The Philippines is losing the war against single-use plastic as the country continues to generate thousands of tons of plastic daily, Environment Secretary Toni Yulo-Loyzaga said Tuesday.
Data based on World Bank and Asian Development Bank studies showed that the country generates around 61,000 metric tons of garbage per day, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said. Of this amount, 12 percent or over 7,000 tons is plastic, in stark contrast to the 16,000 metric tons of trash generated 7 years ago.
Yulo-Loyzaga admitted the plastic problem is multifaceted and must be faced using different lenses.
“It has a social-issue attachment. If we cannot address the social issue, we will not be able to address the use of single-use plastics, specifically for certain sectors of our economy. Single use plastics is the only recourse for their use on a daily basis when they purchase their daily food or for other uses,” she said.
Single-use plastic is most commonly used in public markets and small stores where each purchase is usually wrapped or placed in clear plastic bags only to be discarded, at times inappropriately, just minutes after.
The DENR chief noted that finding an alternative to single-use plastic is not as easy as it seems. Investing in chemistry and research to find the right alternative is, by itself, already a challenge.
“The challenge is on academe. Of course the government, we need to do our own research as well. But certainly the producers, those that are using plastic products, need to be responsible for finding a sustainable replacement.”
The problems caused by improper waste disposal is not something new. Every year, flooding has been linked to sewers and drainage systems clogged with various types of waste, particularly plastic. While there are efforts to integrate plastic in certain products like cement, Yulo-Loyzaga said nothing beats a simple yet difficult solution.
“The real solution is to stop our over consumption of products that use packaging that doesn’t degrade. Again, that brings us back to ‘ano ba yung substitute?’”
To limit the use of single-use plastic packaging, the DENR is calling on enterprises to comply with the recently passed Extended Producer Responsibility Act.
Under this, manufacturers are obliged to recover the plastic they generate and package their products using materials aside from plastic.
The DENR says out of 4,000 enterprises, around 600 have registered and complied. Communicating and educating companies on EPR is also slated in order to meet targets.
“We will focus on the large generators. Those would be the fast moving consumer goods corporation. Some of them are global. Those would actually be the strategic priorities of tis program,” said DENR Undersecretary Jonas Leones.