Universal Robina Corporation, one of the Philippines’ largest food and beverage companies, has kicked off a slew of initiatives to collect, recover, and divert plastic waste as part of its overall goal to achieve plastic neutrality.
To attain a net zero plastic footprint, URC has embarked on long-term collaborative waste management projects that cover community engagement and linking with local recyclers.
“We are aiming to make lasting, concrete changes on an institutional level, in a way that affects all operations and demonstrates our resolve as a world-class manufacturer,” said URC President and CEO Irwin Lee.
“The culminating goal,” he said, “is to establish a sustainable value chain within a few years.”
With “Juan Goal for Plastic,” URC hopes to help convert post-consumer waste into something useful, and to be an active part of consumers’ collect-and-recycle activities.
Under this program, several plastic collection sites have been set up in the country, with more to be opened within the year.
URC representatives and participants at the Juan Goal for Plastic launch in La Carlota, Negros.
At its La Carlota sugar mill in Negros Occidental, URC collects PET bottles and other types of plastic every month. The program, established in partnership with the city of La Carlota, Barangay Roberto Salas Benedicto (RSB), and the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay RSB, exchanges plastic waste for cash, matching weight for “environmental points.”
URC’s plant in Bagong Ilog partnered with the local government of Pasig and Basic Environmental Systems & Technologies, Inc. to collect plastic twice a month in exchange for environmental points that can be used to redeem URC products or school supplies.
Attendees in General Mariano Alvarez City, Cavite, bring their used plastics to the Juan Goal for Plastic waste collection event.
In General Mariano Alvarez City, Cavite, URC’s plant teamed up with the local government and its Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office to collect plastic every month in exchange for URC products.
Other collection sites include Robinsons Malls Galleria, starting July 30, to be followed by Robinsons Malls in Ermita, Las Pinas, Magnolia, and Starmills Pampanga, by August 13. In partnership with Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC), URC will set up plastic collection booths offering a drop-weigh-redeem scheme for clean and dry plastic waste at these locations every payday weekend.
“With our current systems, plastic waste will be segregated and given new life that supports a true circular economy,” said Lee.
URC has also been looking at multi-stakeholder partnerships to tackle the immense plastics challenge.
It is a member company in the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an industry-founded non-profit organization that promotes solutions to reduce and avoid environmental pollution due to plastic waste. David Lim, URC’s Chief Supply Chain and Sustainability Officer, is the Alliance’s Southeast Asia Regional Task Group Co-Chair.
The food manufacturing company is likewise an investor and strategic partner of Planet First, a purpose-led European growth investment platform dedicated to developing solutions to address sustainability challenges.
URC’s initiatives are in line with the Gokongwei Group’s long-term efforts to significantly manage post-consumer plastic waste. Other business units under the group have ongoing collection, sorting, and recycling programs in various areas nationwide.
Since June, RLC has been running its “Trash to Bigas” project. Robinsons Malls partnered with Robinsons Supermarket, where customers can swap a kilo of collected plastic with a half-kilo of rice every weekend. This initiative is currently being done at Robinsons Place in General Santos City.
“Easy on the Plastic” is Robinsons Easymart and Robinsons Supermarket’s plastic collection campaign. Launched in 2017, the program aims to divert plastics from oceans and landfills to more sustainable options. In two years, 18,000 ecobricks were collected and were used to create a community center for the Yangil Tribe in Zambales while some were converted to school chairs. Starting July 30, select Robinsons Easymart and Robinsons Supermarket branches will accept clean and dry PET bottles for processing and recycling.
Besides its plastic waste initiatives, URC will continue to carry out its sustainability strategies in its six focus areas – People and Communities, Climate Action, Water, Product, Packaging, and Sourcing - as it works towards fulfilling its goals.
“Our ambition to become a sustainable global enterprise has been steadfast and resolute, amid lingering challenges and the steady reopening of economies,” said Lee. “The plans that we have set in motion are bringing us closer to our goals.”
For more information on URC, visit urc.com.ph