Plastic is not fantastic: 7 ways to reduce your disposable plastic use
Written by Mikee Pascual
Four months ago, the waters of South Cebu became my office. I spent my time swimming on the surface of Moalboal, Pescador Island, Sumilon Island, Bato Beach, and Lambug Beach until I found enough courage to trade my life vest for fins and discover what lies underneath with only one breath to keep me company.
The first four exhibited shows of sardines whirling like a muted tornado, Hawksbill turtles, like the ones found in La Union, feeding on seagrass, a juvenile black-tip reef shark disguising over the corals, and huge sea urchins strutting its spines like guns ready to shoot my feet. However, the magical shows ended when I transferred to Lambug Beach.
Do you remember Manny Villar’s campaign jingle back in 2009 that sings, “Nakaligo ka na ba sa dagat ng basura?” That’s close to what I did there. I swam there for a week and every dive entailed sightings of a 1.5-liter bottle of Coke, plastic cups, plastic bags, and even a goddamn sanitary napkin. Do you see the great equalizer of them all? Disposable plastics.
You see, we may free our hands from the disposable plastics right after we use them, but keep in mind that they will linger forever from where we left them. In fact, a Yoplait yogurt plastic carton unearthed itself from the soils of the Earth to prove this. It showed up on a beach in Florida and surprised everyone with a text that says, “Je yaourt officiel des Jeux Olympiques de 1976” or “Official yogurt of the 1976 Olympics Game.” It’s 2017 and the plastic carton is still alive after 41 years. What is more, it will still live up to 409 years before it finally degrades. Yup, used once, lasts forever.
If we don’t reduce our disposable plastic use, a report warns that our oceans could have more plastics than marine life by 2050. We are 33 years close to that point, and it is gradually happening because of our continuous irresponsible stewardship. But it is not too late to fix the mess we made and to make our Mother Earth proud.
Here, I listed the commonly used disposable plastics and how to reduce using them through their respective alternatives.
Live the Queen Bee life through beeswax cloth wraps
Plastic bags have become the icon of convenience not only in our household but also in every establishment there is. They make a good container for iced candies, keep our sandwiches clean, store frozen meat, and hold our grocery items together, to name a few. They are without a doubt a great help, but the negative impacts they bring are also a great threat to the environment. They clog drainage systems, release toxic fumes when burned, and kill animals. Say plastic bags that end up in the bellies of whales and turtles because they look like gustatory jellyfishes.
While alternatives to plastic bags are quite limited to eco bags and brown paper bags, we could use beeswax cloth wraps to keep and carry our food around. They have a year-long lifespan and can be maximized for fruits, pastries, vegetables, cheese, and other meal packs. To purchase your own, click here.
#StopSucking: Battle with the straw wars
Straws can pass as the OG of the old adage, “Small but terrible.” They let us enjoy spill-free drinking sessions and sip on the black pearls from our favorite milk teas. And just like that, their job to help us quench our thirst is done. Hopefully, these straws will make their way to recycling factories. If not, in the trash can or in the ocean.
Over the years, the internet has shown horrifying videos of turtles suffering from pain because of the straw stuck in their nose. If that’s not enough reason to #StopSucking disposable straws, I don’t know what else will.
A lot of people who battle with the straw war came up with disposable straw alternatives such as glass, bamboo, and metal straws. To purchase your own, click here.
Bring your own food containers, utensils, and tumbler
When the situation calls for barkada get together, family outings, and traveling, it’s best to bring our own food containers, utensils, and tumbler. Sure, paper plates and other disposables will save us from all the carrying and dish washing duties, but it won’t hurt to go beyond the mile to protect Mother Earth. Little did we know, these alternatives will also save us from shelling out a lot of money because these are washable and reusable. The best thing? These can be found in the convenience of our kitchen. But if you are lacking some, Tupperware and stainless steel utensils are easily available in major shopping malls and supermarkets. To purchase a trusty tumbler or reusable cup, click here.
Ask for mugs instead of plastic cups when in coffee shops
A lot of coffee shops are joining the movement in reducing disposable plastic use now. One of which is Starbucks, where signages like “We have a new partner for reducing cup waste. You,” are found over the counter. Here’s a pro tip: They also have an option to put your drink in a mug. All you have to do is to ask for it because from experience, they won’t initiate or ask unless you tell them to do so. Don’t worry, your drink will still be Instagrammable!
When life gives you plastic bottles, make eco-bricks
An innovative way to repurpose plastic bottles finally came in the Philippines through the environmental movement called The Plastic Solution. They encourage people to fill up plastic bottles with their wastes not only to make eco-bricks out of them but also to raise awareness on how much waste an individual produces every day. Any waste can go in it: shampoo sachets, cigarette butts, junk food wrappers, name it! But be sure to follow some of the following guidelines on making your own eco-bricks:
1. Find 500ml to 2L bottles.
2. Cut your wastes into pieces. It’s therapeutic, I tell you.
3. Stuff them tightly.
4. Don’t forget to include the outer label of the bottle. It’s also a plastic!
5. Make sure they are clean and dry.
6. Spread the word to your friends and community.
7. Drop off your eco-bricks in their drop off locations.
If you have stayed in The Circle Hostel during your trip to La Union or to any of their branches, you have probably seen and done this practice in the peripheries of the hostel, especially in their shared bathroom.
“A word on #bottledwater. Through the years, we have heard a lot of people say "We don't want #LaUnion to become the next tourist trap", clearly learning from the cautionary tales of #travel destinations gone bad. One way to achieve this ideal is for food business owners to limit or refuse the sale of bottled water, rather giving clean water away as an affordable service. Why? Because clean drinking water is a basic human right. And our customers spend their days on the beach, and need hydration. And we need to use less single use plastics. And so on. Don't misunderstand: We love tasting the diverse and delicious mineral waters of the world! But for basic hydration? Please, bring your reusable containers and fill up on free ice cold water at El Union for free, any time. Damn the man,” shared the Philippines' most and least serious coffee company on an Instagram post.
Bring a reusable eco-bag whenever you shop
This one is the easiest habit to start. Simply stash a reusable bag in your car and in your bag so that you can use it whenever you go to the mall to pick up your favorite products from your favorite stores. When doing your groceries, make sure to bring enough bags for your usual supply. If you prefer going to the market, be old school chic with a colorful bayong or a native woven bag.
Change of habit comes with a change of heart
I know, bad habits die hard. We have grown accustomed to disposable plastics, and going back to their comforts can be tempting because they are accessible and affordable.
The decision to make a change and to keep up with that change are tough acts to maintain, but when we backup our change of habit with a change of heart, everything will easily fall into place. We will definitely get “the look” and eyebrow raises from the people around us by practicing these, but do them anyway. Together, our baby steps on reducing disposable plastic use are making the world a better place and that’s all that really matters.