On the occasion of the International Plastic Bag Free Day this July 3, Earth Island Institute Philippines joins environmental groups world-wide in advocating for reusables to curb plastic pollution especially now when the world is in the middle of a pandemic.
“Even before the pandemic, plastic pollution is already a very big problem,” says Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director of the Earth Island Institute in Asia- Pacific. The group distributed reusable cloth face masks and bags to the cyclists passing by Quezon Avenue to raise awareness about the impacts of single-use plastics on the environment.
“We encourage everyone to use cloth masks, bags and other reusable materials that can be washed and sanitized to control the spread of the disease . We also encourage the local governments units who are facilitating relief efforts to consider the use of eco-friendly and reusable bags in their food packs,” adds Concepcion.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) about 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, and about 8 million tons end up in the ocean every year.
Marine species such as seabirds, fish, dolphins, whales and turtles ingest or are entangled by the plastic debris which cause severe injuries and/or excruciating deaths. According to UNESCO, plastic debris kills as much as one million sea birds and about 100,000 marine mammals annually. 
Plastic pollution likewise threatens food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism, and contributes to climate change. 
“Given all these, we encourage the public to pursue eco-friendly alternatives for medical and health essentials even in the middle of this pandemic,” adds Concepcion. “We urge the local government to strictly implement waste management laws, provide protective gear for our garbage collectors and ensure proper disposal of medical waste.”
The Philippine capital Manila with a 14 million population will produce additional medical waste of 280 tons per day and can add up to 16,800 tons in 60 days; Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia with 10.6 million will produce additional 212 tons per day (12,750 tons/2 months); Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with 7.7 million population will produce additional medical waste of 154 tons/day (9,240 tons/2 months); Bangkok, Thailand with 10.5 million will produce additional medical waste of 210 tons/day (12,600 tons/2 months); Ha Noi, Vietnam with 8 million population will produce additional medical waste of 160 tons/day (9,600 tons/2 months).
“One very important lesson we have learned in this pandemic is that environmental health is very much linked to people’s well-being. We must act now to reduce, if not eliminate plastic pollution for humanity’s sake.” ends Concepcion
-  Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and COVID-19, 22 june 2020, Retrieved: https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-international-stateless/2020/06/9592036c-health-expert-statement_125.pdf
-  Facts and figures on marine pollution | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
-  https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/marine-plastics
-  https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/578771/managing-medical-waste-covid19.pdf