The pandemic has filled pages of traditional and online media, so much so that we couldn’t keep our eyes off the dire news of virus variants even though we want to. Once we log on to our social media accounts, COVID creeps up with updates on rising infections, warnings from fully occupied hospitals, and news of death from family, friends, or acquaintances.
What has been left off in the conversation, ironically, is a looming “pandemic” that concerns our environment — a catastrophic plastic pollution that will have intergenerational effects and irreversible consequences for all living things in the planet, flora and fauna included.
The pandemic has exacerbated the world’s plastic pollution problem. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that after more than a year of wearing face shields, donning PPEs, having food delivered in disposable plastic containers, and using single-use plastic utensils, all these would become part of a massive garbage pile that it is inevitable that some of these trash would find their way to rivers, seas, and oceans.
This scenario is not a figment of imagination. In a report released by the UN’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, it said that “80 percent of the plastic that ends up in the oceans originates on land.” In short, endangered dolphins to migratory birds and elephants are all “vulnerable to plastic pollution… and are often overlooked victims of humanity's expanding trash crisis.”
What's also alarming with the report is the extent of plastic particles that has infiltrated our environment. It revealed that plastic particles "can now be found in the most remote and seemingly pristine regions of the planet, with tiny fragments discovered inside fish in the deepest recesses of the ocean and peppering Arctic sea ice.”
A glaring example from the report cited the Ganges and Mekong river basins, which flow as part of a number of Asian countries. Researchers estimate at least 200,000 tons of plastic pollution annually coming from these two rivers, which in turn affects the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The prognosis of our planet when it comes to plastic pollution is more serious as the report said: “The focus has thus far been on cleanup in our oceans, but that is already too late in the process.” There are, however, some things we could still do and the report noted that we have to “focus on solutions and prevention of plastic pollution upstream.”
“There should be strategies to prevent plastic from being dumped in the environment… people have to reduce waste through better design and recycling, as well as greater efforts to understand the effects of this pollution on migratory species, among other strategies.” In our country, various groups are calling for the immediate passage of the “Single-use Plastic Products Regulation Bill,” which aims to dramatically reduce the dangerous effects of unnecessary plastics on people’s health, the environment, and climate.
We do not have to wait for a law to make us discard our “plastic habit.” Let us start today and reconsider if we need single-use plastics in our lives. Start in a very simple manner: Bring your own utensils so you could say no to single-use plastic spoons and forks.