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Girl in a jacket

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Submitted by: Peachie Dioquino-Valera

This is a Halloween Spooktacular article since what can be scarier than this?

I swear, I fear this more than any ghosties, ghoulies, and beasties combined. Our plastic pollution is choking us slowly on a daily basis. Not only does it kill off our marine animals, but it also contributes largely to our GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions via plastic production, first and foremost (since plastic is made of dirty fuels), and via plastic ‘decomposing’ in our landfills and wherever; ergo releasing massive GHG amounts in the process. Here’s another kicker, plastic ends up in your plates, and consequently, in your tummies. Just search in YouTube plankton ingesting microplastics. More of microplastics in my future article but for the sake of immediate knowledge, microplastics are extremely tiny pieces of plastic resulting from breakdown of plastic litter in the ocean. Breakdown happens from a mixture of ocean environment—most especially ocean waves—and UV rays. So yes, if you’re enjoying your bucket of oysters; plate of seared scallops in white wine butter sauce; shrimp curry; salmon cakes; grilled squid; and even your can of sardines or tuna, then baby, you are eating microscopic pieces of plastic at the moment. Sorry for making your mouths water then breaking this oh-so-bad-seafood-news. No reason to emphasize the hazards of ingesting plastic because we all pretty much know it cannot be digested, and the toxic BPA and chemical residues of plastic ends up in our bloodstreams and organs. Shown below is a picture of a plankton with ingested microplastics, the glowing neon green dots. Gruesome right? Told you this was a scary story.

Cut to the story of the frequently asked question I always receive: Anong Baon mo?”, or its twin query “Anong bitbit mo?” For family members, loved ones, and close friends, they already know what’s inside my extra bag. But for others who don’t get to be with me all the time or who’ll be meeting me for the first time, the question (accompanied either with glaring or furtive looking), is never elsewhere.

Then I’d open my Mary Poppins of a bag, and pull these out.

I introduce to them my BYOB (Bring your own Baunan) Bag. It’s my arsenal against plastic and packaging pollution, I say, while still extracting food containers of all shapes and sizes. Since I’ve shared it with people I know, I’d like to share it too to every Juan and Juana, so we can all do our part in reducing our plastic or packaging waste. I am happy that some of my relatives and friends are following suit. I remember one of my friends calling me early part this year excited—and I thought she was getting engaged, a promotion, or something—and breathlessly told me that she just did grocery, and had all her seafood placed inside the ice-cream and biscuit tubs she brought with her. I know it’s hilarious, since it’s sooooo Asian…imagine coming home, opening the fridge, discovering a tub of your favorite ice-cream, and when opened, “tadah!!”, slimy squid anyone?? We’ve been practicing this since childhood, we’d put anything inside our Danish cookie tins—from sewing kits to a troll collection, to magic cards, and our love letters. You name it, we’ve placed them inside these tin babies. So back to my friend, while we chuckle over the phone with it, the story genuinely melts my heart. It’s hard to create this habit even if the whole concept of it is easy since honestly, for most, it’s just damn inconvenient. Imagine you, dress to the nines and all with your designer clutch or purse, or man bag, then all of a sudden you’re carrying a backpack/eco-bag/sling bag that’s a treasure trove of leftover containers and reusable utensils.

Let’s ‘humor’ ourselves first. Looking at the statistics above, isn’t this quite shocking and appalling? Imagine, a tiny country such as ours landing ourselves at the top 3 of the world’s biggest plastic & ocean polluter list. It’s not that good kind of global 3rd place. Isn’t it heartbreaking that we are the top marine life murderers and ocean chokers? What can we do about it? Well we can rally and lobby against the incompetent waste management system we have; we can forever write to our manufacturers and businesses to seek packaging alternatives (like IKEA’s biodegradable packaging, India’s famous edible and different-flavored forks and spoons, or Saltwater Brewery’s edible 6-pack rings, or the up and coming eatable jelly cups for bars); we can go do beach or waterways clean-ups every week, or everyday if you like; we can put up more MRFs (Materials Recovery Facility) in our communities, etc. But can you honestly tell me that most Pinoys have the bandwidth—either in energy or willingness—to pull these off and be consistent about it?

We have to admit it too we are a “throwaway culture”, closely related to its cousin “out of sight out of mind” thinking. We revel too much in take-aways and single-use plastic bottles, utensils, sachets, and straws, without giving too much thought on where it may end up. As long as we’ve thrown it out and don’t see it anymore, we put on that devil-may-care attitude. This is why I came up with a simple tip, or practice, on how we can all help reduce our plastic footprint when dining out. Let’s start with the basics.

We have got to have our own compact utensils. I highly recommend this “tiklop” or foldable utensils (I bought mine in Tickles). You can just stash them in the pocket of your bag. Plus, it has a bottle opener and corkscrew as integrated attachments! How handy dandy is that? This is most useful when you go drive thru or when you order from those frozen yogurt and ice-cream stalls or establishments. Imagine, ice-cream in your bowl-shaped container with lid while using your foldable spoon—a dessert that’s eco guilt-free! Moreover, you can leave a reusable meal set ware in your office and use when needed. This set includes a reusable mug or glass, utensils, plate, and container/s.

For those who enjoy Ramen, or basically Chinese, Japanese, or Korean food wherein chopsticks are customarily used, instead of using the plastic-wrapped disposable wooden chopsticks they give out, use your reusable chopsticks instead. These can be made of the durable wood type, hard plastic, ceramic, or metal. What you just achieved is a two birds in one stone activism: you reduced the plastic waste from the chopsticks’ packaging, you also helped tone down the demand of wood; thus, prolonging our highly needed trees’ longevity.

This is a must have for me. I believe that EVERYONE should have their own reusable straw. It can be made out of metal, BPA-free plastic, silicon, and my favorite, bamboo. If you are planning to get one, I suggest to get the ones made from Bamboo since not only are these the most sustainable, but you also get to support our dwindling farmers and cooperatives. It’s already anti-microbial and comes with a straw brush for inside cleaning. I also submerge it in boiling water for simple cleaning. The bamboo straws can be bought from Earth Kitchen Restaurant’s GOT HEART Foundation’s shelves. This can also be ordered from Shopee Philippines. If you own a café or restaurant, why not have metal straws instead? It cuts your overhead cost; prevents you from contributing to the millions of plastic straws thrown everyday by humans all over the world; plus, you don’t add toxic stuff to the bodies of your customers. Yes, the typical plastic straws leach chemicals. Two restaurants I adore are already using this: SuSi (vegan restaurant in Burgos Circle in BGC, Taguig,) and Earth Kitchen (White Plains, Q.C.) I purchased my metal straw from Sip PH (check them out in FB!).

By this time too we all know the importance of bringing our own water container—may it be a reused glass bottle, BPA-free plastic tumbler or jug, or a stainless steel one. It is truly harrowing to see sharks and other marine mammals and creatures dying with plastic bottles stuck in their throats. Plastic bottles recycling cannot do much. Remember, plastic is eternal. Its composition does not enable it to be reduced eventually to an organic substance, which is why it is dubbed non-biodegradable. So our recycling is just technically ‘downcycling’. There is just a limit on how far one bottle can actually be recycled—save for the case of eco-bricks since these are repurposed as a permanent fixture foundation.

Another thing you can pack in your arsenal is a reusable coffee mug with lid, or a tumbler for your favorite frappe or smoothie. I pack these babies when I am heading to my café meetings or coffee/milk tea shop tambays with friends. If you frequent certain coffee shops, you can also have your mug or tumbler kept there until you come to visit again. You can also have a tumbler stored in your car cabinet in case you suddenly spot a taho, ice scramble, or gulaman vendor on the road. I kid you not, it’s so traffic in our country anyone is just selling anything on the road. You’d say “TRUE!” and remember the men knocking on your car window showing their peculiar peddled goods such as fishing rods, coat racks, metal trash cans, potted fortune plants, and what have you.

These ones are easy to bring, you can even keep it in your pocket. They fold like the regular hanky. You can wrap your baon in these anti-microbial reusable beeswax wraps. Whenever I buy bread, cookies, pizza, etc., I just have the sellers put it in my wraps so they don’t need to put my order inside little plastic bags, or plastic-lined paper pizza pouches. Sliced & diced fruits can also be stored here! It’s easy to maintain since you only have to wash it using gentle dishwashing soap, and rinsing it off with cold water. Then, hang to dry, that’s it pancit. Re-waxing can be done after a year; even more or less, depending on your usage. You can now refuse plastic cling wraps and aluminum foils. If you want to buy the wraps, check it out in Sa Store at The Hub in First United Building, 413 Escolta Street, or Milea Organics’s “Beenalot” wraps in their store located at Q.C. Circle Park, and also sold at Ultra Super Green grocery store in Katipunan, Q.C. Now that’s a wrap! Just kidding…

Lastly, always have a small cloth table napkin with you when dining out. Not only does it look fancy, but it also lowers your carbon footprint. Even when you say that tissues or napkins are biodegradable, the thing is, of all the paper grade products out there, these food (and bathroom) appendages emit more carbon per tonne of paper. It is a serious GHG issue.

There you have it, your very own anti-plastic pollution go-bag that’s easy to assemble and bring. Think of it too as extra calories burned when lugging this special bag after an eat-all-you-can session. You’ll thank me later!

I hope that you dear reader will get to share this with all your connections. I know we can drastically reduce this deadly plastic crisis if we do things in unity. I am ending it with a thought that stopping pollution is the best solution.

Got something you want to share to the world? Get a chance to publish your awesome creations and share it to the world through our InqPOP! Creator Community program. Send us your articles, stories, videos, photos, fan fic, and even fan art at inqpop@gmail.com.

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