Local plastics industry alarmed by passage of 2 bills in House

Published August 16, 2021, 5:29 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The domestic plastics industry has been alarmed by the passage in the Lower House of HB 9147 (Single-Use Plastic Products or SUPs Regulation Act) and HB 9171 (Plastic Tax Act), imposing P20 per kg. excise tax on plastic bag products, which seek to curb the plastic waste problem.

Photo credit: http://www.philippineplastic.com/index.html

In a statement, the Philippine Plastics Industry Association (PPIA) President Danny Ngo said, recyclable plastics such as SUP packaging are bolstering the reduction of impacts of climate change. “Phasing them out and substituting it with the current alternatives is not a true solution, but maybe more damaging than benefiting the environment as well as the economy,” said Ngo.

In opposing the two bills, Ngo cited the recent study, “Life Cycle Impacts of Plastic Packaging Compared to Substitutes in the United States and Canada (Franklin Associates, 2018)” which revealed that plastics material such as SUPs has the lowest carbon footprint as compared to the more than double carbon footprint of alternatives paper, glass, tin and aluminum.

On one hand, shifting to compostable starch-based plastics as provided for in HB 9147 must first undergo an in-depth analysis to truly determine their environmental impact. Composting organic material under anaerobic condition has the greater potential to release methane (CH4), a heat-trapping gas that is 24 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2).

Globally, power generation has the highest contribution of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission at 25% for the use of coal and fuel oil. This is followed by the combined agriculture, forestry and other land uses sectors at 24 percent due to livestock farming and crop cultivation producing methane gas. While 14 percent is from the transport sector, and 21 percent from the industry sector, where the substitute packaging paper, glass, steel and aluminum have more than double global warming potential than plastics based on life cycle analysis.

The use of plastics being the safest, and most hygienic packaging material, preserves food with a much longer shelf life. This helps reduce the 8 to 10% global GHG emissions that come from food loss and food wastage. It likewise saves more resources than producing the substitutes that uses five (5) times more water consumption, generates four (4) times more solid wastes, and double the amount of energy consumption than plastics along their respective production processes.

The study also showed that the substitutes will result into more devastating environmental hazards if they replace the SUPs such as: increasing the eutrophication or algal blooms decreasing the seawater oxygen by 5262 percent; increasing the ozone layer depletion by 282 percent; inducing more acid rains by 233 percent, and smog formation by 213 percent.

Ngo similarly underscored that the use of plastics like SUPs saves forest resources like trees. Trees are the best defense to absorb carbon dioxide to reduce the severe impacts of climate change.

Ngo noted that although the country due to climate change is contributing only 0.35 percent to the global emissions, the Philippines ranks third as the most vulnerable to climate change in the region. “That is why we experience extreme weather disturbances such as very hot days, devastating typhoons, and very heavy flood causing rainfalls, seriously damaging crops and properties and putting at stake the lives of local communities on the affected areas,” he said.

Many countries at present are battered with extreme weather conditions. Cold countries like the U.S., Canada, Greece, Russia, and Siberia and other northern most parts are battered with devastating wildfires. While dessert countries in the Middle East in contrast are experiencing heavy rain falls and flash floods, he added.

Ngo said that projecting accumulated carbon foot print in view a product beyond years of projected production is very misleading like what others are doing to plastics to exaggerate its impact to climate change.

He emphasized that all manufactured products using electricity and fuel oil has their respective carbon footprint. T

The best way to determine the true amount of GHG emission of any product is by means of the life cycle assessment (LCA) and comparing it with the LCA results of the others, he added.