According to a 2015 report by the Ocean Conservancy charity and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment, the Philippines is the third-largest source of plastic pollution in the ocean and produces 2.7 million tons of plastic waste annually. The report also found that around 20 percent of that plastic waste ends up in the ocean. The reason for these concerning statistics is that plastic waste in the Philippines comes from individual packaging, called sachets, which often ends up in the ocean since it is non-recyclable and therefore of no value to recyclers who might otherwise recycle it for profit. All this plastic in the ocean then later floods into poor low lying neighborhoods and causes health hazards. However, in the Philippines, there are many organizations dedicated to protecting the environment, getting plastic out of the ocean and making sure it does not end up there in the first place. These are three organizations addressing plastic pollution in the Philippines, helping people in affected neighborhoods and trying to preserve the ocean’s biodiversity.
3 Organizations Addressing Plastic Pollution in the Philippines
- Mother Earth Foundation: Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) is an NGO that emerged in 1998 and has its headquarters in Quezon City, Philippines. For 20 years, MEF has been fighting to raise awareness about environmental problems and mobilizing the public to find solutions and create a more sustainable world. MEF’s legacy includes lobbying for the passage of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. MEF is also a partner of the Northern Samar Coalition for Alleviation of Poverty, a partnership that focuses on tackling ecological issues faced by the people of Northern Samar in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. In 2012, MEF partnered with schools in the northern Philippine town of San Fernando. MEF and the schools managed to salvage around 70 percent of the city’s waste that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill. Many still consider San Fernando to be one of the best zero-waste examples in the Asia-pacific. MEF continues to push for zero waste policies and recently organized the 2018 Zero Waste Academy which helps educate and train Filipinos and other Southeast Asians to implement zero waste policies in their communities.
- GAIA: GAIA came into being in South Africa in 2000. In its mission statement from its founding meeting, it outlined its vision: “GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries whose ultimate vision is a just, toxic-free world without incineration.” GAIA operates in more than 90 countries and it has been very active in the Asia Pacific and the Philippines. In the Philippines, GAIA has been instrumental in supporting the world’s only national ban on waste incineration for fifteen years. In addition to the ban, GAIA has been fighting polluting facilities, helping local communities develop and employ zero-waste systems and advocating for ecological policies in the Philippines. In 2017, GAIA along with other environmental activists began doing brand audits on polluted beaches. The concept is simple: GAIA tallies all the brand names it finds in the washed-up plastic trash and then publicizes it in order to shed light on the contaminating practices of corporations. So far, GAIA has completed over 20 brand audits in the Philippines and in neighboring countries.
- Break Free from Plastic: Break Free from Plastic emerged in 2016 in Tagaytay, Philippines, and its vision is to greatly reduce single-use-plastics and foster a world free of the toxic by-products of plastic pollution. Many organizations (1,475) around the world have joined Break Free from Plastic in its mission to fight for corporate responsibility of plastic pollution and promote zero-waste lifestyles and cities. As the founder of the group, Von Hernandez explained that Break Free from Plastic mainly wants to challenge the polluting corporations: “If we cannot recycle it or compost this material, then [the corporations] should not be producing them in the first place.” In the Philippines, Break Free from Plastic does community outreach and education, regular beach cleanups and participates in the aforementioned brand audits.
There are still islands of plastic in the ocean and total clean up is a near-impossible task but these three organizations are doing their best to put a dent into the plastic pollution that threatens health both in the Philippines and around the world. By promoting zero-waste policies and challenging the corporations who produce the non-recyclable sachets these three organizations are ensuring a better and cleaner future for Filipinos.
– Isabel Fernandez