Last Saturday was International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day. All over the country, various groups cleaned up our seas and shores.
Unfortunately, for many people the significance of the occasion is usually lost the day after, as they go back to their uncaring ways, littering our waters and coasts with all kinds of trash.
Very few appreciate that ICC Day is a reminder of the need to care for our environment, particularly our waters—very important for an archipelago that relies on the sea for much of its food and other needs.
We only have to think of red tide, which now happens more frequently and in more places, occasional mercury-contamination alerts and fish kills to realize that keeping our waters healthy and pollution-free is important for our own health and well-being.
The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF-Philippines) says television sets, tables, chairs, lamps, sofa sets, refrigerators, rugs, curtains, kitchen sinks (I think even cars) “have all been retrieved from the sea” because of improper waste disposal, causing damage to the marine environment and the creatures that live there.
To help us make coastal cleanup not just an annual event but part of our daily routine, WWF-Philippines lists 10 ways we can make our seas trash-free.
- Watch what you throw. Over 80 percent of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. Most waste thrown inland eventually make their way to the sea.
- Minimize use of plastic bags, which break down into smaller and more toxic particles, contaminating both water and soil. The chemicals enter the food system and can poison humans.
- Bring a reusable water container instead of bottled water for hydration. Plastic bottles may block the breathing passages and stomachs of many large marine species like sharks and whales.
- Properly dispose cigarette butts, the top items collected at ICC drives globally. (In the Cook Islands, marine scientists showed us a jarful of cigarette butts taken from the belly of a dead sea turtle, which thought they were food.)
Last year, ICC collected more than two million cigarette butts, 1.6 million food wrappers and about a million plastic water bottles.
- Reuse disposable food containers to store other food and household items.
- Pay attention to what you dispose of. (Our waters are not dumpsites for things you no longer need, like old appliances and furniture.)
- Be creative! Join upcycling activities that reinvent or redecorate once-useless products into new, useful materials.
- Support products with less packaging. Buy in bulk. Smaller packs generate more waste. Bulk purchasing saves money, too. Opt for brands that have less packaging. (It was reported that in some European countries, toothpaste tubes were no longer boxed to reduce the amount of waste to be handled.)
- Influence change in your community. Learn about the waste management policies of candidates. Demand from your local officials tougher action against garbage.
- Take action! Pick up trash whenever you see it.
Catch the last day of “Beauty Beneath the Blue” photo exhibit at the Edsa Cupola of Glorietta 1, Makati City, organized by WWF-Philippines and Network of Underwater Digital Imagers, with Canon Marketing Philippines, Inc. and Ayala Malls. The exhibit aims to raise awareness about the Philippines’ rich marine resources and dangers posed by unchecked pollution.
ICC Day, launched by the Ocean Conservancy in 1985, is the world’s largest voluntary movement for the world’s seas.
Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 897-4793/94; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org