‘Alon’ raises awareness on plastic pollution

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    Baler is one of six surfing communities in the country which bear the effects of plastic waste.
    Baler is one of six surfing communities in the country which bear the effects of plastic waste.

    The De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) has produced a documentary which aims to raise awareness on the problem of plastic waste in the oceans.

    “Alon” is being rolled out in schools to promote the reduction of single-use plastics and press multinationals to rethink their packaging and urge government to implement existing laws on waste management.

    Architect Gerry Torres, Center for Campus Art director, said in an interview he initially wanted to do an exhibit on surfing, particularly surfboard designs, but eventually decided to tackle the problem of plastic waste.

    The documentary presented the facts of the waste problem both in the global and local contexts, with data from different organizations.

    The Philippines is reportedly the world’s third biggest contributor of marine plastic waste – the third highest source of all the plastic in the ocean. Plastic waste pollution in its ocean has reached catastrophic proportions, pointing to the overwhelming and undeniable facts.

    DLS-CSB has identified six surfing communities across the country – the camps of Siargao, La Union, Baler, Mati (Davao), Gubat (Sorsogon) and Sabang Daguitan (Leyte) – which bear the effects of plastic waste.

    Its team travelled to these towns to know how the locals are dealing with the problem.

    What the team discovered in the course of this journey were in turns amazing, disheartening, inspiring, shocking and yet at the heart of it, still full of hope.

    At the quaint town of Gubat, Sorsogon, one can find the charming Lola Sayong Eco Surf Camp built for guests to experience the locals’ childhood memories.

    Through the years, local residents witnessed how the sea slowly got filthy because of plastic waste. Amidst the rustic and serene camp and the presence of idealistic locals determined to preserve their paradise, the massive problem of plastic pollution takes on a personal and intimate quality.

    “It would be helping to find solutions to the problem if I am going to present this before the students. It is an awareness campaign,” Torres said of the documentary.

    He believes design can help reduce the problem. “I ask the students if they can redesign plastics or consider other eco-friendly alternatives for plastics,” he said as he aims to make the industrial design course more relevant.

    Torres said companies contributing to the pollution must rethink their research and development as people are increasingly becoming aware of the big role they play in the problem. “It is the single-use plastics that must be banned and stopped,” he said.

    Gabriel Fernandez, former chairperson of the Production Design Program and Alon director, said the marine plastic pollution problem is massive and pervasive that it will have catastrophic effects not just on the environment but on humans and all living organisms.

    “We will literally be changed and transformed by its toxic effects on a genetic level,” Fernandez said.

    He said showing how plastics suffocate the seas made for an interesting visual story. He believes the problem can be solved, but “that is within people’s hands to effect change.”

    “Other hot topic environmental issues are hard to address on a personal level: climate change, air pollution, the dependence on oil, lack of support for alternative energy sources,” Fernandez noted.

    “Not so with the plastic pollution problem. Here, the answer is in our hands. It is something we can actually do something about and it’s simple: stop using single-use plastics. And it is doable,” he added.

    He said to avoid a plastic waste disaster, everyone must “rethink the way we consume.”

    This, together with efforts to ban single-use plastics, urge government intervention, advocate private sector innovation and responsibility, are key pieces to solving the plastic pollution crisis.

    As a design laboratory, DLS-CSB offers explorations in the areas of non-plastic packaging, the upcycling of products and the development of new building materials from plastic trash.