TURNING POINT: Overcoming the Plastic Curse: The 5 Rs

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/1 April) – We may be able to diminish the volume of plastic wastes in the environment if we manage to reduce, re-use, refuse, replace and recycle plastics.

Reduce.

Avoid as much as possible the use of plastics that is not reusable, meaning its utility is lost after one use. These are the like of the plastic sando bags in the wet market that are handed to you with your purchases of fish, meat and other wet goods.

Re-use.

Put back to use plastic bags you receive free with your purchases in malls and other shopping venues.

Refuse.

Refuse to take any additional plastic home by bringing your own reusable plastic containers every time you go to the wet market. And your eco-bags or reusable plastic bags in shopping for dry goods.

In reporting to work and in short trips, bring with you your own drinking water in reusable receptacles. By so doing, you save some dough and avoid the purchase of drinking water in throw-away plastic bottles.

Avoid dining in restaurants that still use styropor food holders and plastic cutlery.

Stop buying any goods contained in sachet like shampoo and coffee.

Replace.

Replace plastic bags with biodegradable native equivalents.

To diminish if not eliminate plastic receptacle wastes in our environment, use glass receptacles for keeping liquids and medical products. Use hand-carry containers made from native materials like rattan, bamboo baskets, bayong (woven palm-leaves handbag), and abaca or cotton bags and knapsacks.

Promoting the use of reusable, biodegradable receptacles and carry bags may yet create backward and forward linkages to produce the products and provide employment and livelihood opportunities especially to rural communities.

Recycle.

Slightly damaged plastic boxes and water receptacles may be converted into vegetable or flower boxes.

Plastic soda and water bottles may be halved lengthwise and filled with water and strategically positioned in your garden or yard to serve as drinking and bathing tubs for small birds especially during this scorching summer.

There is a beneficial way to get rid and make thin plastic wastes to good use. According to a study, thin sheet plastic wastes could become compost. They simply would be shredded or chopped very thin together with biodegradable market (vegetable and fruit refuse) and garden wastes. They are then mixed with soil, covered and wetted daily. Putting earthworms in the mix may yet hasten and produce quality compost.

Meanwhile, the local government units with the support of the national government may effectively halt the plastic ruin of the environment via legislation and enforcement. A tandem of national and local legislation banning the production and distribution of one-use plastic receptacles, bags and packaging materials is imperative first step.

The next step is for the government to mandate every plastic manufacturing plant in the country to establish its own recycling facility. After all, plastics can, accordingly, be recycled 6 times.

But if only to hasten, the clean-up of the environment, the government itself may allocate funds to establish plastic recycling plants in strategic locations of the country; perhaps, one such facility in every 2 neighbouring provinces may be sustainable. A plastic recycling facility in Las Pinas, Cavite, that converts reportedly soft plastic wastes into school armchairs, may yet serve as model for the enterprise.

To ensure material inputs to the plants, a plastic wastes collecting station may be organized in every town, to be managed, possibly, by the LGU’s Municipal Economic Enterprise Development office (MEEDO). To encourage and ensure collections, the MEEDO may pay some amount to every kilogram of plastic wastes brought to the collecting station. The LGU may allocate funds for the purpose that may be sourced from environmental tax it may impose on business establishments.

Accordingly, the above model of recycling facility may produce a 13-kilogram chair out of every 30 kilograms of raw material of mixed soft plastic. Such a chair has a utility life of 20 years with parts that are replaceable if broken.

Imagine, how many trees we can save and how our rivers, lakes, seas and our forests are made clean and beautiful again by the entire waste management measure.

We need only to do our part to make a difference.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines)

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