In a press statement released in time for the ongoing Energy Summit, the EcoWaste Coalition drew the attention of policy makers and consumers on one simple yet concrete measure which, if implemented, will reduce oil consumption amidst rising oil prices.
“Cutting back on the excessive use of plastic carry bags will lessen the demand for expensive oil as well as minimize the waste and pollution resulting from the production, consumption and disposal of plastic bags,” said Gigie Cruz of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics, adding that “our voracious consumption of plastic bags is increasing our dependence on imported oil and polluting the environment.”
The eco-group cited the decision made by China’s State Council banning plastic shopping bags in all stores nationwide effective 1 June 2008. This will reportedly save 37 million barrels of crude oil that is required to manufacture plastic bags that Chinese consumers use every year, while
reducing plastic litter and disposal costs.
San Franciso, USA, a densely populated city of 740,000 people that consumes up to 200 million plastic bags per year, also took the decision to ban plastic grocery bags. Supermarkets and pharmacies will have to use recyclable or compostable sacks in lieu of plastic bags.
The ban that took effect in November 2007 is expected to reduce oil consumption by almost 800,000 gallons a year, and reduce as well carbon dioxide emissions by 4.2 million kilograms annually.
The “plasticization” of our lifestyle, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, ties into the swelling demand for oil as plastic bags and other plastic stuff are made of crude oil, natural gas or other petrochemical byproducts. For plastic bags alone, it is estimated that some 430,000
gallons of oil are needed to produce 100 million pieces of these omnipresent consumer items on the planet.
Information obtained from the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization, indicates that plastic factories around the globe mass-produce 4-5 trillion bags yearly and that consumers throw about 500 billion bags annually. Plastic bags can last for over 1,000 years.
The EcoWaste Coalition identified several levels of intervention – from voluntary lifestyle changes to policy reforms – that will dramatically reduce the local consumption of plastics carry bags and also of fossil fuel that is driving the climate crisis.
Consumers, for instance, should simply say no to plastic bags and make it a habit to bring reusable bags when they go to the market, mall or the nearby sari-sari store. They can also use their purchasing power to persuade stores to stop giving bags for free, or to offer their customers
a discount for not using plastic bags. Consumers can also create their own reusable bags out of used clothes, curtains and fabric scraps at no cost.
Well-meaning retailers can build on the positive efforts of National Bookstore, Shoe Mart, Shopwise and other major stores to introduce reusable bags and help in reducing Pinoy’s plastic bag habit.
Consumers can also lobby local and national authorities to pass ordinances and laws that will ban plastic bags like what China and San Francisco did, or impose tax on plastic bags like that in Ireland that resulted to a 90% drop in plastic bag use during the past five years.
At the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 1443 or the Plastic Bag Recycling Act, while Sen. Manny Villar filed a bill requiring malls and stores to use environmentally-friendly shopping bags instead of plastic bags.
At the House of Representatives, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), recently filed House Bill No. 2512 which would mandate the use of recyclable or biodegradable materials for the packaging of consumer products.
“Consumers need not wait for these laws to be adopted. Let’s forgo the use of plastic bags now by reliving our bayong culture, by bringing our own reusable bags, and by simply saying no to plastic bags and other plastic disposables,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.
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