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Environmentalists in Bohol

By: Liu Xiaoyu, Sherrill

Canada- Philippines waste dispute ends up with the Philippines sends trash back to Canada at the end of May. It seems that the Philippines win the battle. Nevertheless, from the perspective of global environmental governance, there is no winner of waste management.

1.   Developing countries: not a garbage dumping ground

China had been the No.1 dumpster accepting solid waste since last century. The cheap scraps boost the emerging economy. For example, a waste plastic bottle from the US is imported by China. It is fused into plastic raw material and rebuilt into the shell of the lighter. Eventually, the lighter will be exported to Europe. The colossal profitability and demand grow global waste transportation. It is recorded that two-thirds of British plastic waste goes to China every year. It seems that people are getting used to delivering waste to somewhere or someone who is “good at” solving it. Yet, with the rise of the economy and the awareness of environment protection, Chinese people start to concern about the air and water pollution. Chinese Ministry of ecology and environment banned 24 types of waste from entering China in 2018. They hope the ban would help to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health.

It is the trend that more and more developing countries refuse to accept waste that reminds people that waste has never been wiped out. It is barely transferred.

Ironically, without the “dustbin,” many developed countries are at a loss of what to do. Long term dependence on waste transfer makes Western countries lost the ability to handle their waste. After China refused to accept waste, waste importation surged in Malaysia, turkey, Poland, and so on. However, industrial upgrading is an irresistible global trend. The most urgent task is building a self-contained waste management system. Developed countries have sufficient fund and advanced technology. It’s time to switch the concept that garbage collection and recycle industry is dirty and smelly. Actually, its meaningful and high return career with great demand.

2.   Lifestyle in Bohol

In these three weeks in Bohol, I produced less waste than ever before, especially plastic waste. We feed a pig in our homestay, so most of the kitchen waste goes to its food. We burn the plastic bag in the hearth directly. I am not sure whether it is environmentally friendly, but the destination of centralized processing waste is incinerators, isn’t it? 

Bohol gradually carries out an ordinance of regulating all commercial establishments from using plastic bag or cellophane. To better guarantee the effect of law, the corresponding penalty is hefty. For example, the third offense is 2500 peso, which equals to 10 days’ salary of a local low-incomer. The government is considerate and foresee potential problem. For wet goods, local people can still use a plastic bag. I talked about the plastic bag ban with the local. Although inconvenience was bought to the public, most of the people show understanding. “I’m a mother of two boys. Plastic is nondegradable. We are supposed to leave a clean world for the next generation,” a staff working in my business said. 

This reminds me of separate waste collection which just began in Shanghai this summer. Even though many people make fun of the new regulation, most of the people try to learn how to classified waste and keep it up in daily life. Well begun is half done. 

3.   After departure: still an environmentalist

From plastic bag ban to international waste transportation, I’m glad to see more and more people and government raise the awareness of environmental protection. The current situation is messed up. But I believe this is just the beginning of a better future. The waste dispute tells us no one can get out of the responsibility of solving its problem.

Being an environmentalist is difficult in daily life. You need to explain why you don’t need a straw to the staff. You need to ignore other peculiar gazes when you take out your own tableware. You are more likely to get sunburnt when you go diving. Because wearing sun scream while diving will pollute the seawater. It should have been a joint responsibility for everyone to care about the planet. But people around you just “freeride.” 

Whenever I’m discouraged by the severe situation, I will think about the precious days in Bohol. With people like them, I will keep it up and appeal to more friends to join this career.

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