Paper or Plastic?

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I don’t know why but I seem to be writing a lot about trash.  I guess it’s because I think this is one environmental problem that we, as consumers, have some sort of control.

It’s hard for ordinary citizens to have a say on the source of energy our country uses.  We can’t control the carbon emissions of factories.  We can’t stop deforestation and mining.  But we can reduce the amount of garbage we generate.

I would like to live like this couple in New Zealand who lived a rubbish free year or this lady in the US who is living a plastic-free life or this guy who lived a no impact year with his family.  With two kids though, it’s a bit more difficult.  They need to experiment and be creative and unfortunately, garbage is sometimes (often) a by product.  I do try to be more environment friendly when I do the groceries, usually by buying in bulk and choosing items which has less plastic packaging.

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide though, which item would be less harmful for the environment.  Let’s take sachets for example.  I hate individually packed items like shampoo sachets that are very popular here but shampoo bottles are made of plastic too.  I never buy shampoo sachets but I’ll admit to buying refill packs for cooking oil, soy sauce, ketchup, and dishwashing liquid.  Is this the wrong decision?  I figure that the bigger container will take up a bigger space in the landfill although maybe it could be recycled.  I just don’t know which is better.

And then there’s sanitary napkins.  When I was in high school, you can buy a pack of napkins where the only packaging is the container.  But now, napkins are individually wrapped.   I appreciate the convenience of individually wrapped pads but I think manufacturers should give us choices.  I don’t need to buy individually wrapped stuff that I’ll just store at home.  Also, in one pack, there are only, at most, 10 napkins.  That is definitely not enough for one month.  I don’t know why they don’t offer bigger packs, like how diapers are packaged.  It’s a staple, it doesn’t spoil, and it’s okay if we buy this in bulk.

Recently,  Modess came out with a cardboard box as a container for their pads.  I think this is a good move for the company.  However, there are only 5 pads in the container.  I don’t understand why the package is so small.   I guess they’re still testing the market to see if the new packaging will be accepted.  So I don’t know if I should buy this pack of 5 or a pack of 10 but in a plastic pack.

I guess most people don’t think nor care about these things.  But I do care and I think we all should.  This is just a little thing but this is something all women have to deal with every month.  Whether we want to or not, we create trash every month and I’d like to reduce the amount as much as possible.  I think manufacturers have a golden opportunity here.  They can change their packaging and market it as an environmental move.  Everybody knows the damage that plastic does to the environment.  It’s very convenient to use but as we all know, it doesn’t break down.  So why not package their goods in paper or cardboard?  It can be recycled and they can even use recycled materials for it.  Hopefully, companies will realize this and step up.

Or maybe it’s more realistic for me to  just wish for early menopause…

Kudos Basureros!

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Last March, I wrote about the garbage segregation project supposedly being implemented.  They’ve threatened not to pick up the garbage that’s not segregated but I’ve never seen it happen.

Well, they made some changes this month.

About two weeks ago, I was surprised when the garbage truck came by on a Tuesday.  Their schedule for pick-up was Wednesdays and Saturdays and we have not been informed of any changes.  We asked the collectors and they said that the schedule has been changed to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.  They said that Tuesdays and Saturdays were for biodegradable waste and the non-biodegradable waste will be collected on Thursdays.  I was happy about this news as it would really force people to segregate and just bring out the appropriate trash.

My hopes then were dashed as I still see all sorts of trash taken out during garbage day.  I walk everyday after bringing Yumi to school so I can see (and smell) the garbage along the streets during garbage day.

Last week, some people from the baranggay came around informing us of a meeting about garbage segregation to be held at the baranggay hall.  They then again reminded us to segregate and only bring out the correct type of garbage on the assigned day.

So yesterday was biodegradable day.  As always, I walked around and again saw all sorts of garbage, even among my neighbors.  Imagine my surprise when I heard the collectors talking to our neighbors and I saw them bringing back in their house boxes and other non-biodegradable trash.  They actually followed through!  This is amazing and the first time I’ve actually witnessed such a thing.

I admire the basureros as I know it’s difficult for them to talk to people and actually implement the rules.  I know it’s such a small thing but it’s a start.  I guess there’s still hope for our country if this is done consistently, everywhere.  I just hope that this will be sustained and be the start of even bigger projects to solve our garbage crisis.

Keep up the good work!

Plastic

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The other day, Yumi and I went to the grocery store to buy some stuff, like cooking oil and butter, tocino and dishwashing liquid.  When we got home, we had a total of 4 plastic bags for such a small number of items.  They put the butter in a plasic bag, the tocino in another bag, then they put these bags with the cooking oil in a big plastic bag.  The dishwashing liquid was placed in a separate small bag by itself since it can’t be mixed with food.

I think plastic bags per se are not evil but using too much and using it indiscriminately is definitely harmful for the environment and eventually harmful for us.  The government is trying to reduce the usage of plastic by implementing a “no plastic bag day” once a week, every Wednesday and I know there are several establishments who are strict in implementing this in their stores.  It’s a good start but I don’t think it is enough though.

Even if we all used reusable bags to place all our purchases in, what we purchased would have some sort of plastic or packaging as well.  I buy refills for most of our household products like cooking oil, dishwashing liquid, shampoo, fabric conditioner etc.  All these are placed in plastic.  I don’t know if this is better or if it is better to buy the original packaging which has hard plastic which could probably be recycled.  But I think recycling should be the last resort and if the object can still be used, then it should.  Shampoo containers can be used countess times and I think it never has to be replaced ever.  But of course buying refills would also use up plastic.  Is it possible to have a distributor who can sell us just the contents?  Can we bring our empty bottles and have it refilled?  I think this is economical for the producer as they don’t have to spend for the containers anymore.  Of course, this would require that customers buy into the idea.  But I think if advertisers give it the right spin, consumers will take the trouble to bring their containers.  Of course it would be better if they get a benefit, like maybe a discount, the same way you get P5 off your drink at Starbucks if bring your own container (I think it has to be a Starbucks container, though).

There is one city who is imposing a total ban on the use of plastic bags.  I think this is very admirable but I just don’t know how effective or realistic this is.  Let’s say you go to market to buy your food supplies for the week.  You buy some fruits, and put this in your bag.  Then you buy some vegetables and these are put in your bag as well.  These items are dry and I think it’s ok to place them in your bag without any plastic.  Then you buy some eggs.  Where will you place the eggs?  Then you buy chicken, where will you put the raw chicken?  Obviously there are items that do need to be placed in plactic bags, or some other container as they can’t be mixed with the other items you’re buying.  Would the market vendors be put out of business because they have to provide plastic bags to place the chicken in?  Are the consumers supposed to bring tupperware-like containers to place the chicken in?  How can we make this ban realistic and get all those involved to participate?

There are so many things left to say about this topic but I’ll talk about it some other day.  I know that I need to make some changes, both as a consumer and as a seller.  I’ll try my best to bring containers when I go shopping next time, and I think I’ll also give discounts to my customers if they bring their own containers when they buy my cookies.  I guess that’s as good a start as any.

De-cluttering

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I’m in an on-going project to de-clutter our home.  I started last year and I planned to clear a surface or a drawer or a shelf every week.  This is to make the project manageable by doing baby steps.

The first few weeks were quite successful.  I could see the surface of our divider, then the shelves downstairs was also organized and cleaned.  I threw a lot of useless stuff but my kids also got other stuff which I don’t use anymore.  (Unfortunately, these things are now cluttering their space).  I was very motivated by the improvements which made me want to do more.

Of course, after a time, I got tired of it and things started piling up again, ningas cogon at work.  It’s mostly my kids’ stuff and they have to be reminded to keep their things on their respective tables.  I have to continuously work on keeping the surfaces clear but I  usually let the papers pile up until I have to look for something then I’ll have to clear the area again.

Recently, I have decided that I need to continue my de-cluttering project and so I started clearing up our drawers in our desk.  I had so much old receipts, I even saw my contract for my pager dated 1997 and my first mobile phone subscription.  Amazing.  So, out came bags of papers and kids’ projects and artworks.  Of course I showed these to my kids first and they either kept it or decided to throw it out.

Keeping our stuff organized is really important so we don’t have to waste so much time looking for things.  It’s difficult to start but once we’ve started, I think it’s easier maintaining the order.  We just have to keep at it a little everyday so things don’t pile up and become unmanageable again.

Going through our drawers is also a great way to inventory the stuff we already have.  We might discover that we already have the things we need.  It’s best to remember where everything is kept or at least have general categories for each drawer to make searching easier and to avoid buying stuff we already have.

Hopefully, I’ll keep at it this time and get my kids to de-clutter their areas too.

By the way, just wanted to let you guys know that I’ve finally done Zumba three times this week.  Finally, after 4 weeks, I’ve met my goal!  The challenge now is to keep doing it.  =P

Garbage segregation

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A couple of days ago, our barangay tanods went around our neighborhood reminding people to segregate their trash.  They gave pamphlets and informed us that segregation is strictly implemented and if we don’t follow it properly, our garbage will not be collected.

I am totally for the idea of segregation but I’m concerned with implementation.   I’ve never seen them refuse to pick up any garbage bag.   During garbage collection day in our street,  there are piles of trash bags and plastic bags every two or three houses.   There is no way to know which household did not sort their garbage correctly.  The different types of garbage are all collected in one day and I’m pretty sure they get mixed in the trucks somehow.

I have a few thoughts on how garbage segregation can be successful.

1.  Education –  The barangay gave us a brochure detailing how we should segregate our trash.  I feel that the information they have given is still very general.  The major categories are compostable, recyclable, residual, and special waste (bulky waste).  Biodegradable or compostable waste is pretty straightforward.   For recyclable waste, there are no guidelines, like what kinds of plastics are recyclable?  Residual is also a bit problematic for me and I could just throw anything and label it as residual at they listed sachets, wrappers, containers and the like as residual.  For bulky waste, we have to make arrangements for these – appliances, furniture, tree branches, etc.  There are also items that are not listed, like batteries and light bulbs.  I think it would be better if they conduct some sort of meeting to ensure that each household really understands how this should be done.

2.  Collection – Two trucks go around each garbage collection day, one for biodegradable waste and the other for residual waste.  The recyclable waste should have been picked up “bote-dyaryo” people before the garbage trucks come.   I’m thinking it may be more effective if they collect one type of garbage per day.  It’s not really wasteful since there are two vehicles anyway.  This would also ensure that residents are sorting their garbage and are bringing out the correct type.

3.  Community involvement – It would be nice if there is a community garden where the compost would be used.  Maybe volunteers could tend the garden, make compost and ensure that residents have access to fresh produce.  It could also be a source of income for the community or for members who maybe hard-up.  Maybe there could also be a “free shop” where residents can bring their still useful stuff like clothes, toys, lamps, chairs etc and other residents could pick up any item they wish.  This diverts some items meant for the landfill and helps out people who need stuff.

These are just some thoughts going through my mind.  With all the things happening with our environment, I think individuals, governments and industries would all have to work together.  We all have the responsibility to protect the Earth.   This is our only home and what’s good for the Earth will ultimately be good for us.