By Chito Chavez
Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition asked the Senate and Congress to prioritize the passing of pending plastic pollution prevention bills on the heels of President Duterte’s recent pronouncement regarding the possibility of banning plastics in the country.
At the 43rd Cabinet meeting last November 6, Duterte floated the idea of banning the use of plastics as the issue of environment and climate change resiliency was discussed.
“Banning plastics, particularly single-use plastics or SUPs, will have a tremendous impact on the country’s humongous waste production estimated at over 40,000 tons per day of which a huge portion is comprised of plastic residuals,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Banning SUPs will help in curbing the chemicals and plastics choking our fragile environment,” he added.
SUPs are plastic-based materials created to be used once before they are disposed of or recycled such as bottles, cutlery, cups, sachets, stirrers, straws, and the omnipresent plastic bags and polystyrene containers or Styrofoam.
“Banning SUPs will mean less throw-away plastics being produced, consumed and disposed of, less fossil fuels used and less greenhouse gases emitted, less plastic waste dumped or incinerated, and less plastic spilling into our water bodies and harming aquatic life,” said Benosa.
Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, emphasized the importance of the 18th Congress enacting a national ban on SUPs to address the plastic pollution crisis.
“Such a law is needed to stimulate and strengthen actions by local government units to address the menace of disposable plastics. Aside from targeting SUPs for phase-out within a reasonable timeframe, the law should promote and incentivize the shift to ecological alternatives, and encourage business and industry to invest in sustainable product packaging and delivery systems,” Lucero noted.
Citing a 2018 UN report on SUPs, the EcoWaste Coalition identified some of the environmental problems associated with SUPs, including plastic bags clogging waterways and exacerbating natural disasters, plastics being ingested by marine animals who mistake them for food, and toxic emissions from the burning of plastic waste.
According to the said report, “Styrofoam products, which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene, are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous system, lungs and reproductive organs. The toxins in Styrofoam containers can leach into food and drinks.”
Another report released in February 2019 titled “Plastic & Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet“ said that “roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form—as debris in the oceans, as micro- or nanoparticles in air and agricultural soils, as microfibers in water supplies, or as microparticles in the human body.”
Plastic “slowly fragments into smaller particles where they contaminate the air, water, and soil, accumulate in food chains, and release toxic additives or concentrate additional toxic chemicals in the environment, making them bioavailable again,” the report said.