World Environment Day: Let’s stop plastic pollution

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
World Environment Day: Letâs stop plastic pollution
Billboard art in Santiago, Chile shows a surfer riding a wave made out of plastic bags and bottles as part of a campaign denouncing the pollution of oceans during the celebration of World Environment Day yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has urged the public to be more responsible in managing garbage since waste, particularly plastic, can be devastating for marine biodiversity.

Plastics are non-biodegradable materials, which do not decay. Once discarded, plastics are likely to end up in oceans after being washed down from rivers and toilets or blown by wind from dumpsites.

“Small litter like candy wrappers end up in our oceans. It is eaten by marine species, clogging their stomach and causing their death,” DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones said on the occasion of World Environment Day yesterday.

“Next to China and Indonesia, the Philippines placed third in the list of countries with most ocean plastic pollution,” he added, citing a 2015 study conducted by the University of Georgia.

Leones said the result of the study should serve as a “wake up call” for the Philippines to reduce its use of plastics.

The Environmental Management Bureau said that while there is no nationwide ban on plastic, most local government units passed ordinances to regulate plastic use in the towns and cities.

Some stores and supermarkets have taken to replacing platic bags with paper bags and encouraging customers to bring reusable bags for their purchases.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has advised the public to refrain from using single-use plastic items, such as pet bottles and grocery bags, which usually end up polluting the oceans and waterways.

“It is high time we refrain from using disposable plastic products that are used for minutes, but persist in the environment forever,” he said.

The DENR said the easiest and best way to reduce plastic waste is to use reusable alternatives, such as eco-friendly tumblers and eco-bags. 

Waste-to-energy incineration

According to environmentalists, the waste-to-energy (WtE) incineration is not the solution to the country”s garbage crisis.

“WtE incineration emits a wide range of toxic and hazardous air pollutants. These include heavy metals and nanoparticles as well as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans. These extremely toxic substances are subject to the Stockholm Convention on POPs, a UN treaty for the worst of the world’s hazardous chemicals,” said IPEN senior advisor Mariann Lloyd Smith.

IPEN is a global network of NGOs working together for the elimination of toxic chemicals.

The Stockholm Convention, of which the Philippines is a state party, has also acknowledged that incineration of municipal or hazardous waste is a prime source of unwanted POPs.

Signatories to the Convention are obliged to reduce and, where possible, eliminate POP chemicals.

But the local government of Puerto Princesa City reportedly plans to put up a P2.1-billion WtE gasification plan that will burn the city’s discards estimated at 100 metric tons per day.

The Environmental Legal Assistance Center has raised concern over the city government’s plan.

“We hope the city government will hear us out, rethink its plan and opt for holistic waste prevention and reduction strategies to cut the volume of discards requiring final disposal,” said lawyer Gerthie Mayo-Anda, executive director of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center.

No Burn Pilipinas, an alliance of over 50 civil society groups, wrote to Puerto Princesa City Mayor Lucilo Bayron requesting his office to heed the Philippine ban on waste incineration and pursue zero waste as the sustainable approach to managing the city’s discards.

“We have called on Mayor Bayron to do the right thing and protect public health and the environment from the dangers of waste incineration by embracing zero waste management solution,” said Ruel Cabile, anti-WtE campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Take better care of environment

Meanwhile, the National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and environmentalists intend to submit one million signatures to President Duterte to remind him to take a more active stance against factors that contribute to the destruction of the environment. 

“This right of nature is at the backdrop of our campaign versus mining and dirty energy and climate crisis. The Duterte administration must honor its pronouncement to protect the environment,” said NASSA executive secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez.

The NASSA joined the SALAKYAG (Sakay, Lakad at Layag para sa Sangnilikha) 2018, a nationwide mixed action of caravans, marches and boat rides of affected communities and environment advocates. 

The SALAKYAG started last May 28 in Zamboanga and ended yesterday on the celebration of the World Environment Day.

Proclamation No. 237 declares the month of June as Environment Month in the Philippines. June 5 of every year is World Environment Day.  –  With Evelyn Macairan




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