Wonders of Waste Bags: Eco livelihood project in the Philippines

HWoW bags 2elen Mitchell sent ECI this report:

Wonders of Waste bags – WoW bags is a small eco livelihood project in the Philippines addressing big problems, that of plastic pollution and poverty. It is doing so in a colourful, imaginative and creative way.  Started in 2006 by Irish lay missionary Helen Mitchell to give direct income to mothers it works in partnership with Irish parishes, schools, women’s groups, universities who help spread the story of WoW and generate sales of our bags.

Women in two poor communities collect, wash, and sort plastic juice cartons which are similar to Sunkist in Ireland. These are then quality checked by another woman before being sorted by colour and size and passed to the 3 women who are the WoW sewers.  The finished bags are further quality checked. The end result is a fairly traded, beautifully made bag, the ‘fruit of our hands’ which will last for many years. All the bags are designed by the group and all the women work from home thus combining their role as mothers with being able to earn a regular income.  Working this way also maximizes their income as they are not spending money on child care, fare, lunches or ‘going to work’ clothes.

WoW bags 3WoW is showing in a very practical way that recycling pays and this is an important motivation in poor communities.  It is also showing how people can help themselves and the planet. Each year WoW collectors remove almost 100,000 pieces of plastic from 2 flood prone communities and also prevent them from ending up in landfill. This simple act has resulted in women being able to keep children in school, enable them to go on to 3rd level courses, extend their houses, visit family members in distant provinces, and crucially have some control over their lives. There are no quotas imposed in WoW and payment is made regularly on set dates.  The women receive benefits and enhanced bonus payments.  They also all participate in a saving scheme designed to offer a ‘cushion’ in a time of crisis and reduce dependence on money lenders.

WoW bags 1WoW bags are strong and last many years so the on going challenge is sales … once you have bought a WoW bag you won’t need another one for some time! The project is funded via sales which are key to our sustainability.  We are always interested in hearing from groups who might consider a sale on our behalf at a parish, a conference, a work place, a training day – the work of WoW and the partnership approach we take reflects much of what is said in Laudatio Si so we are a good practical example of living Laudatio Si.  We have a small network of volunteers in Ireland some of whom have visited WoW and with sufficient notice would be happy to give a talk and conduct a sale on our behalf.

WoW is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Philippines and 100% of sales are returned to the project. For more information please drop an email to [email protected]

Read an article on Wonders of Waste bags here.