Julian Rodriguez is the founding member of Plastic Tides, an NPO focused on “combining adventure and science to fight plastic pollution.”
Being a Filipino and living in the third biggest contributor to pollution in the ocean makes me want to do something about it. Right now, we’re looking for people who are willing to go out into the environment and in their own way, contribute to the cause.
Just recently, our team at Plastic Tides Philippines teamed up with the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission to bring in volunteers to help clean up the 47 tributaries of the Pasig River. In just half a day, we were able to collect about 1,500 kilograms of trash! The PRRC only has about 45 people assigned to help clean up the Pasig River. It’s a daunting task for one person to clean up a whole tributary.
In the Philippines, we want to be guides for people who want to start their lives of zero-waste, environmentalism, and understand what it means to be a warrior for the environment. Our goal is to enlist everyone we can in this fight for against plastic. What we want for people to understand is that they have their own expertise they can contribute to the address the issue of plastic.
We are beginning to use our network to connect poor coastal communities with social enterprises, so that the coastal community scavengers can supply the social enterprises with plastic trash for their products like stand-up paddleboards made entirely from marine plastics. We are also introducing stand up paddleboards to local government for researchers, rangers, and marine watchers to use as an alternative to large inflatable motorized rafts.
Why and how is plastic an issue for oceans/waterways in the Philippines?
Imagine that in 1907, the very first bit of plastic was made. That very first bit of plastic still exists today, if it hasn’t been degraded into millions of pieces and spread out into our drinking water. This war on plastics has been going on longer than we’ve ever been aware of it. Slowly, we are creating the thing that is killing us. This is a global problem, but the problem of plastic in the Philippines is one that needs to have a localized global solution. Right now, we are using an estimated 48 million shopping bags or even more in the Philippines. These are 48 million plastic bags that don’t degrade, that don’t disappear, that don’t break up into little pieces. They just stay in our environment. This is the type of fight that I want to show people.
During our outdoor expeditions, we document canals being clogged by the sheer amount of plastic. Our marine bio diversity is being threatened by the plastic that we are producing and throwing into the water. We already have evidence. Darrel Blactchley, a marine biologist and environmentalist from Davao, opened up a dead beaked whale found in Compostela Valley and found 40 kilograms of plastic in its stomach.
In the Philippines, our problem would be poverty and the amount of sachets that we use every day. We can’t just say we’ll ban everything and be done with plastic because there are people who rely on these. Sometimes people’s lives depend on single-use plastics. We can’t just discount that. This is another issue that we need to address.
We’ve lived without plastic long before it was created in the Philippines. We wrapped our food in banana leaves ever since. We’ve found ways to preserve our food better and we’ve found different natural alternatives. The Philippines has always been that way. Since we’ve been made dependent on single-use plastics, we’ve never grown independent of them.