[OPINION] A call to Libmaneños: Let’s start refusing plastic

Rosemarie De Castro
I believe that it's high time for the municipality of Libmanan to help address our plastic problem and act for the future generations of Libmaneños

Since last year, it has been my mantra to not use plastic if avoidable. I also advocate others to do the same, as well as be knowledgeable on how single-use plastics can affect the environment. As a college student who keeps a close eye on her expenses and who studies in a town that has a regulating policy on single-use plastic, it was possible for me to practice my advocacy. (READ: LIST: Zero-waste initiatives in the Philippines)

But then I realized that may not be the case for others.

When I came home last Sunday to Libmanan in Camarines Sur after staying for a whole semester in Los Baños, my mother and I went to Sentro and Talipapa to buy some goods that we needed for our house.

While buying, I noticed that every stall gave away at least two plastic bags to pack the goods we bought.

I tried convincing my mother to refuse them by telling her that we would only use them once. I also told her about the impact they would have on us and future generations, which I learned from class, books, and videos. But she dismissed me by saying, “Dae man ‘yan. Saka ano man ang sirbi kung kita man lang ang magibo kaini kung halos gabos man nagigibo?” (What is the use of us refusing plastic when everyone does not do it?) 

When we came home, I noticed we had more or less 7 pieces of plastic from that trip alone.

Of course, I was not shocked. I’ve lived here all my life. I know for a fact that plastic has been part of our lives and our community. This experience, however, led me to a few realizations that I wanted to share with all of you. These are:

  1. You cannot simply change overnight something that is a part of your lifestyle. That is the same as removing plastic from your life. Although I started being a responsible consumer, I still sometimes find myself using plastic, which though inevitable is something we can also slowly minimize and avoid.
  2. Even if you have convinced yourself to change your lifestyle, you cannot force others to do the same. Likewise, it is impossible to convince everyone, even your family members and relatives, to refuse plastic because it has been a part of their lives. Plastic being an ideal packaging material for its lightness, strength, ability to secure items, inexpensiveness, and convenience, it is just hard to remove it in our daily lives so easily.
  3. It is elitist to push people to buy in bundles or in huge volumes because not everyone can afford it. That is why we should all think of alternatives and not try to be pushy about living a zero-waste lifestyle when we continuously campaign for it. (READ: How to kickstart a zero waste lifestyle without spending on new things)
  4. People still think that climate change does not exist because they feel that they are not experiencing it despite suffering from the effects of it, like frequent typhoons that cause excessive flooding and unusual weather conditions (e.g., hot during rainy seasons). Thus, there is still a lack of awareness about the consequences of the mindless use of plastic as well as climate change, although these are featured everywhere in campaigns and are supposed to be taught inside classrooms.
  5. If there is a policy on environmental concerns, it is not being implemented effectively or properly.

Given this, I call on:

  1. Consumers and individuals to continuously educate ourselves about the impact of plastic and its contribution to climate change, and be mindful about excessive consumption. If one cannot refuse, then one can always reuse. We can explore and choose alternatives such as bringing eco-bags or bayongs, demanding that business establishments draw up plans to switch to eco-friendly packaging, and reminding ourselves that our little actions can create positive collective action. (READ: How an online community encourages Filipinos to try ‘buhay zero-waste’)
  2. Schools to create platforms that will mobilize students to start campaigns on zero-waste.
  3. Business establishments like Xocio Supermarket to offer more ways or options for customers to avoid single-use plastics. For example, offering eco-bags as an alternative to plastic shopping bags can greatly help.
  4. Libmanan Municipal Mayor Bernard Zaldua Perez Brioso, councilors, and barangay officials to conduct more seminars and campaigns on climate change and zero-waste awareness in different barangays; give incentives to establishments that explore alternatives to plastic to encourage businesses to innovate; legislate ordinances to ban and/or regulate plastic use in hopes of changing the attitude of locals toward plastic consumption; craft plans that are feasible; and decisively implement RA 9003, also known as Ecological Solid Waste Management.

Why do we need to do all of these? Because the urgency is undeniable. Some of the plastic waste from households are carried on to our water streams, most importantly to Libmanan River, which causes it to overflow and consequently trigger excessive flooding in surrounding areas. The recent flooding caused by Typhoon Tisoy should serve as a wake-up call and a grim reminder to everyone.

Plastic is a major problem in the Philippines. According to the 2019 report of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shipping bags, and thin-film bags daily. (READ: How going zero waste is addressing PH’s plastic pollution)

Naga City, along with other municipalities and cities, have joined the move to address this problem. (READ: Philippine city shows zero waste is achievable)

That is why I believe that it’s high time for the municipality of Libmanan to do the same and act for the future generations of Libmaneños. There are many ways to zero waste, and we are not limited to those that I have mentioned above. We can all do our part little by little. What matters is we start. – Rappler.com

Rappler is building a network of climate advocates, LGUs, corporations, NGOs, youth groups, and individuals for the #ManyWaysToZeroWaste campaign, a movement pushing for responsible ways to use and reduce plastic. Go here to know how you can help.

Rosemarie de Castro is a Rappler mover from Libmanan, Camarines Sur. She is also a Development Communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.