Thursday, September 23, 2010

DENR, store owners ink deal to promote use of reusable bags

DENR, store owners ink deal to promote use of reusable bags
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:21:00 09/23/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Going shopping on a Wednesday? Bring your own reusable bag.

Saying plastic bags account for the largest trash in the country,
Environment Secretary Ramon Paje urged the public and supermarkets to
eschew plastic bags in favor of reusable ones.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources, along with the
Earth Day Network, mall owners, and supermarket chains on Thursday
signed a memorandum of understanding to promote reusable bags and
reduce the use of plastic bags.

Under the agreement, mall and supermarket chains will not provide
plastic bags to customers on Wednesday to slowly shift public
consciousness into using reusable totes.

“We say that it is imperative on our part to initiate an eco-friendly
campaign to encourage the public to take part in saving the
environment by taking up an alternative greening method, which is to
bring and use reusable bags,” Earth Day Network president Elisea Gozun

Recently EcoWaste Coalition, another environment group, also called on
the government to ban the use of plastic bags. The group noted that
consumers could use alternatives to plastic bags such as “bayong” and
baskets made of biodegradable plant materials. Old garments and cloth
could also be made into bags, it suggested.

The signing of the agreement came two days before the first
anniversary of Tropical Storm "Ondoy," which flooded 80 percent of
Metro Manila, killed scores of people who were trapped in the surging
waters, and displaced thousands.

Officials said the damage wrought by Ondoy last year, which brought
the worst flooding in the city, should prompt industry and consumers
to lessen their wastes.

“Partnership is key. The DENR cannot solve the Philippines’ solid
waste management problem alone. We believe, and we know, that just as
each of us is a contributor, each of us is also a solution to the
problem,” Paje said.

According to the environment chief, most of the rubbish in the
country's shoreline and waterways are plastic trash.

Data from the DENR said there were 756,986 kilos of trash recovered
from the country's shoreline and waterways. Of that number, 622,448
kilos were composed of plastic and rubber items.

About half of the plastic items thrown in the waters—300,716
kilos—were plastic bags, the DENR said. It was followed by food
wrappers/containers at 110,939 kilos.

“The ludicrously high number of plastic bags that Filipinos use is an
alarming problem which manifests our inability to manage properly our
wastes,” the Earth Day Network said.

The group noted that plastic bags are non-renewable, oil consuming,
and non-biodegradable. Plastic bags clog storm drains and aggravate
flooding. Plastic items that end up in the open sea also pose dangers
to marine animals, Earth Day Network said.

Paje said it was encouraging that some malls and supermarkets have
started to reduce their plastic bag consumption. Based on the MOU, the
malls and supermarkets have committed to observe every Wednesday as
“Reusable Bag Day.”

As such, instead of packing the customers' goods in free plastic bags,
grocery chains could charge a fee for plastic bags use during
Wednesdays to encourage people to bring their own bags.

Clients who bring their own bags would be given incentives as
established by supermarkets, the DENR said.

Other stakeholders also vowed to push for the reduction of plastic bag
use. Earth Day Network Philippines will be the campaign coordinator,
while the National Solid Waste Management Commission will provide
government and technical support for the campaign.

Aside from Earth Day Network and the government agencies, the other
entities who signed the memorandum were the Philippine Amalgamated
Supermarkets Association (PAGASA), the Philippine Retailers
Association (PRA). The major malls and supermarkets who also agreed
with the pact and supported the project were Ayala Malls, Ever Malls,
Hi-Top Supermarket, Isetann Malls, Makro, Robinson’s Supermart,
Savemore, SM Hypermart and SM Supermarkets.


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