“Proper waste disposal is a matter of discipline.”
We cannot deny how plastics are an essential element of every aspect of technological innovation, not just in food packaging but as an indispensable material for any manufactured product we have today. Try to look at anything you use, anything you have, and you will realize that plastics had to be applied not just on the finished product but in the complex manufacturing and supply chain that it went through so that you as a consumer can benefit from its use.
We also can’t deny that discarded plastics, whether as packaging or in some other form, have become a global concern. Improper disposal has resulted in tons of plastic waste polluting the oceans. The Philippines has been identified by environmental groups as one of the worst sources of this pollution that now threatens to contaminate our food chain. Our pervasive dependence on single-use-plastics has been blamed for this negative reputation.
Governments are now responding to this global clamor to act fast on what many scientists say is a looming and irreversible global disaster of climate change that will be far worse than this pandemic. Primarily caused by the destructive effects of pollution on our atmosphere and oceans, the climate-changing effects are now palpable with extreme weather disasters increasing in frequency and intensity.
Managing the reality of plastic waste is a major factor in addressing climate change.
However, setting the frameworks and goals through policy and regulations must have a holistic approach that must carefully consider the economic dynamics and avoid negative repercussions that always fall on the more vulnerable sectors of society. In our case, our consumption-driven economy, already in deep crisis as it is, cannot afford hasty regulations that would cause any disruptions in the supply chain and more importantly result in higher costs for consumers.
Here is where the circular economy approach to solid waste management becomes the most viable strategy. To put it simply, this is a paradigm shift from a linear ecosystem of plastics being produced, distributed to consumers, and then disposed to landfills to a circular ecosystem that integrates technological innovations to make plastics recyclable, adopt an environment-friendly manufacturing process, dispose of waste properly disposal, then recycle and/or repurpose plastic waste back into the ecosystem.
Big industries are now embracing this strategy and have already responded by plugging the leaks in their internal operations and expanding to external engagements that affect their host and adopted communities. Enterprises are now going beyond regulatory compliance and are aligning with the ethical values of the Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards that measure a company’s sustainability and social impact.
Case in point is the country’s first food grade bottle-to-bottle recycling facility set to start operations by the first quarter of 2022. This is a P1-billion joint venture-investment of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines and global green technology leader Indorama Ventures envisioned to greatly boost the recycling capacity of the country. This is a good model of “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) that manufacturers can implement.
In a recent online forum marking the third year of the Coca-cola Company’s World Without Waste Program, the company stated that they will achieve their goal of making 100 percent of their packaging recyclable by 2025 and will use at least 50 percent recycled materials for packaging by 2030.
Coca-Cola Philippines president Tony del Rosario reported that their Viva mineral water and Sprite 500ml are the first brands in the Philippines to be made from 100-percent recycled plastic.
“Our goal is to create closed loop systems, extracting the maximum value from packaging materials and products while in use, then preventing them from becoming waste through recovery, recycling and reuse,” Mr. del Rosario said.
Also important is the Coca-cola Foundation’s support for the ‘informal collection’ sector where they will engage in 40 grassroots partnerships in 36 cities and municipalities. The company also announced the phasing out of unrecyclable sachets by next year and will introduce paper straws for its dairy and juice products.
Expressing strong support for this initiative were Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources and the Committee on Agriculture and Food Chairperson, Senator Cynthia Villar, and Department of Environment and Natural Resources Undersecretary for Climate Change Service and Mining Concerns, Atty. Analiza Rebuelta-Teh.
As politicians start filing their certificates of candidacies, we should elect a new set of leaders that have a rational and science-based perspective of how we should be responsible stewards of our environment and rich natural resources.
Our current circumstances, dire and uncertain as they are, are the result of convergent neglect of the environment and the bias for development rationalized by the relentless pursuit of a “better life”—or, probably, more accurately, more profitable objectives.
As consumers, we are the weakest link in the circular economy because proper waste disposal is a matter of discipline—individual behavior of which only we as individual stakeholders of this planet have full control.
We must all do our part to save our world.