Is Plastic the Real Enemy?

By: Anna Varona
 
Plastic was introduced as a material to save elephants from extinction. It became an alternative to ivory which was used to make billiard balls, mahjong pieces and piano keys. Due to their flexibility, durability, weight, waterproof qualities, and cheap cost in manufacturing, technology found a way to use plastic in a multitude of products that made life easier for humans.  We are now paying that environmental price as 8 Million tons of plastic is dumped into the Ocean every year.

In the Philippines, 74% of the plastics in the ocean come from irresponsibly handled garbage.


How do we start?


Take a look at your bathroom and check how many products you have packaged in plastic. The gadgets we find ourselves attached to like computers, tablets or cellphones are primarily made out of plastic. When you become more conscious about your lifestyle and what you buy, it will determine where you start lessening your plastic consumption.


Is there really such a thing as biodegradable plastic?


Biodegradable is a term used for the plastic bag that disintegrates.  Sadly, out of sight does not necessarily mean that it’s not there.  Biodegradable plastics use plastic powder for structure and corn starch as a binder.  When the corn starch disintegrates, the plastic powder may land and contaminate the soil, it ends up in the air or in the ocean that creates 2/3rds of the air we breathe.  A recent study mentioned that there is an average of 70 pcs of plastic micro-beads found in one mussel each.  The UN Environment Program says biodegradable plastics are not the answer to reducing marine litter.


How do we lessen our plastic use then?


This becomes a lifestyle that requires you to be conscious about plastics. Always bring a reusable straw with you.  Take a refillable drink container when you go to your favorite coffee shop or ask for your drink to be served in a mug. 
When shopping, bring a reusable shopping bag and refuse plastic packaging. If you’re forced to use plastics while out, bring them home, wash it and have it picked up for recycling.  Always make an effort to
segregate and recycle.

Ask to have meat, chicken or fish wrapped in paper or better yet bring your own container.  Most shops are happy to fill them.  Some vendors give discounts or freebies when you have your own container.  I’ve heard that fruit and vegetable taste better when they haven’t been wrapped in plastic. 

Things we take for granted like the mechanism used to flush our toilet, medical equipment such as IVs and needles, are mostly made out of plastic. Out of the 56 liter containers of plastic that CoOp collects in Ayala Alabang, only 2% of it can be considered garbage. Most of it were paper labels that weren’t scraped off the bottles, a couple of metal caps, and the lining underneath the bottle caps.  Plastic is not an enemy.  It is our lack of management.