HOW DO you celebrate Zero Waste Month?
January is an important month for many since it signifies the end of the previous year and the beginning of a new chapter. It is also a reminder for us to think about the impacts of our actions on the environment, as January has been declared as Zero Waste month under Presidential Proclamation No. 760, series of 2014.
Our day-to-day actions are either beneficial or have negative impacts on our planet. Every Filipino on average, produces 0.3 kilograms to 0.5 kilograms of solid waste. The more waste we produce daily, the more we contribute to other environmental crises besieging our planet such as resource depletion, pollution, ecosystems loss and climate change.
Simple actions to address garbage problems start at our own home. Biodegradable waste makes up more than half of our household solid waste. If we practice segregation and composting, we can already eliminate 50% of the volume of our garbage by diverting organic waste for composting. We also prevent these organic materials from ending up in dumpsites and landfills, thus eliminating the production of greenhouse gases that contributes further to the climate crisis. I live in a high-rise condominium so our option is to do composting using pots and used containers in our small balcony. The compost that we produce is used as a supplement to our small vegetable garden.
To manage our non-biodegradable waste, it is always ideal to, first of all, cut down on our residual waste or those types of materials that cannot be recycled, such as plastic bags, plastic straws, sachets and other disposables. For materials that can be recycled, make sure to clean them properly before giving them or selling them to neighborhood recyclers or waste workers. Outside of our homes, we should always refrain from throwing trash indiscriminately or leaving them in public places such as park benches and tables.
Indeed, all of us have a big responsibility to manage our waste properly. However, bigger actions in solving garbage woes should be taken by corporations especially the top plastic waste polluters. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever and Proctor and Gamble are among the top plastic polluters from 2018-2020, according to the Brand Audit Report recently released by the global movement Break Free from Plastic (BFFP). The report analyzed plastic waste and brands that were collected by BFFP members in beaches, rivers and urban centers in different countries.
These corporations have popularized the use of sachets or small disposable packets for their consumer goods. These sachets are small and lightweight which allows these companies to easily market their brands and scatter their products in every part of the country, even in hard-to-reach villages and islands. However, these types of packaging do not biodegrade, cannot be recycled, have no economic value and are difficult to recover once thrown into the environment.
In the waste and brand audit conducted by EcoWaste Coalition last September in three major urban centers in NCR and Cavite, more than 86 percent of the plastic waste collected were sachets. This illustrates the problematic volume of disposable and problematic plastics in our waste streams that you cannot reuse nor recycle.
With the invention of sachets, corporations were able to reach more consumers and expand their profit extensively. But these same packaging materials are also polluting our oceans and seas, lands and watersheds. The problems and expenses on managing these problematic waste are shouldered by the local governments and taxpayers.
Corporations should be held accountable for the pollution and other impacts left by the waste of their post-consumer products. In Europe and other countries, corporations are required to pay for the cost of management of the solid waste of their products.
BFFP also supports the deployment of refilling stations and systems as an alternative modality for delivering fast-consumer goods to the public. We already have stores in the country that promote such kind of services where customers can bring their containers and buy in “tingi” condiments, alcohol, liquid soaps, perfumes, etc. This type of eco-friendly business practice must be adopted by all manufacturers and corporations especially the top plastic polluters who have the finances to establish and scale up such programs.
Starting this Zero Waste Month, let us do our share. Compost our biodegradables, minimize our waste by turning away from sachets and other disposable plastics, and lastly, support calls to make the top plastic corporate polluters accountable.
Access the full 2020 Global Brand Audit Report at https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/globalbrandauditreport2020/.
(Riedo A. Panaligan is the National Coordinator of BFFP PH, a project collaboration of BFFP groups namely EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA Asia Pacific, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm and Mother Earth Foundation.)