New law introduces concept of circular economy to address plastic packaging waste

Published July 31, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

In a day, how many times does an average consumer use a product that comes from a sachet or a plastic wrapper? Food, beverage, cookies, cooking ingredients, shampoo, liquid soap come in sachets. Numerous personal items are packaged in plastic –razor, hair brush, cosmetics, hygiene care products, towels, socks. Plus candies and fruits too. The list is long.

That kind of consumer behavior in the Philippines has contributed much to our solid waste management problem, specifically to plastic pollution. We have even been referred to as the “sachet economy.” Products sold in sachets, or in small plastic bags, are affordable, thus its popularity in an economy where consumers have limited daily purchasing power.

However, such has caused “by some estimates” consumption of a “staggering 163 million pieces of sachets every day,” according to a World Bank 2021 study on plastics circularity in the Philippines. That is part of the 2.7 million tons of plastic waste we generate each year, where “an estimated 20 percent ends up in the ocean,” the same study said. (The country’s 100 million population produces over 21 million metric tons of garbage a year.)

The solution to this problem can only come from government and private sector behavior.
From the government side, that solution has started to roll out with a law requiring large companies to recover and recycle part of the plastic packaging waste of their products so that those will not end in landfills and in the ocean. The mandate will encourage the design of product packaging that can be reused, recycled or biodegrade.

That is the Extended Producer Responsibility Act of 2022, or Republic Act No. 11898, which lapsed into law on July 23, 2022.

Senator Cynthia Villar, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change, pushed for the passage of the law, along with her counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Glona Labadlabad.

The law has set specific recovery targets for large companies to recover a part of their plastic wastes, starting with 20 percent by end of 2023, and by 80 percent by end of 2028. Among the plastic packaging wastes that producers will be expected to recover are sachets, labels, laminates, single or multi-layered plastics, beverage and food containers, lids and caps, plastic forks and spoons, plates, straws, tarps, signages, etc.

A more significant part of the EPR law is the introduction of the concept of a circular economy based on the idea that “there is no such thing as waste.”

The law defines it as: “Circular economy shall refer to an economic model of creating value by extending product lifespan through improved design and servicing, and relocating ways from the end of the supply chain to the beginning.

On the part of the private sector, there is much that can be done, starting with developing a keen awareness on ways to reduce plastic waste. Start by bringing cloth bags to carry groceries. Avoid products packed for smaller consumption for picnics, snacks, school. Refuse a fastfood’s offer of plastic utensils or plastic straws. There are many ways to avoid consuming a plastic package.

A small act for the consumer but a big step when consumers number in the millions.