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.