Plastics accumulating in our oceans is one of the greatest environmental challenges that the world faces today. Every year, millions of pounds of plastic waste flow into the oceans from the coastal region. If present trends continue, it is expected that it will outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050.
This threat demands an aggressive action, which only a few organizations and countries are taking. The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), a global movement celebrated every third Saturday of September yearly and being participated by more than 100 countries across the globe including the Philippines, is doing its best to encourage communities towards one common goal: collect and document the trash litters in the coastline.
Last September 27 & 28, the ICC Philippines held its annual ICC Environmental Summit, a supplement to the annual beach cleanup at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC.)
“It has been a long journey going here and we are happy with what the ICC Environmental Summit has become. This annual conference first started in 2014 since we believe that beach cleanup alone is not enough,” said Zed Avecilla, area coordinator of ICC Zambales and Executive Director of Lighthouse Legacy Foundation. “The Lighthouse Marina Resort Legacy Foundation is very much committed to protecting our environment and come up with ways to expand and bring more people to this kind of advocacy.” Avecilla added.
“Our job in cleaning up our surrounding can only be done or finished when people become disciplined enough to properly dispose of their garbage and to help in the waste management of their communities,” said Senator Cynthia Villar, Chairperson for Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, during her inspirational message to the youth about protecting our environment.
Partners for change
Among the highlights of this year’s summit is the launch of the Youth Empowerment Symposium (#YES18), which focuses on empowering the youth by tapping into the best practices of top Filipinos and global organizations to inspire the next generation of leaders.
Key executives and some members of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) including Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle all jointly participated in the event by sharing the steps they are making to challenge the norms and systems on managing their environmental impacts.
“Not only are we going to make sure that every package we have is recyclable, but we are also committed to making sure that by 2030, 50% of all the material in our packaging is made of recycled material,” said Winn Everhard, President and General Manager of Coca-Cola Philippines. Early this year, Coca-Cola International announced their ambitious goal to collect all PET bottles and aluminum cans they produce to sell. This goal is the centerpiece of the Company’s new vision for a World Without Waste, which the Coca-Cola system intends to back with a multi-year investment that includes ongoing work to make packaging 100% recyclable.
“As a company, we want to grow while reducing our environmental impact and growing our positive social impact. In everything we do, from the time we started until now, we are very serious about this mission,” said Ed Sunico, VP for Sustainable Business and Communications of Unilever Philippines.
“Our Vision is that none of our packaging ends up in the landfills or as litter. By 2025, 100% of our packaging will be recyclable or reusable,” said Jess Reyes, VP for Corporate Affairs of Nestle Philippines.
“We are guided by our ambitions to enable and inspire a positive impact how people interact with their environment. For us, it becomes imperative that we change how we do our business and operate more sustainably.” said Ana Legarda, Head of Communications of Proctor & Gamble Philippines.
“PARMS symbolizes what is possible if we all work together towards a common goal. We are very happy to partner with them this year and allowing us to learn, understand and be inspired by what their organization is about” said Avecilla. During the program, the present members of PARMS together with its President Crispian Lao and Vice-President Bert Guevara signed a pledge wall witnessed by Senator Cynthia Villar ífor their commitment to protect and preserve our environment.
Millennials and the environment
The theme for this year’s summit, “Change Heroes,” is a challenge for the youth to be an instrument in sparking social consciousness formation towards social change to become better builders of our nation. It aims to teach the youth about their communities and how they will act to resolve problems by providing them with relevant information. The organizers believe that the new generation – millennials – to be the most powerful force of our future.
One of the highlights of this 2-day activity was the SK Empowerment Train Camp which was a specialized workshop for a selected group of SK officers from Olongapo, Zambales, and Bataan. The workshop aims to capacitate young leaders from the targeted areas in leading young people towards development through projects beneficial to each of their communities. The workshop ended with a “Hack-a-pack” challenge by Coca-Cola where these group will compete as teams in coming up with ways on how to properly recover the recyclables in their community. Each team from each area were given PHP 15,000.00 cash prize from Coca-Cola Foundation. “As part of our World Without Waste campaign, we will collect every bottle and aluminun cans that we sell. However we recognize that the best way to find the solution for this is to ask the youth and this is what this Hack-a-Pack is about” said Gilda Maquilan, Sustainability & Community Affairs Manager of Coca-Cola Philippines.
The road to sustainability is long and challenging. It involves changing people’s behavior combined with the right system and infrastructure, but most of all, we all need to do our part and work together. “We all have the power to make a change. As a consumer, you can vote with your money. You can choose to do business with companies that are doing something good to the planet.” said Avecilla.
“Now is the time to be more active and challenge the norms. Use your creativity and be positive with your approaches. There are many solutions out there, we just need to put our heads together,” said Bert Guevara, Vice President of PARMS.