Sunday, July 3, 2011

Groups push plastic bags phaseout on plastic bag-free day

Philippine environmental groups called for a phaseout of plastic bags as they marked International Plastic Bag-Free Day on Sunday.

The groups also called for a national law that will enhance waste reduction by prohibiting the same and promoting organic reusable bags.

"We know... that our noble legislators, led by the tireless committee on ecology, are doing their best to complement what our LGUs have started," EcoWaste Coalition president Roy Alvarez said before an activity where green groups were to make a chain made of used plastic bags and surrounded the full circumference of Quezon Circle.

The groups called for the enactment of a law that will:

* phase out plastic bags both regular and degradable;
* promote organic reusable bags;
* espouse take-back mechanisms and recycling;
* support LGUs in their waste management initiatives;
* impose environmental levy on plastic bags; and
* for accountability purposes, label so-called “degradable" plastic bags to show name of manufacturers, manufacturing date, and the degradation period of the bag.

The groups warned about the proliferation of so-called “biodegradable" plastics, and cited the findings of Loughborough University and DEFRA-UK.

The findings showed that while these materials may degrade in two to five years, their biodegradability remains unclear.

“Degradable plastic bags merely perpetuate ‘throw-away’ and ‘dispose-as-usual’ mentality as it gives the wrong impression that discarding them the habitual way is okay since they degrade anyway," said Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis.

“This raises, at least, two problems: littering and continued production of plastic waste," she added.

Mother Earth Foundation President Froilan Grate said the trick is simply not to get duped into believing that degradable plastic bag is the solution.

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

“We are glad that more and more provinces, cities, and municipalities are taking on what Los Baños town in Laguna, Muntinlupa City in southern Metro Manila, Batangas City in Batangas, Lucban town in Quezon, and other pioneer local government units (LGUs) have done. Let us re-think our relationship with plastic bags, knowing that local and environmentally sound alternatives are available," said Miss Earth Athena Mae Imperial.

“It is time we give our environment a break and our cottage industries that support local employment a boost," she added.

EcoWaste said there are presently more than 10 cities and municipalities that have banned plastic bags and about 10 more are proposing to do the same.

Recently, it said Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro attributed the welcome absence of floods in his city brought by storm "Falcon" to their plastic ban.

He said there was less trash along the waterways, which he said “eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible."

Discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and GAIA found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

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