However being the capital of the Philippines, Manilla is not the biggest city, that is Quezon City. With its nearly 2 million people, and nearly 13 million if you count the Metro Manila area, Manilla is an extremely dense-populated city. Which you can notice in the continuous traffic congestion, flow of people and mosaic of houses – from skyscrapers to nearly huts.
Manilla is located in the Bay of Manilla, which shows an impressive skyline at some places. However, Manilla’s beauty is often overshadowed by its high contamination levels, not only of air pollution, but plastic is a tremendous problem. The Philippines is one of the world’s top five producers of plastic waste in the world, together with China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. This problem will be worsened due to China’s ban on importing waste from the western countries (2018), diverting the waste to the other Asian countries in this list.
Still, to cope the problem, many cities and local communities have started plastic bans, on which I will report later on in the next blogposts. Yet, an overall national plastic ban does not exist (yet) and the actual source of plastic pollution is not addressed at all: the producers.
One of the major plastic pollutants in the Philippines are actually not the big plastic shopping bags, which are in many shops already replaced by paper bags or carton boxes. The real villain are the little plastic bags who contain consumer portions of about everything, from body lotion over toothpaste to shampoo or specific spices.
These little packages are created to pressure the price, so one can buy a single-use package rather than having to buy an entire bottle of soap. However economic attractive for those who have to count every pesos, they are an ecologic nightmare. After usage they mostly end up where they were used. They are not recyclable, and certainly not bio-degradable. Hence, they end up in landfills, like ‘Smokey Mountain’, the major landfill in Manila, or about everywhere in nature.
These guys are sold in the sari sari shops, and you can find them about everywhere, from big city to small village, from corner shop to supermarket. Which brings us to the persons or companies responsible for this little evil: the producers.
The big companies who created these packages are fully in charge of this problem, by creating it in the first place. Even if they would call in the law of ‘demand and offer’, waving with the economic needs of their customers, they are still to blame for the packaging materials they used: non-recyclable and non-bio-degradable material. Be aware that the companies providing these packages are not local small companies, but big multinationals such as Palmolive, and Nestle, among others.
While the big companies are not moving to replace this offer, many local players are rising for a waste-free and especially plastic-free environment. Several zero waste shops arose in the Philippines, and many local cities introduced a plastic ban, such as the following cities on which I will write later on more: several cities in Metro Manila, El Nido (Palawan), Cebu City, Baguio City, Boracay.
Many people started clean-up actions, with the most extreme one the military who had to clean up the beaches of Borracay, but that is for another story, for later on.