Beauty queens, environmental protection activists call to ban single-use plastics

Published July 3, 2019, 10:12 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Chito Chavez

The call to ban single-use plastics (SUP) has intensified as beauty queens and environmental protection activists on Wednesday trooped to the Farmer’s Market in Quezon City to air their appeal to mark yesterday’s 10th International Plastic Bag Free Day.

EcoWaste Coalition, Miss Earth Foundation, and Mother Earth Foundation joined hands to plead the consumers and vendors to replace SUPs such as plastic bags with eco-friendly alternatives.

The groups took turns in saying their piece and appealing to the public to ditch the ubiquitous plastic bags and other SUPs.

They stressed that SUPs which are often used for a few minutes can last and pollute the environment for up to 1,000 years.

Joining community activists in promoting bayong (native bags) and other reusable substitutes to plastic bags were Miss Air Philippines 2018 Zahra Bianca Saldua and Miss Water Philippines 2018 Berjayneth Chee.

“It’s high time for all sectors of the society to break our craving for plastic bags and other single-use disposables that have become a bane for the environment, especially our oceans which are now choking with macro and microplastic waste,” said Chee.

The environmentalists noted that according to scientists, “there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.”

“Aside from polluting the oceans, plastic bags that end up being burned or buried in disposal facilities also emit harmful pollutants that can contaminate the air we breathe and the soil where we grow our food, posing threats to human health,” said Saldua.

According to the report “Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet,” all plastic waste management technologies “lead to direct and indirect exposure to toxic substances for workers and nearby communities, including through inhalation of contaminated air, direct contact with contaminated soil or water, and ingestion of foods that were grown in an environment polluted with these substances.”

“Toxins from emissions, fly ash, and slag in a burn pile can travel long distances and deposit in soil and water, eventually entering human bodies after being accumulated in the tissues of plants and animals,” the report said.

For her part, zero waste campaigner Ochie Tolentino of the EcoWaste Coalition challenged national and local governments to ban the manufacture, import, distribution and use of single-use disposable plastics to stem the “plasticization” of the environment.

“National and local authorities need to enact aggressive measures to fight plastic pollution that will hopefully bring about deep changes in the way producers and consumers think, behave and live,” said Tolentino.

“We urge the 18th Congress to end the production and consumption of SUPs by enacting a national law complete with an ambitious phase-out plan toward a society free of SUPs such as plastic bags, straws, stirrers, cutlery, and polystyrene beverage and food containers,” added Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation.

While pushing for behavioral and policy reforms, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Mother Earth Foundation also emphasized the need for industries to switch to sustainable packaging, design toxic chemical additives out of processes and products, and assume full responsibility for the retrieval and recycling of their goods at the end of the product life cycle.

Both the EcoWaste Coalition and the Mother Earth Foundation are members of the Break Free from Plastic Movement, a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.