A solution to the global plastic problem is to push for extended producer responsibility, which places the accountability back to manufacturers which sell products wrapped in single-use plastics.
Responsible manufacturers should experiment with and eventually shift to alternative biodegradable packaging, such as wrappers made from cassava, seaweed, even banana leaves.
Project ASEANO's Food Service Industry (FSI) study highlights proven initiatives to reduce the reliance of both manufacturers and their customers on disposable plastics. Below are just some of the many solutions that manufacturers and FSI players can start:
Project ASEANO's FSI report can be freely downloaded along with other studies on plastic waste reduction in our PUBLICATIONS section.
The Imus River originates from the cool highlands of Tagaytay, Silang and Amadeo at a height of 655 meters above sea level before flowing out to the ocean. It is one of six major river systems that pass through the province of Cavite.
Upland portions are still relatively healthy and well-vegetated, with clear, flowing waters inhabited by introduced guppies (Poecilia reticulata), native talangka or river crabs (Varuna litterata), molluscs and a host of other aquatic denizens.
Project ASEANO found the waters of the Imus River to sit well within DENR Class-C standards, confirming its use for fisheries, recreational and agricultural use.
However, the values of phosphates and total suspended solids exceed critical limits, meaning upland pollution must still be curbed.
Here is a close-up of some guppies swimming in the uplands of Silang. Though they are not native to the Philippines (guppies hail from the rivers of South America), the tiny, colorful fish nonetheless eat mosquito larvae, minimizing the spread of malaria and other vector-borne human diseases.
Avoiding single-use plastics altogether is one of the main solutions to curb the global plastic problem.
"Homeowners and residents can refuse (single-use) plastics. There are a lot of things that we can buy without needing to accept plastic packaging," shares Dr. Edwin Lineses, a professor from Cavite.
Homeowners can for instance bring their own tote bags and resealable plastic containers when buying meat or produce at the market.
These habits can further be incentivized by providing residents with a small discount for bringing their own containers.
Shoppers can use resealable hard plastic containers like the ones shown above when buying meat and produce. Retailers and institutions should in turn offer monetary or social incentives to customers who bring their own containers and tote bags. (Unsplash)
To do your part in reducing waste, please remember to bring your own bags and containers when shopping. Little acts of sustainability can eventually turn the tide against plastic.
“I was still in school when I started pawing through old lots, dumps and river banks in a never-ending search for bakal, bote, plastik at dyaryo (scrap metal, bottles, plastic and newspapers). I used a big old sack that weighed so much,” recalls Sherwin Salazar, a basurero or waste picker from Cavite.
Sherwin is now a master of the trade, having been a picker for over 25 years.
“Most Filipinos think pangangalakal is nothing more than a dirty job, but it’s far better than working in other jobs like construction. You become your own boss and control your time so if you put in the hours and effort, you can make a surprising amount of money."
"I’m not ashamed to be called a mangangalakal or basurero. I’m proud of it, because I was able to provide honorably for my family, while putting my children through school. The life of a waste picker is definitely dirty, but if you meet life’s challenges head-on and ask for a little help from above, then it’s really rewarding.”
All sectors are important: the country’s ingenious waste pickers, recyclers and junkshops play a key role in combatting waste.
Supporting waste pickers and recycling facilities converts a significant portion of waste which would otherwise be dumped in landfills or in our rivers and seas, into useful products.
These cottage industries also support the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Filipinos.
“Trash is cash,” explains Arles Gozar, who runs a junkshop in Cavite. “I employ anywhere from nine to 15 people part-time to help pick and pack garbage that waste pickers or mangangalakal bring here.”
Most valuable of all is tanso or copper, sold at PHP355 per kilogramme (KG), followed by sibak or hard plastic (PHP15/KG), bakal or scrap metal (PHP14/KG), yero or corrugated iron sheets (PHP11/KG), bote or plastic bottles (PHP10/KG), lata or tin cans (PHP8/KG) and karton or cardboard (PHP4/KG).
“Many people in this area don’t have jobs. By employing people even part-time, my tiny junkshop helps provide for them and their families. The garbage of others provides a good life for our family – I can even help my relatives from the province when they’re down and out, because we have a little extra.”
Junkshops like Arles’ provide a vital solution in the world’s quest to minimize waste – by recycling, upcycling or otherwise making use of items which would otherwise be bound for landfills and dumpsites, trash is reduced. Less trash means less garbage flowing down rivers whenever a dumpsite floods.
“We’re of course business owners first," concludes Arles. "But in our own small way, we’re doing what we can to help keep our country clean."