My New Year's resolution: Less garbage in the PH
After the screaming party blowers and fiery blooms of fireworks ignite the sky, the dust settles, and mounds of garbage and fumes welcome the New Year.
The Philippines greeted 2014 – like it has done in past New Year's Eve celebrations – with much revelry, noise, and garbage.
This year, as in any other year, we are all forced to wake up to a haze of gunpower smog and burnt bits of firecracker containers and left-over watusi. The world looks more like a warzone than the scene of a party.
Green group EcoWaste Coalition lamented this unfortunate tradition after their members spotted overflowing garbage when they went through the streets of Metro Manila hours after New Year's Eve.
Firecracker wrappers, leftover food, styrofoam containers, soiled packaging materials, and an overwhelming number of plastic bags – the staggering amount of garbage they found is sure to keep garbage collectors busy.
“Disappointingly, this is the messiness by which we usher in the New Year. And it’s a messiness that is polluting even faraway communities, where such garbage is disposed of in dumpsites or landfills,” observed Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition.
More garbage in 2014
And the garbage situation will only get worse this year.
According to the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), the amount of waste generated by the entire country daily will rise from 38,092 tons in 2013 to 38,757 tons in 2014.
By 2016, the volume of garbage will climb to 40,087 tons.
The garbage generation of the National Capital Region is set to increase to 8,907 tons daily in 2014 from 8,754 tons in 2013.
This need not be the case.
Almost half of Metro Manila's garbage don't need to end up in our already overflowing landfills and dumpsites.
Around 41% of Metro Manila's trash is recyclable. Trash like tin cans, plastic bottles and plastic bags can be reused or converted for other purposes, instead of being discarded.
A good New Year's resolution would be to help reduce the country's garbage volume by reducing the waste generated in your home or workplace.
Clean break, fresh start
You can start by asking which activity in your home or workplace generates the most waste.
If your family likes throwing parties and buys packs and packs of disposable plastic glasses for the guests, consider investing in more durable plastic glasses which you can wash and reuse for the next party.
If you love shopping and thus end up with tons of plastic bags you end up throwing out, why don't you buy cloth shopping bags which you can reuse on every shopping spree?
Or use the plastic bags you have already accumulated for wrapping food for a roadtrip or wet clothes when you go to the beach.
Always opt for the purchase that will produce less waste.
Instead of buying lots of soda cans for a movie marathon with friends, buy a liter bottle (which you can also reuse later on) and distribute the drink in washable glasses.
A big contributor of toxics in dumpsites is e-waste, or discarded electronic devices that can release harmful chemicals to the environment. Reconsider buying a brand new gadget when all your present gadget needs is a repair.
If you really must get rid of your worn-out gadget, join an e-waste market and sell the gadget parts. Here are 10 ways to reduce your e-waste.
As early as now, plan for a zero-waste New Year. Do you really need firecrackers full of toxic chemicals and metal compounds to give the New Year a hearty welcome?
Aside from the negative health impacts (some chemicals in fireworks are said to be carcinogenic), fireworks leave burnt, plastic debris in the streets.
You can make just as much noise with party blowers (which can also be reused for a birthday party) or by simply banging kitchen utensils or turning on the radio really loud. It makes wallet sense as well. Why will you blow a lot of cash on firecrackers for just one night of revelry?
Going for a zero-waste lifestyle is almost as cliché as fireworks on New Year's, but why should we do it?
Because we can't afford to keep thinking our planet can carry the weight of our worlds.
Our wasteful lifestyles will soon rear their ugly heads back at us in the form of overflowing landfills (remember the deadly landslides?), flooded garbage-clogged streets, and fatal air pollution.
According to Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition, "By aiming for a Zero Waste lifestyle at home, church, school, workplace, and neighborhood where we belong, we save precious resources from being squandered, reduce environmental pollution, make our communities tidier and safer, and save public monies by avoiding disposal costs."
If there ever was a good time to start reducing the garbage we create, it's now, at the beginning of the new year. Let's make a clean break from the old and start anew. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada is a Rappler multimedia reporter covering the environment and agriculture beats.
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Garbage image from Shutterstock