The 88 pounds of plastic trash found inside the belly of a beached beaked whale in Mabini town, Compostela Valley, could be the most grim figure ever documented ingested by a cetacean in a country where the use and disposal of plastic is obviously not a cause for concern. What are we doing to ourselves? This is a question often asked by people who have seen the degradation of our seas over the years and the growing consumer dependency on the use of plastics.
Some 40 or 50 years ago, people still go to the wet market toting a rattan basket to buy fish or meat wrapped in banana leaves.
Mothers used cloth diapers for their Infants and babies, and household wares lasted for decades. Disposables and sachets were not as obscenely ubiquitous as it is today. Some would argue that these contraptions are a sort of compromise we have to endure in the fast-paced lifestyle of this age.
Single-use plastics such as straws, cups and utensils have become so commonplace that consumers do not spare a thought on its disposal. In a 2015 study published at Science magazine, an estimated five million to 13 million metric tons of plastic waste pollute oceans each year, and this figure will increase if nothing is done to manage waste in the land. (http://science.sciencemag.org)
Darrell Blatchley of the D’Bone Museum has been very passionate about proper waste management as small plastic sachets from junk food and candies inevitably find their way to canals that ultimately end in the sea. Plastic debris floating in the sea is mistaken for food, or entangle marine animals such as turtles, oftentimes causing their deaths. According to the study, what is more dangerous is that when debris is exposed to saltwater and sun, and the jostling of the surf, it shreds into tiny pieces that become coated with toxic substances like PCBs and other pollutants. Fish consume the particles and reabsorb the toxic substance. This cycle eventually leads to people eating the fish.
Some local government units such as El Nido in Palawan have already banned the use of single-use plastic to protect its coasts and seas. Residents cooperate knowing that this law also ensures their own economic survival. Davao City has a Solid Waste Management Plan identified in its Comprehensive Land Use Plan (2013-2020) that needs to be implemented.
It is never too late to start saving the seas, our source of life.