TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - May 3, 2019 - 12:00am

A report from The FREEMAN says at least four groups are supporting a proposal by certain Cebu City councilors to ban the use of single-use plastics. They are all being mentally dishonest. They are not really after single-use plastics. They are after the lowly plastic bag. They just want to use the term single-use plastics for effect. It gives the impression of being learned.

What they don't know, or simply refuse to admit, is that most plastic bags now are biodegradable. And more importantly, the plastic bag is one of the most useful and reused item in the human inventory of useful things. It is not a single-use plastic. That is why its manufacture has become a multi-billion-dollar global industry.

Am I defending the plastic bag? No, I am just trying to put things in perspective. Is the plastic bag harmful to the environment? Of course it is, just like so many other things. But only if you allow it to. Two of the most common complaints --they clog waterways and pollute oceans-- have more of the human element in them than plastic.

For one thing, plastic bags, and all other forms of trash for that matter, do not jump into canals, rivers, lakes, and oceans in a deadly polluting spree. As in all other activities destructive to the environment and nature, there is always the human signature in them. It is man who pollutes. Plastics are just an accessory to his crime.

If all that can be done about the problem is a few Cebuano councilmen charging the wrong windmill, with a motley quartet cheering them lustily on, then we are all in for a good laugh. Do these people even know that trees are being cut to provide the paper alternative for plastic bags?

And why is there such an opprobrious disdain for the plastic bag? What about the more obvious single-use items that contain plastic such as sanitary napkins, adult diapers, water and soft drink bottles, to name a few. Why is there not even a passing mention of them?

Is it because these items are being manufactured by even more humongous global industries, with lobby budgets so huge they can even purchase small nations? The fight to save the environment cannot be won by engaging the wrong battles and confronting the wrong enemies.

It can be won only by fully understanding the problem and by fighting on a concerted front. If it is people who pollute the environment, then it is pointless to go after the pollutant and not lift a finger against the polluter. Plastic bags do not jump into rivers on their own. They need people, including councilors, to throw them there.

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