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A seatizen's guide to plastic and climate change (Part 2/2)

Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

In Part 1, we explained how excess plastic consumption is no joke. The entire use cycle of plastic — from production to consumption to disposal — brings with it a whole host of carbon emissions implications, which in turn works to further destabilize global temperatures, cause extreme weather swings, and disrupt habitats and food supplies the world over. Then there's the hoards of choking sea turtles. And theeen

More bad news?! Please make it stop.

We’re getting there.

Local demand for plastic has increased significantly since the pandemic lockdown began in March. This means that fights to curb plastic consumption and find sustainable alternatives are now more relevant than ever, and very much present in our neighborhoods. That’s good news, if only because it means that the solutions we seek are within our control. There are many kinds of solutions for seatizens and local communities.

So what exactly can we do as seatizens?

As children, we’re taught to reduce, reuse, and recycle. This is popularly known as the 3 Rs. The order of these words is important to note.

The primary problem with plastic pollution and its effects is that the emissions cost is directly related to how much perceived need for plastic goods individuals have. It is of chief importance that we find more and more ways to cut down on our additional consumption of plastic personally, especially those of the single-use variety. Refusing or finding alternatives to plastic containers when taking out food, or actually reusing that complementary canvas grocery bag, are good first steps that come to mind here.

Finding (and subsequently purchasing) reusable solutions then for containers, plastic cups, straws, etc. is also great, but reusable solutions don’t always equate to additional monetary investment. Investing in shiny new reusable solutions is good, but simply working to extend the shelf life of otherwise “disposable” materials and containers also does a good job of reducing one’s overall plastic footprint. But if the cute bottle (or plate or cup) is what it takes to get you to break your single-use habit (and you have time and money to spare), go for it!

But how do we scale things up in the long-run?

The fight to curb plastic pollution in our communities does not stop at the level of individual consumption. Working with others to create collective solutions is just as important. On this level, the key word here is not individual contribution, but collective participation in group actions!

So like group works in school?

Yes! Well, sort of. The operative word here is “collective participation.”

Collective participation means many things on a practical front. On one hand, “collective participation” can be something as simple as teaming up with friends and like-minded peers to hold each other accountable, and working as a group to pool solutions, brands, and shops that support your cause. Participating in local community waste management initiatives, such as clean-ups and recycling programs applies just as well here. It can also mean something more structural or long-term in scope, such as supporting non-profit and public interest organizations, or engaging in public and business sector policy advocacy efforts. Our current Mainstream Refilling campaign is an example.

Change is not the responsibility of only one stakeholder. Every party involved in the plastic use cycle, be it those who produce plastic, those who regulate the production and consumption of plastic, and those who consume plastic products, matters. Supporting campaigns that are inclusive and work across multiple channels to influence people in power is a must.

Collective participation can be as simple as teaming up with friends and like-minded peers to hold each other accountable, and working as a group to pool solutions, brands, and shops that support your cause.

That sounds like... a lot. Where can we start?

If you’re looking to get involved on a broader scale, try brushing up on pre-existing campaigns, Congressional bills, and other widespread initiatives before lending your voice and energy to the movement. You could familiarize yourself with existing national environmental laws here, read up on the current solid waste management law, and/or dive into existing projects (like Waste Watchers or Plastic Battle!). Staying critical and acknowledging the challenges from a public policy standpoint helps in terms of understanding the work left to be done when it comes to bringing the 3 Rs to life in our local community.

Gaps exist everywhere, from general plastic manufacturing regulations, to the lack of nationwide public refilling programs, to finding funding for many local government unit-sponsored recycling facilities. The costs of making the switch can be quite steep in the short run. Collective support from multiple sectors — be it through petitions, campaigns, funding grants — all go a long way!

This blog is a collaboration among Klean Kanteen Philippines, SPS, and Danjugan Island.


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