Imagine this! According to the Asian Development Bank, in “The Garbage Book” published in 2004:

“ the next 30 years, Metro Manila will generate over 50 million tons of solid waste. Collection of this waste will require a line of waste trucks going three times around the earth and over halfway to themoon with a cumulative waste truck travel distance over 4000 times around the earth and to the sun andat a cost of over PHP 100 billion ($1.9 billion)”.

In 2011, the total waste generated by the Philippines was estimated at 35,000 tons per day and 16% of it is plastic. This means 5,600 tons of plastic. Greenpeace and the EcoWaste Coalition have done a number of waste audits in Laguna Lake and Manila Bay, wherein plastic bags and other residual wastes like candy wrappers, plastic packaging material and the like always top our surveys. In the Manila Bay surveys, plastic wastes were recorded at 76.9% in 2011 and 75% in 2010.

I cannot visualize what our country would look like if we spread out all the plastic bags and packaging that we have accumulated for decades on land and extend it out towards the sea. What a tragedy that would be to this beautiful country.

This is why I celebrate each time I hear a community, a city or a municipality pass an ordinance that regulates the use of plastic bags. I see hope for us. The latest comes from General Trias and Tagaytay. In our latest count, we have close to 30 local government units (LGUs) who have already passed an ordinance regulating single-use disposables including plastic bags and/or Styrofoam. Quezon City’s ordinance has just made it past second reading. I hope that they pass it soon.

In the 2004 book, garbage collection cost was pegged at 3.54 billion pesos per year for Metro Manila alone. If we only segregate at source and refuse plastic bags and other disposables, we can use the 3.54 billion pesos to generate decent jobs and other livelihoods for the waste pickers and others who cannot seem to find jobs because there aren’t any available.

But the best outcome is that, finally, our earth will be able to breathe again. I can’t wait for a national legislation on plastic bags and other single-use disposables.