I recently got attacked by some trolls over Instagram for commenting over a social media influencer’s post. Just because pointed I out how ironic that they sought for plastic-free province yet they used plastic bags to collect the trash but anyhow, this has inspired to come up with this post. Recently, there is a growing trend of clean-ups #trashtag and everyone who is seeking for attention or praise are doing this.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the immediate benefits of picking up the trash, however, at the moment it is just being used by several social media influencers as a publicity stunt to become more popular and gain more likes, not to mention by companies to portray that they care about the environment.There are cons with this movement and you may not agree but I just feel the need to put it out here.
- Temporary and Unsustainable – Even if we take a good portion of the Philippine population to constantly clean-up, it will not solve the core of the problem which are lack of self-discipline and lack of corporate responsibility. Also, most people do not do it regularly enough to make the effects evident. How many times have people done clean-ups in different places and yet minutes after trash is back again. I know because I have taken part in several Shore it Up drives.
- It Does Not Empower the Local Community – If locals get used to some other people cleaning up for them, they will never feel the responsibility over the mess they are making. I always see how a lot of Filipinos have this sense of entitlement when they are in fastfood or restaurant chains, you barely see anyone responsibly throwing their trash. Same goes for all those fun runs, like some Earth run organised before where hundreds of water cups were just left out on the road. Currently, DENR has organised several River and beach clean-ups but I am not sure of the percentage of participants that live in the venue. Those countless areas where dwellers just continue to trash their surroundings will just grow accustomed to the idea that there will always be someone else cleaning up after them.
- No Accountability Post Clean-up – I have seen several clean-ups and photos taken after the event but no one really shows where the trash collected goes. In one vlog, several social media influencers took several bags of trash and they got praised for what they did, however, it surfaced couple of days after that they just left the trash in the same area so did it really change things?
You might think, if you know better, what do you propose we do instead of just picking up the litter? Great if you think like this! Here are better ways to help the growing plastic problem:
- Put a price on plastic. – Companies should be charged more for the use of plastic given the numerous bad effects it has over our environment and health and we consumers should push for legislations for this. We should also make use of plastic bags in grocery stores more expensive instead of charging people to buy an eco bag.
- Force companies to create sustainable and eco-friendly packaging. – Recent news showed that there is a growing pressure from consumers nationwide for better packaging. Couple of months ago, Loop announced it will be working with several known companies for reusable packaging.
- Shift to a zero-waste lifestyle.- In the end, it all starts with us, the consumers. If we produce less waste then there would be less trash in our planet. You opting for an alternative packaging or plastic-free products already has more impact over a one day clean-up. It is not easy but it is far from impossible. There are a lot of resources and tips online for you to shift to this lifestyle. Besides, our predecessors already lived like this before. Our grandparents used banana leaves and reused mason jars, why not go back to how it used to be.
I am not stopping you from joining the next clean-up drive, if it makes you feel good and you feel it is making a real difference. I just want to remind people that the problem will not be solved completely if we do not zoom out to look at the bigger problem and put our focus on the root cause of the issue. It is like covering a hole in a damaged boat with barehands, sure it delays the sinking but it does not really stop it.
Next time you buy something, think about how you are contributing to the trash problem. Choose to consume without waste.