The year is 2020. The world has an immense waste and pollution problem. Well, not entirely… One small tribe in the Philippines started an amazing waste reduction initiative, banned plastic bottles and straws from their island and educates about the tremendous consequences of trash. And life is not easy for the people from Siargao, but they understood how precious this planet is and that it needs to be preserved and protected.
(When reflecting all my experiences about Siargao island I just couldn’t deny the parallels to Asterix & Obelix’s famous beginning of every story 😀 )
When I traveling to Siargao, an island in the very East of the Philippines, I was positively surprised about their environmental consciousness and their initiatives to preserve the island. In fact, I am even delighted by their wonderful campaign and conscious minds! I have been traveling through many countries in South East Asia and the dominating experience was that the awareness for pollution and its consequences was not very present. But this small island of the Mindanao Region in the Philippines is more advanced than every single country in this world.
The Municipal council decided the ban of plastic bags at the beginning of 2018. Businesses who break the rules even awaits imprisonment for the third offense. But not only the government released these rules, but the locals try to raise awareness for waste reduction by educational signs spread at well-frequented places as well. And the initiatives go beyond the plastic bag ban in 2018. Let me show you in the outstanding initiatives Siargao island has established to preserve their paradise.
Filtered water for everyone’s use
Every hotel has to provide filtered water tanks so that guests can fill up their reusable water bottles and are not in the urge of buying plastic water bottles.
Plastic bottles are forbidden
Restaurants are not allowed to sell water in plastic bottles which reduces such a huge amount of trash every day from my point of view. Imagine how many half-a-liter bottles you normally buy in a tropical country a day. At least 4 to 6? That makes already 84-126 plastic bottles during a 3-weeks-stay just for one person. And now multiply that by the millions of travelers to Southeast Asia per year. It’s insane!
And the initiative in Siargao is just marvelous! Instead of plastic water bottles, restaurants serve water in reusable glass bottles – and it’s even for free!
Straws are banned
I didn’t find an official source that says that plastic straws are forbidden in Siargao, but various locals told me during our stay and we didn’t see any straws throughout the whole island. So at least they banned it from their businesses and everyday life. (Oh wait, the ban of plastic straws will only happen in Europe in 2021, right?) Cause to be honest: Do we really need straws? In most cases not. And if you really need one, like for drinking a coconut, they provide you with bamboo straws.
Energy comes from renewable resources
Even the power distributor of the island, Siargao Electric was supporting this green movement and envelope sustainability on the island even further. Siargao is now mostly powered by clean and renewable energy.
After a big boom of the island in 2018, half a million tourists were expected in 2019 and locals were afraid that this huge amount of visitors might harm their paradise. The locals were even running petitions to protect their surfing paradise with the claim „The surfing capital of the Philippines do not want to have a sea of garbage but more waves of fun. Please help us. Sign the petition.“ This also shows how advanced the environmental consciousness on this island is.
But Siargao is not the only island in the Philippines which established laws to protect their living space. There are more than 20 cities and provinces in the Philippines that released a policy to regulate the use of plastic. A great example is Siquijor island which even prohibits the use of cellophane for cooked food and water. However, I don’t need to mention that there are numerous regions that didn’t hop on the environment protection train in the Philippines.
Let’s take Siargao island as a huge example and pioneer in the fight against plastic and trash. And maybe you can even take one or two of their ideas to your everyday life to reduce plastic on this planet?