LAST month, a dead whale found in Mabini, Compostela Valley yielded 40 kilos of plastic in its stomach including 16 rice sacks, four banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags.

American biologist Darrell Blatchley, director of the D’ Bone Collector Museum, said the whale died from starvation and was unable to eat because of the trash filling its stomach. In August 2018, a dead whale shark found in Tagum City also had plastic cups, food wrappers and other pieces of plastic in its stomach.

Plastics have polluted our oceans and have been ingested by marine animals. Even the deepest and most pristine waters have not been spared by plastic trash. An exploration by the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior revealed that our very own Verde Island Passage, declared as the “Center of the Center of Marine Shorefish Biodiversity”, has already been invaded by plastics.

It is heartbreaking to know that we Filipinos are one of the top polluters of the ocean (though some groups dispute this). According to the Earth Day Network’s statistics in 2018, the Philippines is ranked as the third largest contributor of plastic waste to global waters, after Indonesia and China. Another report from the UN Environment stated that there were five countries that have contributed much to pollution such as China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

A recent study done by Global Anti Incineration Alliance (GAIA) estimated that the average Filipino uses 591 pieces of sachets, 174 shopping bags, and 163 plastic labo bags, yearly. That equates to a daily usage of almost 48 million shopping bags and 45.2 million pieces plastic labo bags throughout the Philippines. In addition, around three million diapers are discarded in the Philippines daily, or 1.1 billion diapers annually.

Just how much is the cost of all the plastic pollution in our oceans? A team of researchers from the UK and Norway came up with a mind boggling estimate. The cost of plastic pollution to society is around $500 billion to $2.5 Trillion per year. How did they get this figure? They looked at ways in which marine ecosystems benefit the planet, including food provision for billions of people, carbon storage, waste detoxification, and cultural benefits. When these benefits are threatened by the presence of plastic, it “has the potential to significantly impact the wellbeing of humans across the globe, owing to the loss of food security, livelihoods, income and good health.”

The researchers suggest that plastic is responsible for a 1 to 5 percent decline in the benefit humans derive from the oceans. With plastic costing the planet anywhere from $3,300 to $33,000 per ton in reduced environmental value, and using estimates from 2011 that the oceans contained between 75 and 150 million tons of plastic at that time, the $500 billion to 2.5 trillion price tag was reached.

As one of the top contributor to ocean plastic, it’s time to avoid sachets, plastic bags, plastic bottles and straws.