Free the Ocean Blog

The dream of a plastic-free world is becoming a reality for many

The omnipresence of single-use plastic packaging can often make a plastic-free world seem an unattainable dream. Despite the best intentions of consumers, plastics continue to sneak into shopping carts and food orders. Furthermore, online purchases arrive wrapped in layers of plastic that persist long after their brief usage.

These plastics, designed for fleeting convenience, linger indefinitely in our environment. They gather in rivers, oceans, and even end up in our food and water as microplastics. However, change is on the horizon, and it’s happening now.

Community Embraces Refill Stations

Alternatives to single-use plastics exist and are beginning to gain traction. During the International Zero Waste Cities Conference held in the Philippines, attendees witnessed these alternatives firsthand.

In the city of Malabon, just outside Manila, the ubiquitous sari-sari stores, or convenience shops, play a pivotal role in this transition. Customers are encouraged to bring their own containers to refill with products such as vinegar, soy sauce, and dishwashing liquid from bulk jugs. This initiative, facilitated by the JuanaZero project, is a working example of how local retail establishments can transition towards eliminating single-use plastic packaging.

Photo Credit: Ocean Conservancy

A Successful Bottle Refill System

Siquijor, the first zero-waste province in the Philippines, demonstrates that an entire community can commit to sustainable practices. This lush island, teeming with biodiversity, has succeeded in implementing zero-waste solutions despite the logistical challenges of being a remote island with over 100,000 residents and a significant number of visitors.

On the island, plastic beverage bottles smaller than a liter are banned. This milestone was achieved gradually, first with local plastic-product bans in 2017, and subsequently with the implementation of a glass bottle-refill system. This innovation leverages daily ferry services to recycle and refill glass bottles, providing a model for other islands in the country. Additionally, Siquijor hosts a plastic-free night market, setting the standard for sustainability in the community.

The Holistic Approach to Zero Waste

The concept of zero waste in the Philippines extends beyond plastics. It encompasses all materials, including food waste. Several Manila neighborhoods have established formal waste segregation and recycling services. Waste is collected daily and categorized, with organic waste used for compost and recyclables sold to generate income for waste workers.

One standout invention is the biodigester, which captures gases from decomposing organic waste, transforming it into a valuable resource for cooking.

Photo Credit: Ocean Conservancy

What Can We Learn?

With the US as the leading generator of plastic waste, there’s much to be learned from global colleagues. The experiences from the Philippines illustrate that a greener, zero-waste future is achievable. It serves as an inspiring example of communities taking significant steps towards sustainability.

More FTO Blogs