Legarda Renews Call for the Regulation of Plastic Bags

July 3, 2018

In observance of the International Plastic Bag Free Day today, Senator Loren Legarda renewed her call for a more stringent regulation of the use of plastic bags to curb pollution and mitigate the harmful effects of marine litter.

Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Climate Change and UNISDR Global Champion for Resilience, said that plastic bags end up as litter, clogging drainages, polluting waterways and even endangering marine animals, human health, and ecosystem.

“Plastic bags end up as litter that accumulate and are compounded in landfills, drainages, and bodies of water. These litters, when dumped into the sea, take decades to decompose. Plastics can poison marine species and damage marine ecosystems, and it can affect us humans through the seafood that we eat,” Legarda said.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over 80% of marine pollution comes from land-based activities. From plastic bags to pesticides – most of the waste produced on land eventually reach the oceans, causing marine mammals, seabirds and fish to die each year from being entangled in or ingesting marine litter.[1]

The Senator also noted that the Filipino’s throwaway culture and overdependence on the seas and natural environment – for food, for employment, for energy and recreation – have greatly contributed to the worsening state of our country’s marine environment.

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

Legarda also lamented the report from the Ocean Conservancy that showed the Philippines as one of the top sources of plastic trash dumped into the sea, contributing 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste and half a million metric tons of plastic-waste leakage per year.[2]

“This disheartening news and the worsening issue of pollution further aggravated by natural hazards should serve as our wake up call. 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 to mitigate the worsening effects of ecosystem degeneration because failure to do so will endanger not only the environment but also our lives,” Legarda stressed.

On her part as legislator and an environment warrior, 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,” Legarda said.

“There are numerous alternatives to non-biodegradable plastic bags. We have our baskets, bayong, eco-bags, paper bags, cloth bags or katsa, bags made of recycled tetrapacks, and many others. We just have to be innovative and resourceful in finding substitute packaging materials or containers,” Legarda explained.

Lastly, Legarda said that everyone in the society must act with dispatch to reduce wastage and veer away from a throwaway culture.

“The whole community should be involved in this crusade towards a zero waste lifestyle. Each and everyone should make a conscious effort to change daily routine and practices to contribute to finding solutions to the problems of pollution, environmental degradation, and escalation of severe weather events. 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 and containers which are more sustainable in the long run because the waste that we produce, especially plastics, take hundreds of years to degrade,” Legarda concluded.***

[1]Marine Litter. http://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/where_we_work/baltic/threats/marine_litter/

[2] “Stemming the Tide: Land-based Strategies for a plastic-free ocean.” Ocean Conservancy.(2015) https://oceanconservancy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/full-report-stemming-the.pdf (accessed July 2, 2018)