Do we want to ban plastics? Part 2

STREETLIFE - Nigel Paul C. Villarete - The Freeman

In our last write up about this issue on the banning of plastics, we first looked into what the issue(s) really is/are, and what the implications will be if we ban plastic as a material per se.  Notably we lose the utility of one of the most important material invented by man, not only because of its special uses but how much it is a part of all ordinary activities we do in our daily lives.  Going over the kinds and classification of plastics, we can readily identify what specific plastic items we really would want to ban, among the thousands or even millions made.  And the intent is mostly environmental both in terms of material degradation and effect on drainage.

Maybe the next question we need to ask is, what do we really want to ban, assuming we already agreed on which plastic items are subject of such ban?  Do we ban the mere possession of these "plastics?"  Do we ban the sale - both buying and selling of plastics?  Do we ban the manufacture of the said items?  Will they become illegal items such that if you have any at home, you're already in violation?  Or do we regulate such that we issue "permits" to specific qualified people for the possession, use, sale, and purchase of such plastics?

Some people may find this simplistic, or even funny, but the ban, as proposed, needed to be legislated, through local ordinances, if enacted by the LGUs.  And the implications are different for each user - in the case of supermarkets, the buyer and seller.  If we are to zero in on "plastic bags," most buyer user would still want to use them, even for a fee.  Many people value the "convenience" in the use of plastic bags.  And these are not really in any way expensive; in fact, all plastic bags are given free by vendors, even in very small sari-sari stores!

There are a few cities in Metro Manila which already implemented the banning of plastic bags.  Some of them have selective provisions, like banning the sale and use only on some days of the week but not on others. The alternative of course, is using paper bags. To a certain extent, this is very advantageous, especially to the environmentally-concerned, since paper is very bio-degradable.  Of course, a few critics will also point out that paper is made from wood and, thus, will involve the cutting of trees which they also frown on.  This maybe another issue, but as far as the use of paper is concerned replacing plastic, that should be environmentally acceptable.

But not totally to the user.  Try using paper bags when buying heavier or bulkier items.  Or wet ones.  How do we wrap fish and meat and the like?  Plastic bags would have been perfect.  A few of my "green" friends argue that regulations on "how we use" or dispose of plastics would have been better than the use itself.  If all of us are prudent enough in keeping and disposing plastic bags properly, and find a way of ultimately disposing or recycling the same, instead of indiscriminately throwing them away anywhere and make our city dirty as well as clog up our drainage, maybe, we won't need to pass plastic ban ordinances anymore.

Actually, the deeper and more difficult question we need to face, even beyond the proposed local ordinances, is the need to pass a national law on banning the production of specific types of plastics or plastic items.  The question need to be asked - how can we ban something locally, which is permitted to be manufactured by the national government?  This, like the issue of traffic congestion, is one of those local problems the ultimate and holistic solutions of which usually need state policy and national legislation over the long term. Let's look at the national-local interaction next. (To be continued)


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