenient to our residents who are willing to trade their recyclable plastic wastes into products. Hopefully, this fifth anniversary of LESWES, we can launch it in celebration of the anniversary of the project,” said Domingo. (JCR/MJTAB/CEC PIA Ilocos Norte)

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