Sunday, July 3, 2011

Environmental groups laud LGUs banning plastic bags

VARIOUS environmental groups are hailing the move of a growing number of provinces, cities and municipalities to phase out and ban the use of plastic bags.

The environmental groups, however, said the Philippines can do better by implementing a nationwide phase-out and ban the widespread use of plastic bags.

The groups said the practice is “killing” the planet.

So far, a total of 11 local government units (LGUs) have laws that ban or regulate the use of plastic bags. They are Muntinlupa City; Antipolo City; Carmona, Cavite; Los Baños, Laguna; Sta. Barbara, Iloilo; Lucban, Quezon; Infanta, Quezon; Imus, Cavite; Biñan, Laguna; Batangas City, Batangas; and Burgos, Pangasinan.

Nine LGUs have proposed ordinances of similar nature. They are Caloocan City; Valenzuela City; Mandaluyong City; Real, Quezon; Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Cavite; Taytay, Rizal; Sorsogon; Iloilo and Bacolod.

To pitch the call for a nationwide phase-out and ban of plastic bags in the Philippines, about 300 concerned individuals, representing 300 organizations, converged Sunday at the Quezon Memorial Circle to participate in a creative event highlighting International Plastic Bag-Free Day.

Bearing banners and placards calling for, among others, a nationwide phase-out of plastic bags, the group also linked together a “plastic bag chain” made of used plastic bags and surrounded the full circumference of Quezon Circle.

“This chain, made of plastic bags from recognizable establishments, represents but a tiny fraction of the world’s plastic problem and highlights our very own here at home,” said Paeng Lopez of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

“If merely hundreds of people here today can enclose the entire Quezon Memorial Circle with plastic bags, imagine what 95.8 million Filipinos do to our waterways, marine life and climate with our continued consumption of plastic bags,” he added.

The group called for the enactment of a law in Congress that will phase out plastic bags and promote organic reusable bags.

“We know for a fact that our noble legislators in Congress, led by the tireless Committee on Ecology, are doing their best to complement what our LGUs have started. We want them to know that we will be behind them in firmly cutting down waste and phasing out plastic bags,” said Roy Alvarez, president of EcoWaste Coalition.

The groups are mulling over the implementation of a “take-back” mechanism and recycling of plastics by companies that manufacture or produce plastic products.

According to them, there’s also a need to provide LGUs the necessary support to make their solid-waste management initiatives work.

Alvarez said the proposed law should impose an environmental levy on plastic bags and for accountability purposes, label so-called degradable plastic bags to show the name of manufacturers, manufacturing date and the degradation period of the bag.

Alarmed by the proliferation of so-called biodegradable plastics, the group shared the findings of Loughborough University and DEFRA-UK, which revealed that while these materials may degrade in two to five years, their biodegradability remains unclear.

Available data suggest that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade in anaerobic conditions, such as would be found in landfill.

“Degradable plastic bags merely perpetuate the ‘throw-away’ and ‘dispose-as-usual’ mentality. They give the wrong impression that discarding them the habitual way is okay since they degrade anyway,” Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis said. “This raises, at least, two problems: littering and the continued production of plastic waste.”

For his part, Mother Earth Foundation president Froilan Grate said: “The trick is simply not to get duped into believing that degradable plastic bag is the solution. There’s a reason the item is called as it is because even if it degrades it remains to be plastic.”

“If at all, it is only a stop-gap or temporary measure that we also have to do away with on our way back to using organic reusable bags,” he added.

Recently, Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro attributed, in part, the welcome absence of floods in his city during Typhoon Falcon to their plastic ban and said, “there was less trash along the waterways,” which “eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible.”


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