Plastic kingdom


We’ve covered this territory before. I remember facing a student at my school drinking water out of a plastic bottle, the kind one of our bakeries prepare for PSS cafeteria consumption. After he was done, this young boy flung his empty bottle unto the green grass when on his right and left were trash bin receptacles specifically designed for trash collection.

I walked over to where the discard was thrown, picked it up and dropped it into the trash bin. No fuss and, perhaps, the watchful audience expected me as a teacher to berate the offending child. No such thing but the space stayed uncluttered with discards all day. Someone evidently paid heed to a lesson. The next day, of course, was another story but this habit of throwing plastic bottles, moo and fruit juice containers everywhere but the trash bins, is well developed.

Were there an imager from outer space that sparkles photos of thrown plastics around would create a glowing picture, the planet would glow. There are cultures that developed immaculate tidiness, some sceneries of Japan come to mind, but even there, on a trip to Sapporo on Hokkaido not too long ago, there was graffiti under the elevated highway, along with throwaway discards. Can’t win them all.

I took a dip with a snorkel in the Wotje lagoon of the Marshall Islands in the early ’80s appreciating the pristine surroundings and a few moored boats that the well-to-do kept for inter-island travel as the fishermen did not seem to have need of boats to catch their fish. I was merrily bobbing my head on the water surface and noticed a floating object that caught my curiosity.

Swimming closer to the object, it was a pamper discard that has been on a water a while ‘cause I could not determine if it was for an elder or a child. I felt guilty; I was associated with Trans Atoll Service Corporation (TASC) lowered prices of imported commodities in Majuro and the outer islands so the Mom-and-Pop store could flourish with current inventory. The discard was probably one of ours.

Plastics had been a boon to housewives when the material spilled off the industrial plants to the kitchen and household, but now, it is all over the place, the convenient wrapper and the saran wrap the common culprits. Of course, it is not the plastic, silly. It is our human capacity to discard willy-nilly because we assume someone is going to pick after us. The maintenance man at our school was always handy with his small tractor and his associate comes around with a pointed pole to gather the refuse missed by the tractor.

It was a convenient arrangement save that the masters and mistresses of the classroom casually lord it over the environment expecting a retinue of servants to pick after them. Earthrise consciousness is not just keeping the image of the rising earth on the lunarscape as an operating context; it is also what our mothers taught us, to keep the surroundings tidy and clean. “Bullying” is not limited to forcing one’s will on others. We also “bully” the Earth with our discards and refuse.

It is always a great sight to see the sweepers on the pathway and the grass mower keeping the grass by the sidewalk trim and low like a golf link. Of course, the pathway is the No. 1 asset in the tourism industry so it must be kept impeccably spick and span. With maintained trash bins along the way, the admiring walkers and joggers dispense of their water bottles and discard in the receptacles and keep the walkway uncluttered.

We do not wish to sound preachy. God knows we have enough of that from everywhere. But taking care of our surroundings is something within our power to accomplish. It is but a matter of choice.

I lingered for a couple of weeks at a San Isidro, CK place by the lagoon favored by many picnickers when the owner is at home and keeps the gate unlock, otherwise, it is locked to avoid the horde of weekend swimmers and sticky-fingered little folks.

There is the omnipresent cigarette butt with the filter made of plastic fibers that decomposes long after we are gone. The absence of any structure to put them leaves the place cluttered with butts.

Next come the candy and nut bar wrappers. Oh, they all glow in the dark and will still be shiny when our host is gone and his offspring turns the place into a hotel as its neighbors already are, the spanking new eatery next door a favored hideaway. The shorefront is sandy tan (not white, silly) kept clean and tidy where volleyball tourneys are held and the laughter of the young duets with ocean winds.

My host will keep the ironwood, coconut, plumeria, and flame tree, thank you, and have the sailboats and catamaran on the yard, but we can see the signature on the wall. The visitors’ industry needs for visitors’ housing will prevail.

The moo and fruit-flavored juice containers litter the ground, as well. Not too long ago, in “The Graduate” movie, a guest of the parents of the character of Dustin Hoffman was told: “Plastic.” Yup. We got plenty of that.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.