Every company has a responsibility to contribute positively to its community. To do that, it must ensure that it utilizes resources efficiently to meet the needs of the present without sacrificing resources for the future. This is also the foundation of a “circular economy,” which is based on the reuse of materials. Long before the terms “sustainability” or “circular economy” have come to the fore, Ginebra San Miguel Inc. (GSMI) has already been a staunch advocate of these practices. As a leader in the Philippine liquor market, GSMI knows fully well its huge responsibility in making a positive environmental impact in the communities it serves, and it has remained committed to this mission since the start. With its products widely consumed by many Filipinos from all corners of the country, bottle retrieval has always been an integral part of GSMI’s operations. And for years, the company has been doing it without fanfare and press coverage. Aside from the economic benefit, it is also a direct way for the company to ensure that the heaps of empty bottles do not burden the communities and their surrounding environment.
GSMI’s nationwide bottle retrieval system, our version of circular economy, is far-reaching with multiple stakeholders. The process involves employees, bottle washers and retrieval partners collecting used glass bottles from various sources (households and sari-sari stores) and sorting them according to type and size. By doing this, bottles that pass our stringent quality system are kept in circulation for as long as useable. This system effectively helps prevent solid waste accumulation, conserve natural resources, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions from producing new bottles. Upscaling the bottle retrieval operations to truly make an environmental impact, however, requires the cooperation of all—from the company’s leaders, and team members, to community partners, and consumers. Everyone must be involved, as there can be no “sustainability” if one component in the consumption cycle is not cooperative or unaware of the process.
The BOTEful Philippines program was launched in 2017 to formalize secondhand bottle retrieval in areas that are “out of reach” of the usual operations and would require the extra support of stakeholders. It started with a simple mission: to promote awareness of Ginebra San Miguel’s thrust on second-hand bottle retrieval and inculcate a recycling culture in day-to-day activities in the communities.
The first Boteful Philippines program was held in Barangay Maura in Aparri, Cagayan dubbed “Boteful Aparri,” where the company provided 11 pedicabs to the barangay leaders to assist in bottle retrieval. After a few months, the barangay was able to collect 6,000 used bottles. In return for their efforts, GSMI provided them with six CCTV units and a 42-inch LED TV. This is now used to aid local law enforcement and boost security in the area.
“Part of our sustainability goals is to bring the ‘Malasakit’ culture in the form of livelihood opportunities to the communities we serve. From the collection and sorting to bottle cleaning and promotion of recycling, Boteful Philippines is beneficial not only to the company but also to the community,” said National Logistics Manager Noel Callanta.
The program’s initial success encouraged the program’s implementation in Batanes, where, in exchange for bottles retrieved, the communities are to be given cavans of rice bought from farmers from the same community. Truly, this is circular economy exemplified—the rice came from local harvest, providing income to the farmers and ensuring food security to the communities.
And before closing 2022, GSMI also implemented the “Boteful Tondo,” and this time it was inside San Miguel’s very own Better World facility.
“Our sales have been growing consistently through the years, so bottle retrieval should also follow the same pace as our sales,” explained Callanta. “In 2023, we plan to be more aggressive in improving bottle retrieval by involving more employees and communities, including our partners in SMCSL. It takes an entire barangay, or all stakeholders, to ensure this project succeeds,” he added.
To make a sustainable impact, an entire community must actively participate and appreciate the value of the program’s long-term viability as a livelihood opportunity. Communities are encouraged to set up a cooperative type of operation for the buying and washing of second-hand bottles. It provides immediate additional income and promotes the culture of recycling to all, as consumers are encouraged to return used bottles.
After the successful activations of the BOTEful Philippines project in various areas, GSMI, in 2022, has finally brought it home – this time, to further inculcate the recycling culture among its employees. The BOTEful Ginebra was launched during the “ber” months to encourage employees to return empty bottles consumed during the holidays. The result of the initial run was highly encouraging.
“We are pleased to note that the Boteful Ginebra program has inspired employee engagement in the company’s retrieval efforts. Every employee who participated was not only rewarded with GSMI-branded products and merchandise, but they felt a deeper purpose and mission—that they were contributing to saving the environment by ensuring that these bottles would not end up in landfills or just be disposed of in waterways,” said National HR Manager Eileen Miranda.
Employees participating in the Boteful Ginebra program are made aware that second-hand bottle retrieval is vital to the company’s operations. From the various activations, the company was able to retrieve around 60,000 bottles to date. The more second-hand bottles retrieved, the less burden for the environment.
More Boteful Philippines projects will help realize the dream of a beautiful Philippines, where Filipinos are gainfully employed, have income opportunities, and live in sustainable communities. Most of all, BOTEful Philippines is where we all benefit from a circular economy where no one— and no bottle—is left behind.