Some years back, a political jingle asked, “nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura?” The politician did not win the 2010 elections, he moved on to build even more developments, and stayed mostly low-key from then on. On the other hand, the “dagat ng basura” has grown exponentially since then.
Six decades' worth of plastic have been dumped at landfills and in the oceans, and what is particularly worrying about this is that they will take hundreds of years before they degrade. This means that the toothbrush you used in kindergarten is still in its original form, along with the 8.3 billion metric tons of trash that were produced, used, and discarded in garbage dumps or flushed down into the ocean.
A study released in 2017 by Science Advances says that only 9 percent of plastics are recycled, leaving the planet to deal with 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste. It cautions that if this trend goes unchecked, we will have 12 billion tons of plastics by 2050.
Soon, everyone will be swimming in a dagat of basura, because that’s where we are headed unless things change.
ARE YOU SINGLE (USE)?
A bulk of these plastic products are used just once and then thrown away. Single-use products are your grocery bags, water bottles, the plastic utensils that come with your takeout order, the cups that your fast-food soda comes in, and the straws that you sip your iced coffee with. Since the Philippines is a sachet economy, we will include those two-in-one shampoos and three-in-one coffees.
Miggo Bautista of the World Wide Fund says that these castaways are omnipresent, and we don’t really give them much thought because we are so used to having them around. “Plastic comes from everyone, and mostly from households. With our campaigns, we are focusing on single-use plastics like the straws, plastic bags, and plastic cups and utensils. They are made for our convenience, but they have a big toll on the environment.”
He cautions, “We can really see what is happening, and it is happening on a large scale. We don’t notice it when we throw a single plastic item away, but when they all add up, they cause major problems. They go to our landfills and our seas. What’s more, we are finding that they degrade into microplastics and find their way into the food chain. Fish and shellfish that we eat have been found to ingest plastic.”
The toothbrush you used in kindergarten is still in its original form, along with the 8.3 billion metric tons of trash that were produced, used, and discarded
While there are scientists already working on solutions to replace the use of plastics, WWF Corporate Partnerships Officer Migo Bautista says that there are things that we can do now, and these don’t even require a lot of effort.
- Skip the straw. You don’t really need to have straws every time you order that drink. Besides, habitual straw drinking is said to cause wrinkles around the lips, because if you constantly pucker up, it leads to loss of elasticity around the mouth area. If you really want to sip through a straw, there are reusable ones that can be found online, such as on the WWF website. These metal tubes come with a brush and a handy pouch.
- Ditch the plastic bottle. If you are heading out, why not bring a cold beverage with a washable bottle? While that email your aunt sent you about how reusing plastic water bottles causes cancer is not based on conclusive evidence, experts say that simply refilling your bottle time and again from the dispenser lets it harbor bacteria. Stick with water containers that can be easily washable, like glass or aluminum containers that look sleeker than the Batman thermos you used to lug around in grade school.
- Bring your own bag. Some municipalities in the metro have already imposed policies that encourage buyers to bring reusable bags to the market or grocery store. “It may be as simple as stowing a reusable shopping bag in your everyday bag, so when you have to make a purchase, you already have your container ready,” Miggo says.
- Make more conscious purchases. Look into the packaging of the products that you buy. If an item is unnecessarily wrapped in several layers of plastic, you may want to look for an alternative.
- Practice the three Rs. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – it has been taught to us over the years, live it. Look for ways to reuse the plastic products you have at home. If there are initiatives that practice recycling like the organization that creates school desks from plastic bottles or WWF’s ecobrick project, support it.
Miggo adds, to create an impact, we can all start with something simple. It is about creating a mindset of awareness, and developing good habits that will help solve our plastics problems.
“We make people aware of the issues, and how they will show they care is up to the individual. The worst is really when people don’t care.”
WWF is a partner of the NatGeo Run that promotes Earth Day. This year, it gathers it eco warriors to support its #NotPlastic campaign. “Our main mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. We don’t have specific advocacies, whether environmental or political, and we don’t take sides. We want people to be aware, and to inspire people to care,” explains Jude Turcuato, SVP and General Manager of FOX Philippines.
The Earth Day Run’s main objective is to create awareness. “If we did not have this run, people will not know that it is Earth Day,” he jokes. “The run is an avenue for people to do something, in that part of their registration goes to our projects, which we have had through the years, such as planting trees, building boats for Palawan fishermen, or giving out solar lamps to tribesmen in Mindoro.” This year, the proceeds will go to build parks in the Donsol, Sorsogon using ecobricks. They will also give out reusable bottles with the race kits, so runners will not be using plastic cups for their much-needed hydration.
National Geographic has been telling stories about nature for years, Jude adds, and that is their mission that goes with the storytelling. “We make people aware of the issues, and how they will show they care is up to the individual. The worst is really when people don’t care.”