Global day vs. waste and incineration

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas -
September 4 came and went without any fanfare. Except perhaps for a group led by Akbayan Party List Rep. Risa Hontiveros who shopped for groceries in one Quezon City supermarket advocating the use of bayongs rather than plastic, the whole world moved on with its routine life and rhythm.

Definitely, despite September 4 being declared the global day versus waste and incineration, people continued and continue to throw unsegregated waste without any thought to the dangers and risks that this careless practice renders to themselves, to other people, and to nature as well.

Everyone is so used to seeing and using plastic everyday, totally unaware or uncaring about "the impact of accumulating plastic bags in the garbage," Manny Calonzo, the convenor of ECOwaste was quoted in yesterday's Philippine Star.

Plastic, oh, plastic, let us count the ways we use plastics. Modern parents are so thankful for the good, old reliable disposable diapers as they no longer have to worry about washing dirty linens, tidying up dirty, smelly tiny butts, or replacing wet linens frequently with drier ones. Monthly periods are also easier to handle now with the strong absorbent plastic shielded sanitary napkins. Groceries are easier to handle and contain with plastic bags. Food also gets to be preserved inside refrigerators inside plastic bags. Even sandwich, drinks, ice candy... name it, many present consumer items come in handy plastic.

Think of millions of us who use plastic everyday and who also throw plastic daily, without properly segregating these. Plastics comprise a very significant percentage of daily waste collected.

And so what, you ask? Why should that concern us when plastics provide us convenience and utility?

Well, okay. We agree that in the short run, plastics may appear very useful and convenient for us all. But in the long run, environmentalists like Calonzo of ECOwaste remind us that plastic bags can take up to 1000 years (that reads a thousand years) to disintegrate. Long after everyone's lifetimes combined together. Calonzo added, plastics will still remain, releasing toxins to the soil and water, obstructing drains, polluting the seas, and entangling and poisoning animals that mistakenly eat these. If burned, plastics release harmful chemicals, such as cancer-causing dioxins that can contaminate humans and the environment, including the food supply.

Hence, according to Gigie Cruz of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, "the plastic invasion of the Filipino culture and society must end as the health and environmental costs of its production and use are too high!"

Okay, that is easy to say and easier still to understand, you say. So what are your bright ideas to replace plastics then?

Bayongs in place of shopping plastic bags. Paper bags instead of plastic sandwich bags. Join and raise the public clamor for business and industry to produce and package their products in eco-friendlier materials. No more plastics please!

Or simply learn to form the habit of segregating your waste at home, in your school, at work, anywhere else. And please, please, do not burn your wastes at home! This practice may be the easiest and you think, the cleanest way to get rid of your wastes. Not at all! The plastics burnt with the rest of your household waste can release toxins into the air and eventually end up hurting the ozone layer, our protective shield from harmful, cancer-causing rays from the sun. You may be alarmed to know that burning wastes is widely practiced throughout Cebu Province!

Please be counted among the wise and sensitive residents of this province and world who shunned away from plastics and incineration, who gave up "speedy conveniences" for the sake of a healthier, more protected, more sustainable earth and world for all.
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