Green Groups Make “Plastic Bag Chain” to Call for National Phase Out of Plastic Bags

Over 300 concerned individuals and organizations from NGOs to Academe, college students to senior citizens, Church-based groups to bike enthusiasts, beauty queens to LGUs converged today at the Quezon Memorial Circle to participate in the International Plastic Bag-Free Day.

Bearing banners and placards calling, among others, for a nationwide phase out on plastic bags, the collective also linked together “plastic bag chain” made of used plastic bags and surrounded the full circumference of Quezon Circle.

“This chain, made of plastic bags from recognizable establishments, represents but a tiny fraction of the world’s plastic problem and highlights our very own here at home,” lamented campaigner Paeng Lopez of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives [GAIA]. “If merely hundreds of people here today can enclose the entire Quezon Memorial Circle with plastic bags, imagine what 95.8 million[1] Filipinos do to our waterways, marine life, and climate with our continued consumption of plastic bags,” he added.

The group expressed gratefulness to the LGUs who have started to phase-out and ban plastic bags in their jurisdictions, and called for a national law that will enhance waste reduction by prohibiting the same and promoting organic reusable bags.

“We know for a fact that our noble legislators in Congress, led by the tireless Committee on Ecology, are doing their best to complement what our LGUs have started,” revealed Roy Alvarez, President of EcoWaste Coalition. “And we want them to know that we will be behind them in firmly cutting down waste and phasing-out plastic bags,” he added.

The group called for the enactment of a law that will:

– phase-out plastic bags [regular and degradable]– promote organic reusable bags
– espouse take-back mechanisms and recycling
– support LGUs in their waste management initiatives;
– impose environmental levy on plastic bags; and
– for accountability purposes, label so-called “degradable” plastic bags to show name of manufacturers, manufacturing date, and the degradation period of the bag.

The group also warned about the proliferation of so-called “biodegradable” plastics, and shared the findings of Loughborough University and DEFRA-UK which revealed that while these materials may degrade in 2-5 years, their biodegradability remain unclear. Available data suggest that oxo-degradable plastics do not degrade in anaerobic conditions, such as would be found in landfill.[2]

“Degradable plastic bags merely perpetuate ‘throw-away’ and ‘dispose-as-usual’ mentality as it gives the wrong impression that discarding them the habitual way is okay since they degrade anyway,” pointed out Greenpeace campaigner Beau Baconguis. “This raises, at least, two problems: littering and continued production of plastic waste.”

“The trick is simply not to get duped into believing that degradable plastic bag is the solution. There’s a reason the item is called as it is because even if it degrades it remains to be plastic,” warns Mother Earth Foundation President Froilan Grate. “If at all, it is only a stop-gap or temporary measure that we also have to do away with on our way back to using organic reusable bags,” he added.

“We are glad that more and more provinces, cities, and municipalities are taking on what Los Baños, Muntinlupa, Batangas City, Lucban, and other pioneer LGUs have done. Let us re-think our relationship with plastic bags, knowing fully well that local and environmentally sound alternatives are available,” said Miss Earth Athena Mae Imperial. “It is time we give our environment a break and our cottage industries that support local employment a boost.”

As of last count, there are more than 10 cities and municipalities that have banned plastic bags and about 10 more are proposing to do the same.[3]

Recently, Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro attributed, in part, the welcome absence of floods in his city during typhoon Falcon to their plastic ban and said, “there was less trash along the waterways,” which “eased the local government’s headaches in ensuring that rainwater would leave the city’s streets as soon as possible.”

Discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, and GAIA found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

Annually, the world produces 200 million tonnes of plastics. Using conservative estimates, if bags have an average weight of 32.5g and size of 900cm2 , we will be able to encircle the earth more than 41,000 times.

Participants of the International Plastic Bag-Free Day activity include private individuals, Alaga Lahat, Arugaan, Ban Toxics, BERDE, Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens’ Organization Concerned with Advocating for Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Cycling Advocates, Diocese of Caloocan-Ecology Ministry, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Kabalikat Civicom-Iloilo, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Malabon National High School – Ecomarino, Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad, Mary Immaculate Parish Special School, Miss Earth Foundation, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Sanib Lakas ng mga Aktibong Lingkod ng Inang Kalikasan, Sang-at Uli Mountaineering Society, Sagip Pasig Movement, Samahang Pagkakaisa ng mga Tindero sa Talipapa, Sarilaya, Viajero Outdoor Center-CDO, Quezon City Public Library and Zero Waste Philippines.

[3]With “IMPLEMENTING” Ordinance:1. Carmona, Cavite
2. Muntinlupa City
3. Antipolo City4. Los Banos, Laguna
5. Sta. Barbara in Iloilo
6. Lucban, Quezon
7. Infanta, Quezon
8. Imus, Cavite
9. Binan, Laguna
10. Batangas, City
11. Burgos, Pangasinan

With “PROPOSED” Ordinance:
1. Caloocan City
2. Valenzuela City
3. Taytay, Rizal
4. Mandaluyong City
5. Real, Quezon
6. GMA, Cavite
7. Sorsogon
8. Iloilo
9. Bacolod