Editorial: Replace single-use-of-plastic mentality

Editorial: Replace single-use-of-plastic mentality
Editorial Cartoon by John Montecillo

On a busy working day, traffic at the UN Avenue in Mandaue City was sluggish. A crew was clearing out a canal.

The miniature mountain excavated by the workers was almost entirely made of PET plastic bottles used for mineral water and soft drinks.

When confronted with evidence, we are astounded that modern lifestyle has reached unimaginable levels of heedlessness.

“Lifestyle” is an ironic tag for patterns of production, consumption and disposal that harm all forms of life in our planet. That includes human life.

Can we create a culture that is consciously aware of toxic behavior and averts creating a negative impact on the environment and by extension, all life?

The heat wave spikes the need to drink water. Bottled water has replaced newspapers, cigarettes, and candies that used to be the staples of street hawkers plying their trade to drivers.

Advocates for quitting the single use of plastic products urge citizens to bring their water in containers they can safely refill.

Yet, given the ease with which a commuter can buy bottled water or the cheaper alternative offered by sidewalk Automatic Tubig (Water) Machines (ATMs), which dispense water in plastic bags that are inevitably thrown away, citizens must cooperate and bring with them their used PET plastic bottles for proper segregation and disposal.

A person may assume that a street cleaner will always take away the PET plastic bottle left on the street, tossed out of the window, inserted in a bush.

Thus, a simple civic act takes time to develop into a culture of ecological consciousness. Constant criticism from the pulpit and the media whittled down the heedless waste disposal practiced by some Sto. Niño devotees who joined the Grand Procession culminating the January novena.

Decades ago, the procession route was marred by the trail of trash that devotees left in their wake. Discarded PET plastic bottles used to be collected by trash resellers.

In recent years, there is a noticeable reduction of street litter, with many devotees bringing water containers and stashing into their bag their trash, mindful of the mobility risks the PET plastic bottles and other food waste pose to the elderly, disabled, or persons bringing infants, children or heavy statues of Cebu’s Patron.

Yet, citizens’ efforts are paltry if the government does not take a more progressive and aggressive stance on waste management.

According to an Aug. 25, 2022 article posted on the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) website, South Korea’s bid to be free of plastic by 2050 is jumpstarted again with its reinstatement in 2022 of the ban on plastic cups in cafes and restaurants, followed by a prohibition on plastic utensils and straws in 2023. These measures were suspended during the pandemic.

In Taiwan, waste reduction and recycling are incentivized, with citizens mindful of throwing away since the government implements a “Pay as you throw” system, with trash priced according to the size of the rubbish bag. According to the same BBC article, the average Taiwanese produces 850 grams of waste per day, a significant decrease from 1.2 kilograms per person in 2003.

Our government should learn from best practices. It is urgent that we move beyond merely excavating for the discarded PET plastic bottles that clog our canals and waterways.

According to the BBC article, Asia produces 54 percent of the world’s plastics in 2019. China and Japan lead in the production of plastics.

Along with China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, the Philippines is part of the Big Five, responsible for approximately half of the plastic waste found in the oceans.

Microplastics have been detected in blood, placenta and breast milk, reported the BBC.

From this standpoint, the plastic clogging our canals and causing flashfloods with the onset of the wet season is the least of our problems.

We must reduce our single use of plastics now.


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