Did you know that the Philippines is the third highest plastic waste generator in the world? The number one slot belongs to China, followed by Indonesia. Together with the rest of the world, we contribute to the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. [source: Ocean Crusaders and Eco Waste Coalition] While we have a growing plastic ban movement in the Philippines, we still don’t have enough recycling centers to combat the plastic problem.
What can we ordinary citizens do? Transition away from disposable plastic products and work your way to a zero waste lifestyle. There’s a growing movement of eco babes who keep an eco starter kit—a pack of items meant to replace the single-use plastics we waste daily. Just like your kikay kit, an eco starter kit is something you should keep in your bag or tucked in your office drawer.
Eco straws instead of plastic straws
In the US alone, a whopping 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day. This single-use tool is one of the biggest contributors to plastic waste. When eating out, make a personal commitment to say, “No straw, please!” Drink straight from the cup or invest in your own personal reusable straw. There are four types you can purchase—bamboo, glass, metal, and silicone.
Where to buy: Collograph, Go Zero PH, Green Selections, The Last Straw, Ritual, Sip PH, and WWF for stainless steel straws; Green Selections and The Glass Straw Shop for glass straws; Sinaya for silicone straws; Alieth Bontuyan, Bambuhay, and Yugto Ecolutions for bamboo straws
Reusable water bottle instead of single-use bottled water
According to The Guardian, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. The number is expected to jump another 20 percent by 2021. In 2016, fewer than half of the used bottles were collected for recycling. Only seven percent of those collected were turned into new bottles. Most of them ended up in the landfills or ocean. Shifting to a reusable water bottle will not only save you from spending so much on single-use bottled water, but will also lessen our plastic dump.
Collapsible travel cup instead of disposable plastic cups
When attending events or asking for water from the coffee shop barista, do you grab a plastic cup, drink for a few seconds, and then toss it in the trash? Even that “paper cup” you’re holding is lined with plastic (not wax)—and most recycling centers won’t accept them because it’s hard to separate the plastic from the paper. An eco-friendlier option is to have your coffee shop drink “for here” if they have mugs. Better yet, make it a habit to bring your own reusable tumbler or collapsible travel cup.
Eco bags or canvass totes instead of plastic bags
Because eco bags are often given for free and are so easy to purchase anywhere, you have zero excuses to not get into this habit! Have a few eco bags stowed in your bag, car, office drawer, and just about anywhere you’ll potentially need to lug groceries, shopping purchases, and other random items. Say no to single-use plastic bags, which take 1,000 years to degrade.
Where to buy: Everywhere!
Cloth towels instead of disposable wipes
Baby wipes aren’t as innocent as the biodegradable toilet paper you flush down. To cater to humanity’s need for convenience, most of today’s baby wipes are made from—you guessed it—plastic. A study done by the Marine Conservation Society found that baby wipes, together with cotton bud sticks and sanitary napkins, were found in coastlines. Even wipes labeled as “flushable” can still block pipes and go straight to the ocean. This might be a hard habit to break, but trade wet wipes for wet cloth towels.
Bamboo toothbrush instead of plastic toothbrush
In the US alone, an estimated 850 million to one billion toothbrushes are discarded every year. These toothbrushes are made from a combination of plastic and rubber for the hand piece, nylon for the bristles, and a mix of plastic and cardboard for the packaging. None of them are biodegradable. A safer alternative is the bamboo toothbrush.
Menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads instead of sanitary napkins
Just like plastic toothbrushes and baby wipes, sanitary napkins and pantyliners are also made of plastic and end up in landfills and oceans. For alternative menstrual products that won’t harm the environment, try menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads. Click here if you’re curious about how a menstrual cup works.
Reusable cutlery instead of disposable plastic forks and spoons
Plastic litter from our takeout orders—cups, plates, and cutlery—is the prime source of plastic pollution. While recycling waste materials is good, the better option is to not generate waste at all. Invest in your own set of reusable cutleries. When buying takeout, ask the server not to include any disposable forks and spoons anymore. If you really must use disposables in your party or event, go for the eco-friendly wooden version.
Reusable food containers instead of disposable packaging
When taking out food from restaurants or your Tita’s party, do you often end up with a Styrofoam or single-use plastic container placed inside a plastic bag? When preparing your baon, do you still use that flimsy plastic container you got for free at the last restaurant? They break easily, and often end up in landfills together with single-use plastic. Invest in your own high-quality food container instead.
Refillable toiletry containers instead of sachets
While sachets of toiletries and beauty products are great for traveling light, they often end up littering the beach and clogging the ocean. If you think you’re saving money by buying products in travel sizes, it’s actually cheaper to buy the family-sized versions if you calculate how much each gram costs. Just purchase reusable containers and fill them up with your favorite shampoos, lotions, moisturizers, and other essentials you need in your travels.