Research has shown that by 2050, more plastics will inhabit our oceans than fish. Efforts to counteract this notion have lost momentum due to the current pandemic. The planet lost its normalcy and people have adapted to a new way of living – staying at and working from home.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic did not hinder the young men and women of the Philippines to combat the ill-effects of plastic pollution. A budding organization called Project SWAP (Sustainable Waste Action Program) engages the future generation from more than 7100 islands of the Philippines to participate in plastic upcycling and to raise talented leaders that will recognize the repercussions of mismanaging plastic wastes.
The upcycling movement recently selected 20 competitive ambassadors out of over 100 applicants. Every candidate will receive funding as motivation to further the mission of mitigating plastic pollution. National Geographic provided a grant of 7000 USD to aid in boosting the advocacies of the chosen champions.
Based on the profiles of the ambassadors, most of them are involved in local community projects as student leaders, campus journalists, and promising scientists. They also have various passions like ballet, music, social work, and technology. The age group is 15-24 and includes young professionals, university students, senior and junior high school learners. This diversity promises a collaborative synergy to embrace inclusivity in tackling the environmental upheaval brought by plastic wastes.
One of the ambassadors is Ian Santillan from Tagum City, a city in the southern part of the Philippines. At such a young age, he had championed the crusade to help Mother Earth in national competitions and founded Mind Spark, a social media platform to perpetuate excitement in the STEM program. These actions are clear manifestations that he cultivates the culture of science for the advancement of society. He hopes to become a marine biologist one day and is currently a student at Ateneo de Davao University. His enthusiasm is certainly admirable and reassuring.
Another prolific personality is Anushka Vijay of Quezon city. She is part of many environmental coalitions such as WWF, Bye Bye Plastic Bags, and Save Philippine Seas. She initiated a partnership venture – PLaF X Project SWAP – to create a youth ambassador program in the National Capital Region. PLaF or Plastic Flamingo is a social enterprise that thrives on the efficient collection of plastic wastes, advocating circularity by transforming these into a useful resource. She extended the plastic stewardship to kids as young as 13 years old. Her program hopes to facilitate proper plastic waste collection in gated communities and promote good practices from this alliance. She launched the project last October.
Realizing the roles of empowered youth in preventing plastic pollution can contribute to a brighter future. Partnering with many locally institutionalized organizations like Kids for Kids PH, Youth Advocates for Climate Action PH, Upcycle Philippines, and many more, Project SWAP allows the drive for change to push through. They crafted an Upcycling Guidebook as a testament of commitment to the vision of reducing plastic pollution. The national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, reminded the Filipino people that “The Youth is the Hope of our Future” and these brilliant energetic minds assure adherence to this quest.
Project SWAP has its website and is active on many social media platforms. The organization conducts relevant workshops and webinars and enlists resource speakers that will ignite the audience to gain compassion for environmental welfare. It is recognized as the best UNESCO Club in the country.
Asian Institute of Technology
MPA student in AIT