Friday, April 26, 2019

How and why do we segregate our waste? (Part 2)


INSTEAD of photos of the colorful celebration of Bacolod City’s MassKara, we see all the waste we have generated as a community – and they are disturbing. It’s as if we are looking at scenes of a post-apocalyptic world, where the zombies are single-use plastic.

Corporate sponsors and organizers have expressed their understanding of the issue but still seemed struggling. They make a lot of money with sales of their products that rely heavily on single-use packaging and it is the core of their marketing plans to expose their brands everywhere with plastic advertisements especially with those ubiquitous branded banderitas.

So one of these corporations tried to set up receptacles in the city, asking citizens to deposit to the designated and well-labeled bins their PET bottles, aluminum cans, and bottle caps. Citizens will not miss the signages, but the receptacles got filled with all sorts of garbage, even wet and food waste. The worst kind of waste to be mixed is broken glass. Perhaps due to the abundance of alcohol in the festival, people were either mindless or didn’t really care. Maybe the real zombies in this apocalypse are humans.

If recyclables are not sorted well or clean enough when disposed of, collectors will have a hard time. Imagine these people are cleaning up after those who are irresponsible, and then they also get exposed to hazards like getting their fingers cut or catching some bacteria.

Sorting out our recyclables will then let us realize what items we produce that are just going to end up in an often mismanaged collection and disposal system. Thin plastic sando bags are usually the most sinister of these non-recyclable and – despite their labels – non-biodegradable waste. They also are easy to clog waterways and suffocate other species. They also easily break down to microscopic plastic (microplastic) ingested by fish and other animals. Since humans depend on the meat of these animals, it was just a matter of time until a scientific study confirmed microplastic to be already present and traceable in human feces.

Our city has an ordinance (C.O. 562) passed in 2011 banning the use of single-use plastic bags. If we also dedicated political will to ensure enforcement and community compliance, we would have less mismanaged plastic to deal with. The year 2018 saw a lot of citizen support and awareness for this issue, thanks to the work like of the youth organizations in the city facilitated by Linghod in their campaign #TamaNaAngPlastikanay and #ReimplementCO562Now.

What then stops from our government officials to effectively implement CO 562 so we reduce our residual waste? Why do they keep passing the blame and responsibility to citizens? Why is the city still mixing all sorts of waste during collection when the garbage trucks do clearly say, “No Segregation No Collection”? Why are our fellow citizens not complying? Why are we ‘celebrating’ our waste? It seems like we do not care in the midst of revelry.

These are questions that need to be answered collectively by us who have the opportunity to lead, engage, or work with communities.

Fortunately, in the past month, we have seen establishments in Bacolod City who have decided to do something, no matter how minor. It was not a minor thing for L’Fisher Hotel to heed the call of conscious citizens to postpone their 28th anniversary event, a Balloon Run, due to the fact that balloons are a residual waste and it is no longer a good business practice to remain ignorant. They turned things around by meeting with advocates and working out another concept for a run without wasting through single-use items.

Sugarland Hotel is leading the business community in another way. On its own, the Sugarland management is determined to reduce waste by avoiding plastic straws in their beverages, and by auditing and reflecting on their waste management in a “Wala Usik” Workshop in partnership with SWEEP.

Advocates are coming up with maps of these business establishments like cafes and restaurants who are raising awareness and innovating practices – I soon will share these in this column. We also need maps showing where our recyclables deposit points are, and where corporations ought to strategically place their recyclables bins.

Mapping out local government units with strong solid waste management practices would be beneficial too, to inspire other communities to step up in their political will through infrastructure, enforcement, and community education. Sipalay City, for example, is going to hold in November 2018 a “Wala Usik” Workshop for Festivals and Events under their jurisdiction. This is powerful and it will only be a matter of time when other local leaders will see the value of such “Wala Usik” mindset. It will make sense to business, government, and the environment.

It has never been easier in this time of history to travel to other countries where waste management is a priority for governments, businesses, and communities. One does not even have to travel to see these; on the Internet, we will see people in other parts of the world working for solutions to the global garbage problem. We always ask in discussions – why can’t Filipinos, Bacolodnons, Negrosanons, do the same?

There are many layers in any answer to that. One thing that has been pointed out is that in those other countries where people do sort their trash and understand the necessity for practices like segregating for recycling, reduction of waste, composting – their education (or conditioning?) has started at least two generations ago, maybe in the late 80s or early 90s. Filipinos have just begun to grasp these practices. This gives us something to look forward to. We need to go on and on about this topic, in the media, in the kitchen, in classrooms, in Sanggunians, in Facebook, so that it will be the norm for the next generation to be more conscious of the garbage we generate and deal with.

Then perhaps in the future, we can celebrate a zero-waste, zombie-free MassKara.


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