“No Plastic Day” Should Be Every Day

14 Oct

 Due to unforeseen circumstances, this post for Wasteless Wednesday has been moved to today, Totally Trashless Thursday.

At a 7-11 convenience store in Hong Kong, this is a common sight: people coming out of the store with grocery items in their hands, a plastic bag nary in sight. Later at a Toys”R”Us store, kids come out happily holding a box or two of toys, all of which are surprisingly unwrapped and unsealed in the ubiquitous white plastic bags monogrammed with the orange and blue TRU logo. What was going on? 

For a small island like Hong Kong that consumes 23 million plastic bags every day, making a change in policy to reduce dependence on and use of non-biodegradable plastic bags was a major step that challenged both businesses and consumers alike. Despite initial reservations on the policy, the “No Plastic Day” vigorously implemented in 2006 gained public support and this momentum allowed its evolution from a single day to a “No Plastic Every Day” campaign since last year. 

In the Philippines, a similar movement to introduce reusable bags was started on the initiative of private businesses like Rustan’s Supercenters, which owns the chain of Shopwise and Rustan’s Supermarkets, and SM Supermalls, owners of the chain of SM Supermarkets, SM Hypermarts, and SaveMore stores. Other companies followed suit, but again, this practice was largely confined to private corporations and business that offered their own store brand of the eco bag.

Still, it was bound to catch the attention of policy makers sooner or later. After the devastation of Typhoon Ondoy last year, it became imperative to not only increase disaster preparedness but also take a hard look at the mitigating factors that led to severe flooding in the city and the provinces surrounding it. It was apparent even then that garbage was a huge contributory factor, particularly plastics that clogged sewers and waterways and hampered the flow of large volumes of water.

Starting November this year, on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), Earth Day Network Philippines (EDNP), Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (PAGASA), Philippine Retailers Association (PRA), and major supermarkets in the country, a “No Plastic Day” will be launched, signaling the start of government’s participation in the program. On that specific day, plastic bags will not be handed out to clients and patrons and they are encouraged (or required?) to bring their own bags for their purchases. (Less clear, however, is if these supermarkets will charge a fee for plastics on that day, should the patron request one.)

I absolutely love this program and support it wholeheartedly. We are drowning in plastic and it’s time for us to step up and say NO. Of course, some would call this an exaggeration and defend themselves by preaching the advantages of new plastic called oxo-biodegradable plastics. (You can guess who uses up a lot of these.)  Touted as a solution to non-biodegradability of plastics, this is not a panacea but merely a temporary palliative. Oxo-biodegradable plastic, contrary to the image it projects, does not simply vanish into thin air after a period of time. Its claim of total degradability has been questioned repeatedly and its impact on the environment, whether beneficial or adverse, still remains to be seen.

While banning plastic for a day may seem like a really small step in the face of a humongous problem, it does set the tone for other programs and policies that support environmental causes. Still , I hope that this practice does not stop with supermarkets and instead, move on to malls, department stores, bookstores, and even drug stores. Supermarkets may use up a lot of disposable plastic, true, but so do other stores that put everything inside plastic bags of different sizes. There has to be a way to reduce plastic consumption in these segments of the market and yet address their concerns on shoplifting and theft at the same time. If TRU in HK can do it by placing stickers or marking the paid for items, then perhaps, we can also find similar ways to deal with this.

 I hope that this one-day “No Plastic Day” will become a “No Plastic Every Day” policy.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

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6 Responses to ““No Plastic Day” Should Be Every Day”

  1. Indiana Lori October 18, 2010 at 8:00 am #

    It’s such a WASTE! Who needs a bag? Who doesn’t have a bag? Don’t get me wrong, they are great for kitty litter and dirty diapers, but other that…I spend so much of my day politely declining, “the bag”. Well written!

  2. Kittymama October 20, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    Thanks, Lori! I have such a hard time convincing people to give up their plastic so I think for Christmas, they’ll will see eco-bags in their loot bags. 🙂

  3. Just A Friend October 20, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    I like eco-bags too and can not imagine anyone not liking them for their reusable yet stylish features. I just wish stores would offer more kinds, like SM only has the green bag which you can’t use with wet items. Shopwise has a bayong which to me is more useful than paper-thin eco-bags.

    • Kittymama October 22, 2010 at 11:32 am #

      I like bayongs too I completely agree with your assessment that the new types of bayongs make for better eco-bags than the flimsy ones. I hope someone from SM takes notice. 🙂

  4. Michael October 22, 2010 at 12:21 am #

    Having seen many instances of wildlife harmed by plastic bags, I am not too found of such. In the US, one can bring plastic bags to grocery and some department stores for recycling; however, not everyone does.

    • Kittymama October 22, 2010 at 11:34 am #

      They should encourage that practice everywhere. Instead of throwing plastics away, it would benefit more people if there was an incentive to have it recycled.

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