The consumerist behavior


The  five year old declaration of ZERO WASTE  under  RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000)  since 2014 had been very inadequately enforced here in Dumaguete City and even  throughout the country for that matter,  except in few places like San Fernando Pampanga, but none yet  so good has happened here  and in  nearby provinces. .

The goal is for the different categories of garbage to end up as compost and as re-saleable materials while minimal residuals are managed in landfills.  In this way, nothing, or “zero” remains in the community.

However,  elsewhere and all these years since RA 9003,  all over the province  of Negros Oriental, we still face the same, if not worse,  problems (although a few Dumaguete barangays have started to implement zero waste through the efforts of environment NGOs.)

It’s not just long government inaction that has exacerbated the problems.  It is also the relentless promotion of consumerist behavior,  at the very core of the economic system we live in that constantly generates  more garbage.  And it is business enterprises,  by their growing practices  of over-packaging that bear heavy responsibility for the worsening situation.

I wanted to buy green bell peppers just the other day at Robinson’s. Every single one was wrapped in plastic foil.  A woman behind the vegetable counter was busy with a large roll of foil wrapping up most vegetables.  Management instructions, she said.  At Hypermart, in violation of the city ordinance, many vegetables and fruits are packed in Styrofoam plates and foil. Obviously such unconscionable practices are widespread, not to mention that plastic bags in their tens of thousands are handed out daily everywhere.

Then there’s the phenomenon of the transformation of people into consumers. (George Lukacs warned that “new” humans could be so degraded that buying and selling would be their essence.)   But when did “shopping” become a major human activity?  It certainly wasn’t when I was young, we only ever went to shops when we needed something. Today, even very young kids cruise around stores and malls as entertainment or to fan their consumer desires, even (or particularly) for things they can’t afford.

Prescient Karl Marx had already mentioned commodity fetishism.       He didn’t foresee the ukay-ukay, where the discards of wealthier countries caused by over-production and their over-consumption would flood our poorer countries.  There’s a form of commodity fetishism even here too.  Some people I know have incredible numbers of clothes, justifying them as cheap and a form of “re-use”  (following  the early mantra of the three Rs.)

Perhaps more pertinent today is the important concept of refuse, the  development of a vigorous culture of resistance to consumerism.  Bad for the economy, old-style business thinkers will say who haven’t the will or the vision to move away from a deadly old-style economic model.  But good for the planet, if you care for the planet, that is.

What are some of things we can refuse:  bottled water – boil tap water to drink;  anything in a sachet – all those sachets are a huge garbage problem;  plastic cups, forks and spoons, plates straws;  plastic dispenser tubes of  bath gels –  bar soaps instead;  wrapped vegetables;  tea bags –  loose leaf instead;  plastic or paper bags for bread – bring a clean cloth bag instead;   buy much fewer clothes;   hang on longer to electronic gadgets and don’t hurry to acquire the newest thing. The list is endless ….see Bea Johnson and her zero waste lifestyle.

It isn’t necessarily easy,  but nothing worthwhile is ever easy, is it?  The stakes are high as are the risks if we do nothing.