Saturday, July 9, 2016

Part 2: A World Without Plastics

Dr Abe V Rotor 
 Living with Nature School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday

A World Without Plastics?

Without plastics in today’s world is incomprehensible. Plastics contribute to our health, safety and peace of mind. They are part of our dwellings, cars, toys, appliances - and body parts such as heart valves and prosthetics. There are countless uses in all aspects of our lives and everywhere.

But on the other hand, the biggest dilemma that we face today with plastics is its proper disposal. Already it has become a major waste material all over the world. While we see its virtually endless uses, we also witness the accumulation of its waste and by-products. Because it is non-biodegradable, the rate is alarming, a concern not only of environmentalists but also of all citizens - and governments, particularly of industrialized countries.

Plastic Garbage

In a recent field trip along the coast of Morong, Bataan, students from the UST College of Pharmacy were surprised to see plastic material strewn by wave along the shore. A cursory examination reveals the following plastic materials:
1. Plastic sack which has replaced the jute or gummy sack
2. Nylon rope and filament, which have replaced Manila hemp and cotton threads. Filament is used for fish net.
3. Leatherettes used in shoes, canvas, bags etc., which have replaced leather. There are other kinds of artificial leather.
4. Styropore for packing and containers, replacing banana leaves, straw and paper.
5. Foam in mattress, slippers, furniture, and for washing. Natural sponge is now a rare commodity. Foam replaced coconut coir and kapok.
6. Plastic bottles, jars, containers. Glass is still the best material when it comes to food storage.
7. Plastic sachets, bags, wrappers and the like have largely taken over the use of paper and cardboard.

These plastics materials are familiar to us. We see them on the shelf, at the mall, in the grocery and market, and at home. They are proof of our modern culture of consumerism, of our new ways as a “use-and-throw-away” society.

Trapped Fish Fry in Plastic

While gathering the garbage to help clean up the shore, my students found trapped fish fry in plastic bags. What is the meaning of this? We looked for clues. We found plastic bags flushed down the river, or thrown by unscrupulous residents and promenades. Drawn into the coral reef zone, these plastic bags become a decoy for the spawning fish. Immature marine life makes them as abode. But they are not like seaweeds or seagrass that provide food, oxygen and shelter to the fry. Plastic bags are fatal traps causing starvation and asphyxiation to the victims. Those that survive are weaned too soon as current takes them away from their sanctuary. Here they are exposed to danger. They are not yet prepared to live in the open.

We have seen plastics stranded at the bottom of the reef that prevent juvenile seaweeds to develop. Plastics may also trap the polyps of corals, and countless zooplankton that we cannot see with our naked eyes.

That evening on the shores of Morong we asked ourselves what each one of us can do with plastics. The moon was full, its light gleamed on the tranquil waves which pushed a plastic bottle near us. We remained in reflective silence.


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