Local and international news went abuzz a couple of weeks ago about trash illegally dumped in our country finally being shipped back to Canada. It was done out of our government’s prerogative to make a stand against being the fateful trash heap of the Western nation.
In response to the shocking revelation, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to declare a countrywide ban on “harmful single-use plastics” by 2021.
While we all rejoiced in this game-changing effort that led to a First-World Nation cutting down their waste production, we have to ask: how come the Philippines, despite having successfully filed in January of this year House Bill No. 8692 which calls for a similar ban on single-use plastics, has yet to see progress?
And it eventually leads us to think: is it even possible for the Philippines to enforce this ban completely?
Single-use plastics, typically what we find in markets, food establishments, grocery stores, and smaller sari-sari stores, are rarely recyclable and end up polluting our oceans or getting thrown into landfills. Many non-government organizations, advocacy groups, and environmentalists clamor for change in individual lifestyles and corporate programs and policies to decrease single-waste production with the goal of saving the earth.
So how come we don’t feel like we’re progressing?
The answer lies in our local communities.
To economically privileged Filipinos, it’s easy to make the switch to a zero-waste lifestyle. We don’t mind investing time and money on more sustainable and practical purchases, such as insulated water bottles, menstrual cups, beeswax cloth, and bamboo toothbrushes.
But to those who are not as privileged, a zero-waste lifestyle is often out of the question.
Many of Filipinos in local communities only have easy access to the sari-sari store which sells home necessities from bathroom toiletries to cooking ingredients which are all individually packed for their convenience. These individually packed items — sachets, candies, 3-in-1 packets, and the like — are sold for cheap (ranging anywhere between PHP5 to PHP20) for the primary reason that many Filipinos cannot afford to buy in bulk.
Incidentally, sachets and plastic bags were reported to be the leading waste the Philippines produces each day. According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, “Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45 million thin film bags daily.” But can you truly blame them?
In our economic climate, if there are no cheap alternatives or access to education to make millions of Filipinos aware of the gravity of using one shampoo sachet, a complete ban on single-use plastics is unthinkable.
(ALSO READ: Is Going Zero-Waste Really Expensive?)
Does this mean that we should lose hope for a greener future for the Philippines? Of course not!
I believe that if a total ban is not possible in our country (or in any other country, for that matter), what we need to focus our efforts on instead is finding alternatives for single-use disposables and making it accessible to ALL individuals, most especially the poorer communities.
If corporations can come up with greener, biodegradable packaging without raising the costs, if local communities are educated on proper waste disposal, and if our government can just build proper waste management facilities, then all our plastic problems can be solved.
Ideally, this is the solution. It IS possible. But there’s no easy or quick way to get there.
There’s only so much we can do. But in the meantime, we should all continue to do our part to conserve the environment in every way we can and to the best of our abilities.
What’s your opinion on banning single-use plastics in the Philippines? Start a discussion in the comments!