Editorial: Plastic pollution

GAIA, a global network of more than 800 grassroots groups, NGOs, and individuals, recently released a study titled Plastics Exposed: How Waste Assessments and Brand Audits are Helping Philippine Cities Fight Plastic Pollution.

The study highlighted the extent of Filipino's use of plastics and the waste they generate. Among the significant findings of the study is "almost 164 million pieces of sachets are used in the Philippines daily, equating to around 59.7 billion pieces of sachets yearly." This story was recently published by some media outlets and went viral.

The report also discovered that the average Filipino uses 591 pieces of sachets, 174 shopping bags, and 163 plastic labo bags, yearly.

Other findings include: everyday, almost 57 million shopping bags are used throughout the Philippines, or roughly 20.6 billion pieces a year; plastic labo bag use throughout the Philippines is at 45.2 million pieces per day, or 16.5 billion pieces a year; and around three million diapers are discarded in the Philippines daily, or 1.1 billion diapers annually.

"These figures show that the sheer volume of residual waste generated daily is beyond the capacity of barangays, cities and municipalities to manage: the problem is the huge amount of single-use plastics being produced, not the way the waste is managed," the study states.

If you have an observant eye, you would notice that sachets, shopping bags, and plastic labo bags are among the items that you can see in piles of trash. Some dead marine mammals that washed ashore in the Davao Gulf also died because of plastic ingestion. In March 2018, 40 kilograms of plastic wastes were found inside the body of a juvenile male Curvier Beaked Whale. Among these plastic wastes are shopping bags.

In April 2019, Darrell Blatchley, D'Bone Museum founder and environmental advocate, posted photos of a clogged canal in Barangay 37-D in Bucana. If you look closely on the photos, you will find that the wastes clogging the canal also included sachets, shopping bags, and plastic labo bags. In the mix are also plastic water bottles.

Something needs to be done on the plastic pollution that we are seeing around us now or face the dire consequences in the future.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation entitled “The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics”, "in a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain one ton of plastic for every ton of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish (by weight)." To put it simply, our seas will be full of trash in less than a century.

In GAIA's report, it proposes that there should be a regulation in place "to reduce and eventually eliminate the production of single-use plastic products and packaging."

Here in Davao City, it is good to note that the Interface Development Interventions (Idis) is drafting a proposal for the total banning of single-use plastics in Davao City.

However, with the packaging benefits of plastics, eliminating single-use plastic products and packaging will be an uphill battle.

For now, one of the best ways we can help reduce the plastic pollution in our country, is by changing our lifestyle. For example, replacing plastic bags with reusable bags, opting for bar shampoos instead of sachets, and even opting for a large bottle of shampoo or dishwashing liquids instead of sachets.


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