What you throw around will come around
posted 26-Jun-2018  ·  
1,252 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

For years now, the Philippines has ranked as the third worst polluter of the world’s oceans, dumping tons upon tons of plastic waste on a daily basis through rivers and streams, all of it courtesy of its citizens.

It is easy to understand why there is so much plastic lying around the country’s roads, vacant lots, parks, public schools, beaches and everywhere people congregate. For poor people with limited income who naturally prefer cheap products, it is very easy for multinational corporations to flood the market with sachets upon sachets of just about any product from instant coffee to peanuts and shampoo.

Sad to say, majority of these consumers do not realize that buying by “tingi” actually costs more than getting the bigger container. And then they add to the damage to their own future by just throwing away the empty sachets, most of which end up floating in the seas and oceans around us.

A visitor to the supposedly island paradise of Catanduanes who seeks to travel by motorized banca would soon encounter plastic waste floating around the irland, marring what could have been a sea so clear you can see right to the bottom.

Early this year, the municipality of Virac raffled off valuable prizes to residents who exchanged three plastic bottles filled with compacted plastic waste for a ticket. More than a hundred thousand such bottles are now awaiting use in various infrastructure projects such as fences and plant boxes. The town of Pandan got into the act recently, giving away school supplies for similar waste-filled bottles.

But like DENR forest rangers arresting illegal lumber smugglers after they had already cut down the trees in the forest, the plastic-waste-for-ticket scheme will only work to an extent.

While it would surely remove a considerable quantity of the ubiquitous plastic waste from the ocean, the scheme will actually continue to encourage people to buy more of the plastic sachets of the products they use on a daily basis.

To curtail this practice, the government should ban the manufacture of most products packed in plastic sachets it desires to remove the country’s name from the unenviable list of the world’s top plastic polluters of the oceans.

Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect that the Philippines can do away with the use of plastic sachets, wrappers and similar products. Even the prohibition on the use of plastic in supermarkets, grocery stores, and public markets has run into a formidable roadblock: one can’t simply use paper bags to carry wet products such as fish and frozen foods.

At the same time, the government should educate the people to convince them to reduce their use of disposable plastics and properly dispose of the plastic waste they generate.

Just as local government units use patience to encourage their constituents to collect plastic waste, they should equally have the balls to throw the book at those wantonly throwing their waste into our rivers and seas.

If little or no action is done to prevent plastics and other waste from polluting the oceans and the creatures they shelter, there will come a time when people will die from the toxic waste ingested by the fish they eat. As wise men have pointed out before, what you do comes back to you.

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