Legarda Joins Calls to End Plastic Pollution in Celebration of Earth Day

April 21, 2018

Senator Loren Legarda today joined calls to end plastic pollution, which is the theme for this year’s Earth Day celebration (April 22).

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience, said that plastics have been polluting land and bodies of water and threaten marine life and human health.

“Plastics are ubiquitous components of the world’s consumer culture. They 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,” Legarda stressed.

The Senator 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.

In February, a male sperm whale was found dead off the coast of Spain. It was determined that the whale was killed by gastric shock to its stomach and intestines after ingesting 64 pounds of plastic.

Legarda also lamented that, according to Ocean Conservancy, the Philippines is one of the top sources of plastic trash dumped into the sea with 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste and half a million metric tons of plastic-waste leakage per year.

Legarda has already 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.

However, Legarda, who is in Washington D.C. as Alternate Head of the Philippine Delegation to the 2018 Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group, wants to go even further.

During her participation at the High-Level event, “Towards a Blue Economy: Concrete Actions for Addressing the Ocean Health,” Legarda expressed her intention to file measures to promote a circular economy, in which resources are used for as long as possible and the use of non-renewable resources is minimized, and to ban the use of microplastics.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), microplastics are small plastic pieces that can easily pass through water filtration systems and end up in the ocean, posing threat to the aquatic life and human health. Microbeads is a type of microplastic that are added as exfoliants to cleansers, toothpaste, beauty products, and shampoo.

USA already has a Microbead-Free Waters Act, Canada has banned products with plastic microbeads, and the United Kingdom has officially banned the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products.

The Senator also encouraged individuals to try to limit their use of plastics, which is doable. Legarda, who has been strictly implementing segregation of waste in her home and workplace, discourages the use of plastic bags and other disposable utensils. She encourages the use of reusable containers and cloth bags when going to the market and doing grocery.

She has also prohibited bottled water and the use of disposable cups and straw during her committee hearings in the Senate to reduce waste. Instead, purified water in dispenser and glassware are available for the guests and they are encouraged to bring their own refillable water bottles.

“We should all make conscious efforts to change daily routine and practices to produce a positive impact on our environment. We need to reduce wastage and veer away from a throwaway culture, because the waste that we produce, especially plastics that take hundreds of years to degrade, will affect both our environment and human life,” Legarda concluded.