Plastic exchange campaigns can lead to incentivizing plastic consumption
It's great that young people are taking charge in the fight against plastic, though
Nov 9, 2018
I know that people harp on millennials so much that ragging on people who rag on millennials is something of a meta cliché, but I do think it’s still worth mentioning how different we are compared to the older generations. The millennial generation is really the one that started being keenly aware of one’s impact on the world, be it politically or environmentally.
After all, when the global information, data and measurement company Nielsen surveyed 30,000 participants in 60 countries around the world on their buying behaviors in 2015, they found that out of the 66 percent of consumers willing to pay more for sustainability, 77 percent were millennials.
This awareness has been spilling over to the next generation, too. In case you need further proof that the youth are going to change the world, two local chapters of the Sangguniang Kabataan have come forward with separate initiatives to combat the use of plastic.
In Barangay Ibaba del Norte, Paete, Laguna, the local Sangguniang Kabataan is offering free printing services for anyone that surrenders plastic bottles to the Barangay Hall.
Meanwhile, in Barangay Talon, Amadeo, Cavite, the Sangguniang Kabataan is offering a kilo of rice for every one kilo of plastic surrendered to them.
It’s pretty exciting for any zero waste lifestyler out there to see initiatives like these gain momentum. Since these are youth groups, they’re sowing the seeds for anti-plastic sentiments at a young age.
The cobra effect
However, as much as I commend these campaigns, I do worry that they might incentivize plastic consumption instead. Campaigns wherein someone is rewarded for turning in something undesirable always run the risk of proliferating the undesirable thing instead. It’s called the cobra effect, after the infamous anecdote about how, when the British Imperial Forces in India placed bounties on cobras to curb the local cobra problem, many people started breeding the snakes, eventually worsening the cobra infestation.
A more relevant example: When I was in elementary, my schoolteachers would make us do recycling projects like making bags out of juice packs and fiesta banners out of plastic wrappers. However, in order to make those items, you’d need a ton of plastic juice packs and wrappers, and so my classmates and I would end up buying more plastics than usual just so we’d be able to turn something in.
I hope that the cobra effect won’t take effect here, but it’s very likely to, especially in the case of Barangay Talon. With the rising cost of produce, I won’t be surprised if people in the area start buying more plastic bottles than usual if they find that the total cost of those bottles is less than the actual price of a kilo of rice.
Still, I don’t want to take away the good that the campaigns are doing. I just hope that people won’t turn the good into something counterproductive. The youth, and the planet, deserve better than that.
Featured photo courtesy of Pixabay
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