The Earth Month reminds us to be conscious of the earth, of the environment. Environmental consciousness has made us discover ways to decrease dependence on plastics if not do away with them. One such way is through packaging/packing materials. Scientists /businesses are finding ways to develop sustainable packaging /packing materials. But we can look to the ways packaging was done long time ago.
Biodegradable packing materials
Some of them withstood progress like the kaing which are still used in the Philippines for packing fruits and vegetables. It is made of local and endemic material rattan.
Another packing/packaging material which is still used is the bilao. It is made of bamboo strips. It is used for winnowing palay or unmilled rice. It’s also used for cleaning bigas or milled rice before cooking. Another use is for food container/server, lined with banana leaf when used as such. Nowadays , these are also be lined with aluminum foil , plastic or waxed paper.
Baskets made of rattan or other endemic materials were used when going to the market. Some used bayong , a bag made of woven strips of palm leaves. There were no plastic bags then. Paper bags have made a come back but they easily tear so their usage is limited. Eco bags are popular which can be made of cloth or synthetic materials. Synthetic materials are not biodegradable or take years to degrade, but they are reused over and over.
Items bought in markets were packed in banana leaf or paper. Some eateries particularly restaurants serving Filipino cuisine still serve rice wrapped in banana leaf because they give a different flavor to the rice. Sometimes it’s for food presentation.
Crabs were tied in uway (soft rattan).
Brown paper was made into small bags for pandesal and other kinds of bread. I remember those bags were made (DIY) by the bakeries.
Paper bags were used for retailed rice and for wholesale abaca sacks were used. Abaca sacks were also used for other produce like peanuts or corn kernels.
Sugar and flour were packed in sacks made of katsa (unbleached muslin). They were sometimes upcycled/made into work dresses or aprons.
These are usually soft drink bottles. We brought replacement empty bottles or leave a deposit (usually a small amount but enough for you to come back and return the bottle) when we buy, and refund the deposit when we return the bottle. For kids, keeping the refund was enough encouragement to return the bottles.
Own Containers for Retail (Tingi)
Filipinos are fund of tingi or retail in small quantities to enable low income earners to buy just what is needed for the day. This system has been adopted by big business that at present there are products in small packets like shampoo in sachet, three-in-one coffee (coffee, cream and sugar), toothpaste in sachets, etc. I suppose these are also meant for travelers.
Cooking oil was sold in retail in palengkes (wet markets) and sari-sari stores (neighborhood sundry stores , our convenience stores) and we brought our own bottles/containers. Same is true for kerosene. For salt and alamang ( a variety of very tiny shrimps) which is called balaw in our town, we brought either cups or bottles.
Wooden crates were usually used for bottled products such as soft drinks and beer.