We are living in the Anthropocene, our planet’s current geological age where human activity has a dominant influence on climate and the environment. According to sustainability experts, we only have 50 years to make the changes needed to ensure the wellbeing of Earth for the next 10,000 years.
Manmade activities have created a peculiar mark in the era that we live in: plastics. They are everywhere and present in the everyday, providing us convenience in food, health, shelter, logistics, and even fashion. Unfortunately, we have to pay for the convenience that plastics have to offer. Excessive use results in plastics being buried in our oceans and lands, literally creating a layer in Earth that marks our time.
According to a 2015 United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study, the Philippines wastes 6,237,653 kg of plastic per day, making the country among the top five countries in the world that contribute to half of the plastic wastes in the ocean.
Common types of plastic wastes include cigarette butts, drink bottles and caps, wrappers, grocery bags and disposable drinkware (lids and straws).
The Philippines, being a country that patronizes sachets around the clock, has a long way to go when it comes to being zero waste. But baby steps, according to environmental groups, go a long way.
“The zero waste goal is surely challenging but it’s not impossible,” said Chinkie Golle, executive director of environment group Interface Development Interventions (IDIS).
“I am optimistic that in the future if not too soon, we can really be a zero waste country. We just have to continue to call for change: in our lifestyles and in manufacturers’ packaging. There are many alternatives to sachets: we can opt to buy in bulk using environment-friendly packaging or we can buy from local producers that encourage us to bring our own containers,” Golle said.
The trick is to stop waste at the source: if we change the way we interact with plastic by living with the environment in mind, we will have little to worry about when it comes to waste segregation, transportation, and disposal, which takes space in our landfills.
The new year gives us a chance to a fresh start—January is Zero Waste month and we can do so much to make a difference.
Bring your own – Using your own metal straw has become trendy and this is great. We can go the extra mile by saying no to single use plastic.
“I always bring my own tumbler, straw, spoon and fork in my bag—they help me avoid using single use plastics in meetings or whenever I eat outside,” said Golle. Some green stores and restaurants also give rebates and discounts to customers who opt out plastic.
Participate in recycling events – recycling markets are a good way to promote the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle practice by engaging peers and people in proper waste disposal and management. Try rounding up all of your plastic waste and see what you can do with them in your community materials recovery facility. Or better yet, contribute to efforts of local companies who upcycle. Winder Recycling Company in Sasa, for example, turns plastic waste into school chairs!
Eat right – Order the right food and in the right amount. Doing so minimizes food waste. Being mindful of where you eat also helps you consider the plastic wastes involved in food. Water in plastic bottles are reported to contain micro plastics while food in styrofoam containers have higher dioxin levels, which are both dangerous to your health. So be good to the environment by avoiding these kinds of packaging; in turn, you’re being good to yourself as well.
Love local and go package-free – What’s better than having the right packaging? No packaging! Buy local or head to package-free stores. For example, the Croft Bulk Foods, located at the Paseo Uno building in Marfori Heights, invites you to bring your own container when shopping. Their products include plant-based food, toiletries, even detergents so you can get rid of all those plastic bottles and sachets!
The palengke is also a good idea!
“I shop in the palengke for veggies, fruits, fish, meat, spices, etc and use my eco bag or bayong,” said Golle. “Usually walay packaging sa palengke kaya pwede ra jud zero to very minimal na plastics ang magamit. I bring reusable plastic for meat and fish para no need na for additional plastic.”
Plan your activities – Doing so helps you foresee which things you are going to use so you can avoid single use plastics by bringing your own containers and/or utensils if you would ever need one. This could then develop into a habit making it easier for you to plan bigger meetings, events, gatherings, and even parties in the future.
Make your own – You know what’s also exciting? Growing your own food! “We grow veggies, herbs and native chicken in our house kaya we also have alternative source of food,” said Golle.
Join the conversation – Share tips and practices through social media groups like the Muni Community, #AyokoNgPlastik, and Buhay Zero-Waste.
We have a long way to living zero waste but if we do it together, we can do so much better!