Plastic pollution through Sally’s eyes

14 November 2018

Back in September, our Senior Account Executive Sally set off on a mission to the Philippines, to see the issue of plastic pollution for herself. Here’s her story…

I think it’s safe to say that we all want the issue of plastic to go away. It’s putting pressure on businesses, governments and consumers, leaving us all with the dreaded feeling of guilt and confusion.

It’s this feeling of guilt and misunderstanding that became too much for me, so Mercieca gave me ‘time out’ to follow my passion. I flew to the island of Negros Oriental to volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines to see the issue first hand and seek a better understanding of the future of plastic.

The fact of the matter is, what the media tell us is unfortunately the ugly truth. Our oceans really are getting contaminated and if we don’t change our habits it won’t get any better. It was heart-breaking to see the beautiful ocean I fell in love with as a child with my own eyes grossly poisoned by plastic.

Many of my days spent as a volunteer consisted of beach clean ups, which are certainly not the glamourous coastal strolls along paradise beaches you often see on social media. In reality, they’re tiring, hot and smelly marches picking up used nappies and dead animals among the never ending piles of waste. Hours can be spent cleaning up the beaches only to return the next day to find it in exactly the same state. This is the reality of how much rubbish is really out there and how much work there is to be done.

I used to believe that the plastic leaking into the rivers and subsequently the oceans was all down to lazy people not recycling or throwing their rubbish away efficiently. But it’s much more than that. Every stakeholder in the plastic puzzle has a contribution to the issue and they all have their own obstacles to overcome. My eyes were certainly opened to the barrier’s large corporations and governments must face after I was lucky enough to speak with the mayor of the local provenance of San Jose.

He told me about a great scheme he wished to impose, in which locals could bring in 1kg of washed up waste in return for 1kg of rice grains. It sounded like the perfect incentive to me, but of course it wasn’t as simple as I first thought. The barrier for him and his government was that there was nowhere for the waste to go. Land had to be used for farming to feed his people, no nearby islands would take the waste and any money they had was needed to better the living conditions within the region. As encouraging as it was to hear third world countries were in fact looking to reduce the amount of plastic in their surrounding seas, this was evidence to me of the complexity of the problem facing the world. There is certainly no single solution to single-use.

At the end of the day, it is all our responsibilities, and it certainly isn’t down to any one corporation or governmental body. Every single one of us can adopt one small correction to our daily routine to create a world of change. Simple steps can include;

• Properly disposing of cigarette butts

• Buying in bulk whenever possible

• Reusing food and drink containers and cutlery

• Eliminate the use of single-use plastics (straws, cotton buds, plastic bags, etc.)

• Switch to more sustainable products (bamboo toothbrush, shampoo bars, coconut scrubbers)

• Refuse, Reuse or Recycle all plastics

What I’ve learnt and experienced during my two months’ volunteer work has seriously changed my outlook on plastic and opened my eyes to some hard hitting realities. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I can now use my new knowledge to assist in sustainability projects that we’re seeing more of at Mercieca. In terms of insight, my trip has certainly enabled us to give our clients an even more informed counsel.

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