I Began a Movement to Become Plastic Free

by Rachael Whelan

What can you do when you see something you want to change, but it’s just you? Well it turns out quite a lot!

Single use plastic is inevitably one of the most largely talked about environmental topics of the time - with good reason. Plastic is being produced at mass rates, into an earth that simply cannot keep up. Plastic waste is harming our earth, killing our animals, and beginning to suffocate our oceans. This issue is not being addressed by plastic manufacturers, as they will be gone long before the plastic will be, yet it is causing devastating consequences for future generations. My mission to help create a more sustainable future was first an idea in Hawaii, where I was devastated to see how much single use plastic was being disposed of, and change became a reality in the Philippines.

Malapascua Island with the locals watching us clean up

Malapascua Island with the locals watching us clean up

 I was quick to learn that single use plastic was a large part of the Filipino lifestyle. It is used in every store, hotel, and restaurant we visited. Plastic packaging prolongs the lifespan of most things, making it a convenient option for shop keepers and shoppers. Plastic fills all of the stores, straws are placed in every drink, and plastic cutlery is readily available at most food stores. Although we focused on this issue in the Philippines, the unfortunate reality is that these plastics are found in every store, hotel, and restaurant in the world, and this is what we as a community have the power to change.

Cleaning up Bantanyan Island

Cleaning up Bantanyan Island

 I went on my adventure to the Philippines with a friend who was equally as passionate about creating awareness of the importance of sustainable choices. Travelling to such a beautiful place was a way for us to give back to Mother Nature, as we were able to see all of what she had to offer, and clean her up along the way. By picking up bags of rubbish from the beaches, reefs and land (all of which seemed to be single use plastics), we were able to draw direct attention to the issue with onlookers, and even had some of the local children joining in with our clean ups. In this moment, a small change had been created as we were able to educate the younger generations on the damaging effects of single use plastic in the environment.

Reef clean on the Virgin Islands

Reef clean on the Virgin Islands

Bottle caps, bottles, wrappers, and straws, were among the most common plastics we found on all the different islands we cleaned in the Philippines. We have over 268, 000 tones of plastic floating in our oceans currently, killing over 1 million marine animals every year, and thus leading us into the reality that we will have more plastic in the ocean than fish in the next 30 years.

More rubbish collected off the reef

More rubbish collected off the reef

To keep this rubbish away from the ocean we found hotels that offered us their rubbish bins, sometimes even recycling bins. We collected many kilos of rubbish in this movement and aim to collect many more in the future wherever we go. My next step is to begin respectfully raising awareness of the effects single use plastics hold in every country I visit.

Rubbish collected off the Virgin Island

Rubbish collected off the Virgin Island

Follow her here @rachaelwhelan

Edited by Becky