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Tote Bags from Flour Sacks 0708

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years ago
A Piece of Scrap, or an Under-utilized Abundant Resource?
Julie Burke


Description and Rationale


Used Flour Sack tote bags made of Cotton and Polyester


The flour sack is a type of sack used in the Philippine bakeshops and homes, etc. It has stopped being used in many countries who have found other alternatives. What is most interesting about this type of bag is how “throw away” it is here. Most Filipinos do not know what it could be used for, other than holding flour. Used flour sack bags are the cheapest cloth available in the Philippines and people living in poverty all use them for diapers. Most consider the bags almost useless, and trashy; this is because the bags are sold used, and may have bugs and traces of flour remaining inside them, and dirt  on the outside of them. But since the Filipinos are very innovative and know how to conserve, some use it as a cheap material for clothes, undergarments and the like. The problem with this is how this type of attire is looked down upon in the Philippine society. The people know how cheap the stuff is, and they are considered “poor” if they wear it. Most Filipinos would throw the bags away or sell them for a very cheap price. What they don’t know is, that hardly any other country uses flour sack bags with old and interesting prints on them. As styles are changing, many people are coming to appreciate vintage, old style clothing. How much more would they appreciate a long lost thing such as the flour sack?  



What is the flour sack bag’s impact on the people of the Philippines? Is it an unused, unwanted material because of its appearance, or the work it might take to restore it? Is it ugly in their eyes because of the shape or would changing the shape (into a bag, pencil case, etc.) cause them to appreciate flour sack bags more? How is its presence affecting the people’s lives that depend on the resource of the flour sack bag for clothing and such? Would creating attractive bags that sell for expensive prices cause the price of regular flour sack bags in the market to increase? How would the increased price of the bags affect poverty stricken people in the Philippine’s if there were to be one? Are the bags rough, dirty, and ripped being impossible to restore? Or do the people simply despise the way they look from the way their culture views the bags? Are there good reasons for the disposal of cheap flour sack bags without trying to reuse or recycle them?


The main purpose of this project will to be research the biology and ecology of cotton and coconut, the main resources for the flour sack purses that would be made from the “throw away” bags.


Might there be new ways to utilize the flour sack for helping Filipinos day to day in more than one way? Recent observations show the use of flour sacks as skirts (that women are embarrassed to wear) and most commonly, diapers. They are also harder to find, and are rare because the big Antipolo factory that made them was closed down. What are the reasons for this disregard of the bags? How much is based on looks and society’s idea of a “good” thing and how much is based on physical necessity or want? If more beneficial uses of the flour sack are found, such as curtains, bed sheets, colorful carpets, blankets or other life altering ideas, what would be the best way to communicate the ideas to the poor and rich people in the Philippines?


The study of the biology and ecology of cotton and coconut will be done through a search of the literature as well as firsthand observations and interviews with people living in different areas of the Philippines. These ideas and meetings will help guide the social and economical experiment where variables in the flour sack bags usefulness and attractiveness will be discovered and explored.


It is hoped that new and exciting uses of unwanted flour sack bags may be discovered and will improve the lives of some people in the Philippines through the hiring of workers to make bags and the selling of bags to people who can afford them.


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Common Names and Synonyms


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Morphology and Physical Description



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Getting Food


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Environmental Factors



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Origin and Distribution


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Importance to People



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Survivability and Endangered Status


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Potential Solutions


Part 3 Potential Solutions

Through this project, I have found that flour sack bags are a likeable product and can be sold at higher prices than expected for the cost of making them. Although the production of flour sack pencil cases is not cheap due to the expenses added together with the work of putting it together, the profits can still be large if many are sold. The costs of the buttons were five pesos, and each bag cost 20 pesos to sew. This is not very expensive when it comes to numbers the bags could be sold in other countries, but if no profit is made, it is expensive. I decided to make the cost of the pencil cases one fifty pesos because then a good profit would be made. Through research, I discovered that I was not the first to make things out of flour sacks. I found on a website a woman who made artsy and creative bags from old flour sacks (different prints than mine) and she added many fancy designs to them. The difference here was that the bags she sold were priced way to high for anyone ever to consider, unless they were clueless as to how cheap vintage flour sacks were. Of corse, prices may vary country to country, but the prices of the bags I saw were much too expensive. Through the discovery also of the many people in need of jobs, I decided to have Norma (The seamstress) sew the bags and put zippers and a coconut button as well. This gave way to the plethora of bags being made, and the development of many different designs, because the sewer was very anxious and determined to do very many if needed. I was awed by the work ethic of these people, because I realized how desperate they were for any kind of work or money. Also, since it is hard for men and woman over forty to find work, I provided them with jobs to help them along further.




Possibility 1


 Buttons or Sellable Items

From an interview with Poch Relucio- “coconut shells are cheap, and most often thrown way or used as coal.” You can easily access a large sack filled with coconut shells for 20 pesos or less, or you can just get it free. A whole sack filled with niyog (mature, unopened coconut) is only 60 pesos at a local market, and is cheaper in the provinces is what I learned from Poch. Since coconuts and their shells are not in high demand locally because, as Poch says “It’s just coconut,” they are very cheap to buy. For this reason, items derived from any part of the tree or shell can be sold to other nations because foreign demand is very high.


1. Large profits could be made from selling coconut shell products to other countries because of the low demand in local areas and the high demand in nations other than the Philippines. So, coconut could be sold in many countries for an expensive price, and bought for a cheap one resulting in large sums of profit.

2. Selling things that are made out of coconut provides many jobs for Filipinos.

3. There is an abundance of coconut shell in the Philippines; it is even used as coal. Therefore, I had no trouble finding the coconut shell needed for my project.



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Possibility 2




It has been found that pure well filtered coconut oil is able to be used as a good substitution for diesel. It is cheaper, and has been successfully discovered to have less harmful effects on the environment than fossil fuels.



One advantage of coconut fuel is less toxic fumes, and less bad emissions as that of diesel fuel. Also, it runs smoother allowing for a reduction of possible engine shock. A third advantage of biodiesel is it can be produced in remote areas and is a sustainable resource that may be used to help people who run out of regular fuel.



One universal disadvantage of using coconut oil as fuel is that it solidifies at 25 degrees Celsius which is not very cold. This can cause problems, as in non-tropical countries this fuel may not operate too well. Also, if in tropical countries the temperature becomes lower because of rain, or nightfall, it would not allow for operation of the electric device the fuel is being used for. Another problem is the fact that coconut fuel operates better at very high temperature, the best operating temperature being 70 degrees Celsius. Lastly, in order to operate the fuel to a usable extent, dual tanks are required. There must be one tank of diesel and one tank of coconut fuel, and it begins with diesel, but in the middle coconut oil is used, and fifteen minutes before turning off the car diesel must be used. This technique makes it difficult to manage, resulting in not many people using biofuels because of the hassle and complications.

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  1. "Airline in First Biofuel Flight." BBC News. 24 Feb. 2008. 3 May 2008 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7261214.stm>.


  1. "Coconut Oil - a Significant Bio-Fuel." Kokonut Pacific. 3 May 2008 <http://www.kokonutpacific.com.au/index.html?Biofuel.htm>.


  1. Innes, Miranda. Rags to Rainbows. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc, 1992.


  1. McKelvex, Susan. The Classic American Quilt Collection: Creative Ideas for Color and Fabric. Emmaus: Rodale P Inc., 1996.


  1. Novero, Leonardo. Personal interview. 23 Apr. 2008.


  1. Relucio, Poch. Personal interview. 27 Apr. 2008.


  1. Reydentor P. Granada, Ray. Personal interview. 27 Apr. 2008.


  1. Rolando Arana, Rollie. Personal interview. 27 Apr. 2008.





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