Save Philippine Seas' Anna Oposa: 'Plastics are not recycled enough' – Manila Bulletin

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Published August 25, 2021, 3:59 PM
by John Legaspi
Plastic may have found its way in everything we use, one thing is for sure, it doesn’t suit the ocean. Every year, countries produce million tons of plastic, 8 million of it end up in Earth’s waters, making 80 percent of marine debris, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). If we let this issue go on without any action, we can expect that in 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

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Advocacy group Save Philippine Seas (SPS) is on a mission to help change the negative perception of plastic to the real issue at hand: waste management. Together with snacks company Mondelez Philippines, the two organizations are working to shed light on the issues around waste management and advocating for accountability from all relevant stakeholders.

Since 2011, the goal of SPS has been to narrow the gap between scientists and the general public, the old and young, and the passionate and indifferent by mobilizing “seatizen”-led initiatives that are empowering Filipinos toward collective action and behavior change. Environmental issues may sometimes have complex explanations behind them that prevent ordinary people from understanding, or more importantly, making an impact.

“Our work is focused on breaking down the issues surrounding environmental protection, helping everyone understand them, and more importantly be part of the movement and take action,” says Anna Oposa, executive director and “chief mermaid” of SPS. From informational campaigns, petitions, idea hackathons and the like, SPS works to help address the real culprits behind environmental degradation through easy-to-understand information.

“In the case of marine plastic pollution, we see the reasons behind it are improper waste management and unsustainable consumption patterns,” she continues. “Simply put, plastics are not being disposed of and collected properly, leading them to end up in nature. When they are collected, they are not recycled enough, which lead them to stay in landfills and end up in bodies of water too. Lastly, we need to treat plastic as a resourceplastic can and should be re-used to reduce the production of virgin plastic, reduce the waste in our landfills, and eliminate the plastics in our environment.”

One of the supporters of SPS is snacks maker Mondelez Philippines. The company advocates for Sustainable Snacking, which means making their snack products the right way with a positive impact on people and the planet. Globally the company has pledged to ensure 100 percent of its packaging will be recycle-ready by 2025, including plastic packaging. During the same period, it also aims for at least 25 percent reduction in virgin plastic use in rigid plastic packaging or a five percent reduction in overall virgin plastic use. It also aims to use five percent recycled content by weight across its plastic packaging globally.

“We support actions to reduce plastic use and increase plastic recycling,” explains Atty. Joseph Fabul, corporate and government affairs country manager of Mondelez Philippines. “Plastic is a highly efficient material which helps us provide the right levels of safety, quality, product protection, and preservation for food. We see the value of plastic as a resource that’s why we want to contribute to a circular economy where packaging material is recycled or reused. We are also working with Save Philippine Seas to help inform everyone–manufacturers, consumers, and other stakeholders what we all need to do to ensure plastic does not end up in nature.” Locally, the company is also working with organizations to fund the collection and recycling of plastic.

The responsibilities that everyone has towards waste management are outlined in the informational materials created by SPS.

“Manufacturers need to redesign their packaging, reduce their plastic use, and contribute to recycling the plastic they produce,” adds Oposa. “Governments need to create more collection and recycling infrastructure to ensure plastic does not end up in waste streams. Lastly, consumers like us need to find alternatives to plastic where they exist, segregate our plastic waste at home to make it easier to collect and recycle, and live a waste-free life as much as possible.”

Read the “Plastic and Ocean” series by Save Philippine Seas here.
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