Lowe Open and Unilever Recycle Laundry Water in Disaster-Stricken Philippines

Lowe Open Philippines is working with client Unilever Philippines to address some of the problems created by the devastation of super-typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines community of Mayorga, Leyte. Chief among these problems is access to usable water.

Unilever, a manufacturer of Surf laundry detergent, has worked with the community to create a pioneering laundry water recycling facility and garden – Surf Labahan Station – to help address the issue of usable water in the community.

Surf Labahan Station features a machine that utilizes debris from the typhoon as part of its filtration system that recycles laundry water for the community. At full capacity, the system produces 6,000 liters of clean water, delivered via solar-powered pumps, which can be re-used for laundry, as well as for watering plants in the surrounding area. In addition to a laundry facility, the station serves as a public garden, providing a venue for the community to congregate.

Waste water generated from laundry is usually thrown away— often contaminating the surrounding areas with traces of detergent. Additionally, when trying to access clean water, local communities usually use water pumps that tap into the water table, depleting the area’s reserves. The filtration system created by Lowe Open addresses this issue of managing water responsibility, while also helping to rebuild the community.

“Sustainability has always been a priority in our work,” commented Leigh Reyes, President, Lowe Philippines. “And the Surf Labahan project was a great opportunity to exercise creativity for good. This idea uses affordable, sustainable technology made in the Philippines, and it shows that smart, useful things can come from adversity. We’re glad to have been a part of the pilot run of the Surf Labahan Station, and we’re looking forward to future implementations,” she continued.

The idea was originally developed by Lowe Open at Unilever’s Developing & Emerging Market Young Creative Academy Scholarship for Cannes 2013. Lowe, in partnership with Unilever, Operation Compassion and Awesome Lab, worked together to develop this idea into a reality.

Once the first Surf Labahan Station is fully established, Unilever hopes to roll out the idea in other Philippines communities with scarce water resources.

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