An Island Crusader Takes On The Big Brands Behind Plastic Waste

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A tide of plastic waste is contaminating the oceans. And in a congressional hearing Senator Sheldon Whitehouse named major culprits over fifty percent of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from just five countries, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka NPR science. Correspondent Christopher Joyce. Went to one of those countries the Philippines to see how bad it is Manila it sprawls along the coast of Manila Bay. Shantytown sit in the shadow of new high rises and mega shopping malls, people here have more money than they used to. So they're buying more stuff from fancy soaps to important coffee in fast food, all which is wrapped in plastic packaging. A lot of that plastic ends up in the bay. There's an island in the bay that's kind of like a doormat for that floating. Plastic. I went to take a look it's not far from shore. We're on a Bunka, which is a Filipino vote. Wouldn't vote about twenty long creepy by. I could see lots of mangrove trees, the islands could be a place for a resort except that what looks like Spanish moss hanging from the branches. Isn't it's plastic bags. On the way out there. You look along the shore at just one all mine, plastic debris. To get a sure we walk on a little catwalk me, Dan Boone held together with plastic tie underneath it. It's. Classic perplex. Hello. The variety of stuff leading around is amazing shoes bottles, syringes, even motorcycle films. It's impossible to tell exactly where all this stuff comes from. The clearly a lot of it comes from the neighborhood surrounding Manila Bay. Some of those neighborhoods trying to stop the flow of plastic into the bay. Visit who long do hot? Good morning told people the local government is now requiring residents to actually pick through their trash and segregate out the plastic. So the community can deal with it. The woman pushes her trash carts who had paid and series of allies and along with her is a monitor from the neighborhood government. My name isse Danya Daleas, Akita speaking through a translator. So the policies that no segregation election so collection is free. But the household need to segregate their race food waste goes in one bag metals paper glass in another in two bags for plastic recyclable and nonrecyclable if residents don't comply with all this. They pay a fine. I offense by bonded vessels. Second offense one thousand and third going to Jane even jail for nuts. Separating plastic from your trash. There are hundreds of official neighborhoods in this huge city who long do hot is one of just sixteen now require residents to segregate plastic from their garbage. Is it enough? I asked the town secretary need to Yano you think it's going to work. I mean, it's. Like a soon. Nami aplastic. Now do not own. Well, sometimes I get mad as a community. We do our part to clean up the waste and educate people about the environment and in the beginning people call rate, but then they go back to their old ways. And it makes me sad. But even when people do do their best where does that plastic go? That's where it gets complicated. Some plastic bottles gets recycled. But then there are the sachets plastic packets that contain a single portion of soap or coffee your shampoo, that's how corporations like Unilever and Nestle market consumer goods in Asia. And most of these Shays cannot be recycled that rankles froylan. Greta he's with an environmental group mother earth foundation, which has sponsored the neighborhood cleanups. The problem is that for most of these companies, they feel they're responsible to their product ends the moment, they sell it. He says there's a reason us. Sachets end up in the ocean, and the Philippines, independent waste workers collect plastic and sell it to recyclers. But if it can't be recycled like, those Shays, it has no value doctoral waste Mercker, can you actually earned from this big collecting it. So they don't collect it groti has spent seventeen years looking for ways to get rid of plastic waste in our realizes that Filipinos can't dig out of this alone. Most packaging comes from just a few big companies. He says it's time they take more responsibility companies dumping all of this new products and packaging that is beyond their capacity to manage you earned from this in and you expect all of us to then magically just solve it for you. You can't just magically get rid of something that is permanent that doesn't degrade. It just keeps piling up. Remember that visited walking toward the beach plastic underfoot? I stopped to look at a huge pile of burlap bags stuffed with plastic waste a team of workers collected that waste one day's work. And yet they barely make dent. It's relentless and it buries itself in the sand and becomes permanent. Kick the stand aside. And there's a plastic tile. There's four or five straws Sanders, a half of a plastic bag and mixed in with coconuts and mangrove seeds. You know, it's just it gives you the feeling that you can't ever catch up. That's why many people throughout southeast Asia are now saying enough cleaning up isn't going to fix this. They want to take the fight to the corporations that create the plastic in the first place. Christopher Joyce NPR news.

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