Save the environment, minimize or terminate use of plastics

Published December 9, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


“Plastic pollution seriously endangers the ecosystem, especially bodies of water like rivers that are vital to fishermen’s livelihood.”

With this in mind, the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading this week House Bill No. 4102 that proposes to raise the ₱20 excise tax on single-use plastic bags by 400 percent. The bill defines single-use plastic bags as secondary level plastics made of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic polymer such as “ice,” “labo,” or “sando” bags, with or without handle, used as packaging for goods or products.

This is another step in the right direction to reduce plastic waste and help save the environment. It will likewise be a good complement to Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) and Republic Act No. 11898 (Extended Producer Responsibility Act).

The environment problem is enormous, no doubt about it. In fact, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres amplified the magnitude of the global problem when he called on governments and multinational corporations to stop the “the orgy of destruction.”

“With our bottomless appetite for unchecked and unequal economic growth, humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction,” Guterres said ahead of the formal opening of biodiversity talks in Canada. “Our land, water, and air are poisoned by chemicals and pesticides, and choked with plastics.”

In pushing for House Bill 4102, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, one of the authors, noted that the Philippines is the third largest contributor to plastic pollution. This is backed by a World Bank study that shows “a staggering 2.7 million tons of plastic waste are generated in the Philippines each year, and an estimated 20 percent ends up in the ocean.”

With stiffer tax under this measure, together with the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, we express hope that this will discourage manufacturers from producing single-use plastic and instead come up with more environment-friendly packaging products in a bid to lessen plastic pollution that seriously impacts biodiversity and climate change.

As the product connotes, single-use plastic is used only once. The product doesn’t fully decompose and only breaks down into pieces, the process of which takes hundreds of years. And since it is produced from fossil fuels, the greenhouse gases it emits during production contributes to climate change.

And just to underscore the adverse effects of single-use plastic, American oceanographer and environmental activist Philippe Cousteau Jr. once said: “One of my big pet peeves is single-use plastic bags. I think it’s one of the stupidest ideas in the world.” The single-use plastic bag bill is a good complement to the Extended Producer Responsibility Act, which requires obliged corporations—the brand owners and product manufacturers—to recover 80 percent of their plastic packaging wastes or face up to ₱20 million fine.

We commend our lawmakers for coming up with measures to address this global concern. Discouraging the production and use of single-use plastic bags may come with a stiff price as producing a more environment-friendly product may mean higher cost. But the higher price tag is pittance compared to its long-term beneficial effect on mankind. What is paramount is the preservation of the environment for the sake of survival.

Let humanity be an instrument of survival, instead of being a weapon of mass extinction.