EDITORIAL - Complete plastics, styrofoam ban can backfire

The Freeman

Local governments, especially those that easily go under water at the slightest rain, have found a convenient excuse for the flooding – plastic bags. Plastic bags, they say, clog up waterways and drainage systems, thereby causing floods. There is some truth to that, of course. But a little truth does not make up the whole reality of one of the biggest problems facing local governments today, especially local governments that only seek the easy way out of their problems.

Take Mandaue City, for instance. It has dusted off a largely unimplemented 2010 ordinance banning the use of plastic bags and styrofoam containers and kicked it back to life. But unlike other LGUs with similar bans that implement them only on selected days each week, Mandaue City is implementing it each day of the week. It has completely banned such materials from commercial use.

One thing Mandaue City forgot to consider is that it is not actually the plastic bags and styrofoam containers that cause flooding – it is people. When you bring plastic bags and styrofoam containers home, they do not jump off and run on their own into drainage systems and waterways. It is people who throw them there. And it is also people, like the authorities at City Hall, who encourage them by simply looking the other way.

But it is good that Mandaue City has completely banned plastic bags and styrofoam containers because now it has deprived itself of the perfect excuse for all the flooding it experiences everytime it rains. Mandaue City has painted itself into a corner from which there is no escape. When the next floods come, and they surely will, Mandaue City will have to own up that it is the lack of efficient drainage, working waterways and proper garbage disposal that really cause the floods.

And yet that is not the only inconvenience Mandaue City will feel as a consequence of this ill-advised move. Mandaue City is a major industrial, commercial and trading hub not just in Cebu but in the country as well. Expectedly, there are companies in that city that manufacture plastic bags and styrofoam containers. While the market for these products will remain huge outside the city, they nevertheless will feel the pinch of losing a big market like Mandaue City.

Then there are the malls, shopping centers and supermarkets whose revenues contribute immensely to the city's thriving economy. Their sales are surely going to plummet when shoppers are no longer able to shop as much without plastic bags. Mandaue City did not see that Filipino shoppers are not like westerners who normally buy only two paper bags of groceries. Filipinos buy as much as they can carry and they can only do that with plastic bags. And then there are the wet markets.

Mandaue City failed to realize that by inconveniencing its shoppers, it is only driving them away to do their shopping elsewhere, to other LGUs just minutes away with more realistic and practical approaches to urban problems. And while business in Mandaue City is being affected, the rains will still come to flood it, only this time it will have no more plastic bags and styrofoam containers to blame. Sometimes, the best of intentions do not bring anyone to heaven.

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