EDITORIAL: Tackling plastic waste

There has been a recent wave of global concern about plastics pollution, especially after China earlier this year announced it can no longer accommodate most of the world’s plastics trash in its recycling industry, and has thus stopped importing them.

The implication of this trend is global and little effort has been undertaken to address the problem on the international stage. Certainly, there no stopping local solutions from being initiated, if only to recognize that the problem is so huge its needs to be addressed immediately.

Studies have established that the plastic pollution problem is mostly all about plastic bottles, materials that will take at least 450 years to decompose. In 2016, the world produced 480 billion of these bottles. (West Side Story, June 19, 2018).

No one has counted yet how much of these plastic bottles have ended up in Palawan’s tourist towns and attractions, but conservatively speaking it will be over a million trash bottles a year, assuming that each tourist alone contributes a piece. This does not included local use and the predominance of other single use plastics like “sando bags” used by commercial establishments – from the smallest talipapa to the giant malls.

Local governments that have attempted to take on this problem have looked into scaling up recycling efforts, guided by the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle.” While some experts have pushed for an even stronger effort to make a more significant dent on the problem, they point out at the same time that there is a need to discourage less production of single use plastics and promotion of biodegradable alternatives, or even promoting a change of lifestyle among people and communities.

The world produces over 6 billion worth of single use plastics a year, and only a small fraction of it is recycled. They eventually end up in the food chain, in the form of so-called micro-plastics.

Local solutions such as the promotion of proper waste management and recycling have not traditionally attracted sufficient political constituency. At least in the case of Puerto Princesa City, there is even a presumption among the key leadership that this is no longer a problem with the advent of its waste-to-energy project currently in the pipeline, a risky proposition that the LGU is willing to take.

A real challenge is now poised upon Palawan’s policy makers to initiate meaningful measures that will addressed plastics pollution, much as it is also in keeping with the province’s branding as a world-class natural attraction for tourism and for being the world’s most beautiful island.

There have been many replicable examples of local government efforts to address single use plastics alone. It is simply a matter of trying and doing.

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