It seems like such a small thing, a sachet. These little packets of packaging material are useful for holding anything—from coffee and sugar to shampoo and toothpaste—in quantities that are affordable, particularly to those on a tight household budget. Small as it is, the sachet actually comes with a big tag price on the deterioration of our environment.
Sachets, made of materials so durable that they can last for literally centuries after their purpose is done, are actually big pollutants. They are so small that they can be scattered or thrown away haphazardly, causing clogged drains that lead to flooding. But sachets aren’t the only items that pollute our surroundings. Plastic bags are also used everywhere to carry groceries and other foodstuffs. The plastic that pollutes the sea can suffocate fish, leaving fishermen with smaller catches, which would result in less food and thus, more hunger. The plastic could also turn into toxic chemicals within an animal’s body and poison the person eating its flesh.
When plastic bags were banned in the Philippines in an attempt to reduce plastic pollution, these were replaced by thick paper bags—paper bags made from trees cut down to make the paper. Replacing plastic bags resulted in a greater demand for cut-down trees, which is also hazardous to our ecosystem. We all know how deforestation can affect the ecological balance, destroying natural habitats and causing destructive floods. This only goes to show how protecting the environment isn’t a straightforward matter.
Where ocean pollution is concerned, plastic isn’t the only pollutant. Tin cans, bottles, and discarded paper are also found in the sea, and just about all of the garbage that finds its way to our oceans comes from the rivers, streams, and other waterways running along the land, picking up the waste from the land’s inhabitants. Tissue paper, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, plastic-wrapped feces—all have been thrown by an uncaring public that sees nothing wrong with indiscriminate disposal of garbage.
Filipinos need to get serious about waste disposal and understand that what goes around does, eventually, come around. The Philippine government and its local units have tried before to change Filipinos’ habits around waste disposal. Maybe it should try again by designing incentives to encourage recycling at the household or barangay level, and impose stricter penalties for indiscriminate dumping of waste. People should be made to realize that, if they litter, if they throw that cigarette butt on the ground, if they toss that empty sachet into an empty lot, if they shove that candy wrapper into the storm drain, these small acts can lead to irreversible damage to the environment for years to come.