The continuing worldwide drive on plastic wastes 

E CARTOON Aug 18, 2019The Philippines is invariably mentioned in reports of worldwide plastic  pollution. For we have been found to be the third top producer of plastic wastes dumped in the world’s oceans, after China and Indonesia.

But  the  global coalition Break Free from Plastics in its latest report on the continuing world problem said  the real drivers of much of the plastic pollution in Asia are multinational companies of Europe and the United States, led  by mass producers  of beverage and food products, medicine, personal health aids, and cigarettes. At a recent “World Cleanup Day” in 51 countries, 43 percent  of the wastes collected carried the marks of the big consumer brands.

The  coalition’s report said only 9 percent of all plastic produced since the 1950s has actually been recycled. Single-use sachets used in selling medicine to low-income families in Southeast Asia were seen as  the  “most damaging type of plastic packaging.”

A positive note in  the report was the public commitment made by all the companies named in the coalition’s report to reduce plastic waste and increase recycling. Beverage giants Coca Cola and Pepsico along with  Nestle  pledged  to  make  their packaging recyclable, reusable  or compostable by 2025.

Along with reports like this of companies vowing to reduce and eventually eliminate the plastic wastes for  which they are responsible, we welcome reports of scientific research efforts  to find ways to develop alternative materials and systems,  recycle plastic wastes, and even convert plastics into  fuel or energy.

Several petrochemical and consumer-goods companies, members of  the  Alliance to End Plastic Waste, have committed to spend $1.5 billion in the next five years on the problem. Sophisticated incinerators are now in use in Europe and the US, burning 42 percent and 12.5 percent of their wastes, respectively, instead of dumping it in  landfills.  In Asia, China already has some 300 waste-to-energy plants operating.

The Philippines, it might be pointed out, prohibits by law the incineration  of wastes because of the air pollution. But worldwide research continues on ways to convert waste to energy, including gassification and pyrolysis. Perhaps, the time may come when ways will be discovered to achieve safe incineration of wastes and the Philippines could lift the present ban  which is serving to fill our landfills all over the country.

Until then, we must do what we can to solve the worldwide problem of plastic wastes. We now have a growing movement to stop single-use plastics such as  softdrinks straws and stirrers. More and more food outlets are now using small cardboard boxes instead of  plastic containers which were once in widespead use.