Less Plastic, More Ocean
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Plastic is a substance that cannot be digested by the earth, people or animals. Plastic litter from grocery shopping, takeout orders and food packaging are the main sources of plastic pollution swept into waterways and oceans, where they partially degrade, harming marine life and affecting human health. These plastics could take thousands of years to decompose leaving harmful substances in the earth as they break down. Recycling waste materials is better than landfilling them if, and only if, there are proper solid waste practices observed. However, the best option would be to not generate waste at all.
As concerned members of the public, we are seeking for a development in waste management and reform in strategies with the help of these initiatives:
1. STRICTLY implement the Anti-Littering Law
Philippines have laws enforced through government institutions to regulate behavior and to ensure that the quality of the community is always good. But the one thing that we are always lacking is how we implement the law. Authorities can impose unacceptable fines on littering but if no one bothers to make sure that the law or regulation is fully implemented, people will just keep on ignoring anti-littering rules. People must fully understand why there is such law enforced to them, its corresponding penalties and their rights. One way would be to compel institutions such as schools and hospitals to address littering and receive sanctions if they fail to do so. When it comes to public areas, aside from imposing fines for violators, enforcers in-charge in the area should also receive penalties for any kind of waste they did not fine or issued. Law posters should also be attached to vertical surfaces across the country or reach the public with law messages by replacing the content of bus advertisements or commercials seen in the television. In that way, people will be aware that the Anti-Littering Law is being fully-implemented.
2. Provide Materials Recovery Center to malls across the country
SM Prime Holdings, Inc., is considered be the biggest retail shopping center developer and operator in the Philippines having 61 malls across the country where most Filipino families come together in their free time to exercise their rights as a consumer. Aside from restaurants, banks and stores found in SM and other malls, Robinsons Retail Holdings Inc., pioneered in making government services accessible to people through their malls. They came up with the Lingkod Pinoy Center that includes government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) , Pag-Ibig, PhilHealth, SSS, GSIS, LTO and Comelec.
With the malls intended to serve breadwinners, students, senior citizens and PWDs, it is more convenient for them to go to the mall because everything is almost already there. However, it would be a big help not only to end-user manufacturers but also to the environment if they can also consider bringing into their malls a Materials Recovery Center designed to receive, separate, process and collect compostable and recyclable material efficiently. They can partner up with a recycling company or create their own recovery center. They should also encourage their customers to bring recyclable materials they have at home or the items they got from the mall directly to the center. This can help in addressing littering and reducing the amount of plastic that go into the ocean. Tons of money could also be saved because there is no need to pay for private contractors to collect our own trash.
3. Impound trucks of garbage haulers caught illegally dumping garbage and have proper monitoring of private contractors who collects waste
Some residents and garbage haulers in different areas of Metro Manila continues the illegal practice on the disposal of garbage which violates the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. These causes waste not to be segregated therefore reaches the bodies of water as they are dumped. A good solution here would be to improve the monitoring of waste collectors to know if they reached the area where to properly dispose the garbage or by providing a trash pick-up that works like the on-demand Grab or Uber App providing affordable ride service for garbage and identifies the waste that can be recycled or not before disposing the garbage. In that way, there will be a proper collection and transport of waste that can alao prevent illegal dumping from happening.
4. Regulate the use of plastics in Food Establishments instead of enforcing a plastic ban
Food and beverage packaging produced and used by manufacturers and establishments are visible forms of waste that can be see everywhere. According to a study in 2015 by Natural Resources Defense Council (NDRC), major brands such as Burger King, KFC and Dunkin’ Donuts fails to include recycling in their packaging choices therefore loses them a year of potential savings. These major brands are known in using single-use packaging and makes them a big contributor to marine pollution and it is bad not only to the environment but also to their business.
Most people would think that implementing plastic ban is the best way to solve this but, regulating the use of plastics would be better because a lot of employees who are working in the plastic industry will lose their jobs if plastic ban is implemented. Here are some ways on how to tackle ocean plastic in food establishments aside from phasing out plastics:
a. Encourage Bring Your Own(BYO) or charge extra cents for single-use items
b. Make single-use items certified compostable
c. Offer to refill reusable bottles or mugs for free
d. Stop serving drinks with plastic straws
e. Invest in metal or stainless steel components and eliminate unnecessary items if needed
f. Eliminate single-serving plastic sachets (e.g. ketchup, hot sauce)
g. Buy in bulk/little packaging/packaging-free (if available) items
a. Use refill pitchers and containers made of glass for sugar, salt and pepper, vinegar, hot sauce, etc.
b. Provide ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, etc. in bulk dispensers
a. Get rid of plastic wrap, use parchment paper
b. Prevent from using polystyrene foam
c. Eliminate excess packaging
a. Educate staff by establishing staff policies or providing proper training and educate customers by providing proper training to staff on asking customers (e.g. “Did you bring your own mug?”, “For here or to-go?”)
b. Offer incentives or discounts for customers who complied with BYO
c. Do surveys and ask for recommendations that will address plastic pollution
Human activities have a major role when it comes to waste management. Improper management, garbage crisis, havoc in marine ecosystems and health consequences can be prevented by having a strong implementation on waste management through practicing how to characterize waste and segregation at source, proper collection and transfer of garbage, recycling and composting as mandated by the law and to properly exercise our rights as consumers where we have the freedom to consume plastic-free items to have a plastic-free ocean.
BE ONE WITH US AS WE CHANGE OUR HABITS AND SAVE MARINE DEATHS FOR A BETTER ENVIRONMENT!
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