MANILA — As the Philippines continue to be the worst plastic polluter in the ocean, with millions of single-use plastics being thrown away everyday, green campaigners and advocates are urging Filipinos to practice zero-waste initiatives and refuse plastic use.
Environment group Oceana Philippines said this should start in Filipino homes, focused on reusing plastic products and the mindset that small changes could make a big impact.
Last month alone, newly-installed Environment Secretary Jim Sapulna announced backing single-use plastics after the pollution became "uncontrollable."
For Oceana's vice president Gloria Ramos, the plastics problem has become a health risk too, even if many individuals still do not think it is not yet alarming.
"If we don’t rethink our strategies, even if the pandemic doesn’t kill us, plastic pollution will,” said Ramos in a statement.
Here are some tips to keep your home plastics-free and environment-friendly, according to Oceana's campaigners :
1. COOK YOUR OWN FOOD
This prevents unnecessary plastic utensils, packaging, from being circulated.
This is good for the health too. Recent studies have shown that around 12,000 chemicals are used in food-contact containers, many of which migrate to the food we eat.
2. FIND ALTERNATIVES
If ordering in will be unavoidable, the advocacy group said consumers should choose food establishments that offer non-plastic packaging. There are several stores in Metro Manila, for example, that have plastic-free deliveries.
Reusing plastic containers can be helpful, most especially when buying wet products in the market. Bringing eco-bags, bayongs, and reusable bags can also reduce plastic leakage in the environment.
A Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) study in 2019 showed that Filipinos use 48 million shopping bags daily or 17.5 billion yearly.
"As long as the mass production of throwaway plastics continues unabated, cities and countries will find it harder and harder to cope," the report read.
4. BUY IN BULK
Buying in bulk prevents more plastics from being used. Oceana suggested that if possible, Filipinos should buy products in bulk and not in sachets.
When buying groceries online or physically, the group proposed that the products might be placed in a box rather than plastic bags.
5. CARRY REUSABLE WATER BOTTLES
When going out, Oceana said it is better to carry reusable bottles or food containers. Bringing own utensils and coffee mugs are also encouraged.
6. USE BEESWAX WRAPS
Instead of using plastic sheets to preserve food or leftovers, Oceana said individuals could prefer using beeswax wraps instead.
While some beeswax wraps can be expensive, these are reusable for up to a year.
7. USE CLOTHS
The group noted that washable cloths could be an alternative to wet wipes when cleaning surface areas or for other use.
While wet wipes resemble a cloth's material, the former gets thrown away easily, piling in our trash.
GAIA, meanwhile, are suggesting zero-waste initiatives, which they said reduces waste output by up to 80 percent. This has been attainable in some 400 municipalities in Europe, they said, while cities in the region and Asia also following suit.
This can be begin through the following:
- Reducing waste generation by being conscious consumers, and by focusing on reuse and repair.
- Separating discards
- Home composting
- Creating new business out of recyclables and organics.
- Educating the public to increase participation in such initiatives.
A manual of the group's zero-waste program for households and the community is available here:
Jorge Emmanuel, adjunct professor of environmental science and engineering at the Silliman University, in March told ABS-CBN News that to address the plastic problem, its production should be gradually phased out.
While recycling can address the problem in the short term, something must be done to guarantee that its production would not go out of hand, he said.
"Recycling is not the solution. It does have . . . play an important role for the interim, for the recyclable plastics that can be safely recycled. We cannot stop the production of plastic tomorrow," he said.
Lawmakers in the House last year passed a measure seeking to gradually phase out the production, sale, and use of single-use plastics, while the Senate passed a bill seeking to make plastic manufacturers accountable for their plastic waste.