Thursday, September 30, 2010

Strong law to put an end to plastic pollution urged

Environmental health and justice advocates on
Monday asked senators to enact a law to bring the reckless use and
disposal of plastic bags under control.

A text survey conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition among its partner
groups revealed a range of proposals on what an effective law should
stipulate to effectively prevent and reduce waste and pollution from
plastic bags. The top 12 ideas that the groups would like to see in
the envisioned plastic law are as follows:

1. Ban the practice of giving free plastic bags to consumers in all
commercial establishments.

2. Impose plastic bag environmental tax or levy.

3. Prohibit the use of plastic bags (i.e., thin film single-use
plastic bags) as “banderitas.”

4. Phase out and eventually ban plastic sando bags.

5. Bar the importation of plastic bags and other single-use
disposables such as polystyrene food and beverage containers.

6. Require commercial establishments to offer reusable alternatives to
plastic bags.

7. Direct supermarkets and other retail and wholesale shops to allow
their customers to bring and use “bayong” and other substitute
containers for goods purchased.

8. Stipulate producer responsibility and accountability, including a
mandatory take back for used bags.

9. Reinforce the prohibition against the littering, dumping, and
burning plastic waste.

10. Put up livelihood programs in the countryside to support the
production of bayong and other reusable bags from native materials.

11. Provide continuing public education on the health, environmental,
and climate impacts of plastic bags.

12. Observe and participate in the “International Plastic Bag Free
Day” every 3rd of July.

Among those that responded in the survey were Buklod Tao, Global
Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia,
Kinaiyahan Foundation, Miss Earth Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation,
Philippine Earth Justice Center, and Zero Waste Philippines.

According to the groups, plastic bags end up mostly in the seas and
dumpsites where they take a long period of time to break into
miniscule bits of toxic chemicals, polluting the soil and water as
well as the food chain when animals mistake them for food.

As explained by Senator Manny Villar in Senate Bill 1103, “plastics
are essentially non-biodegradable, take more than 100 years to
dissolve, pollute the air and water, and damage natural habitat.”

Citing information from the UN report “Marine Litter—trash that
kills,” the EcoWaste Coalition said that plastics comprise 90 percent
of floating marine debris worldwide. In the Philippines, a plastic
discards survey organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace in
2006 showed that 76 percent of garbage found drifting in the historic
Manila Bay were plastic materials, 51 percent of which were plastic

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago in her explanatory note for Senate
Bill 1543 said that “somewhere between 500 billion to a trillion
plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year and millions end up in
the litter stream outside of landfills.”

In introducing Senate Bill 1368, Senate Loren Legarda said that “in
all instances plastic bags are easily moved from place to place,
clogging drainages in streets, polluting waterways and even
endangering fish and ecosystems,” adding that “the production of these
bags requires considerable amounts of crude oil and natural gas.”

"We ask our lawmakers to heed the admonition from Mother Earth and
support the envisaged 'Ondoy Act' to stop further plastic pollution of
our communities," the EcoWaste Coalition said.


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