What can we do about plastic pollution

paper straws in bulkEverywhere you go today, you see plastic litter spoiling the scenery, choking drains. In some countries like the Philippines where waste materials are burned first to reduce the volume for the land fill. This results in serious air pollution and emission of toxic gasses. It has been more than half a century now since plastic was invented and became very much a part of our daily existence. But, amazingly, it is only now that we are realizing the devastating residual effect of our dependence on plastic products.

Plastic is a relatively cheap, durable, and versatile material. Resistant to moisture, chemicals, and decay, it has found many uses and has replaced many materials in existing products! Almost 100 million metric tons of plastic are produced each year and more than 1/3 of these (40%) are used for packaging and wrapping. Unfortunately, plastic is non-biodegradable and poses a serious threat to waste management. It should not be allowed to go into landfills. Burning plastic wastes will bring more disastrous effects to the environment and is definitely out of the question! Recycling plastic has remained to be the most practical solution to get rid of plastic wastes, but this too is turning out to be more of a myth!

Recyclers falsely claim that curb side collected plastic wastes are actually reprocessed into new plastic bags and containers. Truth is only virgin plastics (or virgin polymers) are actually used in the manufacture of new plastic bags and containers while the curb side collected plastic wastes are turned into other end products such as traffic signs and road warning devices, fleece clothing, playground equipment, and other building materials. (The contamination level of recycled plastic is simply too high for the recyclate to be used again for food grade packaging purposes.) Recycling will not solve our plastic waste problem and we will really see no end to the onslaught of plastic materials into our environment as long as manufacturers continue unabated in producing more plastic bags and containers daily. What can we do?

  1. Ban the practice of giving free plastic bags to consumers in all commercial establishments.
  2. Impose plastic bag environmental tax or levy.
  3. Prohibit the use of plastic bags (i.e., thin film single-use plastic bags) as “banderitas.”
  4. Phase out and eventually ban plastic sando bags.
  5. Bar the importation of plastic bags and other single-use disposables such as polystyrene food and beverage containers.
  6. Require commercial establishments to offer reusable alternatives to plastic bags.
  7. Direct supermarkets and other retail and wholesale shops to allow their customers to bring and use “bayong” and other substitute containers for goods purchased.
  8. Stipulate producer responsibility and accountability, including a mandatory take back for used bags.
  9. Reinforce the prohibition against the littering, dumping, and burning plastic waste.
  10. Phase out and eventually ban plastic straws and switch to environmentally friendly unwrapped paper straws

Of course such initiatives could take a while before they are realized. The bottom line is stringent laws must be crafted to end plastic pollution everywhere before it leads to a global disaster of our own making. In our own small way, we can contribute to solving this pesky problem of plastic waste pollution – and that is by simply reducing our own dependence on plastic products! In our own little way, we can help curb and ultimately reduce the demand for plastic bags by not using them at all! Instead, let us advocate among our family and friends the use of reusable shopping bags made of cotton. Even better, let us take this advocacy a step further by personally crusading and campaigning against the use of plastic shopping bags and trash bags in public markets and shopping malls. Let us encourage vendors to use biodegradable paper bags, environmentally friendly wrapped paper straws, and wrappers instead. Let us urge everyone to boycott merchants and vendors who refuse to discard the use of plastic bags in their daily business activities!

You’d be surprised how this small step will go a long way in protecting our environment and Mother Earth from a major man-made catastrophe! Make this as your personal advocacy! Get everyone in your family circle involved, and surely miracles will surely happen. Save Mother Earth! Get everyone else you know involved in your endeavor! Be an advocate for Mother Earth.

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