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Brainstorm: The Next Generation | Plastikan blues

What happens to the empty plastic bottle of mineral water, juice, or softdrinks, after you throw it away? What about the plastic “supot” from the palengke, the shopping bag from the mall and the used sachets of anything from soy sauce and coffee to shampoo and toothpaste?

Much of these SINGLE USE PLASTIC CONTAINERS end up in landfills, which is an environmental problem of its own, but a large part of it, one way or another, ends up in the ocean where plastics are endangering and affecting over 800 marine species.

For example, the whale shark that was found beached and dead near Tagum, Davao del Norte in August last year had eaten plastic food packaging which blocked its gills and stomach.

Estimates of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other environment watchdog organizations show that each year, around 100,000 marine mammals like dolphins, whales and seals are killed by plastic garbage. In addition, over 1,000,000 seabirds and untold millions of fish and other marine life die annually from the same cause.

Did you know that due to the plastic ingested by the seafood that we eat, it is estimated that each one of us eats around a credit card’s worth of plastic every year? Yummy, isn’t it?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the largest of the five large accumulations of ocean trash around the world due to sea currents, wind and other factors, has been estimated to cover an area of 1.6 Million Square Kilometers, or more than SIXTEEN (16) TIMES the size of Mindanao. This vast ocean garbage dump floats somewhere in the Pacific Ocean between our country’s eastern coasts and the Hawaiian Islands.

“So what?! What do I care?” Well, YOU SHOULD!

In addition to our heavy dependence on ocean products for food, many do not know that a healthy ocean produces over half of the world’s oxygen and absorbs fifty (50) times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere.

In fine, if the ocean dies SO DO WE!

“I am a responsible person, I always throw my trash in the trash cans” Good for you but do not be misled, this is simply NOT ENOUGH. A large part, estimated to be around 20% to 30%, of our “collected garbage” still ends up in the ocean.

We have to stop it at the source! We have to minimize, if not eradicate, SINGLE-USE PLASTICS. For example, use reusable water containers for your drinks, bring reusable shopping bags when you go to the grocery and stop buying consumables in sachets! Is it really too much to ask for you to use a teaspoon to mix hot water with coffee, cream and sugar to make a cup of java?

Can it be done? We were used to doing it before the advent of the widespread use of plastic. I still remember the “palengke basket” as a prominent fixture in every household and, instead of sachets for our “tingi” purchases, can we not go back to the old “tinakos” method of buying small quantities of consumables?

As you may have seen in some movies, suffocation by a plastic bag is a horrible way to die but this is essentially what we are doing.

We are suffocating Mother Earth to death and killing ourselves in the process. The fact is that the proverbial hole to breathe through is getting smaller and smaller for our planet and each time we throw away a plastic bag or a plastic water bottle we are making it even smaller.

Just think about that image and maybe, just maybe, you would rather refill your water bottle from the dispenser instead of throwing it away.

Graphic by Caesar Europa
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