As someone who cares for the environment, i hate it when i see trash in the oceans, in the mountains, and even in the streets of Metro Manila. And so because i hate trash, i do not litter. Instead, i throw all of my trash in its “proper” place: the trash can. Not in the oceans. Not in the mountains. Not in the streets. But the trash can. All nonbiodegradable go into one trash can and all biodegradable go into another. That’s how i deal with my trash: properly. Because I care for the environment.
Or so i thought.
Then i stumbled upon an article about Lauren Singer and her three years’ worth of trash that fits in a mason jar. And i realized that all this time i’ve been dealing with my trash the wrong way. I realized i may not be trashing the oceans and mountains, but i’m sending loads of trash to landfills–which discharge toxins into air, water, and land–thereby trashing the planet just the same. And i thought i cared for the environment. I remember having mixed feelings about it. Shock, disbelief, frustration, disgust, and guilt were the initial, quick reactions. But then i also felt strongly inspired, motivated, and hopeful. Right then and there i knew i wanted to do the right thing, to do things properly. Like legit properly.
Zero waste made me see trash, as well as myself, in a new perspective. I now see my trash not as something that just happens inevitably and out of my control, but rather as something that i actively create, a direct and concrete outcome of my choices, habits, and lifestyle. Therefore, if i want to stop generating trash, i’ll have to start being conscious or mindful of the choices i make.
The first question i asked after i read about Lauren Singer was: how about periods? I immediately realized that the only trash i can’t keep in a jar (and can’t compost either) are pads and tampons. Good thing, there is such a thing as a menstrual cup and i was good to go. I’m off to zero wasting.
Since taking little steps to reduce waste last year, though, i’ve found that zero waste can be a bit of a challenge in the Philippines. Package-free stores are not widely available and accessible yet. So far, Ritual is the only totally package-free store in Metro Manila. I haven’t visited it yet because it’s very far from where i live.
As such, i actively and constantly seek alternatives and solutions. I’ve inquired with farms and local businesses and companies if there is any way i can purchase their products without plastic packaging. While most of their answers are in the negative, i’m glad they are already aware of the need to ditch plastic and are in fact already finding solutions to packaging. In addition, they’ve promised to consider my suggestions.
But while alternatives and solutions are still in the works, i’ll do the best i can. There are still ways to avoid trash going to the landfills. One is bringing properly segregated recyclable waste to recycling centers or your barangay’s material recovery/recycling facility. Then there’s also The Plastic Solution for nonrecyclable waste. The Plastic Solution is a movement of repurposing plastic bottles by stuffing the bottles with nonbiodegradable waste, transforming trash that would otherwise end up in landfills into ecobricks that will be used for the construction of houses, walls, benches, etc. This simple solution to nonrecyclable trash has been done in different parts of the world, including Sagada, Mountain Province.
I have been encouraging friends to join me in doing The Plastic Solution’s #StuffItChallenge, but i feel like i have to clarify an important matter. I think The Plastic Solution is a good way to start transitioning to zero waste in the Philippines. However, it is important to note that it is not the same as zero waste. Repurposing trash as ecobricks does solve a huge problem (as does recycling), but it’s not so much of a sustainable and game-changing solution–that is, if we just keep on stuffing instead of working on ways so that there is nothing to stuff anymore. For as long as we say yes to plastic bottles, disposable packaging, plastic straws and eating utensils, styrofoam, etc., then manufacturers of these materials will create more and we will just create more ecobricks out of new trash. That when we still have a lot of landfills to deal with! The same goes with recycling: as Bea Johnson said, zero waste is not recycling more, but less. In fact, zero recycling is a goal.
For me, zero waste is the proper and most logical solution to trash. I believe in it so much. It is a game-changing solution: it aims to change the game by saying no to disposable, nonrecyclable materials, thereby demanding manufacturers to take back their trash and make the necessary solutions to the problem they created. Zero waste is telling these people “i’ve had enough of your shit and i don’t want to deal with it.”
Anyway, all that said, i think it is clear that the problem of trash is solvable and that zero waste is possible in the Philippines. We all just need to start looking at our trash then ask: where did this all come from and where are they going? Let’s reflect on those questions for a while and once and for all, let’s all deal with our trash properly.