The so called collateral damages of civilization, are the leftovers of the production of more and more goods and pollutants which we call garbage.
The creation and uncontrolled use of the plastic materials was triggered by our tendency to extreme consumerism. Waste or garbage is a concept and a invention of humans that do not exists in nature, both in the forests and in the seas there is no waste because the remains that are produced in these environments are recycled, many animals are specialized in this task, and this surpasses us humans, despite our intelligence.
We have not yet learned that the inorganic waste like the plastics that we produce, stay there where we dump them for many years because nature can not break them down. Nor we have learned yet that everything that we call waste is part of the superfluous consumption that has been promoted creating fashions that are manipulated by a small part of society that benefits itself with great profits.
Before plastic was invented, our grandparents went to stores with permanent use bags! What has happened with those good habits?
The garbage is covering us literally, and the problems that are being created are more and more serious every day, and even when we do not see it, it's there... burning in a landfill between trees of a forest or floating in the sea.
I believe that the real solution is not how we collect it and bury it, but how we reduce it at the time of purchase! We only have one planet but we consume as if we had several!
Reduce: When purchasing goods, always think about not consuming more than you can actually need in order to produce less trash.
In Bocas del Toro we have already begun prohibiting plastic bags in stores but there is still a lot of work to do.
Cero Basura or Zero Garbage in Bocas is a civil group that I am also part of, and feel very proud to be part of.
What is the Cero Basura Group?
Our group is conformed by: Fundación ProMar, Sea Turtle Conservancy, School for Field Studies, Municipality of Bocas del Toro, Alianza Bocas, Habla Ya Spanish Schools, and volunteers from our society.
After creating the proposal by one of our leaders (an environmental hero for me), Mr. Angel Gonzalez, and submitted to our local authority, we managed to be accepted for approval in one of the ordinary sessions in the Municipal Council. We were able to gather a lot of people from the local community, spread the word through social media in order to assure a positive outcome.
In our country, the one that approves new local agreements or laws, is the Municipality Council which is conformed by local districts representatives. The Mayor then has to sign the new Agreement approved to be submitted to the Official Gazette of the Republic of Panama, which is the official newspaper of the Government of the Republic of Panama.
As you can see, these plastic bags come from different sizes and colors
Traditional plastic bags are usually made from polyethylene, which consists of long chains of ethylene monomers. Ethylene is derived from natural gas and petroleum. The polyethylene used in most plastic shopping bags is either low-density (resin identification code 4) or, more often, high-density (resin identification code 2). Color concentrates and other additives are often used to add tint to the plastic. Plastic shopping bags are commonly manufactured by blown film extrusion.
The day the proposal got approved:
The municipal council of the district of Bocas del Toro, in an ordinary session on March 22nd of 2017, approved the proposal presented by the Committee Management of Solid Waste and his project Cero Basura in Bocas which prohibits handing out single use plastic bags to their customers stores and supermarkets of the district.
This picture was taken right in the moment the Agreement was approved unanimity by the Municipal Council
The objective of this measure is to reduce the proliferation of this element of waste that pollutes our natural ecosystems which also puts in danger the life of numerous animals that confuse it with food, like our sea turtles.
We had only 1 year counting from the approval of the agreement for the dissemination, awareness and education not only of the merchants but also of the inhabitants. We are currently at the end of this first 1 year phase.
After the end of April, written warnings will be held for 3 more months by the local authorities to those merchants that don't follow the new law. Once the 3 month deadline is met, the Municipality will apply economic sanctions.
Another important goal, besides the reduction of the single use plastic bags, is the replacing with bags made of different organic materials and fabrics, fibers or other elements that can be used plenty of times until they are absorbed by nature itself.
We feel very happy and grateful for this huge first step to improve our District
What has been done so far?
We have tried to have every week of every month a 2 hour meeting where we plan ahead for the short, mid and long term of our goals. It has been quite a journey. Personally I have learned more than I expected in many aspects, legal, environmental, and even from our own society flaws.
In order to make this initiative successful, we have created different committees within our Group.
I do have to say, with a smile on my face, that due to the fact that most of the time we were only 5 or 6 doing all the work, we had to split our energies and minds in these different committees. I have selected our original pictures to represent the work that have been done so far.
A lot of visits to the different schools have been done. The kids are the future of our society. Some of our members are very good with kids thankfully, so it was easy to get them involved in the participation of different activities such as, marketing in town to people, working on our informative signs that were placed right outside of some supermarkets, and helping in the cleanups with other groups of the community.
Creating awareness with our plastic bag "monster" in the street
One of the informative tables outside of a supermarket, done by highschool kids
Education is the key for the evolution of a responsible society.
Even though I think we could do more here, when we have had the time, we visited all the supermarkets to bring them printed informative posters made by us, giving a short speech. We also encouraged veggie stores of the town to start selling their reusable bags, and they did!
We held important meetings with most of the supermarket owners, which are in the majority from the chinese community.
I want to address here an important cultural obstacle I felt. Most of these Chinese owners wont move a finger unless the law tells them to do so. So it was a bit frustrating sometimes listening to: “I don't have to stop giving the plastic bags until end of April 2018” call it ignorance or stubbornness, but why not starting implementing now the new way? If at the end of the day, this is for a better future for all our community!.
Later I also learned that part of this stubbornness of our merchants, it was because the locals, out of ignorance, were directly complaining to them for not receiving a plastic bag for their purchase, even if it is simple snack.
A personal experience:
One time I had to witness one person, because is so used to this bad habit, requests a plastic bag for his soda that then right after he left the store he put the plastic bag in the trash can to then drink his soda. So he used that plastic bag for less than 30 seconds, and that same plastic bag will take around 10,000 years to disintegrate. Do you find this logical? Definitely a sign that there is A LOT work to do regarding education.
One of the things I have enjoyed the most, is when we visit the center of the town or other communities in the archipielago to talk to the locals about the project and giveaway reusable bags that we were able to make thanks to donations:
Without money we can't print marketing materials, transporting ourselves between islands, making tshirts, etc. We had to make fundraiser activities and ask for donations so we could achieve our goals through the year.
One of our members had the idea of promoting environmental documentaries in our local Cine Cafe, where we invited local artisans to sell their crafts as well. We asked for donations to each attendant, which they enjoy to give.
We also organised Charity Quizzes in local restaurant, where teams compete in a trivia game about recycling and related with our cause, each team had to pay to participate. One of that nights we were able to collect more than $350 that helped us to use to print informative brochures.
Recycle: Before throwing something in the trash, research about about how you can recycle or even reuse it productively.
Once again, I feel very proud of what we have done so far. Writing this post for Steemit, helped me to come up with new ideas for our project, as there is a lot of work to do still before the local authority starts to apply the sanctions to whoever breaks the new law.
I hope you enjoyed this post.
If you know of a social environmental group in the community where you live, do not hesitate to bring your help and participation to them. We all share together this home we call Planet Earth.
Pictures Disclaimer: all the pictures are original content.
this post is participating in the @steem-bounty initiative