In an event held this morning at the busy Prime Block in Tutuban Center, Divisoria, City of Manila, EcoWaste Coalition members and volunteers paraded while wearing plastic bags bearing the slogan “Are you plastic? Go reusable!” in the midst of flashing placards and a huge streamer with similar calls to do away with plastics and go for reusable bags and containers this Christmas.
The slogan “Create Love not Trash on Christmas Day” on the huge streamer served as a fitting background to the tableau presented before the parade, which shows Santa Claus presenting 2 choices: a waste- and plastics-free Christmas represented by the use of bayong, cloth bags, and other reusable carry bags and containers or a wasteful Yuletide season characterized by plastic bag-wearing participants. Christmas carols echo the banner call with lyrics celebrating a zero waste Christmastide.
“Time and again the Yuletide season remains to be among, if not the most wasteful, festivity that the Filipinos celebrate, contrary to the profound simplicity of the first Christmas observance in a humble manger in Bethlehem, totally waste-free, if I may use the expression,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.
According to Vergara, the Coalition would like to highlight this time the issue of disposable plastics as these continue to be the most stubborn and persistent trash generated year in, year out.
“What’s sad and annoying is, disposable plastic carry bags and wrappers are normally used just once by many of us, and immediately find their way into streets, canals, drainage systems, rivers, the ocean, and dumpsites and landfills to create environmental and health havoc for hundreds of years,” explained Vergara.
Vergara asserted that “the season of love, joy and giving should not be celebrated in a shallow manner by flashing fancy smiles and talking empty greetings, while the One whose birthday we celebrate must be looking down on us sadly as we trash His creation in frenzy with our Christmas trash.“
According to the EcoWatch website, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide each year.
In the July 2014 waste audit in Manila Bay, conducted jointly by green groups including the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Mother Earth Foundation, plastics have been reported to comprise 61.9 percent of the flotsam, with plastic bags topping the list at 23.2 percent followed by composites or plastic wrappers at 18.8 percent.
But the plastics story is not all sad: Some local governments appear to be heeding EcoWaste Coalition’s anti-plastic bag calls by passing plastic bag ban and/or regulation ordinances.
In Manila, City Ordinance 8282, which was signed and approved on September 3, 2012 bans the use of any form of plastic bags on dry goods and regulates its use on wet goods. It also prohibits the use of polystyrene and similar materials as containers for food and other products.
Very recently, the European Union joined the anti-plastic bag caravan by passing a policy that aimed to cut Europe’s throwaway plastic bag use by 80 percent over the next decade.
The Coalition stressed that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 highlights a provision mandating the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to make a list, for prohibition, of non-environmentally acceptable products (NEAP), where disposable plastic packaging and containers fit very well.
“We call on the NSWMC to do its job well by putting disposable plastics in the NEAP list where they belong. We urge the public to join us in pushing the commission to do just that. Who knows, next year’s Christmas might see a wane in disposable plastics,” Vergara added.