This file photo shows a man wading through the sea of trash.
The STAR/Michael Varcas, File
Green groups criticize 'half-baked' single-use plastic ban in gov't offices
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - February 25, 2020 - 4:13pm

MANILA, Philippines — The resolution imposing a ban on “unnecessary” single-use plastics in all government offices is inadequate and may lead to more frequent use of plastic items, environmental groups said Tuesday.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission approved a resolution directing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to come up with guidelines for national agencies, local government units and other government-controlled offices to prohibit certain single-use plastic items—a major source of pollution—in their workplaces.

These include plastic cups less than 0.2 millimeter in thickness, drinking straws, coffee stirrers, spoons, forks, knives as well as thin and translucent plastic bags, and thin-filmed sando bags lower than 15 microns.

Environment groups, however, criticized the resolution saying the approach to prevent single-use and throw-away packaging is missing.

Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition, said the ban did not cover single-use plastic bottles, polystyrene food and beverage containers and sachet-packed products, which are among the top polluting items regularly found in cleanups and waste audits.

“The policy is inadequate, full of loopholes and could probably result in the use of more crappy plastic packaging nationwide,” Von Hernandez, Break Free From Plastic global coordinator, said.

Plastic pollution is a problem in the Philippines. The country—along with China, Vietnam and Indonesia—is frequently listed among the top contributors to marine plastic pollution.

Rethink limited scope

Benny Antiporda, DENR undersecretary for solid waste management, defended the waste agency for including only eight single-use plastic items in the ban.

“It was the decision of NSWMC to come up with a balanced judgment on the use of single-use plastics by taking into consideration that we can only ban those that have available alternatives,” Antiporda said.

But Hernandez stressed that there are practical and cheaper alternatives for most single-use plastics being prohibited in other countries.

Sonia Mendoza, Mother Earth Foundation chairman, urged the government to rethink the policy’s limited scope.

“Considering the inadequacy of the NSWMC resolution, we urge the government to come up with a truly meaningful, comprehensive national policy on SUPs, which also covers the single-use, throwaway packaging question—and not cosmetic, half-baked proposals which do nothing significant to address the scale of the problem,” she said.

A Social Weather Stations survey released in January showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos want single-use plastics banned at all times, with sando bags topping the list of materials that should be regulated.

The survey also showed that four out of 10 Filipinos believe companies should use or find alternative materials to plastic.

In November 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte floated that idea of banning the use of plastics. Prohibiting or regulating the use of plastics, however, would require legislative action.

In the absence of a legislation that regulates plastic waste, more than 300 LGUs crafted ordinances banning or regulating single-use plastics.

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