7 December 2019, Quezon City. Environmental groups today urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to address the swelling garbage production in Metro Manila and the rest of the country through pollution prevention policies and systems toward building a zero waste and toxics-free society.
Last Thursday, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu announced the issuance of DENR Administrative Order No. 2019-21, which provides for the guidelines on the establishment of waste-to-energy (WtE) facilities for the disposal of municipal solid waste, as well as the department’s plan to issue a separate directive banning single-use plastics (SUPs).
In response to Cimatu’s declaration, various environmental groups such as the EcoWaste Coalition, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Mother Earth Foundation, No Burn Pilipinas and the Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) expressed their views and suggestions to prevent waste from being produced, dumped, incinerated or spilled into the environment, including the world’s oceans.
“The experience of our partner communities is telling us that the massive production and consumption of wasteful single-use items such as sachet packaging and the failure of big companies to own up to the plastic and chemical mess we’re in is the main obstacle to the envisaged zero waste and toxics-free society,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“While it’s easy to solely put the blame on wasteful and undisciplined consumers, the authorities should ask companies to take full responsibility for the unrestrained production of SUPs that are quickly used and disposed of, and to direct such companies into adopting sustainable product packaging and delivery systems,” he said.
Chinkie Pelño-Golle, Executive Director of IDIS, agreed stressing that “while local government units (LGUs) are mandated to act on the garbage problem, the national government should target the plastics producers and big companies to start phasing out the production of plastics and for them to produce and use environment-friendly packaging.”
Regarding the anticipated DENR order on SUPs, “the ban should include the timed phase-out of single-use packaging, starting with the most problematic types such as multi-layer single-serve sachets; contain provisions for polluter pays principle; exclude the adoption of false solutions such as ‘oxo-biodegradable’ plastic, ‘biodegradable’ plastic, and single-use paper packaging; encourage LGUs to incentivize refill and reuse and other delivery systems adopted by businesses and establishments; and that the order should be used to strengthen implementation of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, particularly the provisions for strict segregation at source,” said Lea Guerrero, Country Director, Greenpeace Philippines. She added that “above all, the ban should be crafted within national Zero Waste framework, using RA 9003 as a starting point.”
“Whatever types of plastic are allowed, all should go to where they can be resources again. This means that producers have the responsibility to see that their products or packaging are recyclable and recycled,” said Dr. Angelina Galang, President, Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy, adding the “government must oversee the total program for rational and enforced segregation, collection, recycling, and composting of discards.”
“Instead of WtE facilities that burn discards, we challenge the DENR to focus its energy and resources in establishing Zero Waste systems that will conserve resources through sustainable production, consumption, reuse and recovery of all products, packaging and materials, without incinerating them and without discharging chemical pollutants to the natural environment,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation.
For his part, Glenn Ymata, Campaign Manager of No Burn Pilipinas warns that the DENR may face suit with respect to the WtE guidelines it issued. “We strongly believe that the DENR may have violated certain provisions of the laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. We have yet to receive a copy of the issued administrative order so our lawyers can review and look into the legal infirmities of the same,” he said.