Legarda bats for regulation of plastic bags

January 20, 2017

SENATOR Loren Legarda renewed her call for the regulation of the use of plastic bags to help prevent oceans from carrying more plastic than fish as projected in one study.

Legarda made the call as she noted a 2016 report, The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which showed that the world produced 20 times more plastic in 2014 (311 million tonnes) than it did in 1964 (15 million tonnes) and at this rate, oceans are expected to contain more plastic than fish (by weight) by the year 2050.

“Plastic bags are ubiquitous components of the world’s consumer culture. These non-biodegradable plastic bags symbolize the throwaway culture that we have developed. We cannot go business as usual as it pollutes our oceans and water, and even the air when burned,” she said.

The Senator also noted that the Philippines, together with China, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, is considered among the top contributors of plastic trash dumped into the sea. The five countries are spewing out as much as 60 percent of the plastic waste that enters the world’s seas (Ocean Conservancy, 2015).

In line with this, Legarda filed the proposed Plastic Bags Regulation Act under Senate Bill No. 430, which aims to strictly regulate the production, importation, sale and use of plastic bags.

“This proposed measure discourages the use of plastic bags and encourages the use of native reusable bags made of organic or recycled materials, and reusable containers made of glass or non-toxic and non-hazardous materials,” she said.

Under the bill, a point-of-sale store will be prohibited from providing the consumer with plastic bags for the purpose of carrying or transporting items or products purchased. This will put the use of single-use plastic bags to a minimum.

Only plastic bags that are used to contain fresh fish, meat and poultry products, and primary plastic packaging used to pre-pack food items and in the manufacturing of finished products for sale in the general market are excluded from the prohibitions under the bill.

The disposal and management of plastic waste shall be done in accordance and pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which Legarda principally sponsored and authored.

Legarda explained that the bill would also address the concerns of affected employees and workers of the plastic industry.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will develop programs for alternative livelihood opportunities for the affected employees and workers.

“As the problems of pollution, environmental degradation and severe weather shifts escalate, all sectors of society must act with urgency. Citizens should make conscious efforts to change daily routine and practices to produce a positive impact on our environment. Companies must change their economic mindset, wasteful production processes and packaging methods—from the use of seemingly cost-effective plastic bags into investing in long-term reusable and recyclable bags which are more sustainable in the long run,” Legarda concluded.