Universal Robina Corp kicks off efforts towards plastic neutrality

Universal Robina Corp. (URC), one of the country’s 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.

The initiatives include long-term collaborative projects on waste management that cover community engagement and linking with local recyclers.

“We aim 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,” URC’s president and chief executive officer Irwin Lee said in a statement.   

“The culminating goal is to establish a sustainable value chain within a few years,” he shared.

With its “Juan Goal for Plastic,” program, URC hopes to help convert post-consumer waste into something useful, and to be an active part of consumers’ collect-and-recycle activities.

Under the program, several plastic collection sites have been set up in the country, with more to be opened within the year.

Through its La Carlota sugar mill in Negros Occidental and in partnership with La Carlota City, Barangay Roberto Salas Benedicto (RSB) and the Sangguniang Kabataan of Barangay RSB, URC is collecting PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles and other types of plastic every month, by buying them from sellers. matching weight for “environmental points”.

URC’s plant in Bagong Ilog partnered with the Pasig City government and Basic Environmental Systems & Technologies, Inc. (BEST) to collect plastic twice a week in exchange for environmental points that can be used to redeem URC products or school supplies.

In General Mariano Alvarez (GMA), Cavite, URC’s plant teamed up with the local government of GMA and Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) to collect plastic every month in exchange for URC products.

Other sites include Robinsons Malls Galleria that started July 30, to be followed by Robinsons Malls in Ermita, Las Pinas, Magnolia and Starmills Pampanga, starting August 13. 

In partnership with Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC), URC will set up plastic collection booths in these locations every payday weekend, which will offer a drop-weigh-redeem scheme for clean and dry plastic waste.

“With our current systems, plastic waste will be segregated and given new life that supports a true circular economy,” Lee said.

URC has also been looking at multi-stakeholder partnerships to tackle the immense plastics challenge.

It is one of the member companies of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, an industry-founded non-profit organization which promotes solutions that reduce and avoid environmental pollution from plastic waste.

URC 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. Its

initiatives are in line with the Gokongwei Group’s thrust to promote long-term efforts that will significantly help manage post-consumer plastic waste. 

Other business units under the group have ongoing collection, sorting and recycling programs in various areas nationwide.

RLC offers rice in exchange for plastic waste through its “Trash to Bigas” project. Robinsons malls has partnered with Robinsons Supermarket, where customers can swap a kilo of plastic donated with a half-kilo of rice every weekend since June.  This initiative is currently being done at Robinsons Place in General Santos City.

Another initiative is the Easy on the Plastic program which 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.  

Select Robinsons Easymart and Robinsons Supermarket branches have started accepting clean and dry PET bottles, which will be processed and recycled.

 “Our ambition to become a sustainable global enterprise has been steadfast and resolute, amid lingering challenges and the steady reopening of economies. The plans we have set in motion are bringing us closer to our goals,” Lee said.