Sunday, March 05, 2006

Reusing and Refilling

I realize I several of my recent posts have been more on the negative aspects of the country (from my perspective). So, I thought I would point out something that I love about here, so that you do not get the impression that I think this country is full of patriarchal males who walk around pulling their woman by the long hair they aren't allowed to cut while gnawing on raw baby birds.

One thing America could learn from this country is the art of reusing products and refilling plastic bottles rather than throwing them away and buying a new one. Here, in a country with no regulated or mandatory recycling programs, they reuse and refill what they can, and there is significant incentives price-wise to encourage people to go that route.

In the Philippines, you can buy products in whichever size you wish from very large family sizes to small sample packs. Although the larger sizes are a little less cost by volume, they don't gauge you on the small sizes. We buy our laundry detergent in small single use packs for about 20 pesos per strip of 10 or so. 20 pesos is about $0.40, so about 4 cents per packet.

The first time I bought dish washing liquid here, I bought the standard medium sized bottle with the squeeze lid that we are used to. I think it cost about 80 pesos. When it was almost gone, I was scanning the shelves for the same stuff and saw that right underneath the bottles are packets of the same volume but they are little pouches for refilling. It was only about 27 pesos. A significant price difference for reusing. The products I have seen in America (like fabric softner) that have refills are almost as much as the original bottle, so people don't really have an incentive.

The Economics of Refills (Ipod included for size comparison)

I have since noticed many other examples where you can conserve and pay much less. Rather than buying a spray bottle of Lysol today for cleaning, I noticed they have small containers of concentrated Lysol cleaner that you add to water. There is enough concentrated cleaner in that small bottle for I would estimate 15 liters of cleaning product. So, rather than paying the 187 pesos for a bottle of lysol cleaner, I bought the concentrated lysol for 87 pesos, a small 0.5 liter spray bottle for 27 pesos, and decided to just make the cleaner that way.

I will try to continue with this trend when we go home. I realized that in many areas, I paid more for things just because it was more convenient and we can afford it. I didn't buy refills (although I'm not sure they are widely available in the U.S.), and I bought much of my food at the Whole Foods counter already prepared. Maybe it is better to not fill my schedule up with so many appointments that I have the hour or two on a weekend to mix the cleaners, prepare my food, and get ready for the week, like I do here.

At a minimum, we'll go for a happy medium... I really do like the Whole Foods counter ;-)

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