There are two bans in Siquijor which are communicated in almost every corner of the street: No smoking, and No plastic. Could we put them both on the same level of treat for human health?
In the Philippines there is a nationwide legislation considering solid waste, which is the RA 9003. However, it is often criticised not to be implemented sufficiently and not to be monitored. Moreover, it is often difficult for local governments to translate the national legislation into local concrete actions.
Plastic Free Community
Despite or maybe due to the shortcomings of the national framework, several local governments are pioneering zero waste programs, such as the actions taken in Siquijor. Wherever you go on the island, you might encounter billboards saying no against plastic waste. ‘You’re entering a plastic free community’.
In the supermarkets you can indeed not find plastic bags for your shopping, however food is still wrapped in plastic bags, as is the majority of the consumer products. And as mentioned in the blogpost on Manila before, the Philippines have a tremendous high use of plastic, especially when it comes to small packages.
From Plastic to Paper
The plastic bags are in most places replaced by paper ones, as on other islands and in other cities in the Philippines. In case of big grocery shopping, you can get a paper box which was used before to deliver the products to the shops.
Still, as the same critic applies as before, the real source of plastic pollution, the producers, are not addressed here neither. Hopefully that will become a next step.
Plastic, the Cigarettes of the 21stCentury
In the meantime, I like to see the billboards against plastic, especially when they come together with the billboards against smoking. Both are seen as harmful for both human and environment. Both cause a waste product that lasts for decades, while both are slowly making people ill.
Cigarettes obviously cause lung cancer, even to those who do not smoke, but live together with a smoking person. The same applies for plastic. It has lately been proven that certain plastic wrapping materials – including bottles and food containers – start degrading while using it, hence releasing hormone disturbing substances in your drink or food, hence slowly entering the human body. After lifetime plastic degrades until microplastics, which are absorbed by the environment where they end up. They not only end up in the soil and water, but as well in the stomachs of fish and land-living animal, which in the end might end up in our stomachs. Research should still demonstrate what the effect will be on human health on the long term, of these microplastics and hormone disturbing substances.
Another aspect that both cigarettes and plastics have in common, are the fact that the respectively Tabaco lobby and plastic producing companies initially denied the dangers from their product for man and nature. Take it a step further, both products where initially stimulated by and seen as a symbol of our consumerist society. Smoking first, and plastic later, made you one of the cool guys, belonging to modern society. Regardless its harmful effects on the long-term.
This long term becomes now visible, when both smoking and plastic are more and more banned. Therefore, it is interesting that in Siquijor billboards against smoking and billboards against plastic follow-up each other throughout the island. Both consumer products might have more in common that we think at first sight.