ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, Philippines– Now that the elections are over, what do you do with all the campaign paraphernalia that were left behind?
In Dumalinao town, Zamboanga del Sur, election tarpaulins are upcycled into school bags painted with inspirational quotes.
The tarpaulins were gathered from Operation Baklas, an initiative of the town’s local government unit (LGU) where youth volunteers remove campaign paraphernalia after the elections. (READ: Youth involvement is San Fernando’s secret in achieving zero waste)
According to Dumalinao town mayor Junaflor Cerilles, the operation successfully collected around 1,300 campaign materials. These came from barangays within the municipality and other neighboring areas such as Margosatubig town and Pagadian City, where citizens donated used election materials for the initiative.
Care for the environment
Repurposing of election materials is not a new initiative for the local government of Dumalinao. After the 2016 elections, they spearheaded a Hindi Ako Plastic campaign where election paraphernalia were converted into ecobags. (READ: Zero-waste basics: Mess kits will help save the world)
The ecobags were given to market vendors in Dumalinao for them to freely offer it to buyers instead of the widely used plastic cellophane.
“Anything that is good; anything that will benefit other people, I will really continue [it] as well as saving the planet,” Cerilles said.
As an environmental advocate, Cerilles has made it a point to clean up campaign paraphernalia in her town after the elections. (READ: The challenges of going zero waste in the Philippines)
“For this election, when I pulled out the campaign materials, somebody messaged me, ‘If possible, Mayor, this time, could you convert it into school bags since a lot of children need school bags for the opening of the school?’ So instead of the grocery bags that I made in the 2016 [elections], I converted it into backpacks this time,” she shared in a mix of Filipino and English.
After the elections, Cerilles focused on creating school bags using election tarpaulins to give to students just in time for the start of classes in June. (READ: How the fight vs plastic pollution can begin in the classroom)
With an initial target of 154 beneficiaries, the initiative will give the upcycled bags packed with school supplies to children in Pili Elementary School, Barangay Pili, Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, by mid-June.
However, Cerilles said that demands for the upcycled bags continued to rise after the initiative was posted on Facebook.
Although more people were interested in the upcycled bags, Cerilles said that the LGU had no plans on selling them since the bags were made primarily by volunteers.
Those interested to help the project may drop off tarpaulins in the Dumalinao municipal hall or contact the LGU to pick up tarpaulins from nearby areas.
“I’m still getting a lot of messages asking if I can get more bags [for] other children like their neighbor kasi daw walang pera, kailangan ng bags, (because they don’t have money and they need bags) so I’m still making more also,” Cerilles told Rappler on a phone call interview.
The LGU of Dumalinao town hopes to inspire other local executives to create eco-friendly initiatives for their community. (WATCH: What can you do about plastic pollution)
“I think it’s also our responsibility to lessen the waste that we are contributing to our planet…Here in the province, there are many school kids that need backpacks. I really hope they can also do the same thing in their community para mabawasan naman yung napupunta sa basurahan (to lessen the trash),” Cerilles said. – Rappler.com
Stephen Bryan Esic is a Rappler Mover based in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. He is the editor-in-chief of The Capstone school publication in Saint Columban College Senior High School.