By Marjaleen Ramos
Filipinos throw away a daunting figure of more than 17.5 billion of plastics every year, mostly of which end up in the ocean.
The world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day, 10 times the amount a century ago, according to World Bank researchers.
Thousands of marine species including turtles, whales, birds, and seals die from plastic wastes every year as they often mistake them for food.
In a 2015 report on plastic pollution by Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, the Philippines was ranked as the world’s third largest source of plastic leaking into the ocean after China and Indonesia, and has the highest volume of unmanaged plastic waste among countries n Southeast Asia.
It said that about 79 percent of branded plastic residual wastes came from food packaging, followed by household and personal care products with 12 and eight percent, respectively.
“Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean” shows that the Philippines wastes 6,237,653 kg (6875.84 tons) of plastic per day, of which 81% is mismanaged.
A report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) released in 2019 said that Filipinos produces more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45 million thin film bags daily. These figures were based on 21 waste assessments conducted in six cities and seven municipalities in the Philippines.
“Year’s worth of sachet use in the Philippines can cover the entire Metro Manila one foot deep in plastic waste,” GAIA said in its report.
As local-level plastic bag bans have been put in place and rigorously enforced, usage has dropped dramatically, the report stated. It urged the government to “institute a comprehensive national plastic bag ban that promotes reusable bags.”
In an attempt to transform the Philippines into a zero-waste country, the government passed Republic Act No. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, where local governments are tasked with solid waste management in their respective areas.
In 2015, former President Benigno S. Aquino III signed Proclamation No. 760 officially declaring the month of January as a Zero-Waste Month.
“Zero waste” was described as “an advocacy that promotes designing and managing products and processes to avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, and to conserve and recover all resources, and not indiscriminately dispose or burn them.”
And while many people expect the solving of worsening plastic pollution in the country to be led by the government and the private sectors, it still has to start with every citizen.
Here are some easy ways to begin your journey towards a zero-waste lifestyle.
People have to understand that going to a zero-waste lifestyle goes beyond just the usual recycling and waste management. It is about reducing the amount of waste they produce in their everyday lives that there would be nothing left for recycling.
Learn how to say “no” to things with lots of packaging. It may sound impossible since groceries and suppliers don’t give us much of a choice, with almost all products encased in plastic, so just do the best you can and buy less.
2. Reduction of single-use plastics
A single-use plastic bag can take 1,000 years to degrade. It sticks around a lot longer than other forms of trash so make sure you always bring your own containers and eco bags especially when shopping.
3. Segregate your waste
This is the first step in proper waste management. Segregation simply means keeping wet and dry wastes separately. You may start by separating recyclable waste such as paper, plastic, and glass from landfill and compostable waste. It also helps in reducing wastes that reach landfills and reduces pollution.
4. Start switching
Metal straws and wooden pairs of spoon and fork are probably the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the term “zero waste lifestyle.” These are just some of the basic ways you can start doing towards a zero-waste lifestyle.
Just like other plastic items—such as bags and bottles—straws and plastic utensils can also take years to break down. These are usually considered as the “most deadly” items to sea turtles, birds, and other animals.
Achieving zero-waste lifestyle may start by simply purchasing eco-friendly alternatives, or even choosing sustainable clothing.
5. Avoid microbeads
Facial washes, toothpaste, and body scrubs might sound harmless, but the tiny pieces in it called microbeads don’t dissolve in water. Some species of marine wildlife such as fish and turtles have mistaken these tiny particles for food. You may want to consider switching to products with natural exfoliants such as oats, salt, yogurt, sugar, or coffee grounds.
Switching to a zero-waste lifestyle surely doesn’t happen overnight but it is definitely worth trying. (With a report from AFP)