Plastic Free in the 'Pines By Stav Friedman
Posted on October 04 2017
Happy (belated) International Coastal Clean Up Day from the sunny island of Bohol in the Philippines! I have been working here for the past 15 months as a US Peace Corps Volunteer, spending my weekdays helping a Coastal Resource Management Office in a remote island town and my weekends partnering with the incredible Jammy, founder of grassroots organization, Plastic Free Bohol.
Let’s backtrack a moment. The Philippines is quite well known to plastic pollution aficionados—it is the THIRD biggest producer of plastic pollution in the oceans. We’re talking about an archipelagic country roughly the size of Arizona with a population of around 100 million; it can get crowded, and so can the trash situation! Though it’s easy to gasp in horror and point fingers, we need to look at the real cause of the problem: poverty. More than a quarter of the population in the Philippines lives below the poverty line, making less than $2 a day. Because of this, many things here are packed in individual, single-use sachets: deodorant, toothpaste, lotion, make up, shampoo, spices, detergents, coffee, creamers—there are even single garlic cloves wrapped in plastic for preservation—affordable on almost any budget. Unfortunately, this practice means that manufacturers here seldom make things for bulk and more durable/repurpose-worthy plastic or tins are rare—if you do buy bulk its often a thin plastic wrapper containing several of the individual sachets. It’s a hard cycle to escape from! When I moved to the Philippines, I anticipated that living Zero Waste would be hard, but being here has made me appreciate the options of the Western world – buying bulk by weight, pasta in completely cardboard boxes, spices in glass containers—do not take this for granted my Western readers!
So in 15 months I’ve learned a lot about the plastic problem in the Philippines. It is definitely an issue that needs to be tackled from the top-down; getting corporations to make more sustainable packaging, alternatives to single-use plastic that are still affordable.* But it is also a problem that can be tackled from the bottom-up, something that I have been doing here with the assistance of Jammy and Plastic Free Bohol, Simply Straws, 4Oceans and a couple of local sponsors.
Now, who is Jammy?! Jammy is a local woman from Bohol, who I connected with via Instagram (social media IS an amazing tool) about a year ago. I found her page, Plastic Free Bohol, where she posts inspirational (and sometimes heartbreaking) facts about the state of our oceans, plastic pollution, and simple ways you can make a difference. She has created her own local sustainable swimwear line (adorable, crocheted bikinis fully-lined and made from 100% cotton) and on weekends we have been teaming up to host Coastal Clean Ups all around the islands of Bohol.
We have been so lucky to be sponsored by Simply Straws and more recently 4oceans. These glorious glass straws are prizes in our free raffle that we do after the Clean Up and discussion I lead on ocean pollution and plastic-free alternatives—our volunteers love them! While Jammy started with about 60 volunteers for last year’s International Coastal Clean Up, with the help of our sponsors this year we had a marvelous 116 attendees! They worked extremely hard in helping us not only collect but segregate and weigh over 1,500lbs of trash in just a couple hours! Included in our findings were:
- 170 Styrofoam containers
- 262 plastic straws
- 520 plastic bags
- 703 bottle caps
- 815 glass bottle
- 1,155 plastic bottles
- 1,751 ice bags (that's how we make it here)
- 2,515 plastic cups, and an incredible
- 3,267 food wrappers!
An incredible amount of trash picked up by a wonderful group of volunteers! So what can you do at home to help contribute to a better state of our oceans? I always boil this down to two simple things:
- START cleaning up. Anywhere outdoors will do – almost all litter makes it down to the oceans by rain and river eventually. Give yourself a goal: 10 pieces, 5 minutes of clean up, a 50m radius… challenge your friends and family, make a mural with it, dispose of it properly and share your findings on Instagram and Facebook (use hashtags like #plasticpollutes and #stopsucking to help raise awareness)! Look online with organizations like Surf Rider or Ocean Conservancy to join a local clean up, or start your own just like we do here!
- STOP contributing to the plastic. This means adapting towards a Zero Waste lifestyle. Although intimidating at first, going Zero Waste is easier than it sounds. It takes a little preparation and some small changes in habit, but we can all get there… J I made the switch just two years ago after believing it was impossible.
So we simply need to say no to plastic straws, bags, cups, coffee lids, silverware, and Styrofoam containers and choose paper, metal or glass over plastic. The best way to start is to arm yourself with a reusable bag, a set of cutlery (like ToGoWare), a reusable straw, a metal/glass takeaway container for leftovers and a drinking canteen. Keep this kit in your car, or tucked in your purse, or hanging by your door and you’ll be ready each day to make a little difference for the planet. Another good way to start is to challenge yourself (and your friends or family) each month to make one change… one month, say no to plastic bags; the next, stop buying pre-packaged fruit; the following, no more to-go coffee cups. By the end of the year you’ll be plastic free and loving it, I promise!
Well, readers, I’m excited for your journey against the plastic problem in our oceans. Even by reading this or visiting Simply Straws website you are off to a good start – there are so many alternatives out there and little things to do to help our planet every day—do not lose hope! If we can do it against all odds in the Philippines, I know you can do it from the other side of the ocean!
Much love & peace and thank you for reading!
*What can be done? Write to your political representatives, heads of corporations, use social media, and vote with your dollar by purchasing sustainable alternatives—like Simply Straws!
Watch a video of the clean up:
Stav is a marine biologist, an ocean advocate, and a lover of fruit and fish (for swimming with, not eating) and all things given to us by Mother Nature. She has been wandering the world since a young age, and finds herself now in the Philippines spreading messages of positivity while combatting the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans. You can find her on Instagram @stavfree and follow her blog here. (https://thewonderingwanderingwoman.wordpress.com/ if the embedded link didn’t work)
Jammy is an innovator, surfer, and ocean advocate from the Philippines. She created her own local sustainable swimwear line and is the founder of the ever-growing grassroots movement Plastic Free Bohol – which you can follow on Facebook or Instagram at @plasticfree_bohol.
#StopSucking #PledgeAgainstPlasticStraws #Changethewayyousip