Plastic waste destroys the very lifestyle it made possible

06 May 2018

Asiaviews April 20, 2018

Plastic waste destroys the very lifestyle it made possible

Recently groups and individuals opposing the closure of Boracay Island staged a caravan to protest the shutdown, which they said would severely hit the livelihood and income of residents and workers. About 50 vehicles including 20 motorcycles joined the 71-kilometer caravan that took off about 8 a.m. from the capital town of Kalibo and reached Barangay Caticlan in Malay town about 12:15 p.m.


This highlights the much bigger problem of plastics, how they are unable to control the monster it unleashed. As plastics dominated modern life, plastic waste clogged the rivers, lakes and seashores of Southeast Asia. It has led the Philippine to close down Boracay island to outsiders under stark rules such as the following. No tourists allowed, enter with ID only, swimming only for locals, journalists not allowed to stay, and limited access: one entry, one exit point. A Philippine island that became famous for the white sand beaches and coral reefs that made it a haven for travelers, and then for the rapid development of its idyllic shores, has been ordered closed to tourists for six months. President Rodrigo Duterte said that inadequate sewage treatment on the island has turned its beaches into a “cesspool” and declared the island closed to tourism starting on April 26


Elsewhere in ASEAN, the government of Indonesia, exasperated at the plastic clogging up provincial rivers, has deployed the military to do the cleaning-up in a no-nonsense manner. Not a shocking decision, given that Indonesia is the second largest contributor to plastic waste in the world after China. Plastic waste has a disastrous impact on the environment and tourism. Millions of ton of plastic waste are tossed annually into Indonesia’s seawaters, littering the ocean and increasing the risk that marine animals will trapped in the stuff. In the shallow waters of Indonesia. Coral reefs are littered with plastics, fish are  entangled in plastic bags and other trash. The problem of waste in Indonesia is affecting the tourism industry. The most notable example is in Bali which is billed as the greatest tourism destination on earth. But the beaches are daily littered with flip-flops, plastic bottles, various kinds of packaging and other plastic trash.

How did plastics creep into the world’s lifestyle? After World War II, new plastics, such as polyurethane, polyester, silicones, polypropylene, and polycarbonate joined polymethyl methacrylate and polystyrene and PVC made new  widespread applications. By the 1960s, plastics were within everyone's reach due to their inexpensive cost. Plastics had thus come to be considered 'common'—a symbol of the consumer society.

In 2010, The New York Times described Boracay, previously known for its laid-back party culture, as Asia’s next tourism hot spot, and since then it has landed on the covers and “best” lists of travel magazines. Now in 2018, the question is whether any tourism spot will manage to make use of kind nature and easy culture that the world has come to expect of Boracay, Bali, Phuket, Halong Bay and many versions of paradise on earth.



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