Search on for ways  to solve plastics problem

Published March 24, 2019, 12:03 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

E CARTOON Feb 03, 2019A  dead  whale washed  ashore on a beach in Compostela Valley in Mindanao last Friday.  An examination of  the body showed it had ingested 40 kilograms of plastic. It had subsequently died of starvation  and dehydration.

 A week earlier, we published   a front-page photo of a crab trapped  inside  a discarded milk tea cup in the Verde Island passage in  Batangas  City.  The photo,  a release of international  environmental group Greenpeace  showed  the increasing incidence  of sealife dying from  the plastic wastes  mounting in the seas  around  our  islands.

As early as 2017, Greenpeace  reported the finding that the Philippines  is  the  world’s third worst plastic polluer of the world’s oceans  after China  and Indonesia.  We are  among  the foremost consumers  of  food, medicine, and other products marketed in plastic sachets,  bottles, and bags. Three  US companies were  named as the world’s foremost producers of these common consumer products sold in cheap  disposable plastics.

A multi-sectoral  coalition  has now been organized by  several  top  corporations  involved in the production  and distribution of consumer  goods – the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) – dedicated  to finding  ways to meet the growing problem  of plastic pollution.

It  signed  early  this month an agreement  with the Paranaque City government  for the installation of  a  plastic waste recycling  and research and development  center in barangay  La Huerta. Sen. Cynhia Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee  on  Environment  and Natural Resources, witnessed the  signing ceremony and lauded  the initiative taken by  the city government and the private companies which had formed the coalition.

The senator is pushing for the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR),  an environmental  protection strategy  now being  practiced in European countries requiring manufacturers using  plastic materials in their packaging to be responsible for recovering the plastic waste  they caused, through such means as reuse, buy-back, and recycling.

The Villar  Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance  already has a factory in Las Pinas producing armchairs made from such wastes as food  wrappers. Twenty  kilos of such such “soft plastics” can be processed  to produce one chair. The chairs thus produced are  being donated to public schools in the country.

India and  several other countries have come up with ways to use waste plastic  mixed  with  bitumen  for  road construction.  Australia, Indonesia,  the United Kingdom, and the US are among the countries now  developing  technology to incorporate  plastic waste into asphalt mix.

Plastic pollution has long been a problem worldwide  because plastic does not decompose. Wood, paper, and other materials dumped into landfills will disintegrate in time, but not plastic. The  volume  of waste plastic will  keep mounting until there  is no more space in landfills.  A great deal of it ends in the sea where  it is consumed  by sea animals which mistake it for food and  it kills them eventually. One study  found that bits of plastic  had  become embedded in the flesh of some fish, thus  posing a danger to fish-eating humans .

We thus welcome  increasing efforts to solve the problem of  plastic wastes, such as  those  of the  Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability.  Around  the world, new ways are being found to process plastics so they can be  used for new products such as  chairs  in Las Pinas  and roads in India. Perhaps someday scientists will discover a way to make plastic biodegradable like wood and the other products of our natural world, but until  then  we must  learn to recycle plastics to save our environment.                                                                         .