Pursuits

This Is How Much Plastic Waste the Philippines Is Producing

And how one cosmetic brand makes its mark by reducing plastic waste.
IMAGE COURTESY OF STORES SPECIALISTS INC.
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The Plastic Problem

In 2015, an estimated 6.3 billion tons of plastic waste was generated, according to Science Magazine and BBC. Only nine percent of that plastic was recycled. A whopping 79 percent of that total amount went to landfills or the natural environment.

In 2016, a record 480 billion plastic bottles were sold. One million bottles were purchased every minute and less than half of those bottles were collected for recycling.


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The team forms an S.O.S. out of the sacks of waste they picked up in a single morning.

Today, about 10 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean.

Another study entitled “Plastic Waste Inputs From Land into Ocean” showed that in 2015, the Philippines produced 6,875 tons of plastic per day, of which 81 percent was not properly disposed of. The country is one of five Asian countries that produces half of the world’s ocean waste. The other countries on the list include China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Coastal Clean-up Mission

Recently, a coastal clean-up was held on the shores of the Las Piñas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA) by Haribon Foundation and Lush. Pink-haired Lush co-founder Rowena Bird was dressed in an all-white getup, making it easy for her to be the point of command for the clean-up. She and her colleagues were up early on a Wednesday morning, picking up all kinds of plastic waste washed up at the shore.


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Lush Cosmetics employees hard at work picking up washed up garbage at the Las Piñas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA).

After gathering the sacks of collected waste, Bird picked out all the bottles and packaging from cosmetic brands and positioned them up for a photo. She looked like a cop lining up the suspects for the day.

Next year, Bird will be embarking on a series of talks, educating businesses on reducing their plastic packaging. It was just another day in the life of the changemaker and the brand she's passionate about.


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Rowena Bird at the local launch of Lush's holiday collection

Lush currently has two naked-only shops in Milan and Berlin. These are shops where the products have no containers or bottles. Even the store’s furniture is made from reclaimed wood and recycled plastic.

In the Philippines, Bird and her team want to do something about the staggering amount of waste found in our waters as well. This year, many of the brand's holiday offers are available sans the plastic bottles and wrappers.

Finding a Solution 

Bird is among those behind the push for package-free makeup. The brand is in the midst of developing an alternative for its eyeshadow containers using nut shells from Ecuador.

“[The biggest challenge] is getting people to change their habits. Everything is done in the same way,” says Bird. “The challenge is to get people to think differently about the makeup they’re wearing. It'll do the same job but it’ll be a little different.”

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The eyeshadow containers look like ivory and once you’ve used up the eyeshadow, you the containers can be buried into the garden so they can decompose naturally.

Bird says she also plans to introduce lipstick wrapped in wax that you can peel and pop into your old lipstick cases.


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Lush wraps its products in fabric instead of wrapping paper to reduce paper that gets thrown out.

“Very few people are doing naked products and that is the only way,” she says of conventional cosmetics and packaging. “You can call yourself as eco as you like but as long as you’re sticking it in a container, you’re not really doing anything different.”

Also present at the Lush clean-up was Nikki Huang, daughter of SSI President Anton Huang. The 18-year-old is an active member of the WWF-Philippines National Youth Council and an advocate for conservation.

“My family has been going to El Nido since 2003 when I was just three years old. Being around that much biodiversity really made me want to invest in looking after our environment so it exists for future generations,” she shared with T&C. Huang says she aims to marry her love for conservation with the family’s retail business in the future.


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Rowena Bird, Lush Philippines brand manager Ida Nones, and Nikki Huang

Karen Huxley, Lush's global PR manager, says that there is something even better than working for sustainability.

“We’re moving beyond sustainability and toward a more regenerative way of business because sustainability, by definition, is keeping something the same. But if that system is degraded, why would you want to maintain that?” she says. “We really need to regenerate and put more back into the land as we take away.” 

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