Teen Makes Early Gains in War Against Plastic
He is only 19, but Nikko Calledo already has declared war — with the help of his friends — to protect the environment.
Nikko, a junior in accountancy at Silliman, calls his campaign “Straw Wars” and “Trashformers”, catchy names from the movie blockbusters to attract young people to join the ranks against plastic, scrap paper, and ocean pollution. And he has won the war in Silliman University.
“Plastic is an eyesore to the streets and clogs up our drainage systems. They also end up in our seas and kill many marine animals,” wrote Nikko, vice president of the Silliman University Student Government (SG), in a poster he is preparing for the launch of his project.
Silliman is big (10,000 students, 800 faculty- staff complement) and uses a lot of paper and plastic in its daily transactions, Nikko thought, then pushed a resolution to ban the use of plastic cups, plates, spoons and forks, stirrers, etc. from SG activities.
“This year, as vice president, I’m closely monitoring the members of the SG if they are actually following the resolution,” he said.
Save waste paper
Also targeted in his campaign is waste paper. “Paper causes70% more pollution, and consumes four times the energy and three times the amount of water it takes to make plastic bags, making paper not necessarily green,” he added.
To lessen the use of paper substantially, he asked the Office of Student Services to help collect scrap paper from offices and make notepads to reuse the clean side of the paper.
Nikko’s advocacy won him a place in SEA Camp last summer, where 90 young leaders like him interacted with scientists and other professionals to learn more about environmental problems and what the youth can do about them.
At the camp, the U.S. Embassy offered grants for the best environmental project proposals and his was one of 28 projects chosen to get a grant of P10,000 to keep his project going.
In a move to step up his campaign, Nikko last May took on the Silliman University Administration. “Dear Dr. Malayang,” he wrote the university president. “We are launching STRAW WARS, a campaign against the use of drinking straws and plastic coffee stirrers within our campus.
“Over 500,000,000 straws are being produced every day globally. Unfortunately, a vast majority of these straws end up in our oceans. In a year, at least 1 million seabirds, and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles are harmed when they entangle themselves in, or ingest plastic pollution, making drinking straws among the TOP 10 marine debris.
“We believe that Silliman, as the campus by the sea, should take part in the action to reduce the threat. Our proposal is simple: remove plastic straws and coffee stirrers and provide them only upon request for selected beverages that need straws, like fruit shakes and frappes.”
In June, the SU Administration, consistent with its own environmental campaign, joined the SG. Vice President Cleonico Y. Fontelo wrote: “Dear Nikko, I am pleased to let you know that the University Administration is supportive of your environmental initiatives. I am sharing with you this letter from (SU Café Manager) Prof. Ana Vee A. Riconalla.”
She wrote: “We are delighted to take part in this movement and have begun taking steps to limit the use of drinking straws and plastic stirrers in our cafeterias,canteens, and other facilities. We will adopt the “ASK FOR A STRAW” policy.
In only a month’s time, Nikko won the Silliman territory. Now he moves on to the restaurants outside the campus. “Right now, we’re negotiating with Captain Ribbers to make it the first restaurant in the city to be plastic STRAW-free.”
(Photo: Nikko Calledo [right] and National Scientist Angel C. Alcala at the SEA Camp in Coron, Palawan, last month.)
Next target: City Hall
Then he moves on to City Hall. “Dear Mayor Sagarbarria,” he wrote again.“I have been living in this city for three years and have found a special place for Dumaguete in my heart. However, it has disturbed me how part of the Rizal Boulevard doesn’t smell right. I found that there are pipes that spill untreated and polluted water to the open sea. . .
“The Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 says (this) is prohibited.”
And the campaign goes on for the teenage warrior. (by Ms Celia E. Acedo, SU Research and Environmental News)