Legarda: Be really mindful now of those plastics

January 15, 2021

MANILA, 15 January 2021– Too much plastics now gravely spoiling the environment, and Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda is calling for a strict regulation of plastic production and a strict implementation of the government’s single-use of plastics policy.

“There must be a more stringent regulation on the use of plastic bags to curb pollution and mitigate the harmful effects of marine litter,” she said in a press statement.

Legarda said there is now an urgent need to address the effects of plastic production and wastes which have significantly contributed to pollution, especially carbon emissions, and in destruction of marine life.

At present, there are 38 House bills and resolutions and seven Senate bills which are all seeking to regulate the use of plastics.

Among these is the proposed Single-Use Plastics Regulation and Management Act of 2019 under House Bill No. 635 which Legarda has already filed to strictly regulate the production, importation, sale, and use of plastic bags.

It seeks to phase out single-use plastics 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.

“We have relied so much on the oceans for our existence – for food, for livelihood, for energy, and for recreation,” she said.

“However, our throwaway culture and rapid population growth along with unsustainable marine practices such as overfishing, waste dumping, oil spills, among others, have seriously damaged marine habitats and life in the sea over the years,” she added.

Legarda said single-use plastics continue to be a waste management problem in the country.

Despite the negative effects of plastics, the majority of Filipinos are still dependent on the “sachet economy,” a form of single-use plastic.

The affordability, convenience, and strong market presence of sachets makes them easy choices for low-income households. In 2019, 164 million pieces of sachets were used and discarded in the Philippines. The average national per capita sachet consumption is 1.64 per day, but this increases to 6 in highly urbanized areas.

“But this should be addressed, managed and improved”, she said.

“The Earth will not just heal on its own without any effort on our part to stop marine pollution. It is our primary responsibility to protect and preserve our environment. Let us push for the use of numerous alternatives to non-biodegradable plastic bags like our baskets, bayong, eco-bags, paper bags, cloth bags or katsa, bags made of recycled tetrapacks, and many others,” Legarda said.

“We just have to be innovative and resourceful in finding substitute packaging materials or containers. While there is time, let us prevent our oceans from choking on plastics we humans only use once,” she added.

She said plastic products have exceedingly long lifetimes, such as ordinary beverages plastic bottles, of up to 450 years. Other forms of plastic disintegrate under the action of weather, sun and waves into tiny particles called microplastics which are eaten by fish, and that makes it very dangerous to humans, she said.

Approximately eight million tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, destroying marine ecosystems and negatively affecting the marine food chain.

Plastics are also a climate-related concern as its production, refining, and manufacture is a source of greenhouse gas emissions as it uses fossil fuel in extraction and transport.

Greenhouse gas emissions from the plastic lifecycle threaten the ability of the global community to keep global temperature rise below 1.5°C. By 2050, the greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons, which is 10-13% of the entire remaining carbon budget.

“The worsening issue of pollution further aggravated by natural hazards should serve as our wake-up call. The proposed bill also provides an ambitious yet comprehensive approach to solving our problem on single-use plastics, which involves actions from national and local governments, industries, business enterprises and consumers for the manufacturing, selling, use, recycling, and disposal of all single-use plastics in our country,” Legarda said.

As of 2015, the solid waste diversion rate in Metro Manila is at 48 percent while outside Metro Manila the rate is at 46 percent.

Legarda said the Ecological Solid Waste Management Law (RA 9003), of which she is the principal author, requires that at least 25 percent of all solid wastes from waste-disposal facilities are diverted or recovered through reuse, recycling, composting, and other resource-recovery activities.

“Implementation of the law is key as we all try to strive for a zero-waste, plastic-free lifestyle. I hope for the support from the government and all sectors on this urgent policy,” she said.##