Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pasig River Run and the fight against plastic pollution

The Pasig River Run is afoot as I write this blog and I am wondering if this much advertised 'awareness generating' as well as 'fund generating' running event will really do anything for the Pasig River.

To really clean up the Pasig River, you have to be aware of what really makes it dirty and you don't have to pay money to run around the city to find out.
Go to your bathroom and kitchen sink.  All the waste water you create ends up in the Pasig River. (Well, yeah, first it goes to your septic tank and then that septic tank basically drains into the sewerage.)  What's worse is that most companies dump their waste water and other pollutants directly into the Pasig River.
Go to your garbage bins.  We can only hope that all the plastic packaging that comes with the goods that you buy ends up in the landfills outside of the city, where presumably, it will rot away and return to the earth.   
The proliferation of so-called 'bio-degradable' plastic bags and recyclable plastic packaging is misleading people into thinking that these plastics will disappear in a poof of smoke after a few weeks.  It won't.  Plastics are FOREVER.  
And the WORST NEWS SO FAR is that hundreds of tons of NON-RECYCLABLE PLASTIC SACHETS are being churned out by companies like UNILEVER, SAN MIGUEL, PROCTER and GAMBLE, NESTLE, and other companies.
The thing is, will Gina Lopez (the head of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Council) tell these TOP PLASTIC POLLUTERS to switch to REAL bio-degradable plastic packaging?
Just consider these rough estimations of how much plastic is generated by the TOP ADVERTISERS OF ABS-CBN:

Estimated impact of Plastics Pollution:
A discards survey in 2006 involving EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace volunteers shows that synthetic plastic materials constitute 76 percent of the floating trash items in Manila Bay, with plastic bags comprising 51 percent; sachets and junk food wrappers, 19 percent; Styrofoam containers, five percent; and hard plastics, one percent. The rest of the rubbish found in Manila Bay consisted of rubber (10 percent) and biodegradable discards (13 percent).
Another study published in 2009 by the US-based Ocean Conservancy revealed that 679,957 of over 1.2 million pieces of marine litter of various types that were gathered in seaside areas during the 2008 International Coastal Clean Up Day in the country were plastic bags.
Giant consumer goods manufacturer Unilever claims that every day, it sells 160 million products. Assuming that the sales volume of the other manufacturing giants, Procter & Gamble and Nestle is in the vicinity of Unilever’s, that would be some 500 million products sold daily.
Let’s peg a conservative estimate that 10 percent of all products sold are in plastic sachets, then that’s 50 million. That’s 50 million plastic sachets and pouches that will eventually find its way to our oceans, waterways, landfills and drainage systems ready to clog the free flow of water and trigger floods or kill marine wildlife.
But it is really reasonable to think that of the 500 million products sold daily by the three giants, only 10 percent of are in tiny plastic sachets?
According to Unilever’s vice president for corporate planning Chito Macapagal, 70% of Unilever Philippines 2007 sales is from the sachet market. That’s 70% of 30 billion pesos, or 21 billion pesos three years ago. That’s nine zeroes following 21. The company was enjoying double digit growth rate from the previous year, so expect that by now those numbers are now not just big, but big big.
Can you picture how many sachets 21 billion pesos’ worth of Unilever products are? Well, let’s see. Which brands of theirs have sachet variants? Sunsilk, Creamsilk, Rexona, Clear, Knorr, Lady’s Choice, Close-Up, Best Foods, and Vaseline come to mind.
Moving on, 21 billion pesos in sachets, if say, the average price for any given sachet were 20 pesos conservatively (I say conservatively because first, most of those mentioned cost less than 20 pesos, and second, 21 billion pesos in Unilever’s sales is at supplier-to-distributor prices, would be equivalent to 1,050 million sachets.
If 1,050 million sachets were sold, then the waste would be 1,050 million multiplied twice to include front and back of the sachet, times 3 inches by 4 inches (I took an estimate of a Clear shampoo sachet), which equals 25,200 million square inches. This is the equivalent of about 16.26 square kilometers worth of sachet or wrapper material. Now, before you do take the initiative to shoot me for driving you nuts with numbers, picture this: 16.26 square kilometers of sachet is enough to cover all of Ilog Pasig.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...