The sudden surge in the volume of plastic waste is among the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a 2020 study.
The report indicated that, as early as April 2020, the amount of plastic waste had exceeded that of 2019 by 51.2 metric tons — with 40 percent from plastic packaging alone. These findings ring true with life under quarantine drastically affecting consumer behavior on a global level.
As people spend most of their time at home, online shopping, food and parcel delivery services have been experiencing significant growth. This, in turn, have led to a large spike in the use and circulation of plastic packaging, containers and utensils, almost all of which end up as trash.
The environmental impact of plastic consumption and disposal is what the #EcoSquadGoals program seeks to address by tapping the Filipino youth and equipping them with tools to evaluate their lifestyle choices and develop eco-friendly solutions.
The #EcoSquadGoals program is an online workshop and contest aiming to help Filipino youth understand solid waste management in the time of the pandemic.
Funded by UNESCO in celebration of World Science Day for Peace and Development, the program is conducted by a team headed by Dr. Chona Camille Vince Cruz-Abeledo from the DLSU Br. Alfred Shields FSC Ocean Research Center (SHORE) to encourage the youth to be actively involved in environmental impact management.
Six campus-based environmental organizations participated in the program and pitched start-up projects to address the status of the country’s plastic consumption.
The participants also took part in a module-based training session where they monitored plastic waste generated by their households for one month.
The training session emphasizes the value of citizen science as a viable approach to gathering information on plastic consumption by Filipino families, particularly during the pandemic. It helps initiate reflection and discourse on the ripple effects of their household’s product choices.
Amid limitations on mobility, the citizen science approach is one of the best methods to get a more accurate picture of the community’s plastic waste generation.
After the preliminary pitching sessions, three of the six groups advanced to the final round. These were Ateneo de Manila University’s Environmental Science Society (ESS), the Polytechnic University of the Philippines’ (PUP) Society of Biology, and University of Asia and the Pacific’s (UA&P) ALON.
Ateneo placed third and won a $100 grant for its proposed nationwide seminar called FilipiKnow. The seminar is a free initiative to introduce people to local sustainability and eco-friendly brands. It aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution and provide actionable items for its stakeholders. ESS seeks to change the mindset of its audience from “there is a problem” to a more proactive “this is how you can solve it.”
Second place with a $200 grant went to the PUP Society of Biology and its program Ang Plastik Mo! The proposed seminar-workshop is an educational campaign for senior high school students which focuses on microplastics. The goal of Ang Plastik Mo! is to engage its target audience through learning activities meant to inform future scientists and encourage them to pursue further research concerning the Philippines’ microplastic waste and its effects on the environment and human health.
First prize with a $300 seed money went to UA&P’s ALON for its proposed mobile app called Systematic Application on Goals for Integrating Plastic Management (SAGIP). It is envisioned to collect data by tracking its users’ waste generating patterns, such as information on the amount and type of plastic waste being produced. Users would then be directed to appropriate solutions like being provided the locations of nearby waste management facilities and recycling drives.
With the help of these UNESCO-backed youth solutions, the proponents of the #EcoSquadGoals program envision a Filipino youth leading by example and influencing their families and social circles to be more environmentally conscious and mindful of their day-to-day plastic use.