Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas trash and Christmasaya

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

No apologies for associating trash with Christmas, a most loved season for us except for the scrooges. But haven’t we made scrooges of ourselves by making Christmas garbage-laden, polluted, toxic, and anything but the season it is meant to be, a Christmas groaning from all the trash, jetsam, flotsam, discards and other disposables of our consumerist, throwaway society? This fact, besides our four-month Christmas season, could be another item for the “Only in the Philippines” list.

It does not get better every year. But it does not mean we have to stop reminding ourselves.
The Ecowaste Coalition calls the enormous, foul holiday output “holitrash,” avoiding the word “Christmas.” But I would rather call it by what it is—Christmas trash—which may sound offensive to lovers of Christmas like myself, but then the more grating to the ears and sensibilities, the better. Jesus, the oft-forgotten center of the season’s celebration, would surely not mind because people have really fouled up his season. Have we, even in a little way, contributed to the mess by our mindlessness and hurry to get ahead, to get somewhere, to get it all?

Last week, Ecowaste warned about the Christmas trash that again would end up on streets, in dumpsites, incinerators, waterways and oceans that are already heaving with discards. “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya,” its catchy, no-waste Christmas call, was sounded in the midst of school children in Quezon City.

A new, lovely term: “Christmasaya”—Christ, Christmas and masaya (happy) all in one unhyphenated word.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated. In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo.”

According to Ecowaste, the most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party ware, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste. This is made worse by poor segregation at source and, during the New Year celebration, by toxic emissions from firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices.

Is the situation hopeless? If we are mindful of what we can reduce or do without in our lives, no. And before throwing away anything, think of what we can reuse and recycle. The “3Rs” (reduce, reuse and recycle) are as old as the hills, or, if I may coin a figure of speech, as old as the first nonbiodegradables thrown into the sea.

In one word: Simplify.

I am not too keen on recycling nonbiodegradables (plastic bottles, snack packs, soda cans) into d├ęcor if they will only be thrown away soon after. The creative exercise is sure consciousness-raising for kids especially, but their creations should better keep for a long time and not end up in the garbage pile when the merrymaking is over.

Sorry for the manufacturers of Christmas wrappers, but Ecowaste also suggests that their use be minimized. Instead, reuse bags and containers for your gifts and use old magazines as wrappers. I have been doing this for a long time.

Party hosts should opt for washable, reusable tableware instead of disposable ones that are wasteful. And if you cannot avoid generating a huge amount of trash, at least segregate, segregate, segregate. That way, reusing, recycling, repurposing of nonbiodegradables and composting of biodegradables to enrich the soil would be made easier for those who will do these tasks for the love of planet Earth and creation.

And why not a simplified, if not more solemn, Christmas celebration, not without the fun, but without much strain on the funds? Not to rival the austerity of the first Christmas, but to celebrate its essence. #