By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
The Philippine government is urging the public to refrain from using single-use plastic items, such as pet bottles and grocery bags, amid an international report naming the Philippines as one of five countries which have been the biggest sources of plastic wastes into the world’s oceans.
Based on a 2015 study conducted by the University of Georgia and reported by Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, about half of the plastic waste that ends up in the oceans comes from just five countries, namely the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The report, which was re-issued by the United Nations as part of its information campaign, showed that 81 percent of 6,237,653 kilograms or 6,875.84 tons of the Philippines plastic waste is being “mismanaged” and end up into the ocean every day.
“It is high time we refrain from using disposable plastic products that are used for minutes, but persist in the environment forever,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu said.
June is Environment Month in the Philippines, while June 5 of every year is the celebration of World Environment Day.
DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas Leones said the effect of plastics can be devastating for marine biodiversity.
“Small litters like candy wrappers end up in our oceans. It is eaten by marine species, clogging their stomach and causing their death,” Leones pointed out.
Leones said the study should serve as a “wake up call” for the Philippines to reduce its plastic consumption.
Although the country does not impose a nationwide ban on plastic, DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) reported that most local government units had passed ordinances to regulate plastic use, including shopping bags and secondary packaging materials.
EMB noted that shopping malls practice plastic holidays in which plastic bags are not used on specific days of the week.
Some malls have also taken further steps by totally discouraging the use of plastic, replacing it with paper bags and encouraging customers to bring reusable bags for their purchases.
The National Solid Waste Management Commission also works with the manufacturing and recycling industries in the country, in an effort to increase the recovery of post-consumer plastic materials.
The Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability is currently doing a pilot study on recycling flexible packaging or multi-material film packaging, which is expected to be operational by end of 2018.
Flexible packaging is used in shampoo sachets, snacks packaging, coffee, sauces, juices and other manufactured food items.
DENR continues to encourage industries to get involved in environmental efforts through programs that increase recovery of packaging materials, which end up in dumps and oceans.
Cimatu also made the appeal in preparation for the coming rainy season in the country.
Plastics are non-biodegradable, which means that they do not decay and become absorbed by the environment.
Once discarded, plastic is likely to end up in oceans after being washed down rivers, flushed down toilets, or windblown from dumps.
Cimatu said the easiest and best way to reduce plastic waste is to use reusable alternatives, such as eco-friendly tumblers and eco-bags