Don’t be plas­tic


THE TER­MI­NOL­OGY is ter­ri­ble but less so than the track record.

I am re­fer­ring to our so-called War Against Plas­tic. On a re­cent visit to Que­zon City, I found con­flicted in­ter­pre­ta­tions of a lo­cal or­di­nance ban­ning mer­chants from us­ing plas­tic bags.

At the UP Press out­let in the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines Dil­i­man, I was re­minded that not only does the book­store not ac­cept plas­tic (credit card) for pay­ment; it also ex­pects buy­ers to bring their own tote for pur­chases.

I for­tu­nately had a re­us­able bag to hold the three tomes I bought. I wish, though, cus­tomers could be fore­warned in case they lost their heads (it’s the an­nual yearend sale, with ma­jor dis­counts) and had to lug back a li­brary in Manila’s traf­fic.

(Tip: If ig­no­rant about the univer­sity press’s Bring Your Own Bag pol­icy, the Shop­ping Com­plex now sells more sturdy can­vas totes. The old silly de­signs had a se­ri­ous dis­con­nect with cam­pus life­styles that in­volve fre­quent li­brary trips.)

An­other hitch came at the end of the same day, when, un­able to re­sist used books sell­ing for only P6 or P55 for 10 ti­tles, I ended up with 13 pa­per­backs. I told the ven­dor to keep her pa­per bags since I brought a spare plas­tic bag for such emer­gen­cies.

How­ever, af­ter glanc­ing at the la­bel on my plas­tic bag, the cashier sud­denly whipped out a brand-new plas­tic bag from un­der the counter. I re­mem­ber when only smug­gled copies of pornog­ra­phy ma­te­ri­al­ized from un­der the ta­ble for so-called “art”lover s.

With the In­ter­net de­mys­ti­fy­ing porn, plas­tic is the new porn. I ar­gued with the cashier that car­ry­ing books inside a plas­tic tote bear­ing the name of a hard­ware chain surely did not con­flict with cor­po­rate turf.

The War Against Plas­tic ended with her plac­ing my pur­chases inside two plas­tic bags, the sec­ond one for re­in­force­ment. I slunk away, ex­pect­ing the Re­cy­cling Po­lice to nab and de­nounce me as an En­emy of the Fu­ture.

Re­cy­cling is car­ried out with such a whim­si­cal con­sis­tency to the spirit of the in­ten­tion and the law. There is no men­tion of the Philip­pines in the list of re­cy­cling cham­pi­ons drawn up by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment ( OECD) .

Ac­cord­ing to a Nov. 30 ar­ti­cle in The New York Times In­ter­na­tional Edi­tion, Ger­many leads the pack, “glee­fully” sort­ing 65 per­cent of their trash into color-coded bins that go be­yond two (not for them the sim­plis­tic “Malata (Or­ganic)” and “Dili Malata (Plas­tic)” sys­tem).

Yel­low con­tain­ers hold plas­tics and pack­ag­ing. Into the blue ones go pa­per and card­board. For clear glass, it’s white bins; for col­ored glass, it’s gr een .

Or­gan­ics go into brown bins. Since the pas­sage of a 2015 law re­quir­ing com­mu­ni­ties to col­lect com­post for bio­gas and or­ganic farm­ing, Ger­mans gen­er­ate 10 mil­lion tons of com­post every year.

The Ger­mans are fol­lowed by the South Kore­ans, who re­use 59 per­cent of their garbage. Tur­key is al­most a per­fect con­trast; 99 per­cent of their trash winds up lin­ing land­fills.

What can we learn from the re­cy­cling cham­pi­ons? The same ar­ti­cle cred­its the con­spic­u­ous­ness of the mul­ti­col­ored col­lec­tion bins, com­plete with Ger­man and English la­bels so for­eign­ers also get it.

And Ger­mans are “rarely shy” about call­ing out vi­o­la­tors. Un­til the public drive mar­ries, not just dal­lies with, per­sonal con­vic­tion, we may have to be “plas­tic (fake)” over plas­tic for now.

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