Use of plastic sachets a concern for environmental groups

Published July 15, 2020, 11:31 AM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Environmental groups have expressed a growing concern for single-use plastics, specifically sachets, due to the affordability and convenience they give to Filipino consumers.

(FILE PHOTO / REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/ MANILA BULLETIN)

A new report, titled “Sachet Economy: Big Problems in Small Packets,” which was released on Tuesday was commissioned by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) using the data from University of Santo Tomas’ Research Center for Social Sciences and Education to look into Filipinos’ sachet consumption habits.

“Sachets are perceived as inexpensive, and convenient because of their small and durable packaging, but in reality, they are expensive for cities to manage, difficult to effectively recycle, and cannot be reused,” GAIA Asia-Pacific program manager Miko Aliño said.

GAIA and the global movement Break Free From Plastic also lamented the “alarming” exclusion of sachets from local laws, even though some local governments have gone beyond the usual plastic bag bans by passing ordinances.

The report showed how corporations managed to evade responsibility for sachet waste, which leaves local governments and communities struggling with this non-recyclable waste to address the imminent sachet pollution crisis.

“Corporations have greatly benefited from these products by marketing them for their low cost and convenience but they are not made accountable for the pollution that comes along with its production and disposal,” Aliño said.

Moreover, the report found that sachet purchase and use tend to be higher among lower socioeconomic brackets. The groups said it is because multinational companies advertised them as affordable for daily-wage earners for them to be able to purchase branded quality products in small quantities.

It is based on the premise that sachets help consumers ration their use of a product better than big containers, thereby reducing product wasting, they added.

“Sachets may have brought better quality products to poor communities but the problem is that they have become a waste nightmare. When sachets are discarded indiscriminately, these clog drains and contribute to flooding or even pollute our oceans. With this data, we can really see that companies are really the ones to be blamed. We can also use this report’s findings to pursue regulations that would compel companies to acknowledge their liability for plastic pollution,” Aliño said.

LACK OF INTEGRATED NATIONAL POLICY

The report cited efforts of local government units and the need to step up to address a large part of the country’s plastic waste problem, including production of throwaway plastic packaging, and actions that companies must do to reverse plastic-related problems and pollution.

‘TINGI’ CULTURE

The report also presented the attitude of Filipinos towards plastics, such as how our culture is continuously redefined and assimilated in the tactics of big businesses in perpetuating decades of plastic pollution.

Furthermore, the report discussed public attitudes towards plastic pollution and laid out several recommendations and initiatives from the environmental organizations, private sector, and social enterprises towards efforts to address the situation.

“Filipinos had done very well without sachets in the past. We bought cooking oil and condiments in small portions or tingi in our community sari-sari stores with our own reusable containers and mugs. Wet goods such as fish and meat were usually wrapped in used paper or banana leaves,” Break Free From Plastic Philippines national coordinator Rei Panaligan said.

“With this, we want to encourage again our businesses and retailers to adopt alternative delivery systems by putting refilling stations and encouraging customers to bring their own reusable bags and containers. Moreover, this should be part of a better normal way forward in a post-COVID scenario wherein alternative delivery systems and refill stations are part of the plan. As shown by the latest statements of scientists worldwide, reusable is still safe to be used during this pandemic,” he added.

 
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