Getting a drink such as a fruit shake or juice, like many other things in life, we expect a good and healthy drink to refresh ourselves especially during really warm days like in Panglao. A simple order to place and unfortunately sometimes, the sight of my drink arriving makes me cringe. Why you ask? The drink in itself is welcome of course, I did order it! It is the little white, blue, pink or almost any colour piece of plastic innocently floating in my drink: A STRAW. I am disappointed, knowing that I have forgotten once again to simply add: no straw please, to my order. It has become the rule in bars and restaurants to offer them with drinks, and unfortunately a built-in expectation for most customers, its’ absence becoming more noticeable in a drink then its’ presence.
Why chose to focus on such a little piece of plastic? Simply because during the course of the day how many customers within one restaurant use straws? How many restaurants over Panglao give them out with almost if not every drink? The answer is an AWFUL LOT! But most importantly because straws are just one example of objects we do not think about twice, or at all.
Is it rechargeable batteries that light up your night dive flashlight? Rechargeable or non-rechargeable batteries are another example.
Having visited the dumpsite of Panglao, I saw where all these straws and non-rechargeable batteries end-up. In huge piles of trash out in the open. Whenever it rains, the water carries all the chemicals around from those piles and then ends up in the sea. Hazardous and non-hazardous waste alike do not disappear once they are in the trash can, they start a long journey which at best stops at the dumpsite or worst in the sea.
Seeing the batteries and plastic out in the open, piles reaching up towards the sky, is a scary sight. The dumpsite cannot handle the quantity of trash and does not have the structures to handle hazardous wastes. Panglao being a tourist area in development it going to close soon and the trash will be relocated.
My personal project with Zoox involving the management of hazardous waste and also simply asking every time “No straw please” are great opportunities to act and do what is right. It is not about pointing fingers and feeling guilty, but simply being aware of a tendency and behaviour regarding trash that impacts the unique biodiverse environment that many visitors deem worth travelling thousands of kilometres to see. It is all about being aware of both what is happening and what can be done, empowering ourselves regarding the protection of our health and the environment that never ceases to amaze and provide us with solutions to other problems.